Studenten tijdens college
Studenten tijdens college

Communication tips for a safe learning environment

How do we offer students and teachers a safe learning and working environment? In interactive theatre workshops, provided by CruxCreaties, teachers are introduced not only to forms of sexual transgressive behaviour, but also to more subtle, psychologically unsafe actions such as exerting pressure, interrupting conversations prematurely or displaying power. Workshop moderator Peter Berkhout provides teachers with practical tools to create a safe learning environment.

Creating awareness  

The theatre workshop makes participants realise that even seemingly small, subtle actions can have an impact. 'The advantage of theatre is that you don't just talk and people listen, but everyone sees the behaviour and feels something about it,' Peter explains. The scenes elicit a lot from the audience. 'The reactions vary: seemingly unfazed, sadness, anger, indignation, shame. We experience it all. The actors of Crux Creations play different scenes in relation to social safety (sexual harassment, discrimination, aggression), but also highlight psychological safety (exerting pressure, gossiping, demonstrating power). Together with the audience, they reflect on this: What do we see happening here? How would you act in this situation? 

Open dialogue  

For a psychologically safe learning environment, especially the dialogue between teacher and student is important. 'Sometimes teachers feel attacked and react defensively to contradiction or feedback from students, but they can also think: Hey, this is interesting. Let's discuss this together,' Peter explains. 'It is essential for teaching that students can speak up, because it helps teachers to better understand their needs. Behaviour such as prematurely interrupting conversations or downplaying students' questions can lead to students not feeling heard or valued, possibly making them reluctant to speak out in the future.' 

Acknowledge vulnerability  

Even a brief acknowledgement such as 'How good of you to say this' shows appreciation towards the student who takes the courage to speak up, ( in other words, rewarded vulnerability). Acknowledging and rewarding vulnerabilities and paying attention to subtle elements such as attitude, language and tone contributes to a positive communication culture. 'When we are aware of this, we lay the foundation for a more empathetic and supportive communication environment,' Peter said. 

Tools for teachers   

Peter shares some brief advice that contributes to a safer learning environment:

  1. Be empathic: Show understanding of the various challenges students face.
  2. Be listening: Listen actively and without judgement to students' needs and ideas. 
  3. Be responsive to feedback: Be open to feedback and suggestions from students. Create an environment where they can share it freely.  
  4. Be appreciative: Acknowledge and show appreciation for students' efforts.  
  5. Be honest and clear: Communicate in an honest and transparent manner. Be clear about expectations and goals. 

CruxCreaties & Peter Berkhout 

Crux Creations aims to maximise the learning capacity of individuals, teams and organisations. With a passion for the growth of individuals, teams and organisations, trainer and developer Peter Berkhout offers expertise in game methodologies and insights from systems thinking. Together with others, Peter delivers tailor-made solutions, supporting to identify challenges and devise solutions. Peter has been hired to deliver theatre workshops at Radboud University for the past four years.

Read more about CruxCreaties

Practicing educational situations

Does supervision of your students not go smoothly? Do you want to engage in a difficult conversation, but are you unsure of how to approach this? Or have you ever wanted to practice a certain situation without consequences? Register for the training educational situations!

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