Our Pedagogy is based, on personalised learning. Better referred to as a personal pathway of learning. There are 7 critical factors that need to be in play in order for students to experience success in their learning.
- Locus of Control - as learners develop, they need to have greater control over their learning, with a view to them becoming self-directed life-long learners. (Learner Agency)
- Learner Engagement - learners need to be engaged with their learning for it to have any meaning for them. Learners have different needs at different times. Learners have different aptitudes , strengths, needs and capabilities.
- Class Culture - learners need an environment that is safe for them to take risks in. They need a place where they are encouraged to exercise increasing independence. An environment that includes them. values them and stretches them, will lead to more effective learning.
- Knowing the Learner - is crucial. How do they learn? Who are they as people? What are their learning, emotional, spiritual and cognitive needs?
- Collaborative Culture. All learning is collaborative. Is collaboration between teacher and learner effective? Is there learner to learner collaboration? Is collaboration evident in all spheres of school life?
- Effective use of ICT. Are digital tools allowing learners to learn in non-linear ways? Is it self-pacing? Is it adaptive? Is it flexible? Is it at the correct level - allowing for a stretch? Does it provide real-time feedback? Is it afforda ble? Is it accessible 24/7?
- Innovative Learning Environments (ILE). Spaces need to allow for breakouts - for groups or individuals to work.
Here is a video, which briefly explains how using technology to support personalized learning, will transform schools as we know it.
Innovative Learning Environments
To allow learners to personalise their learning, their working environment needs to be flexible, allowing for areas to collaborate, work independently and share learning.
The learners need areas for :
- deliberate acts of teaching,
- spaces to create,
- share ideas with others and practice their learning.
- Students and teachers need to have access to resources and equipment.
When students are working in a flexible learning environment they are engaged in the learning process, they can make decisions about their learning pathways and they can initiate authentic learning experiences. Their teachers can develop peer-tutoring, and reciprocal teaching which contributes to students having a deeper understanding of the material being covered.
Flexible learning environments offer teachers with expertise and passion in areas like music, art or sport, the opportunity to extend students to reach their potential.
- NCEA qualification system - is a flexible system.
- The origins of Modern Learning Environments (MLEs - now called ILE's) comes from Ministry of Education – aiming to meet new design and quality standards (DQLS).
- The impact of the theory of disruptive innovation is influencing the need to redesign the curriculum and school pedagogy.
- ILE’s key features include spaces with greater flexibility, more openness and access to resources (especially digital technology). Complimenting these new spaces, is a teaching practice – based around more active student involvement, a focus on collaboration and emphasis on inquiry learning approaches.
- Research studies consistently show that improvements in quality of physical spaces (e.g.sound, temperature, light) clearly improves educational outcomes.
- Digital technologies have become an integral part of modern living, with learners expecting to be digitally connected "anytime and anywhere”.
- Research shows positive outcomes with effective use of digital technologies in student achievement as well as engagement. However, such technology must be used appropriately (e.g. how and when), with supportive teaching practices, and mindful of managing negative issues (e.g. shallow learning and dependence).
- It is critical one set of pedagogy is not simply abandoned in favour of the new based around ideological arguments of what a ‘21st CenturyLearner’ may potentially benefit from.
- The critical issue is how the digital technology is used by teachers, as a tool to support learning. There are very positive effects when used appropriately, however it can be detrimental if poorly managed or misunderstood.
- The technology does not replace the need for quality of instruction and good teacher practices (e.g. scaffolding writing tasks). Without good teaching practice the technology can create shallow learning (e.g. levels of comprehension) and a deterioration of writing skills.
- Clear frameworks and close monitoring of the learning is essential.
Innovative Learning Spaces - Extracts from the research study. Case Studies
To what extent do innovative learning environments contribute to improved cognitive, affective and social learning outcomes for students?
These twelve case studies exemplify the key aspects of how and why improving student learning is such a complex task that takes time.
This study indicates that there is no simple coincidence between an ILE and flexible learning spaces, whether renovated and new, and no simple association between innovative learning environments and/or flexible learning spaces and improved student learning outcomes.
The study can confidently identify effective steps in the preparation for, and the transition to, new learning spaces or other innovative learning environments. It also provides a detailed and insightful mapping of how teachers and students are currently using Innovative Learning Environments by identifying significant engagement with collaborative and flexible teaching.
To what extent do innovative learning environments contribute to changes in behaviour and pedagogical practices?
Designing built environments on sound pedagogical and architectural principles that are appropriate to community needs provides new opportunities for teachers and leaders to create new partnerships and imagine new pedagogical possibilities. But the precondition to maximising these possibilities and improving student learning is changing the habits of the minds and hearts of teachers to focus on student learning.
This means focusing on the purpose and rationale for change, the social practices of teaching and leading, relationships with colleagues, and organisational structures and cultures that support collaborative inquiry. At the same time, there are a range of external factors which impact on an individual school’s capacity to improve student learning – the neighbourhood environment, the policy environment and the built environment.
The studies indicated that it was the instability of the impact of policy and neighbourhood environments that disrupted the internal capacities to manage change in schools. Therefore there is a need to create greater internal stability and professional peer accountability (Elmore 2007) within such schools through professional support and development.
While these case studies indicate that there has been a change in the ways in which teachers teach, a pedagogical focus considers the relationship between teachers and students and how that affects student learning. An engagement focus considers not only the relationships underpinning these interactions, but also the interaction between the learner, teacher, knowledge and context. Each ILE was at a different phase of development, with some having existed for only six months and others for six years.
Some such as John Monash were still in the transition phase. Others, such as Ballarat High School, Yuille Park Community College and the Mt Waverley Anim8tion project were in what could be described in the consolidation phases as the innovative practices become embedded, even with considerable variation, as the everyday practice. These schools are therefore only just moving into evaluation phase and raising questions about how to sustain the innovation.
In response to this, Yuille Park Community College, for instance, has integrated a seven year strategic plan for regeneration and sustainability and, three years on, The Lakes was undergoing a radical increase in size that disrupted consolidation and required ‘serial redesign’. These case studies therefore provide evidence of changes in the organisation of the learning of teachers and students in more flexible learning spaces as well as changes in teaching and student practice, but only early evidence of how this impacts on student learning outcomes in the long term, given the early stages of many of the ILEs. From these accounts it is possible to indicate that teachers and students have responded positively, that there are improvements in cognitive outcomes that teachers observe improved student behaviour and engagement with learning, and that parents are more involved and interested. In the long term, longitudinal research evidence suggests that social skills are more important in influencing students’ relative life changes than cognitive outcomes alone (Carneiro et al 2006).
The focus in all of the case studies was on personalised learning, but supported by pastoral care. As many of the teachers and principals stated, ‘It’s all about relationships’. How have schools prepared for the transition to new learning spaces or other innovative learning environments?
There was in all of these case studies, regardless of the lead time, careful planning and preparation in both designing the ILE and sustaining the innovation. Most principals and teachers visited numerous sites in person or online to explore a range of possibilities to develop their unique designs for the school. In the case of new built environments, prior to occupancy, there were opportunities for experimentation and discussion around the use of flexible learning spaces, for instance at Mordialloc College, John Monash Science School, The Lakes and Yuille Park Community College. Schools also actively sought to engage and educate the community, for example at Manchester and Courtenay Gardens Primary Schools, where the planning and development of new buildings and the school environment is linked to community sustainability.
At Yuille Park and The Lakes which designed and planned the schools as part of community centres, there was strong teacher, student and community ownership, signalled three years later at Yuille Park Community College by the high level of parental and community voluntarism in a range of activities. The focus was therefore on participatory redesign, and also extending teacher professional and pedagogical repertoires. The Bendigo NETschool, as an alternative off campus site, had just gained occupancy of an old bank and was exploring the use of this old/new space in
order to emulate a workplace. Multiple transitions require flexibility and continual adjustment, as at Yuille Park Community College, where the whole ‘regenerated’ school took up residency on the Yuille Primary School site while the Grevillea site accommodated the new building program.
How teachers and students use ILE and new Learning Spaces
There is no necessary link between learning spaces and innovation. An ILE does not by nature require a new built space as evidenced at Manchester Primary School and the early phases of Ballarat High School’s Year 9 ILE. Furthermore, new built environments do not necessarily constitute or produce an ILE. What does lead to the production of an ILE, and indeed one could argue the best pedagogical use of a new learning space, is changing the everyday practices of leaders, teachers and students in ways that focus on engagement with learning and how this can be enhanced by the learning spaces. Furthermore, while not all schools adopted an inquiry approach to learning, with some maintaining more traditional structures and organisational
frameworks such as a 2 hour literacy block, the driving focus on engagement with learning by students and teachers produced an innovative learning environment, as with Grovedale West Primary School.
However, physical and spatial designs can function as a provocation for imagining the possibilities of innovative learning and collaboration. From a Reggio Emilia philosophical position, the built environment is a ‘third space’ in pedagogical relationships. Teachers and students could imagine and follow ‘lines of desire’ by taking the directions they felt most meaningful to them. Students indicated some ambivalence as did teachers towards these new learning spaces – as flexibility was seen to also produced sense of insecurity, and a desire to reassert a sense of place and belonging. Students at the same time, created spaces and claimed ownership over them, thus gaining agency.
Both the redesigned and purpose built learning spaces provided the capacity to extend and enhance pedagogical repertoires. Even more importantly, these had symbolic value for educational communities in high poverty areas in that the community was able to take pride in the school. Parents and students saw this as an exchange relationship, in terms of taking care of and utilising the new built environment as a learning centre, and feeling that the government had invested in them and their community. Students and their teachers felt valued and took pleasure from working in the new built environments. At the same time, there was uneven usage and differing individual responses to the pedagogical intent of the school and the extent to which they aligned with the new built environment.
The flexibility of the learning spaces was still in many instances being explored. In a few cases, teachers reverted to ‘default pedagogical practices’ when they reinvented ‘walls’ through use of storage boxes, ICT mini-labs and shelving, indicating that some teacher still felt professionally insecure. In other instances, where there was not a new learning space, the behavioural shift through professional development and
leadership created an ILE. When building templates and infrastructure were imposed on Courtenay Gardens Primary School to provide a gym when they wanted a community hall, staff worked to redesign the space to suit the pedagogical practices.
Again, as indicated by Blackmore et al (2010) in the literature review on learning spaces, leadership and a school culture that encourages the taking of risks and experimenting with the use of space were critical. The use of outdoor spaces was reliant upon how teachers and students are encouraged to use space – whether highly regulated or free flow.
Consolidation and evaluation: How do we know?
These Victorian case studies indicate that teachers and principals used a range of evidence to inform their thinking, whether it was student evaluations, classroom observations about the behaviour of individuals and groups, the artefacts of teaching in terms of written and visual student work, self-evaluations of teachers and students, parent questionnaires, discussions online, and NAPLAN results. It was the comprehensiveness of this form of evaluation that allowed them to ask questions and change in ways that made a difference to a wide range of outcomes – social, affective and cognitive. At the same time, there was evidence of pressure based on NAPLAN results and MySchool reporting that indicated a realisation that while these were just one measure of success, this was the public measure upon which a school is being judged regardless of how they had improved on their own performance, were instituting significant change, or were value-adding in terms of student learning.
There is inherent danger for a school to focus on NAPLAN results as the desired outcome or use NAPLAN as a means to develop a range of outcomes. Indeed, such as reductionist use of NAPLAN is not about creating forms of professional inquiry based research; this is NAPLAN based rather than evidence based.
The issue is to cultivate a balance between pressure for immediate gains in high stake tests and long term benefits which will sustain student and teacher learning (McLaughlin and Talbert 2006,
Furthermore, this study indicates that it is teacher perception of the school’s capacity building and importance of accountability and evaluation systems that make a difference; this conclusion is supported by other studies on teachers’ sense of individual and collective agency. But the forms of accountability most likely to improve student learning are those that are developed within a culture of systematic inquiry where peer review is central; this means strong internal accountability and weak external accountability (Elmore 2007). From such a position, teachers consider themselves to be professionally answerable to students, families, the community, and indeed the system (Lingard 2007). External focus is therefore often counterproductive unless it is linked to a strong internal systematic school-based system of review, which entails answerability.
Strong external accountabilities also challenge how teachers and principals think of ‘success’. As
MacBeath (2008, p.127) found in his UK case studies:
How heads choose to describe the salient features of their schools provides a clue to how they validate their own practice in relation to external pressures. On the one hand their accounts may be constructed predominantly with reference to the external validation of success, or with a more inward focus in which there is validation of the school’s own criteria of success.
Finally, there is the positive effect of a supportive home environment which is not necessarily about learning (OECD 2004). As PISA itself indicates, it is student confidence and sense of agency that leads to academic success, and this accumulates as students continue to experience a sense of success (OECD 2009).
This requires closer attention to be paid to a range of pedagogical activities that attend to student social competencies as well as academic skills and to providing learning environments which nurture social development, and student initiative and agency.
Silins and Mulford (2010, p. 88) concluded that learning needs to be organized to produce:
• A climate of trust and empowerment where decision making is transparent and inclusive for both teachers and students
• Shared sense of aims of the school developed by dedicated times for teachers discuss and articulate their views and plan through the use of an array of evidence
• Schools’ structures and ethos that support collaborative ‘experimentation and initiative’ through ‘open professional exchange’ where mistakes are allowed (See also Hallinger and Heck 2010; Day et al 2009).
In an ILE, evaluation is embedded as critical reflection on practice as well as taking into account, but not being driven by, external accountabilities; this is what Thomson and Blackmore (2006) refer to as undertaking ‘systematic inquiry’. With regard to student outcomes, the strongest predictors are students’ social skills in terms of capacity for critical approach to learning and the capacity to solve conflicts through negotiation and listening. Teacher values and beliefs are also significant in promoting student social development and empowerment (Silins and Mulford 2010, pp.88-9). Indeed, Silins and Mulford (2010, p.90) conclude that ‘emphasising the non-
cognitive goals is the most direct and successful route to achieving cognitive goals’.
Capacity building or organisational learning in schools is therefore critical. This requires more than just providing professional development or promoting and nurturing leaders through mentorship. If teachers (as with students) feel that their efforts to improve are not recognised,
If teachers (as with students) feel that their efforts to improve are not recognised, or rewarded, or that their voice has little effect, innovation is unlikely, regardless of the teachers’ commitment to innovate. To innovate teachers have to assimilate complex knowledge and apply it simultaneously in the highly unpredictable contexts of the classroom. This requires what Hammerness et al (2006) conceive as ‘adaptive’ teachers who juggle the balance between efficiency and innovation. The ‘ideal’ learning organisation would also be one that provides the conditions that allow teachers and students to fulfil their objectives to individual capacity. It also means that teachers need to be committed to ongoing inquiry in recognition that experience alone is insufficient, and that practice requires reflection.
A central feature in these case studies was collaborative team-teaching. Again, collaboration requires significant planning, coordination, and even synchronicity in terms of activities, because of the greater interdependence resulting from shared flexible learning spaces.
Dedicated time for such planning of curriculum, assessment moderation, discussions as to social interactions of groups and individual student progress occurred in most cases.
Block timetabling usually accompanied flexible learning space usage and facilitated planning as well as team teaching and inter-disciplinarity. Teachers had the capacity within teams to organise their roles in ways that promoted professional learning, complementary skills, and mentoring between novice and experienced teachers based upon mutual respect and professional engagement with knowledge production (see also McLaughlin and Talbert 2006; Lierberman and Miller 2006).
If the focus is on student learning, mechanisms must be in place for thinking about the purposes of education and evaluating whether system-wide structures, policies and processes are productive or counter-productive in achieving desired outcomes (Macbeath 2010; Gorard 2010).
System-wide support is critical in terms of encouraging innovation; policy frameworks should provide a capacity to adapt curriculum and assessment and still address standards, while also providing regional support where needed.
However, each of these case studies indicated the tensions evident in policies which focused on a narrow range of academic and cognitive learning outcomes that are measurable (e.g. NAPLAN), where an ongoing drive for incremental improvement and the desire to do something innovative can sometimes lead to inconsistencies or even decline in such measures.
Most teachers and principals believe, and recent research indicates, that over time attending to more holistic aspects of achievement – the physical, social and affective – is more likely to have greater educational and life benefits for individuals. Re-design then works against the pathologies of the current systems and much of the work of teachers and principals revolve around how to negotiate and mediate extant and innovative teaching. Innovation in education may be about succeeding in changing the most difficult things to change (Rowan 2000) or producing a reconfiguration of resources to improve outcomes through new mediums while working with/against legacies of past practices (Thomson and Blackmore 2006; Luckin 2010).
System wide innovation: scaling up
Scaling up refers to whether and how such innovative practices can either be extended and enhanced across a whole school, or undertaken in other schools across a system. Within schools where the ILE was initiated as a program on a small scale, as at Mt Waverley PS and Ballarat High School, there was evidence that the success of the initiative was contagious. Ballarat HS staff involved in the Year 9 ILE became frustrated with mainstream practices, and the enthusiasm of the students and teachers infiltrated across the school.
This was facilitated by the Learning Framework that informed whole school decisions, and planning was underway at Years 7 and 8 to develop new programs.
At the level of educational systems, there is a range of ways in which policies can restructure schools to improve student learning. In the US, school reform has been encouraged through federal funding for schools to adopt one of 10 models of school restructuring These case studies demonstrated, as does this report, that such approaches to the scaling up of successful reform is problematic as context is powerful in shaping the possibilities within each locality. Innovation emerged out of the social practices of leading, teaching and learning, while being enabled by supportive policy environments and funding opportunities. Building innovation from the ground up is more likely to impart a sense of ownership, community, localised knowledge and relationships necessary to sustain innovation that will improve student learning. Thomson and
Blackmore (2006) argue that redesign as a concept has strong discursive power in that it recognises that redesign is both process and product, that nothing is entirely new, and that all learning environments live with legacies of the past. At the same time, re-design implies something fundamentally different is happening with a sense of purpose within a specific context (New London Group 1996).
In each ILE case study there was a clear and well-defined justification and sense of purpose for redesign. There were a range of external drivers that provided the catalyst, such as a need to create a shared school vision in a new school, as was the case of The Lakes which was addressing rapid suburban expansion, or for John
Monash Science School to encourage more students to undertake science and technology by developing a specialist school, or so that Mordialloc College might position itself more favourably in the education market because it was losing
enrolments, or to meet a perceived need for students at risk of dropping out of school as with the NETschool. In other instances, specific groups or year levels (e.g. Year 9 students at Ballarat HS and the Year 6 students at Mt Waverley PS) were identified for attention due to being seen to have become disengaged. Innovative redesign was facilitated in the majority of the case studies by additional financial or structural resources being made available through the Leading Schools Fund, sponsorships from industry and government, and newly built or renovated learning spaces.
In each case study the focus of the redesign into an ILE was to improve student learning through developing innovative programs and pedagogical practices, as would be expected due to the selective nature of the ILE nomination process. There was a strong sense of the need for purposeful change practice with particular regard to teaching and learning which then became the warrant for new ways of organising teaching and learning and a change in everyday practices. The process of re-designing new spaces, structures, processes and practices led to the explication of the ‘problem’ which then provided a clear sense of political–moral purpose.
A second overarching feature of redesign was the capacity to develop infrastructure to support and shape the process. This varied according to the focus and school location. The redesign process resulting in an innovative learning environment required attention to the following:
• Spatial practices: the use of architectural space and community as a pedagogical space.
• Temporal practices: time allocated for research, reflection, planning and dialogue,
• Cultural practices: attention to the symbolic, identity work, recognition of expertise and experience as well as realising the significance of developing professional learning cultures, openness and a sense of professional agency and community.
• Structural practices: from minimal structures, looser coupling and more networking on a contingent basis both within the organisation and externally, but seeing schools as nodes of networks, through to more multilayered internal/external structures, such as with the NETschool and John Monash Science School.
• Communication practices: where the focus is on knowledge production and dissemination, then processes of exchange (sharing experience, ideas, accessibility), spreading out to communication systems that support this. Where the issue is about cost efficiencies and survival, then communication is on a need- to-know basis, and is more top-down. When democratic deliberation is central then communication tends to be undertaken on the grounds of shared ownership.
• Social practices: leading, teaching and learning as a collective endeavour and the centrality of relationships is critical to any redesign project. These case studies indicate that the key benchmark of redesign is how it fosters collaborative and productive relationships that impact on learning.
• Semiotic practices: these are the discourses and language that are mobilised to inform changing practices, the metaphors used and then embedded in practice.
A key element of an innovative learning environment was the ways in which school redesign brought together the philosophy of school and community life. This was most evident at Wendouree West Community Hub which integrated a community centre with the Yuille Park P-8 school. There were strong links with a range of community activities which positioned the school as central to this local community, including a market, gym, ICT classes and an adult education program. While some parents had previously opposed the amalgamation of the schools, these same parents were spending up to 30 hours voluntarily working in the front office of the shared space.
What these case studies offer to other schools and systems are ways of undertaking
fundamental reform in terms of recognising how environments – policy, built, virtual,
neighbourhood, institutional – create the conditions, suggest the processes, identify the supports, and encourage the professional dynamics and synergies that produce the imaginaries most conducive to innovative practices in teaching and pleasurable student learning.
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