Sunday, September 20, 2015

Modern learning environment at Russell Street School

Nic Mason shares the experience of exploring a modern learning environment at Russell Street School in Palmerston North, with four teachers, four classrooms and 120 students. Nic believes that it benefits both the teachers and the learners, and allows teachers to cater for the students' learning better now that there are more people involved in their learning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Teaching strategies in Innovative Learning Environments

How would you define an Innovative Learning Environment (ILE, formally known as a Modern Learning Environment)?
Where teachers and learners plan, teach, learn and assess together in an open, flexible learning space.  Within this space learning habits (learner agency) are at the fore, learning attitudes (growth mindset, the learning pit, being stuck on the escalator) are explicitly taught and modelled, learning systems (ability groups) are negotiated, learning areas are created and learning conversations (feedback and feedforward) flourish.  The pace in which individuals learn can be accelerated or magnified depending on their needs. The number of children an individual teacher are responsible for can be adjusted so that less learners with high needs are catered for.  An Innovative Learning Environment puts learner voice before choice.

Think of the impact quality teaching of one teacher can cave on their learners.  Now imagine how much impact 2 or 3 quality teachers can have on a cohort of learners!  Boom.

List 1-3 strategies that you have found to be most effective in the ILE. For the purpose of this survey, a teaching strategy can be defined as the method used to engage students in learning.
For each strategy, please briefly describe why you believe it is effective
Learner Agency: it is central to 21st Century learning. The ability to act and to act strategically, then we have the ability to solve problems, achieve our goals or change the world.  The world doesn't care about what we know anymore... it cares about what we can do with what we know.

Collaborative: Teachers being exposed to best practice.

Personalised: Learners are able to choose when, where and how they learn best.

Are there any strategies that you no longer use in the ILE? List 1-3
Chalk and talk!  One size fits all.  One class assignment.  One answer.  90 examples of the same piece of art... 90 fairy tails...

For each strategy, please briefly describe why you believe it is no longer useful
Most of the above comes from the belief that the teacher holds all of the knowledge and therefore the control.  This is not the case anymore and it is key to true engagement that learners are in the drivers seat of their own learning.

Have your relationships and/or interactions with students changed since you have worked in an ILE?
If you answered yes, please explain how you believe your relationships and interactions with students has changed:
I am now talking alongside students and listening to their ideas and goals.  I am no longer talking at them.

Have your relationships and/or interactions with other teachers changed since you have worked in an ILE?
If yes, please explain how your relationships and interactions with other teachers has changed:
We became a lot closer!  You learn a lot from someone when you spend an incredible amount of time with them.  People show their true colours - I was lucky that they were good colours to see :).

What was the most helpful form of support that you received in your transition into an ILE?
All of it was helpful because we needed many drips before we gained any momentum as a trickle of water.  

If I had to choose... Visiting Amsbury School in Wellington was one of the final "drips" we were exposed to.  This was the most helpful because they connected the why and the how for me. It was the final drip to really gain some momentum.

What recommendations would you make for other teachers as they start out in ILEs?
Inquire into the why and the how of ILE's.  The what can look like or sound like or feel like however you make it!  That magic comes when  everyone there knows and believes the why and the how.

What aspects of teaching in an ILE do you enjoy most?
Team work
Playing to our strengths
Being witness to best practice

What aspects of teaching in an ILE do you enjoy least?
Timetable not being flexible
Time to talk and unpack
Parent resistance?