Learning Spaces v Quality Teaching

The way that we are teaching children in todays world has changed because we now understand our learners better.

This simple fact endorses the need to modify the spaces that our children learn in. Often the discussion about the new learning spaces comes down to what people think is better – the ‘Traditional Classroom’ or a ‘Modern Learning Environment’. You have to look at the why of this discussion!

What is crucial is about this discussion is having what works best for each individual child at the heart of the topic. The simple facts are that having highly effective teachers trumps everything for children’s learning! The quality of the education provided by a school largely comes down to the quality of its teachers. There are more effective and less effective teachers in traditional classrooms, just as there are in modern learning environments.

What is often missing from the classroom v learning environment discussion is the premise that in all classrooms there is the same style of teaching. The fact is that teaching styles adapt to the children in a group and so it is all different within schools and across schools. Teachers have their own personalities, ways and nuances, just as a class has its own personality. Hattie (2009) cites that there is more teaching difference within schools than across schools.

As we go into the new learning spaces we don’t expect there to be too much change from what we are doing now as our teaching practice has modified already to include ways to cater for a variety of learning styes and ways of working at the same time so that children have become much more advanced at being independent learners . The Key Competencies of the new curriculum have put the onus on children to understand their connection to learning and to be active, independent learners. The children apply many principles of active learning now – they work in a big team as a class, in small groups, in pairs and by themselves. They are flexible in class. They can carry out tasks that are different to others at the same time as it matches their learning needs. They know where their teacher is and what they are doing. They can ask others for help and they can ask their teacher for clarification. What impresses me at Kelburn, and we see this every day, is how natural and comfortable they are in their own learning environments. This augurs well for next year.

Teachers have to have the skillset to enable this to happen.

In fact, as a school, we are able to leverage the more open, flexible nature of our new learning spaces to implement a broader range of approaches and tools for each team at different times, to meet the needs of students. Given that students’ needs are always changing, how learning “looks” needs to be responsive and change to meet the needs of students. The architecture and design enables this flexibility.

This flexibility our students understand – but it doesn’t look the same as when we were at school. Although the process of learning is similar, the look is different. What is similar however is that the teacher is crucial to the success of our school.

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