Monday, June 27, 2011

Professional Learning Group: Getting started

The opportunity to be involved in a new professional learning group looking at open learning spaces came up last week. Teachers from three schools got together to share the positives emerging in their open learning spaces as well as the challenges.

The three schools present are all in different situations; one, a new school with learning hubs for up to 75 learners and three teachers; one a school piloting a shared space with 60 amalgamated into a two classroom space with two teachers; and one opening up a new five teacher, 150 children shared space as part of a building redevelopment.

Some of those present were teaching in these open spaces and others, happy to be teaching in their own classrooms,  had come along for the dialogue. All the teachers involved were interested in the opportunities and challenges that these open spaces offered and despite the variation in design, many of the issues, the challenges and the positives were shared ones.

Teachers sharing the positives talked about student engagement, how they could utilize teacher’s strengths, how they were investigating new ways of using their classroom space. The challenges related to parental perceptions, ensuring open space doesn’t hinder great learning and noise. I’m keen to dig into these over the coming weeks and it’s given me a rich vein of expertise to tap into.

The PLG is aiming to meet on a termly basis and new schools and teachers are very welcome to join.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Into the great wide open

What might the primary school classroom of the future look like?

Recent school developments in New Zealand have indicated that there is a move towards schools building more open environments for learners. There is talk of spaces being flexible, agile, multi-purpose, with breakout spaces and withdrawal rooms. But what difference does a space actually make and what are the implications for learners in these spaces? Will the spaces act as enablers that increase engagement, motivation and achievement? Will the spaces enable learning with tangible benefits in measurable outcomes? What too are the implications for teachers? What are the challenges and benefits for them? Schools with open spaces are one thing but are there changes in teacher practice required to make them work? Is there a link between pedagogy and space?

Six months out from embarking on a research masters thesis on the subject of pedagogy and classroom spaces, I have many ideas, hypotheses, and prospective lines of inquiry. This is a growing area of interest for me and one that school principals and boards are beginning to ask more questions about. It is certainly a contemporary and relevant area for inquiry. Sometimes though, with so many potential directions to follow, the hardest part is working out what question to ask. My intention therefore is to use this space to surface my thinking, reflect on readings and begin to ask and answer some of the tricky questions.