Modern Learning Environment

Update December 2015:  Collaborative Classrooms for all mainstream classes in 2016
Through our newsletters our parent community has been following our progress toward collaborative classrooms.  We are starting the new year with three sets of clollaborative classrooms       

Collaborative Classrooms
The following has been adapted from our school newsletter 21 October 2015.

In term three we started our first “collaborative classroom"– we called this class “The Learning Base”.  Since then, Teachers Emma Davidson and Barry Duff and their class of 54 children have been collaborating in their learning.  The ability to learn in a flexible timetable at a variety of spaces, with opportunity for considerable self-management has yielded some outstanding results.  The approach is new for all of us, but significant numbers of children in the Learning Base made greater progress than we would usually expect to see. We are now preparing for our classes to work in a collaborative manner from term one 2016.   How they make this work will be up to them.  In preparation for this all teachers have been involved in investigating theory behind current innovations.  All teachers have visited  

All of our main contributing schools are working toward this style (although there are different names used for it), so the required shift in thinking will be much less in coming school terms.

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Classroom Changes
The following is from our school newsletter 1 July 2015.

Our first foray into a collaborative teaching space. Over the past year we have mentioned in this newsletter the changes happening in the teaching world. Schools all over New Zealand are finding that being collaborative in schools has several advantages over the traditional one teacher per class model. I think this is the biggest change in the history of established schooling in Aotearoa. Next term two classes – Rooms One and Room Six – will be based in our library. The library will be relocated to the current Room Six. We have informed the parents of those classes and held a meeting with them last week. 

Why are we changing?

Essentially, we have a major overhaul of our classrooms planned starting mid or late 2016.  This is an opportunity for us to make significant improvements to our teaching spaces.  Shared teaching and learning spaces have been recommended with special consideration given to lighting, acoustics, heating and ventilation.  More importantly there are perceived advantages in multi—class spaces.  We are using this time to try out some of the recommended changes to help us when we are involved in the design of our modernisation.

We are looking at ways for other teachers and classes to be involved in collaborative spaces before the end of this year so that all or most of our school community can contribute to feedback and planning. 

What are some of the specific advantages which collaborative spaces might bring for our children and teachers?
  • Two teachers working together can bring different skills to the classroom.
  • Two teachers share the load of class planning to meet the needs of the children; They double the brain power!
  • Two teachers are responsible to each other and the children to deliver a quality classroom programme.
  • With two teachers in a classroom, the children have two possible teachers with whom they can “connect”.
  • Our collaborative space is initially being called our Learning Base.

Here are some comments from a teacher who has been working in a Collaborative manner for two years
  1. My struggling students all raise(d) their data by a number of stanines or by stages (for Maths).
  2. Engagement from students is huge, which enables all students to make the most of their learning time.
  3. Relationships with peers/teachers is stronger than would have been in a single cell.
  4. Peer teaching raises motivation and academic scores - students can mix with all the year groups that are in the Centre which enables students to take risks, be confident and reteach skills.
  5. Students comment that the Centre encourages them to build not just academic skills but their social skills and self-management more than what they have previously had …, they state there is no down time...there is no wasted time...and every minute of their day is focused, engaged and challenging.
  6. The ownership of learning becomes real - this can only benefit our results.
  7. Every year the standardised scores increase dramatically , including our students (who) are below. 
  8. Students no longer feel like they are stuck in a group - the ability to go back and forwards to where they want to be makes a huge difference - no longer do we waste time teaching students things they already know. Nuttal's research into learning shows that teachers teach students 50% of what they already knew. MLE moves away from this - which means that students are really personalised learners.
  9. Collaboration with teachers in a real environment ensures the students get the best teachers for their needs - and teachers get constant PD support from each other, and can go far more in-depth with their thinking about students and teachers learning. 
I don't have the answers either - but I can see the benefits - and after teaching for 21 years I can see the shift from teacher control to student power is making the biggest difference for all.

The following is from newsletter 1 April 2014
SIS is due for moderate refurbishment in 2016.  We are keen to make improvements which enhance teaching and learning.  There is currently much talk about “modern learning environments”.  While “environment” can refer to physical aspects, it can also encompass emotional, intellectual, social, psychological aspects of the classroom.   What the teachers do, how they run the classrooms are crucial components contributing to the value of any learning “environment”.    Some recent school refurbishments in Christchurch are looking at physical aspects which align with other environmental  considerations. 

What aspects of MLE have been shown to contribute to improved learning?  

When our classrooms were built, “direct teaching” to large groups was considered appropriate.  Current knowledge about how we learn most successfully suggests that people learn best through small group interaction, at different paces, with different prompts and styles.  For these reasons the construction of classrooms which cater for these factors is essential.  Modern science also tells us we need more natural light than artificial light, and good ventilation (as opposed to…).  Comfortable seating (but not too comfortable) prolongs concentration.  Because children are different sizes, and people have different physiology, we need variable furnishings and spaces to cater for different sizes and learning styles and moods.

We will occasionally feature more information about current learning discussions.