Thursday, July 28, 2011

Whatever happened to all the open-plan schools?

Whatever happened to all the ‘open plan’ schools in New Zealand? Why is it that when you visit schools that used to be well known for open spaces they look so different now? Often spaces have been completely remodeled or just had so many partitions and barriers put back up that they little resemble their former selves.
What caused this to happen, essentially recreating what presumably they’d tried so hard to replace? Was it just a trend that saw the building of open plan spaces in the first place, and who’s to say that these new open learning spaces don’t go the same way?

In conversations with teachers who used to teach in these spaces I get the impression that in many cases teachers still had their own class, still occupied a part of the wider space and would operate there in exactly the same way as if they’d been in a single cell classroom. Although there were no physical walls there were certainly invisible ones. There was little movement of learners between learning areas and even less of the teachers. I realize that not all schools operated like this though and I’m keen to touch base with teachers who’ve worked in these spaces. I think there are some great narratives out there that can help us understand what did and didn’t work.

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