Creating a Productive Teaching Environment

How does a class setting influence student learning?  What actions create an environment that motivates and engages students?

Some of the factors that create a productive learning environment include:

  • Class begins promptly and in a well-organized way.
  • Learners are able to see the significance and importance of information they are learning.
  • The teacher provides clear explanations and holds attention and respect of students
  • Class time includes a variety of active, hands-on student learning
  • Clear, specific expectations for assignments are communicated.
  • Learners are provided with many concrete, real-life, practical examples.
  • The class environment is comfortable for students and allows them to speak freely.

For additional information on a productive learning environment, click here.


Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to describe learning environments that were most beneficial for them.
  • Have students describe an activity that would be beneficial for learning personal finance.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are potential benefits and concerns for various actions that teachers might take?
  2. What actions make be taken to enhance the personal finance learning environment?


What is Your Teaching Style?

Every teacher has a distinctive style that will hopefully engage students in the learning process and help them develop critical thinking skills.  As traditional teaching styles are adapted to meet the needs of varied students, consider these five main classroom strategies:

  1. Authority, or lecture style, is teacher-centered and may be appropriate for certain topics and settings. However, little or no interaction with the teacher may limit learning effectiveness.
  1. Demonstrator, or coach style, allows teachers show key concepts with the use of lectures, visuals, media, and exhibits. This approach may be difficult to implement in larger classrooms.
  1. Facilitator, or activity style, promotes self-learning and develops critical thinking skills, such as training students to ask questions and obtain skills to find answers.
  1. Delegator, or group style, provides opportunities for guided discovery and problem-based learning. The teacher serves as an observer role with students working toward a common goal.
  1. Hybrid, or blended style, offers an integrated approach to coordinate the personality of the teacher with the interests and needs of students.

Most important, is the engagement of students in the learning process along with a teaching style to address the needs of diverse students.

For additional information on teaching styles, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to describe learning environments that were most effective for them.
  • Conduct a personal assessment to determine the teaching style that might best fit your situation.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are potential benefits and concerns for various teaching styles in your class setting?
  2. How do the various teaching styles best fit your personality and your students?

Critical Thinking in the Classroom

To prepare students for higher levels of analysis, faculty members must explicitly and

intentionally design courses to build critical thinking skills. General agreement exists that critical thinking involves interpretation or analysis, usually followed by evaluation or judgment. After students have mastered the subject matter, critical thinking can be developed with questions such as:

  • What are alternative points of view for this situation?
  • What are the costs and benefits of each alternative?
  • What assumptions are the basis for these alternatives?
  • What evidence exists for each alternative?
  • What additional information might be required in this situation?
  • What actions might be taken to identify the risks in this situation?
  • How might risks be reduced?

In this learning process, students should receive feedback so they can adapt and refine their thinking in future situations. Learning experiences that help to develop critical thinking include class discussions, debates, role playing, targeted journaling, case situations, and problem solving exercises. These instructional methods can encourage curiosity, encourage questions, and require that students explain and justify responses.

For additional information on critical thinking, click here:

Teaching Suggestions

  • Talk with students about their experiences with class assignments that have required them to think beyond just knowing basic facts.
  • Conduct online research to obtain additional information on how technology might be used to enhance critical thinking.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are potential benefits of critical thinking skills for students?
  2. What actions might be taken to improve critical thinking skills?


Learning about High-Cost Financial Services

Brian Page, a teacher in Reading Ohio, wants his students to understand the drawbacks of check-cashing services, pawnshops, rent-to-own stores, payday loans, and other shadow banking services.  As a result, he scheduled a field trip for his students to visit these sources of high-cost financial services in their community, which are used by many unbanked consumers.

At LoanMax, they observed people getting loans with their auto titles serving as collateral.  One missed payment could lead to repossession of the vehicle. Next, at CheckSmart, students learned about payday lending and tax refund anticipation loans.

At CashAmerica people were making loan payments on money borrowed, which used jewelry, electronics, and sports memorabilia as collateral. Finally, the visit to the Rent-A-Center store demonstrated the exorbitant costs of furniture, appliances, and electronics when using a rent-to-own payment program.

For additional information on teaching about high-cost financial services, go to:

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk with someone who has used one of these high-cost financial services. Obtain information about their experiences.
  • If appropriate, have students visit a high-cost financial service provider to obtain information about their services and fees.
  • Have students create a video presentation with suggestions on how to avoid using costly sources of financial services.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Why are an increasing number of people using high-cost financial services such as pawnshop loans, payday loans, and rent-to-own programs?
  2. What alternatives might used by consumers instead of these high-cost financial services?
  3. What actions might a person take to avoid these high-cost financial services?

The “Blended” Classroom.

Today, many students expect a more interactive learning experience involving technology. While not all students are best served by online classes, the use of blended (or hybrid) teaching can take advantage of both the face-to-face learning setting and technology-enhanced instruction.

In a blended class, part of the content delivery and instruction is through online delivery with students having some choice over time, place, path and pace. When planning and implementing a blended teaching approach, some suggested preliminary guidelines include:

  • Have a large vision but start small. Use selected elements of technology such as an online discussion board, student blog entries, or existing web-based videos.
  • Adapt your technology use based on your growing experiences. Ask students for their suggestions to enhance the interactive learning environment.
  • Use technology to enhance your existing learning goals. Make efficient use of online materials and other resources to improve what you already do.
  • Connect virtual instructional resources and experiences to the face-to-face learning environment. Keep students accountable for their online activities with application exercises and in-class assessment.
  • Move students from being consumers of information to producers of information with assignments that require comprehensive research reports, case study analyses, visual summaries (such as infographics), and student-created video productions.
  • Take advantage of resources not available to previous generations, such as online lectures of experts in the field and virtual tours.

For additional information on a blended teaching and flipped classrooms go to:

Discussion Questions

  1. What are potential benefits of using a blended teaching approach?
  2. What concerns might be associated with a blended teaching approach?
  3. What actions might you consider taking to move toward blended teaching.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Talk with students about their experiences with blended classrooms and the use of technology to enhance the learning process.
  • Conduct online research to obtain additional information on the experiences of people who make use of a blended learning environment.