Presentation to University of Canterbury November 2015
Neill presented to the University of Canterbury, College of Education Faculty in November 2015 regarding the emerging trends and findings in his research and thesis. This 76 minute presentation includes some good discussion between lecturers, faculty staff and Neill.
25 May 2016
Over the last three years our Principal Neill O'Reilly has been studying teaching and learning in flexible spaces. Attached is his recently completed thesis for those who would like to do some in-depth reading in this area! Neill will be awarded his Masters in Education with First Class Honours later in the year. If you use any information from Neill's thesis please remember to credit the source: O'Reilly, N P (2016) The key components to creating effective collaborative teaching and learning environments, Unpublished Thesis, University of Canterbury.
16 May 2016
A broadcast by Radio NZ regarding Waitakiri School and other new schools in the East of Christchurch.
11 May 2016
Updated Q & A
Why don't we just rebuild a school with 30 individual classrooms like we had?
We want the best for our children, the best progress, outcomes, well-being and relationships. We want our children to be self regulated lifelong learners. We have a chance (one chance!) to build a school for 2020 children, to meet their needs in an ever changing world, based on what we now understand about how children learn. That is the reason for the new design.
Does this new design make teaching better and do teachers like it?
Yes it makes teaching better, when teachers can work together, share the responsibility, share their areas of strength and expertise, see one another in action the bar is raised. Teachers who have or are working in these environments do not want to go back to the isolation of a single class.
How will you keep track of my child?
With many more eyes that we have in a single classroom. Evidence suggests that children are more responsible and self regulated in these new environments, not to mention they love the flexibility, freedom to move and spaces designed to meet their needs across the curriculum
100 children in one space! It must be LOUD!
Actually due to the acoustic design, the open space plus breakout learning areas it is incredibly quiet.
Will the studios be all one year level (i.e. a Y 6 hub, a Y5 hub etc)
No. We teach according to stage not age and the best way to do this is multi levels it also ensures that teachers have a stronger grasp of the curriculum and knowledge of next steps for learning and of learner needs as they work with them for two years. There is also plenty of evidence that children are better learners when in multi age level rooms. The exact composition of the hubs will be determined over the next 18 months as we trial options.
Are we just guinea pigs? Didn't we try this in the 1980's and fail?
No and no. This type of learning environment has been in use around the world for over two decades. We visited schools in Australia who have been teaching and learning in this way for 7+ years. We have the opportunity to create the best learning environment by seeing what subtle changes they have made over that time. In the 1980's there was no deep understanding about how to co teach, the environment was very noisy and teachers (and children) were simply thrown into the deep end. Furthermore the work we live in has changed dramatically since the 1980's. The 1990's was the decade where we really started to find out about how children learn and teachers teach best. We can now build a school to meet that need!
When we first designed the new school the Ministry of Education described these collaborative, learning focused spaces as Modern Learning Environments (MLE's). The feedback from the education sector about the name was not positive as the term MLE was more about the building than it was about the people in the space. The Ministry have now renamed these spaces 'Innovative learning Environments' and 'Innovative Learning Spaces'. They have done this to link the design to two very important OECD publications. The first is called "The Nature of learning" (OECD, 2010) and the second Innovative Learning Environments (OECD, 2013).
These are two very exciting and affirming publications for our school and for New Zealand as a whole. They affirm the importance of a student centred learning environment, the New Zealand Curriculum and of the importance of having spaces designed to meet the needs of children in 2015 and beyond.
Our new school curriculum is aligned with these three documents as well as Ka Hikitia. Our school design, curriculum design, teaching and resources are all focused on improving learning outcomes for our children, enhancing their hauora (well-being) and enabling them as self regulated learners.
This is what an Innovative Learning Environment means:
Learning and engagement is central
Learning (and teaching!) is a social and collaborative experience
Staff are attuned to learner motivations and emotions
Individual differences and needs are understood by staff and learning experiences are planned after considering needs
Staff will challenge children to achieve to the best of their ability. Staff will work hard to 'know' each child to make this possible
Assessment will be used to inform students themselves as well as staff about next step learning and learning opportunities. Feedback will be used to assist children to make progress and will be related to agreed goals
Learning will be authentic and conceptually based (Big ideas like Turangawaeawae, Early settlers etc) This allows children to learn in a context and learn across the curriculum.
At Waitākiri School you will see this in evidence through:
Progressively you will see children having voice and CHOICE in their learning- especially in relation to inquiry. Where children have a voice about their learning, where they are engaged in real world problems and challenges they will be more engaged and learning in more effective. We will continue to survey children to determine their engagement levels and their sense of voice.
In addition to personal research and independent learning children will have plenty of opportunities to learn in collaborative groups. This will mean we need to teach them the skills of collaboration and coach them through workshops and conferencing as they undertake inquiries and work on problems, projects and challenges
Waitākiri School has a focus on learning outcomes, self regulation and hauora/well-being. Children will have a 'home room' teacher as well as numerous other teachers and staff they will work with in their learning space. All staff in the learning studio will take time to get to know your child. Our learning studios will be multi level so children will have less transitions in the school as well as a longer and deeper relationship with their homeroom teacher. All teachers will be attuned to the motivations and emotions of the child. Teachers will also partner with families to ensure they have a sound understanding of the needs of each child
One of the most important things we can do is listen to you and your child and take note of any and every assessment strategy used to build up a comprehensive picture of the strengths, needs and interests of your child. Included in the strategies are our 3 Way learning conferences, 'learning conversation meetings with each child (conferencing), together with just listening to his/ her feedback so that we can then design the best possible learning experiences to challenge your child.
Children are happier when they have a mix of "I can do this quite easily" through to "This is hard!" Our job is to know your child well enough to ensure your child is challenged and that he/she has strategies in place so that when the learning is to hard they know where to and whom to go to. We will challenge your child- at times we might push a bit hard, that is why we need to be hearing from you as well as your child as you will have valuable insights for us as we work together for your child's benefit
Progressively children will take responsibility for understanding assessment tools (such as asttle) so they can understand their learning needs and make goals. Teachers will use assessment information to help create learning pathways and the feedback children will give and receive will be in relation to agreed criteria.
Ours is a place based conceptual curriculum. This means we start with the children's known world and build out from there. Learning is far more interesting if we are involved in concepts and big ideas such as "Why did the early settlers come to Canterbury?" and children investigate some aspects from a scientific, technology or social sciences perspective depending on where the inquiry heads.
In summary our new school is a learning environment designed to support your child to be a REAL hero making REAL CHOICES. The space will support the best in teaching practice and learning theory. It is also a school designed to make you our families and whanau feel welcome and involved. We are really looking forward to moving into to our new learning space!
Our new school! Our new school will be a Modern Learning Environment and you can see the plans for our new school here and as you can see it will be a wonderful school! The work has started already with the existing school being demolished in January 2015 and the new school commencing shortly thereafter. The Ministry and contractors plan to have the first stage of the new school ready for children in November 2015!
The new school will be designed with notions of sustainability, future focus, 21st century learners and community as foundational. Expect to see a school that reflects our community, our beliefs and values and our aspirations for our children. With all that our community have survived over the last four years this is time for celebration and innovation.
12 November 2014
This link is to a Ministry of Education site explaining Modern Learning Environments. There are some very useful links to interviews, images and research. The FAQ section is more aimed toward principals and Boards, however there is plenty of information you will find useful. http://mle.education.govt.nz
(modern learning environments down left hand side)
Also information about Waitakiri School Modern Learning Enviroments from Mark Osborne, CORE Education from Thursday nights Community Consultation
And to see the power point from Lorraine Moss re Waitākiri and MLEs please click here)
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