Significant Learning Environment


What is the best way to help students learn?  As educators, we have access to unlimited tools to help students learn; data, digital tools, curriculum, etc.  However, it is important as educators that we not only learn how to design environments to improve students understanding as to how to use these tools responsibly, but that we also model to students how to promote student voice, choice and ownership. Thomas and Brown assert a compelling vision for the future of education in "A New Culture of Learning" by emphasizing the importance of embracing a culture of curiosity, exploration, and collaboration in our learning environments. Traditional models of education must evolve to keep pace with the rapid changes in our world. To move toward creating significant learning environments, the following steps need to be addressed:

Curiosity, Creativity and Motivation: Significant learning environments foster engagement and motivation among students. By promoting curiosity and exploration, students become actively involved in their own learning. When students are motivated, they are more likely to invest time and effort into understanding concepts deeply, resulting in better retention and application of knowledge.  In Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk “Do Schools Creativity?”, he describes creativity as “the process of having original ideas that come from the way we experience the world around us.  If we are not prepared to be wrong, then we will never come up with anything original.”  We must prepare our students to be wrong, or for failure, in order for them to reflect and use their creativity effectively.  Essentially, he explains how some teachers can make students feel that their work is inferior, stifling their creativity and intrinsic motivation. However, he also acknowledges that great teachers have the ability to connect with students on a deeper level, tapping into their imagination and fostering a sense of engagement. This supports the idea that significant learning environments, which are characterized by educators who understand and inspire their students, play a vital role in cultivating intrinsic motivation and capturing students' attention and enthusiasm for learning. 

Critical thinking and problem-solving: Significant learning environments encourage students to think critically and develop problem-solving skills.  Stephen Brookfield, author of "Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions", Stephen D. Brookfield, emphasizes that "Significant learning environments are those in which students are consistently challenged to think critically about the material they are studying, to question their own assumptions, to identify contradictions and gaps in their understanding, and to make connections to other knowledge domains. In these environments, students are actively engaged in problem-solving, analyzing complex issues, and developing creative solutions. By fostering an atmosphere of inquiry and intellectual rigor, significant learning environments cultivate the essential skills of critical thinking and problem-solving that are vital for success in today's world" (Brookfield, 2012).  This highlights the need for students to be consistently challenged and engaged in activities that require them to question, analyze, and solve problems, ultimately developing their ability to think critically and approach complex issues effectively. By emphasizing interdisciplinary learning, collaboration, and real-world connections, students are challenged to analyze complex problems, consider multiple perspectives, and develop innovative solutions. These skills are crucial in preparing students for the challenges they will face in higher education and the workforce.

Personalized learning: Significant learning environments recognize that students have different strengths, interests, and learning styles.  Peggy Grant and Dale Basye, authors of "Personalized Learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology" assert that by providing personalized learning experiences, students are allowed to learn at their own pace and explore topics aligned with their passions. The authors indicated that “Flexible pathways enable students to navigate their learning journey at their own pace, providing opportunities for acceleration or additional support when needed. This personalized approach not only enhances students' academic growth but also nurtures their love for learning and fosters a sense of agency and self-efficacy." Through these approaches, students can tailor their learning to their individual needs and interests, allowing them to explore topics they are passionate about and progress at their own pace.  By providing personalized learning experiences, such as adaptive technologies, individualized projects, and flexible pathways, students can learn at their own pace and explore topics that align with their passions. This personalization essentially promotes a sense of ownership over the learning process and allows students to maximize their potential.

Collaboration and social skills: In significant learning environments, collaboration is prioritized, allowing students to work in teams, engage in discussions, and learn from their peers. This fosters the development of essential social and communication skills, including active listening, empathy, and constructive feedback. According to Thomas and Brown,  “Learning happens in a social context, and individuals learn from one another through collaboration and active participation. Teams are formed, projects are tackled collectively, and discussions become spaces for sharing ideas, perspectives, and insights. Through collaboration, students not only learn from their peers but also develop vital skills such as communication, problem-solving, negotiation, and teamwork. Collaboration enhances the learning experience by providing diverse perspectives and encouraging the exploration of different approaches to solving problems. It fosters a sense of community, where individuals support and challenge one another, creating an environment that is conducive to deep, meaningful learning." Collaborative learning exposes students to diverse perspectives and nurtures cultural competence, preparing them to thrive in diverse work environments.

Lifelong learning mindset: Creating significant learning environments nurtures a lifelong learning mindset, emphasizing that learning extends beyond the classroom and throughout one's life. By fostering curiosity, reflection, and metacognition, students become self-directed learners who take ownership of their education, seek continuous improvement, and adapt to new challenges and opportunities in their personal and professional lives.  Moore and Bown assert that, “Significant learning environments are designed to foster this mindset by emphasizing the process of learning rather than the acquisition of static knowledge. In such environments, learners are encouraged to be curious, ask questions, explore multiple perspectives, and engage in ongoing reflection. They develop the skills of self-directed learning, adaptability, and continuous improvement, which are essential in a world of constant change. By embracing a lifelong learning mindset, individuals become active agents in their own learning, seeking out new knowledge and skills long after formal education ends."  This belief highlights that in these environments, the focus is on the process of learning and the development of essential skills rather than simply acquiring knowledge. The emphasis is on curiosity, exploration, and ongoing reflection, which foster a mindset that learning is a lifelong pursuit. Significant learning environments empower individuals to take control of their own learning journey, seek new knowledge, and adapt to the evolving demands of the world.

A shift towards creating significant learning environments has the potential to enhance learning in numerous ways. Creating significant learning environments requires a shift towards a culture of curiosity, embracing technology, promoting interdisciplinary learning, fostering collaboration, emphasizing lifelong learning, facilitating personalization, encouraging reflection, and building connections with the outside world. By adopting these principles, we can nurture a generation of learners who are adaptable, innovative, and equipped to thrive in an ever-changing world.



Brookfield, S. D. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking: Tools and techniques to help students question their assumptions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Grant, P., & Basye, D. (2014). Personalized learning: A guide for engaging students with technology. ISTE.

Robinson, K. (2007, January 6). Do schools kill creativity?. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.



Contribution to Your Learning and the Learning Community

Concepts of Educational Technology (5302) is not the first class in my master’s program where I contributed to my learning as well as to the learning community.  While I was not asked to write a “Contribution to Your Learning and Learning Community” for my first master’s degree, I did contribute to my learning in an informal learning community. Overall, what worked for me was keeping a tight schedule. In addition to teaching full time, I work 2 part time jobs and I am the Student Council Advisor on my campus.  The last three weeks my student council has hosted a Joy Prom on my campus for all special needs children in my district,  I chaperoned the Senior Prom and I have proctored 2 STAAR Exams; this in addition to teaching full time, tutoring in the evenings and working at a hotel on the weekends.  As a result, I did not always post in the discussion board in a timely fashion.  In fact, I am pretty sure I did not post in every discussion board in 5302; however, I will say that in my group, we did have some informal discussions about the topics, videos and the readings. My assignments were all turned in on time.  My previous class, I was unable to get together with another group to collaborate, receive and provide constructive feedback  However, for 5302, I was able to create a study group of my own with Syeda and Janelle.  I was excited to finally be a part of a learning group for this course.  We met on Zoom once, and after that we emailed, or texted each other when we needed to reach out. 

While I firmly believe I exhibit the qualities of a leader, as I currently hold a leadership position on my campus and I have held several leadership positions in other districts,  I do not feel this course afforded me the opportunity to showcase my leadership. However, as I reflect, I could have taken more initiative with the study group that I became a part of.

 All in all, I do find my contributions to be an integral of my learning. Through constructive criticism, I helped to make my group more collaborative and I am hoping to do so even more in the next class. However, when I received feedback, I tended to relegate it and move along with my original purpose.  I do feel as though I could have invested more time about concerns that my colleagues had about my work.  

Score 85 - All of the key contributions were met.  One of the supporting contributions was not met.

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is an essential quality that has become increasingly important in the modern world. It refers to the belief that one's abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work, dedication, and persistence, rather than being fixed traits that cannot be changed. Research has shown that individuals who embrace a growth mindset are more likely to achieve success in their personal and professional lives than those with a fixed mindset (Dweck, 2017). This is because people with a growth mindset are more likely to take on challenges and see them as opportunities for growth, rather than avoiding them due to fear of failure. They also tend to be more resilient and bounce back quickly from setbacks, using them as opportunities to learn and improve.

Incorporating a growth mindset in the classroom is a powerful way to help students develop resilience, perseverance, and a love of learning.  Encourage your students to add the word "yet" to the end of sentences such as "I can't do this." This helps students recognize that just because they haven't learned something yet, doesn't mean they won't ever learn it.  Emphasizing the importance of effort over innate ability is another way to incorporate a growth mindset in the classroom, along with providing constructive feedback.  When giving feedback, focus should be on specific strategies and skills that students can use to improve. Encouraging students to see their mistakes as opportunities for growth, rather than seeing them as failure.   In addition, as educators, we should always praise students for working hard and trying their best, rather than for being naturally smart or talented. 

Another way to incorporate a growth mind set is to teach goal-setting.  Goal setting is essential to a growth mindset because it helps individuals develop a sense of purpose and direction, and provides motivation and focus for their efforts. According to Bandura (1991), goal setting is an important component of self-regulated learning, as it helps individuals monitor their progress and adjust their efforts accordingly. When individuals set specific, challenging goals for themselves, they are more likely to engage in effortful learning behaviors and persist in the face of challenges, which are key components of a growth mindset.  Research has also shown that goal setting can be effective when paired with a growth mindset. According to Blackwell and colleagues (2007), students who were taught a growth mindset and provided with goal setting strategies showed greater improvement in their grades than those who were taught only goal setting or were provided with no intervention.   For example, in my sophomore level English classes, I teach my students how to write SMART goals and throughout the year, they are reflecting on their SMART goals and updating them to make sure they are staying on track to achieve those goals.  Students make posters to hang in the classroom, to remind them on a daily basis of their SMART goals.

Most importantly, modeling a growth mindset is essential.  I model a growth mindset by sharing stories of my own failures and successes and emphasizing the importance of reflection.  Research has shown that when teachers model a growth mindset, they demonstrate that learning is a continuous process that involves both successes and failures (Dweck et al., 2015). This creates a safe and supportive learning environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. By modeling a growth mindset, teachers can also help students develop a sense of resilience and persistence in the face of challenges, which can be particularly important for students who may have experienced past failures or setbacks (Dweck et al., 2015).



Bandura, A. (1991). Social cognitive theory of self-regulation. Organizational Behavior and 

Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 248-287.

Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence 

predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an 

intervention. Child Development, 78(1).

Dweck, C. S., Yeager, D. S., & Walton, G. M. (2015). "Growth mindset" science. Educational 


Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House.



Literature Review

The use of electronic portfolios, or eportfolios, has become increasingly popular in the classroom as a way to showcase student learning and growth. An eportfolio is a digital collection of a student's work that showcases their learning and progress over time.   In today’s rapidly changing digital world, it is essential for students to develop critical digital literacy skills. An e-Portfolio platform can help students to do just that. By using e-Portfolios, students can curate their own writing assignments, multimedia projects, and reflective pieces, allowing them to see the growth and development of their writing over time.  Although there are potential barriers to implementing ePortfolio projects effectively–such as the need for student support–there is also evidence to suggest that students are able to assist in peer ePortfolio development (Shepherd & Bolliger, 2011)

  By utilizing eportfolios, students can reflect on their own learning, make connections between different topics and concepts, and analyze their own thought processes.  According to research, the use of eportfolios in the high school classroom can be an effective way to increase critical thinking skills among students (Reynolds & Patton, 2016).  Eportfolios encourage students to reflect on their own learning experiences. When students take the time to reflect on their work and think about how they arrived at a particular conclusion or solution, they are more likely to develop critical thinking skills. Reflection allows students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as consider how they can improve their work in the future (McCarthy, O'Reilly, & Reynolds, 2017).      Eportfolios provide students with a platform to self-assess their own work. This means that students are responsible for evaluating their own work and thinking critically about the quality of their output. This process of self-assessment requires students to evaluate their own thinking processes and consider alternative perspectives and approaches (Wang & Chen, 2020). Hernandez and Lee (2015) similarly reported that eportfolios helped students develop a stronger sense of ownership over their learning and increased their engagement in the classroom. Wuetherick & Dickinson, noted that, “the existing literature indicates that portfolios may have several advantages over other forms of assessment.  In particular, portfolios possess integrative learning potential: the ability to connect experiences and knowledge gained in the academic context with a variety of other contexts, including the workplace and community”.

The use of eportfolios also allows students to demonstrate their skills and abilities to a wider audience, such as parents, classmates, and potential employers (Lai, 2017).  Eportfolios can facilitate collaboration among students. When students share their work with one another, they can offer feedback and constructive criticism that encourages critical thinking. Collaboration also helps to expose students to different perspectives and ideas, which can challenge their own thinking and broaden their understanding of a particular topic (Reynolds & Patton, 2016).  One of the primary benefits of eportfolios is improved student engagement and motivation. For example, a study by Hernandez and Lee (2015) found that students who used eportfolios in their coursework reported higher levels of engagement and a greater sense of ownership over their learning. Similarly, a study by Rhee and Hahn (2017) found that the use of eportfolios in a high school science class increased student engagement and helped students develop metacognitive skills.

  Additionally, eportfolios can foster communication and collaboration between students, teachers, and parents, creating a more supportive and effective learning environment (Brown & Green, 2018).  Eportfolios provide students with a way to track their progress over time. By revisiting earlier work, students can reflect on how their thinking has evolved and identify patterns in their own learning. This long-term thinking encourages students to think critically about the impact of their own learning experiences and how they can continue to improve (McCarthy, O'Reilly, & Reynolds, 2017).    Eportfolios can also provide teachers with valuable insights into student learning and progress. A study by Dalton and Wandberg (2019) found that eportfolios facilitated more meaningful assessments and allowed teachers to track student progress in real-time.  Eportfolios can also provide teachers with valuable information about student learning and progress. For example, a study by Lee and Yoon (2016) found that eportfolios allowed teachers to assess student work more effectively and track progress in real-time. Additionally, the use of eportfolios can help facilitate communication and collaboration between students, teachers, and parents, leading to a more supportive and effective learning environment (Dorward & Kelly, 2017).

  However, the use of eportfolios in the classroom also has its challenges. One study by Chang and Chen (2020) found that students may need to invest significant time and effort in organizing and curating their work for their eportfolios, and teachers may need to invest time in creating and grading assessments. In order to maximize the benefits of eportfolios, it is important for teachers to provide clear guidelines and training to help students effectively use the technology (Chang & Chen, 2020).  Another challenge is the time and effort required to create and maintain an eportfolio. For example, a study by Pogrebivsky and Roseth (2019) found that students may need to invest significant time and effort in organizing and curating their work for their eportfolios, and teachers may need to invest time in creating and grading assessments. In order to maximize the benefits of eportfolios, it is important for teachers to provide clear guidelines and training to help students effectively use the technology (Dorward & Kelly, 2017.  There also remains a some concerns due to demographics of  students participating in such programs. 

  In conclusion, the literature suggests that eportfolios can have a positive impact on student learning and development, providing students with a platform to showcase their work and skills, and offering teachers with a tool for assessment and tracking progress. While there are some challenges associated with using eportfolios, the benefits make them a valuable tool for the classroom.   However, the use of eportfolios also presents challenges, such as the time and effort required to create and maintain an eportfolio.   According to Wuetherick and Dickinson, studies “demonstrate that there are still significant differences between the experience and comfort level of younger and older students with various technologies that are key to the effective implementation of ePortfolios”.  Therefore, in order to maximize the benefits of eportfolios, it is important for teachers to provide clear guidelines and training to help students effectively use the technology.



Brown, J. & Green, C. (2018). The effects of electronic portfolios on student motivation and

engagement. Journal of Educational Technology, 23(4), 309-318.

Chang, K. & Chen, W. (2020). Challenges and opportunities in using e-portfolios in higher

education. Journal of Educational Technology, 25(6), 421-428.

Dalton, M. & Wandberg, S. (2019). The impact of e-portfolios on student motivation and

learning. Journal of Educational Technology, 21(2), 123-129.

Dorward, J. & Kelly, R. (2017). Using eportfolios to facilitate communication and collaboration

in a secondary English classroom. Journal of Educational Technology, 18(2), 87-95.

Hernandez, L. & Lee, Y. (2015). The impact of e-portfolios on student engagement and learning.

Journal of Educational Technology, 19(3), 214-220.

Lee, K. & Yoon, J. (2016). Using eportfolios for formative assessment in a high school social

studies classroom. Journal of Educational Technology, 20(1), 54-61. Journal of

Educational Technology, 19(3), 214-220.

Lai, Y. (2017). The benefits of e-portfolios for career development. Journal of Career

         Development, 35(2), 187-195.

McCarthy, J., O'Reilly, J., & Reynolds, R. (2017). Using ePortfolios to develop critical thinking,

reflection, and graduate attributes in Irish higher education: A case study. Journal of

Interactive Media in Education, 2017(1), 1-10.

Pogrebivsky, E. & Roseth, C. (2019). The impact of eportfolios on student learning in a high

         school math class. Journal of Educational Technology, 22(4), 291-297.

Rhee, J. & Hahn, J. (2017). The impact of eportfolios on student engagement and metacognitive

skills in a high school science class. Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 110-118.

 Reynolds, R., & Patton, J. (2016). The use of e-portfolios to encourage critical thinking and

reflection in undergraduate pre-service teachers. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher

         Education, 44(3), 237-251.

Shepherd, C. E., & Bolliger, D. U. (2011). The effects of electronic portfolio tools on online

students’ perceived support and cognitive load. Internet and Higher Education, 14, 142-

149. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.01.002

Wang, H., & Chen, C. (2020). Effects of a digital portfolio-based assessment system on students

self-regulated learning and critical thinking skills. Interactive Learning Environments,

28(4), 467-481.

Wuetherick, B., Dickinson, J. (n.d.). Why eportfolios? student perceptions of eportfolio use in …

- ed. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1107862.pdf




Being in education is one of the most fulfilling professions, and it provides an opportunity for me to make a positive impact on the lives of students and teachers alike. As a teacher, I have the opportunity to help students develop their knowledge, skills, and character, as well as cultivate a love of learning that will stay with them throughout their lives. As a future administrator, I will have the ability to support and guide teachers in creating effective learning environments that encourage academic and personal growth. Moreover, I could also work towards improving the education system by advocating for policies that promote equity, diversity, and inclusivity. Ultimately, being a caring teacher and administrator would enable me to contribute to society by shaping the minds and futures of our future generations.


However, teaching through a pandemic, has taught me several valuable lessons.  I was so excited in 2021, to go back to face to face instruction. I believe everyone in my building was relieved to be “back to normal”.  We all knew there would be some gaps, academically; however, I don’t think any of us anticipated the social gaps that we encountered in the 2021-22 school year.  I was not anticipating kids coming to school in pajamas.  I was not anticipating walking into first period class to see students with their baseball caps or cowboys’ hats on top of their heads.  I did not anticipate seeing students laying on the floor to take a nap.  I did not anticipate students not even trying to hide their phones during class.  It was a complete shock.  I had to reflect and look back over the past 2 years.  Most of these sophomores sitting in my English 2 class, had not been inside a classroom since before spring break of their 8th grade year.  And it was quite obvious.  Students struggled with rules, boundaries, and personal responsibility, more than ever.  I frequently had to remind my students they had to take their hats off inside a building.  I had to frequently remind my students that there was a time and place for technology, but it wasn’t while I was giving oral instructions.  I had to frequently remind them that they couldn’t sit in their chair and tip it back, due to safety reasons.  Even getting 15 and 16 year olds to bring a pencil to class, had become challenging.  None of these were challenges I had faced on my campus prior to COVID.  I felt like I was spending more time correcting social behaviors than teaching inferencing and persuasive writing; and honestly, I think the students did too.  But I had that breakthrough moments right after Christmas break.  I had a conversation with each of my classes, addressing that I understand this transition back to face to face has been really difficult for them as students.  I explained them that it was difficult for us educators as well; and that as educators we really were not prepared for post-COVID education.  I saw students nod in agreement.  We had a real conversation about their concerns, their frustrations and even their fears.  A couple weeks later, I had a student come up to me after class and thank me, for acknowledging how students are feeling.  He had never had a teacher who felt really cared about his as a person, not just a test score. 


Building student relationships has always come easy for me.  When people ask me how I do it, I tell them I don’t have a secret and I honestly don’t know what it is that I specifically do, other than to just be authentically real.  I truly believe the way to reach students, is to show them that you are genuinely interested in what is best for them and that you care about them as individuals. It’s about modeling how to learn from failure.  Sometimes my lesson plans fail, and part of my reflection is to get student feedback.  Not from a google survey, but from honest and frank discussions and modeling to them how I reflect and learn from failures. "The relationships between teachers and students in many of the top classrooms in the United States is very strong, with teachers acting as mentors, guides, content experts, and compasses to navigate our increasingly crazy world" (Heick, 2021). 


Education is rapidly changing on a daily basis.  But the importance of building position, teacher-student relationships will never change.  If anything, it might be more important now and, in the future, as ever.  I have and will always put the mental and physical well-being before any grade in the gradebook, or state assessment score.  When students know that you care for them, often times they are more inclined to work harder, because they don’t want to disappoint you. All students come with baggage, that we most often times, know nothing about at the beginning of the school year. But taking the time to have honest and open conversations with them throughout the year, can give you a completely different perspective on them.  It can also help make bonds that last a lifetime. 



Heick, T. (2021, November 18). 10 things public education in America is getting right. TeachThought.



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