Crossing Bloom’s Bridge: Being Comfortable In Your Learning Environment

Author: Katy Mevis, Tutor

Date: September 11, 2023

Tags: Studying, Academics

As facilitators of learning, we are constantly trying to better understand the process of learning itself. One of the most notable frameworks of categorizing educational goals is Bloom’s Taxonomy. Benjamin Bloom in 1956 put together a pyramid infographic involving six main categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The base of the pyramid is knowledge because it is fundamental to move to the next level, comprehension, and so on. These levels of learning are the key to helping students get the necessary information stored into their long-term memory. However, I believe it is important to recognize that a student cannot progress efficiently if they do not feel comfortable in their learning environment. As tutors, it is imperative that we first cross the bridge of discomfort and uneasiness before we can start focusing on climbing the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We can create a safe and comfortable learning environment by making an effort to get to know the student, encouraging/reframing negative mindsets, and coming into each session with a positive attitude ourselves.

When working with a new student, the most valuable piece of advice I have been given is to spend a few minutes discussing their interests and their goals for the sessions. Simply knowing a student’s favorite pastime is soccer, not only gives them a sense of comfort and familiarity, but also provides you as a tutor with the opportunity to draw from their interest throughout a session. For example, instead of teaching a student about projectile motion through a textbook problem, you could create another example with a soccer ball being kicked into the air at a particular angle. This makes the learning process more personalized and therefore more effective. The connection between a student’s interests and the content at hand creates a clear pathway from comprehension to application.

A phrase that is all too common amongst students is, “I am just not good at: a particular subject.” A particular scenario comes to mind when a student would often get overwhelmed with the questions and not know where to start. So, I asked the student to first write down everything they know in from the problem statement. Next, I asked them what they are trying to solve for and what equations they know that could be used to achieve this. By breaking up the problem into a step-by-step approach, the student was effectively walking me through the problem. After we finished the question I said, “You just told me you aren’t good at chemistry, but you just walked me through an entire problem.” The student smiled a bit and approached the next problem with more confidence than the last, which made them more successful. By simply reframing a negative mindset and building a student’s confidence, the learning process can be so much more effective.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that tutors are people too. This means prioritizing our own health and well-being so we can provide the best experience possible for the student. It is our job to ensure that we come from an encouraging and nonjudgmental standpoint. We need to make it clear that our sessions are a place where students should not be afraid to make mistakes, because they will learn from them. This could be acknowledging that a topic is hard and that maybe you struggled with it. Relating to a student and coming to each session with a positive attitude help create a safe and comfortable learning environment.

To be a tutor you have to understand the content. To be a successful tutor you also need to know how to create a safe and comfortable learning environment. So, take a few extra minutes to get to know a student’s favorite pastimes. Encourage them and prove themself wrong about any negative thoughts they have. Take time before a session to get yourself into a positive mindset. Cross the bridge of uncertainty and discomfort. It goes beyond just the scope of a tutoring session. As humans we are lifelong learners—learning is tightly wound to our identities and how we view the world around us. The more we learn, the more our perspectives change and develop. By being aware of our environment and what makes us feel comfortable, we can equip ourselves with the tools necessary to maximize our learning potential.