Peter Petocz and Anna Reid
Developing a learning environment that supports high-quality student learning, covers curriculum that is relevant to students and their future work, caters for diverse student and academic populations and fits into university strategic plans has always been a major challenge for academic staff. In the area of mathematics it is possibly even more problematic, as it may have to counter students' adverse perceptions of a subject that is only one part of their studies, or is not their first choice.
Different solutions to the problem of setting up such a learning environment have been proposed at various times and places. Often, these solutions would focus on single aspects of the learning environment, for example, a curriculum using problem-based learning (Bookman and Friedman, 1994), a modification to assessment tasks for students (Dreyfus, 1999), increasing teaching skills of student tutors (Jacques, 2000) and so on. However, any change made in isolation from other aspects of the learning environment can help for a while, but is often unsustainable for any length of time.
In Chapter 7 we investigated the process of course design with a particular emphasis on student approaches to learning. In this chapter, we describe the notion of the Total Learning Environment, in which we consider all participants, curriculum, assessments, evaluations and perceptions as part of the one learning entity. We thus draw together various issues addressed in earlier chapters. We consider that all aspects of the Total Learning Environment play a critical role in the development and maintenance of high-quality student learning and high-quality teaching. Each aspect needs to be supported in a strategic manner to enhance the quality of all aspects of the Total Learning Environment.