Sunday, September 23, 2012

CEFPI Site visit update

Unfortunately the planned CEFPI site visit to the National Library has had to be postponed.
Apologies for the late notice of this change and hope this has not inconvenienced anyone too much.

We look forward to seeing you at the next CEFPI site visit.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Next CEFPI site visit coming up soon

The next CEFPI NZ site visit is going to be on Monday 24th September and will be at the National Library in Auckland. If you’ve not had the chance to go there before, it’s a wonderful space housing not only a comprehensive collection of books and resources but it's an innovative learning space too. In addition it’s also home to some very forward thinkers around the concept of a library, the service a library might provide and the integration of digital materials. With so much dialogue around at present about the role of libraries it’s a timely visit.

CEFPI aims to connect architects, educators, suppliers, planners and  Ministry with the shared aim of designing great spaces for learning. The National Library is therefore a very relevant site to visit and more so for being one that falls outside the school space of learning. If you’re keen to get involved in the activities of CEFPI NZ you are very welcome to come along.

CEFPI is a young organization in New Zealand although has a strong membership across the Tasman. We’re keen to extend the membership over the next months as we head towards hosting the Australasian conference here in May 2013.

If you’re keen to get involved or would just like some further details, please come along on the 24th or email Chris

Sunday, September 9, 2012

PLG- numbers climbing

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.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Valuing the voices: The design process begins

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.