With close to fifty people in the seminar room at Albany Senior High School this was the best attended PLG meeting so far. It was the first time we had met on the North Shore, and importantly the first time at a secondary school. A great opportunity therefore for primary colleagues to see first hand what open learning spaces- learning commons- look like and how they operate in this context. Albany High is a very appropriate space to visit. Arguably one of the most innovative learning spaces in the country and certainly leading the fields in many areas.
Staff from Albany reflected on the difference the space makes to them, in terms of their teaching, professional development, the style of learning as well as the high level of student achievement. The team talked of the relationship between space and pedagogy, of collaboration and technology.
Visibility of learning but one of the key features that people picked up on as was the transparency of the teaching. “Your practice has to be honest in shared teaching spaces”, I remember a colleague in Early Childhood telling me a couple of years ago. And she was talking about the fact that you’re always on show, always being observed, always being the observer in a profession that historically has gone into the classroom and closed the door. She was talking about the deprivatisation of practice, of the opportunity to learn from colleagues, and to influence those around you. We see that students learn better when they see other students learning and it seems much the same for teachers too. It’s a universal raising of the game.
What’s exciting is to hear the way that beginning teachers are talking about being in open learning spaces- and this was really evident at Albany- the depth of learning that takes place through osmosis, through just being surrounded by great practice. It’s the notion of incidental professional learning, and it’s a very powerful one. Beginning Teachers referred to behaviour management strategies, teaching techniques and strategies for engaging students. This is an exciting space for BTs and a concept we worth exploring further
The nature of the dialogue seems to be shifting over the last year or so. The number of schools either opening up spaces or considering it, is increasing and there is a strong interest in how to bring community and staff along. A number of areas were raised which should form great discussion focuses in the meetings ahead:
What are the cultural challenges of moving from traditional to open spaces?
What are some strategies to move towards more co-teaching models?
What professional learning is useful leading towards a transition?
How do you get the parent community on board?
How can technology help support teaching and learning in this style of learning space?
How do you prepare the children?
What sort of spaces help encourage collaboration?
Next term’s meeting will be a little different in terms of venue- more details out shortly. There will certainly be an opportunity to exemplify the discoveries, share the learning and celebrate the successes (whilst of course owning the failures!)
A big thanks to Mark Osbourne and the ASHS team for helping to make this session happen.