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.
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!