Presenters: Chris Bradbeer & Mark Osborne
Part 1: Mark Osborne
Mark started off by highlighting that the physical environment is only a part of what goes into an MLE, referencing the CORE Education MLE planning framework. He also reminded us that:
Hope is not a strategy!
The physical environment has to be servant to the learning and teaching vision. Without the vision you cannot plan the physical environment. Mark explained that the physical environment is not transformative or disruptive but should be an enabler or activator of learning.
This was illustrated with photos from Ngatea School where they had a vision for collaboration/co-teaching with lots of inquiry learning. Their single-celled classrooms didn’t work for their vision so they cut holes in the wall to turn three classrooms into an open space.
Mark emphasised that the vision for learning is independent of the physical space available. Don't change your vision for learning due to the physical space. Larger spaces with more teachers may give more opportunities for different learning to occur, however smaller, single-celled classrooms still need to cater to the vision for learning.
In response to a question about noise level in MLEs where there might be multiple teachers and large number of students in one space, Mark reminded us that this is an issue in any space. It’s important to have an orderly learning environment that minimises distractions to learning and teachers are ultimately responsible for the noise level. He has found that well designed MLEs generally have better acoustic qualities to minimise this issue and there needs to be quiet learning spaces separated appropriately from noiser spaces.
We also need to consider modern online learning spaces as well as physical spaces. The two need to be completely intermeshed so students can move seamlessly between them.
Part 2: Chris Bradbeer
Chris talked in part about his experience at Stonefields School.
He highlighted that not rushing in is a key in the process to move to an MLE, however some rushing in needs to happen due to timelines. There is a need to have some “rapid slow thinking”.
There is rapid change in thinking around MLEs. What was cutting edge design 5 years ago is already starting to look old school. The consultation process for Stonefields School took 4-5 months. Chris’ advice:
Get on with the process!
Quite often when we think of MLEs we focus on the physical architecture, however Chris pointed out that there is much more to the architecture of an MLE than physical space. We also need to consider:
people architecture (collaboration)
These, along with the physical architecture (space) need to be built upon the vision for learning.
Atkin (1999) said that we need to be clear about the ‘why’. What are the core values and beliefs? What are the principles around it? THEN look at the what (the practices). WHY - HOW - WHAT
Chris found that re-thinking the people architecture has given the most exciting learning.
Most teacher collaboration doesn’t happen in the classroom - might happen in a syndicate or team meeting. In the MLE, teachers work alongside each other more rather than on their own.
To give teachers the opportunity to work alongside each other, he stated that they had to remove after school meetings so that teachers had time to work collaboratively and effectively.
Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration (Hansen, 2009).
To sum up, Chris emphasised it’s not only about the physical space but the people, pedagogy and technology also make up the MLE.
What Chris has to say resonated with me because regardless of teachers working in the same space with the students it also involves teachers working from common understandings and common beliefs.
These take time to develop and to identify between teachers, so movement in staff or shifts between schools of staff will then require time to re establish or develop trusting relationships for collaboration to happen.
Because children access learning in a multitude of ways and have preferred learning styles it is essential that there is the ability for schools to provide MLE in a variety of ways, both open plan and single cell areas would be beneficial.
The essential connections are more about shared teaching and learning beliefs and expectations, aligned with pedagogy that see all akonga as learners as well as employing appropriate technology to deliver the curriculum and raise student engagement there for raising student achievement.