An innovative learning environment is the current outcome of the constructivist approach, the essence of which is co-construction of knowledge in an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) environment. We examined
how Israeli students perceived 10 characteristics of their classroom learning environment—student cohesiveness, teacher support, involvement, task orientation, investigation, cooperation, equity, differentiation, computer usage and young adult ethos. Particular foci were students’ perceptions of the actual state of their learning environment compared with the preferred state, and which characteristics predicted students’ cooperation. Participants were 1022 students in 33 classes from 12 computerised elementary and middle schools in Israel.
Data were collected using the Technology-Rich Outcomes-Focused Learning Environment Inventory (TROFLEI). Results indicated a gap between the actual and the preferred states for all characteristics, although the scope of these gaps differed between elementary-schools students and middle-school students for certain characteristics.
Structural equation modelling (SEM) analysis indicated that nine characteristics of the innovative environment in both actual and preferred states were related to cooperation, with these relations being primarily direct with the exception of teacher support and differentiation which had an indirect influence. Teacher support was mediated through student cohesiveness, involvement, equity and young adult ethos, whereas differentiation was mediated through investigation. Evaluation of the innovative learning environment might lead to better insights regarding the behaviours and needs of twenty-first century students in Israel’s education system. These insights could advance constructivist processes and teaching methods and bring the students to effective cooperative learning in an innovative learning environment.
The importance of this study that it is one of the first learning environment studies in Israel to examine issues on a large scope from the perspective of the student, making first use of a valid and reliable universal measurement tool. The timing of the study is also significant. In 2010, Israel launched its national ICT program in an attempt to adapt the education system to the demands of the twenty-first century. However, the integration of technology was not a goal in itself, but rather was used as leverage for educational change and pedagogical innovation. This reform is still causing gradual changes in the perception of effective learning and its objectives, in teaching and learning methods and in the assessment of learning.
These changes have a direct impact on the learning environment. Because the end client of the education system is the student, an examination of students’ perceptions of the characteristics of their learning environment might be the real test of the success of the reform and its goals. As Cohn and Fraser (2016) claim, students spend many hours in the classroom where they encounter different learning situations and so justifiably they are the ones to evaluate their learning environment.
Based on our research findings, we recommend helping teachers to develop an innovative learning environment that emphasizes cooperation so that students are ready to handle the challenges of the future. One limitation of this study relates to the TROFLEI which was developed in the twentieth century; we recommend updating the parameter of computer usage so that it corresponds to the digital literacy of the twenty-first century. Given the range of computerised schools in Israel that have different educational goals and different mindsets regarding technology, further research is recommended into differences in perceptions of the innovative learning environment between different types of schools (such as public and private, religious and secular, Jewish and Arab) and different class levels.
This research was supported by The MOFET Institute and the Department of Teacher Education at the Ministry of Education.