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Collaborative Teaching in Flexible Spaces

Waitākiri Primary School is a purpose built school for 650 children. The school was designed to maximise learning opportunities for children through collaborative teaching in flexible spaces.
The school is comprised of six learning studios, each designed to cater for approx. 115 children. In each learning studio there are 3-5 teachers (depending on the year level) and one to two learning assistants. The learning studios provide spaces for children to learn in large or small groups or independently depending on the learning activity.

Each studio can be refigured to meet a range of learning needs and activities. The learning studios each have a large central learning space, 3-4 breakout rooms, a substantial art/cooking/technology area and teacher workroom. Each studio has a quiet space to support independent learning. Outdoor bag storage under the eaves allows more space for learning activities in the studios.
The studios have acoustic treatments on the ceiling and walls, natural lighting and ventilation, wifi systems and a connection to the outdoors as an extension of the studio.

Collaborative Teaching

Our focus is always on effective teaching. One of the biggest benefits of the flexible spaces is the opportunity for children to learn with multiple teachers throughout the day. Teachers use their strengths, passions and expertise, bounce ideas off each other, problem solve, support and challenge each other to provide differentiated learning opportunities for all children. Two or more heads are definitely better than one!

Evidence, both nationally and internationally, highlights that teachers are better able to meet the diverse needs of children and provide targeted support and challenge through collaborative teaching.

Collaborative teaching and learning in flexible spaces also supports the Māori concepts of:

Manaakitanga: Looking after others, showing respect and kindness to others, enhancing mana. This is also expressed in our concepts of REAL Learning Heroes.

Whanaungatanga: Building strong relationships, building a sense of family connection, providing a sense of belonging through building relationships, and including others and learning in multi-year level studios together.

Tangata Whenuatanga: Affirming Māori learners as Māori and providing contexts for learning where the language, identity and culture of Māori learners and their whānau is affirmed. All learners, including staff, have a strong sense of place and identity through the dual heritage of the community they live in, enhanced through our study of Tangata Whenua over 2014 & 2015, our Kaupapa, and the culture in our learning studios.

Rangatiratanga: Learners are encouraged into leadership and decision making around their learning and achievement. Progressively, students are enabled to make REAL CHOICES about where they learn, who they learn with and then when, what and why they learn.

Ako: A dynamic form of learning where the educator and the student learn from each other in an interactive way.

Tuakana Teina: Refers to the relationship between an older (tuakana) person and a younger (teina) person. Within teaching and learning contexts, this can take a variety of forms.

Peer to Peer – Teina teaches teina, tuakana teaches tuakana.

Younger to Older – The teina has some skills in an area that the tuakana does not and is able to teach the tuakana.

Older to Younger – The tuakana has the knowledge and content to pass on to the teina.

Kaitiaki: The term used for the Māori concept of guardianship, for the sky, the sea, and the land. A Kaitiaki is a guardian, and the process and practices of protecting and looking after the environment are referred to as Kaitiakitanga. Waitākiri Primary School pupils are encouraged and supported through their unique learning community (Whenua, Wai or Rangi) to become guardians of our school and surrounds.


  • I have heard that children are left to manage themselves in these spaces, is that correct?

No. Your child will be encouraged and supported to become a self-regulated learner. Self-regulation is a skill we all want and one of the goals of the New Zealand curriculum. We will be closely monitoring all your child is doing. If you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s learning make sure you talk to us sooner than later!

  • Will my child have a teacher who is responsible for them?

Yes and no. Your child will get the best of both worlds, a home room teacher who is your first point of contact and your child’s ‘go to’ person. However, there will also be at least three other teachers who will get to know your child well and will be making sure there is lots of learning going on and your child feels safe, supported and is challenged to be a REAL Hero!

  • Are these spaces proven?

Absolutely! There is plenty of research to support giving your child a learning environment with quality teachers and a wide range of learning experiences. These learning studios enable learning experiences and teaching that is simply not possible with one teacher in a 66m2 room with 27 children. Not only does your child have more space and options, they will also have multiple teachers to support learning.

  • Some people say this is just the open plan era again and that didn’t work so why are we doing it all again?

There are many similarities between what forward thinking educators were trying to achieve in the 1970s and today, there are also many differences. We have a student centred approach, understand the need for children to be engaged in their learning and have some say in what they are doing. We also understand how to create environments to maximise learning. None of this was apparent in 1970. Thank goodness schools are finally moving into the 21st century to catch up with the world our children live in! Our research reveals we have a lot to learn from open plan era. At Waitākiri Primary School we intend to learn from the past to create a better future for our children.

  • What happens if the environment isn’t working for my child?

Talk to your child’s home group teacher in the first instance. Together, figure out what is required to do to make it work.

  • What happens when my child goes to high school?

Let’s hope our high schools are making the move into the 21st century… Regardless, we will be teaching your child to be a Respectful, Encouraging, Achieving Lifelong learner no matter where they go. Together we are helping them to be the best they can be, to be a REAL Learning Hero!