Characteristics of a Learning Atmosphere
When we meet to learn the gospel, we do not come together merely as teachers, students, and friends. We come together as brothers and sisters—children of Heavenly Father. Our baptismal covenant further unites us, for we share the responsibilities that Alma described to the Saints who had recently been baptized in the waters of Mormon: we should “look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having [our] hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21).
This understanding of our baptismal covenant should inspire us to help each other learn and live the gospel so we can return to live with our Father in Heaven. One way in which both learners and teachers can do this is to create a learning atmosphere.
In a learning atmosphere, we (1) edify each other through our participation, (2) love and help each other, and (3) desire to search for truth together.
Teachers and learners edify each other through their participation. We edify each other when we listen carefully to each other’s comments, participate in discussions and other learning activities, ask thoughtful questions, pray together, offer personal experiences and insights, and bear testimony (see D&C 88:122).
Teachers and learners love and help one another. People learn more effectively when they feel that they are among friends who care about them. If they feel that they might be ridiculed or embarrassed, they will be less likely to contribute to lessons and grow in the gospel. We can show by our words and actions that we care about them and that we want them to progress. The following counsel from Elder Henry B. Eyring relates to the love we should feel when we meet to learn the gospel: “Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 85; or Ensign, May 1998, 66).
Teachers and learners all desire to search for truth. As we join with one another in the grand purpose of learning to understand and live the gospel, our opportunities for learning increase. When we become more unified in our search for truth, we invite the Spirit of the Lord to be with us in abundance.
Teaching Others about a Learning Atmosphere
Part of your responsibility as a teacher is to help learners understand what they can do to create an atmosphere conducive to learning. Each learner is responsible for helping the others have a good learning experience. As you strive to establish a learning atmosphere in your class, you are not merely correcting behavior or making sure that your presentation is not interrupted. You are fulfilling your divine commission to help others become better disciples of the Savior.
To teach family members or class members to contribute to a learning atmosphere, consider conducting a discussion using the following suggestions:
Express your feelings about the gospel, and explain that you want to help others learn gospel truths.
Discuss the responsibility we have to help one another learn the gospel (see
Talk about the importance of participating in lessons.
Ask those present to suggest things they can do to help create a learning atmosphere.
A teacher who had been called to teach the seven- and eight-year-olds in Primary conducted such a discussion the first time she met with the class. “My dear friends,” she said that Sunday morning, “the bishop has called me to be your teacher. He laid his hands on my head and blessed me that I will be able to understand you, love you, and teach you true things. This makes me so happy. In our class I will try to prepare lessons that are interesting and true. I will be sure to give you many opportunities to ask and answer questions, to sing, to listen to stories, and to tell me things that you know are true.”
The teacher continued: “Before we were born, all of us lived with our Heavenly Father. We are His children, and so we are brothers and sisters. In our class we want to help each other learn so that we can return to live with Heavenly Father again. What are some things that each of us can do to help others in the class learn the important things we will be talking about? Let’s each think of something we can do.”
The teacher listed the class members’ ideas on the chalkboard. The list included such things as treating each other kindly, participating in the lessons, sharing experiences and testimonies, listening, and trying hard to understand the gospel principles.
Then the teacher asked, “Can you think of anything that would interfere with our learning?” She made another list on the chalkboard. This list included such things as making fun of someone and talking while someone else is talking.
From these two lists the teacher and class members made a few class rules describing what they should expect from one another.
This was not the only time the teacher talked about these principles. She discussed them privately with class members from time to time and, as needed, with the class as a whole.
As you prepare to teach, consider how you can adapt this teacher’s approach or use other ideas to help others contribute to a learning environment. If you are observant and prayerful, you will find many opportunities to teach that learning occurs best when we (1) edify each other through our participation, (2) love and help each other, and (3) desire to search for truth together.
For more on creating a learning atmosphere, see