Flexible learning space…

I had a great discussion with a colleague the other day, about the new flexible learning spaces at our junior campus. They’ll be moving next week and nothing will be the same again! She loves change and challenges, as do I, and listening to her speak passionately about the possibilities, I wished I was part of it.

The new building doesn’t have classrooms in the old sense of the word. Each year level has a series of spaces: one closed room for explicit teaching, an open space for group work, an area with computers, places for small group withdrawal and a student conferencing area. There are also outdoor patios, wet areas and project areas.

Teaching and learning in this sort of environment will be very a different experience. The teachers have worked with an expert in flexible learning spaces to help them shift their thinking about what teaching and learning might look like. They have been provided with a variety of team-building opportunities, since they will be working in teams at year levels now. They visited another school which has implemented a flexible learning environment to observe the day-to-day organisation of learning in this way.

LEADING THE WAY

While the outlook is positive on the whole,  some teachers are more excited than others about embracing change. There are those who might find the idea a little stressful. I loved the analogy they were given of people being led into a cave. The leader has a strong torch and knows the way forward. Those near the front can see where to go, but those further back have to trust the leader or follow blindly in the hope that someone further forward will be leading the way. The stragglers at the back who can’t keep up, might unfortunately never get there. I’d be pushing myself forward to see what the leader was seeing, but I know some people would turn back and just go somewhere else!

We recently developed a statement of our school’s learning principles. The new learning spaces should support these beliefs admirably. I’ve blogged about the process previously, but these are our articulated beliefs again:

Everyone has the potential to learn.

  • We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, learning styles, preferences and interests.
  • Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  • Learning takes place when we make connections between previous and new understanding.
  • Learning for understanding occurs by acquiring skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to other contexts.
  • Learning is active and social and best takes place through collaboration and interaction.
  • Learning takes place when we feel secure and valued and are able to take risks.
  • Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  • Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, and requires learners to take ownership of their learning.
  • Learning is continuous, lifelong and ever-evolving.

The days of the teacher closing the door and doing her own thing are over. There is no door. I can’t wait to hear more about it. Watch this (flexible learning) space!

18 thoughts on “Flexible learning space…

  1. Marie Noske

    Edna, I look forward to hearing more about your new learning space. The school my children go to are about to establish a learning space similar to what you’ve described is happening at your school for the Year 5/6 classes. I have seen the plans for the building and I am very excited about the possibilities of learning for my children.

    Reply
  2. Kathleen McGeady

    @ Edna, that does sound very exciting and I look forward to hearing more about how it turns out.

    I love the cave analogy and it sounds like that would apply to all areas of change in education (and using technology is a big one!)

    I’ve never worked in a true “flexible learning space” but for the first time this year I have been team teaching in a big double room and it has been my best year of teaching yet. Teaching collaboratively provides so many benefits. The students love, the parents love it and I love it! I’ve got to say though, I could not just team teach with anyone so I think matching teachers is an important issue.

    Thanks for sharing what’s happening at your school, Edna!

    Kathleen

    Reply
  3. dloitz

    This is great! I really like the language your school has adopted.

    I was wondering if you would be willing to do a guest post or join the Cooperative Catalyst. I am going to Link to this story on a post I wrote last night (Making our teaching Public), but would love to have you write more about your experiences in the classroom or on any topic really.

    check out the blog at http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/

    Really love this!

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Making our Teaching Public! « Cooperative Catalyst

  5. Pingback: links for 2010-10-01 | MYAM's Blog

  6. Vytheeshwaran Vedagiri

    Such a classroom is only the begining of a revolution in education. Opening the doors is not just beneficial for the students, but is also beneficial for the teachers to deliver quality education. As I always point out, the future lies in collaboration at the global level and such a collaboration will ultimately lead to an overall elevation in the educational standards.
    With respect to the cave example here, I feel that the followers of the leader should look to light their own torches from the leader and lead the way for those who are struggling behind and also help them in lighting their own torches.

    Reply
    1. whatedsaid Post author

      I love how you extended the analogy. So that should be the role of every educator… lighting the torch to show the way for those further behind on the route to change!

      Reply
  7. Jessica

    Wow, how exciting! I’d so love to visit!
    I used to work in a flexible learning environment. And saw quite a few schools in Switzerland implementing it as well. It is a great way to learn and interact. I often feel that (even though I never close the door), that the walls enclosing us are also isolating us from each other.

    Reply
  8. Maggie Hos-McGrane

    I love the idea of flexible learning spaces and have worked in schools that had them – with no doors and with a free-flow between rooms and open communal spaces with small clusters of computers in them as well as many other things. In both schools these were new purpose-built buildings, designed with primary learners in mind. The challenge is to be able to create such spaces in traditionally built schools – sometimes it’s just impossible to knock down walls to allow these flexible spaces to be created.

    I would love to see some photos of your new learning spaces.

    Reply
    1. whatedsaid Post author

      Jessica and Maggie… this set-up would obviously appeal to PYP teachers :)

      Maggie, in this case the environment will dictate the kind of learning that will take place, but the challenge is actually how to make this kind of learning happen in any environment.

      Reply
  9. Cathy (justwonderinY)

    Edna, this is the perfect post to read after our day with Christian Long yesterday. We talked in great depth about possibility. What can learning spaces look like? How can learning be different? How can we design spaces for students to thrive? It’s powerful to force oneself to move beyond our concepts of what learning space is to what it could be, and yet very difficult to remove our concrete vision.

    I’m very interested in these new learning spaces you describe. I hope you’ll be able to share photos of them and talk about how they’re working for children. How do they change the work students do? I’m thinking learning spaces are not only changing in physical ways, but we are also less confined to two walls thanks to technology. Learning can look different with in our classroom as well. Much is possible in rethinking space, community, learning, inquiring, ownership, visioning, and creating.

    Reply
  10. ktenkely

    What a neat experience for both the teachers and students. I am looking forward to additional posts (and maybe pictures?) of these flexible spaces and how they are being used for learning. Flexibility is such an important part of the learning process. It is most often ignored in the environment kids learn in, it is nice to hear of a school who is intentionally making learning more flexible.

    Reply
  11. Tiffany Nguyen

    I would love to see this flexible learning space classroom at it’s best. As a classroom teacher, I try to incoporate many learning activities the reach all learning styles. This classroom would be “perfect” for me. I would like to see how well the students react to a classroom environment that is not considered “normal”. I can’t wait to hear more about this “flexible space”!

    Reply
  12. Jason Preater

    Reblogged this on creatED and commented:
    This is an excellent blog post about creative learning spaces. Sounds like a great place to work, with creative leadership taking risks and putting down challenges!

    Reply

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