Last Updated: Thursday, June 27, 2019

Inspiring environments for high-quality learning

What is this?

​This example of practice describes how early learning and childcare staff across Clackmannanshire and Stirling improved the environment of their setting. Using Building the Ambition as a starting point, staff critically reflected on how children’s spaces could be improved and what materials and resources could be offered to children in exciting ways.

Who is this for?

​This example will be of interest to practitioners in early learning and childcare and primary education, particularly those looking to improve the learning environment to support play-based approaches.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice

This example is intended to be used by individuals and by teams of practitioners. The presentation includes video footage of professional dialogue about the importance of the environment, as well as photographs of learning environments. Accompanying the presentation are notes, which offer additional information for each of the slides.

It is possible to use the presentation in chunks, looking at a number of slides in one sitting. In the notes that accompany the presentation, there are some challenge questions to help promote professional dialogue and discussion as the presentation unfolds.

It is also possible to view the presentation from beginning to end and then to consider the following challenge questions:

  • In your setting, what role do children have in deciding what the environment should look like or contain?
  • How engaged are children by the materials on offer in their environment?
  • How confident are you that the environment of your setting reflects children’s needs, interests and dispositions?
  • Does the environment of your setting encourage children’s inquiry, creativity and imagination?
  • In what ways does the environment support children to build on their prior learning and to use their developing skills in a range of ways?
  • How do you make decisions about the ‘richness’ of the learning environment? Does everyone have consistently high expectations of how the environment should support deep learning?

Downloads and links

PowerPoint file: Improving Environments for High-Quality Learning (6.94 MB)

Word file: Notes to accompany the PowerPoint (37 KB)

You can also view the video clips (available as part of the PowerPoint presentation).

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What was done?

Using Building the Ambition as a stimulus, practitioners across Clackmannanshire and Stirling looked again at the effectiveness of the environment for learning. Operating within key principles and using their knowledge of how young children learn, practitioners improved the physical environment of their settings.

Why was it done?

To implement the advice in the Building the Ambition guidance.

What was the impact?

In the settings featured in the presentation, practitioners report that children are more calm and collaborative in their learning. Practitioners spend more time thinking about how the learning environment motivates and excites children; practitioners are more analytical in their approach and are confident to be guided by children as to changes in the environment.