Right now it's just covered in grass, but there’s a tangible air of excitement at the moment as talk turns to our school’s second build and what new learning hubs might look like. A steadily climbing role has meant that there is a need for new learning spaces mid next year, somewhat ahead of schedule, and being a place that highly values the collaborative process, there is no lack of interest in being part of the process. This grass, over the next twelve months is set to be transformed!
But what does that collaborative process need to look like and who needs to be part of it. In essence, ‘whose voice are we valuing?’
It seems that there are a number of key stakeholders that need to be part of the consultation process- the teachers, the students, the parents and the leadership in the form of the Principal’s team and the Board of Trustees.
To date we’ve begun working with the teaching staff and the students. We’ve asked the teachers questions such as:
“How would you change the current hubs if you could?”
“If you could start from scratch, what might they look like?”
“How many break-out rooms, and what size should they be?”
“What types of learning settings do we have/ not have?”
And we’ve begun to engage with a student group, and have asked similar questions:
“What do you like/ dislike about the present learning hubs?”
“What would you design that would be an improvement?”
Next on the horizon is the first of a number of meetings with the community. It’s a crucially important group to bring with us on the journey and there’s certainly no shortage of parent interest.
In a sense this is the start of a knowledge building phase. It’s about understanding how teachers and students are utilizing the current spaces, hearing about the parts that work well or not as the case may be, appreciating where improvements might be made and what they might look like, and to give teachers time to reflect on the opportunities and challenges presented by open learning spaces. If, for example, we value collaboration, then how can we ensure that the spaces lend themselves to it?
The theme of participation in the design process is one that Woolner (2010), explores extensively. She argues that there is considerable evidence that engaging involvement from all stakeholders is a necessary part of the building or redesigning process, and one that should result in an environment that will fit the desired outcomes. The process itself she suggests is a complex one. There are issues of whose voice is being heard, of relative positions of power and exclusion, of contemporary knowledge of learning and teaching and of not simply defaulting to what we’ve always known, the issue of language, and of who, ultimately, actually gets to make the decisions.
In my view the important consideration is that the process truly values the voices of all participants; that it’s not simply a case of ticking the boxes and just acknowledging that we have ‘consulted’. As Woolner puts it “…the key to real participation lies in an ongoing, respectful and genuine dialogue, involving a wide range of people and ideas” (p. 77).
We know we’re in for an exciting journey…watch this space.
Woolner, P. (2010). The design of learning spaces. London: Continuum.