Collaborative Learning Communities “A confident, inspired community of learners.”
The designs for our new spaces and learning communities are driven by our approach to learning. Our approaches are continually reviewed and refined with the aim of continual improvement. Our new spaces are designed to be flexible and to support collaboration both between teachers and students.
As a school, we have been working towards more collaboration every year. We already have a number of examples of collaboration which occur. Our reception room is a great example. In this space, we often have larger groups of children and more adults than in a traditional single cell classroom. The space allows for a variety of teaching and learning approaches - both large and medium sized groups of children, and smaller or one to one teaching. Our teachers already plan together and children spend time learning in other classes as part of collaborative learning rotations.
We have visited and been carefully observing the journeys other schools have taken both in New Zealand and overseas. We have seen models which would fit for our school and others which would not.
We have chosen not to adopt very large groupings and open spaces, instead opting for combinations of 2 and 3 classes together in spaces which will have carefully designed areas within the learning communities which are specific types of learning.
Over the next two years, our staff will be building on the collaborative practice we have in our school and operating more and more collaboratively. We believe our students will benefit from this both in their academic learning and in their relationships and social and emotional development.
We know strong relationships between each learner and their teacher and whānau have a powerful impact on learning. Our staff have identified this as one of the very important aspects of our school. As we move towards more collaboration we will ensure that each child has a key teacher who they are connected with. The exciting opportunity collaboration gives us is to also have stronger relationships with a small group of teachers. In a way, our new spaces will offer more opportunities for our current teams of 3 classes to learn more closely. Our larger teams will operate in groups of 2 or 3 classes together.
Acoustics - Respect and Noise
One of the considerations raised by teachers is noise in learning spaces which are larger than we are currently in. We are approaching this in two ways. We have asked our architects to make this one of the high priorities in both the design and the materials used.
We have identified some spaces within our preliminary plans where this will be very important. Within each learning community there will be spaces where noisy learning can occur and where more sound absorbent materials will be used.
Respect for people, places and things is one of the key elements of our OPS ‘We CARE’ values. Learning and operating in ways which respect other learners’ needs will be an important part of how we use our new spaces.
Professional Learning and Development (PLD)
Staff PLD is guided by both the needs we see in our school and approaches to teaching and learning which will support our learners to be successful. Our strategic plan and charter outline these areas each year.
Collaborative practice has been part of our charter and PLD for a number of years. It’s not driven by a move to new learning spaces, it's just a good approach to teaching. A focus on collaboration will continue to feature both as we move towards our new spaces over the next two years and beyond this.
Our January professional learning also focused on Learner Agency and Student Led Inquiry, and a number of other areas, again, these are recognised ‘best practice’
What Will It be….Open plan? Modern Learning Environment (MLE)? Innovative Learning Environment(ILE)?
Many of us remember ‘open plan classrooms’ from the 1980s and we have all heard or seen ILE or MLE spaces in other schools which have been built over the last 10-15 years.
As a school, we have had the benefit of watching and observing closely... seeing examples which would work well for our school, and others which would not be a good fit.
We have visited schools and learning spaces we loved and others we did not like so much. Both have been really useful to clarify our ideas. For example, we know that large groupings of classes (4-6 classes) in large and very open spaces will not fit our approaches.
Over a number of years, our staff have shared ideas and thinking. All of this has contributed to our design process.
Ultimately the completed design we get to will be driven by our OPS Vision, values and principles and our approach to teaching and learning. Our new spaces will be designed to support these approaches, rather than being restricted with our current classroom spaces.
Many Flexible Learning Spaces
We know that learning occurs in many different ways and in many different settings. There are times when learners will work in very flexible and relaxed spaces and other times where they will learn seated at tables and more formally. We are working to design learning spaces which can accommodate many different ways of learning. Teachers will be able to plan to use the best space within learning communities for each specific learning focus.