Modern Learning Environments - My Conclusion

My Big 'Learnings' for 2017
  • No student wants to be naughty. I did know this, but it’s good to be reminded and have it brought to the forefront.
  • There is a lot to learn from other teachers
  • Although I thought I was giving choice to students, it was in narrow parameters eg Selina’s way of encouraging and giving credence to different interests and learning styles
  • Aroha should be shared between fewer learners. I know this as I write reports - I'm really fishing round for many genuine, individual comments.
  • Creativity and the kids’ interests can be catered for in a single class space.
  • Kids can learn anything, but there should be rigour - numeracy and literacy are still vital
  • My Term Four SDL was pretty good actually. Students chose their learning in many learning areas, peer tutored, ran or attended workshops and went through a constant cycle of trying, reflecting, improving, sharing both individually and collaboratively.
  • With smaller classes, I can give more passion and put more fire under the wings of my learners
There is not a one-size fits all model for MLEs. Many schools are getting bigger.  John Hattie says class sizes don't matter.  But I doubt that bigger is necessarily better.  In fact, I find there is less intimacy, less understanding, less listening, greater noise, more confusion, bigger gaps for kids to fall into.  It just seems as if there are more difficult students to try to help.

To conclude...

I believe Modern Learning Environments as Core Ed would define them suit some students and teachers better than others.

I believe that a single classroom space can be a Modern Learning Environment.

Advantages and Disadvantages of our Model - as I see them


Advantages:
  • Students could choose topics that interested them
  • Teachers could choose topics we were passionate about
  • Topics were open-ended and included great opportunities to follow natural courses of curiosity
  • There was a lot of variety for students and teachers
  • It was a good replacement for student inquiry
  • Student agency is strongly encouraged and prized
  • The sharing part is motivational and an important part of the process
Disadvantages:
  • There was a constantly revolving group of students in each room.  This was really an issue in Te Wheke as it inhibited any sort of continuity.  Targeted students were identified and we were to focus mainly on them during workshops.  I think other students who also needed to be focused on weren't getting the teacher time they needed.
  • Time was needed to reorganise large numbers of students at the beginning or end of each week.
  • Tutaeporoporo (creativity) was often seen as a destination for some students to avoid their learning.
  • Tutaeporoporo became a place to go and use exciting equipment, rather than using exciting equipment to create something they had dreamed up.  Somewhat like the old computer labs.
Further changes were made the following term.  Paikea (Intense Inquiry) continued - and I believe students have had a really fabulous deal from their weeks in Paikea.

Students were now encouraged to apply to go into Tutaeporoporo.  They were to come up with a plan, seek approval and go for whatever number of days they needed.  This was good in principle and it worked particularly well with the higher independence level students with natural curiosity.  Because these students are good at entertaining themselves and working collaboratively, they have benefited a great deal.

I think there needs to be greater emphasis on using Tutaeporoporo resources to back up what kids are learning.  This wouldn't have to be done in a separate 'Creativity' space.  There also needs to be a greater emphasis on knowledge acquisition (not just looking at a Youtube video) and the project should preferably have literacy and/or maths links.

These are not just my opinions here - most of these have been discussed and agreed upon as a team and improvements will be made, even going back to previously discarded strategies such as putting graded workshops back into the maths programme.

Petite Inquiry - Pounamu Atawhai's next step, based on 'Life in the Fast Lane'

Chapter 2-4
Build students' motivation and self-efficacy so that they become active, optimistic participants in class.
Does their level of motivation contribute to their behaviour?
Strategies to increase student motivation fall into two categories:

a) creating tasks that engage students interesting and relevant incorporate choice and social interaction

b) creating a safe learning environment, communicate that students control their own academic destinies, provide positive feedback establish short term goals elicit feedback from students

Chapter 6 Reflection:
Are students being active participants in their learning?

Chapter 7 Reflection:
Can a tweak in the classroom environment or task construction increase the level of student motivation in your classroom?
  1. Short synopsis of what you set out to achieve
Build students' motivation and self-efficacy so that they become active, optimistic participants in class. Closely monitor the social and emotional well being of individuals across the 3 spaces offered in Pounamu Atawhai. The questions we wanted to find out were primarily around the engagement levels of individuals across the three spaces. When they chose an area of passion, was there a significant change to their motivation and engagement levels? How did this compare between the different spaces offered in Pounamu Atawhai? What does the data show between boys and girls in different spaces?
  1. What did you try (the one important) or what practice did you change
  • Changed from 2 spaces and 2 teachers to 3 spaces offering areas for different purposes and learning opportunities with 4 teachers.
  • 4 teachers = a range of expertise and passions - increased opportunities, motivation and engagement for students.
  • Inquiry space - Paikea (2 weeks of the term)
10 different Inquiry topics to choose from.  Students had the opportunity to inquire into two areas they were interested in, and hopefully be more engaged.
  • Creative space - Tutaeporoporo (3 weeks of the term)
Provided 10 creative areas spread across the curriculum. Robotics, animation, movie making, construction, sphero, programming, art, music, Minecraft, 3d printing.

This was a continuation of what we have previously done in our creative space. We got student voice on what types of things they would like to see in the space.

The teacher role in this space has changed over the term - trying 1 teacher for the whole week then try 3 teachers in each block, then finally 1 lead teacher (first block and last block and planning) and 1 support teacher (middle block) = give students access to different expertise from the teachers. We also introduced a phenomenon (theme) in the last 3 weeks to see how that influenced learning in this space.

Core learning space - Te Wheke - (5 weeks of the term)
  • Two teachers share the learning role in this space. Design was splitting the workload so a teacher leads a certain area eg Writing, Maths, Literacy
  • With changes in Tutaeporoporo, a teacher would cross over in the middle block to take lead in passion areas, thus releasing planning etc from a core area. (Reduce workload/streamline)

Our Next Steps in Te Wheke
  1. What was your moment of clarity or your WOW moment (outcomes)?
  • Paikea - Passion choice area: 182 responses - 96% of students rated a 4-5 out of 5.
  • Tutaeporoporo - Creativity Space: 248 responses - 78% of students rated 4-5 out of 5
  • Te Wheke - Core Learning: response 475 responses - 66% of students rated 4-5 out of 5

Our next steps in Tutaeporoporo
Based on Are students being active participants in their learning?
  • Self-Directed approach where Tutaeporoporo (creative space) is more organic.  More planning and research in Te Wheke made as a proposal.  If planning and thinking are evident, then they can book themselves into Tutaepororo - a space where they won’t necessarily be using one tool - but they may use a range of tools to explore solutions.

Benefits of MLEs (according to CORE Education)


  • Flexibility: the ability to combine two classes into one and team-teach, split a class into small groups and spread them over a wider area or combine different classes studying complementary learning areas.
  • Openness: modern learning environments traditionally have fewer walls, more glass and often use the idea of a learning common (or hub) which is a central teaching and learning space which can be shared by several classes. The ability to observe and learn from the teaching of others, and be observed in return. Access to what other learning areas and level are learning so that teaching complements and builds on
  • Access to resources (including technology): typically a learning common is surrounded by breakout spaces allowing a range of different activities: for instance, some students reading, some engaging in project space or using wet areas, reflecting, presenting and displaying or learning in a group. There is often a mixture of wireless and wired technology which means students have access to technology as and when they need it, within the flow of their learning.

Teacher learning
So modern learning environments promote better student learning, but are there other advantages? Well the big one is teacher learning. More open and flexible spaces also create more collaborative communities of practice for teachers. Having access to the teaching practice of one’s colleagues; to model and to be modelled to, supports the development of effective teaching practice far more than teaching in an isolated, private space.

Modern Learning Environments - The Beginning

2016 conversation with Deb was around renaming the single cell nomenclature.  I felt I was teaching in a Modern Learning Environment - it just didn't include a shared room.

Yes, I burst into tears when Deb told me I was going to need to be involved in an MLE.  Deb's question to me was, "What concerns you most?"
  "I won't be the master of my ship any longer," was my reply.

I admitted to my team colleagues that I was finding how we were planning, along with the prospect of being part of an MLE was challenging.  By 8.30am on Day One I was feeling ill.

While I have enormous respect for Selina, I think we both struggled to find our feet in Term One.  Everything was new for me, there just seemed to be so many students with problems (her whanau group and mine), I found it difficult to get the kids to tune into me and vice versa.  Students were coming and going for many different reasons - it just seemed that things were spiralling out of control.

I didn't really know how to put my core beliefs into my role.  Selina was tremendously sympathetic and supportive.

I probably went through some kind of mourning period as the first term went on - I lost my autonomy, my programme, my confidence, QZealand and most of all - my connections with students.

I limped through Term One, feeling pretty impotent.

Term Two changes brought some changes, many of them really exciting.  We were going to be four teachers with 120 students - gulp!  But kids would choose creativity (three weeks in Tutaeporoporo) and intense inquiry (two weeks in Paikea) topics.  Then they would have five weeks in Te Wheke, doing literacy and maths workshops and SDL.

I thought this structure and the opportunities for students were excellent. I felt excited about the prospect.

Where Are We Now?

I've just had another meeting with Ashton and his mum, Jenn. These meetings have been taking place every couple of weeks throughout the year.

Jenn and I both feel that Ashton has made a little progress this year. Academically, he has been learning, although his writing especially is a huge concern.  Ashton's learning is incidental, as he is frequently on the periphery of any learning situations that are occurring.


Socially, Ashton's friendships have steadied and developed somewhat.  His classmates have given him a more than fair chance, despite some of his extraordinary behaviour and histrionics.


Ashton has been attending weekly counselling sessions through YOSS.  Jenn reports that while it has helped her and James, his stepfather, it has done very little for Ashton.  She is at the end of her tether, wondering where they go to seek the help they need.


I have a huge concern about Ashton's future.  I worry that he has so little perseverance, that he loves to scare people, that he is so completely egocentric, that he shows little remorse or empathy, that he helps himself to other people's property, that he believes he should have without first earning and so much more.


I have bent over backwards to help Ashton, to show him kindness, to understand his condition, to make sure he isn't stressed or uncomfortable.  I am undecided whether the strategies I have used have helped.


When I was a teacher trainee, Jim Blair, my lecturer gave us all a piece of advice that I have always used.  Once you have put a line in the sand, don't let your students put even a toenail over it.  I've bent that rule for Ashton this year.  I think Ashton has spent the year throwing his whole body over that line and I've just said, 'There, there..."


The rest of the class has not suffered, however.  They are an independent group of students, apart from a small group who would have benefitted from more of my time had Ashton not demanded it.


What has been Done / Instigated / Changed / Adapted?

I have had meetings every two weeks with Jenn (mum) and Ashton.  They are grateful for my effort. Ashton generally attends these meetings.

Ashton has his very own workspace with a fully functional iMac.

Ashton can listen to music while he is working.

The classroom is kept relatively quiet.

For much of Terms Two and Three he had his own programme each day, taped to his desk.  There is no consequence for not completing, only rewards (snidges) if he does complete.  This programme is minimal.

This has been changed to the SDL programme the other students have, but with a minimal achievement level.

I have encouraged some of the boys to be good role models.  Josh, Wills and Thomas have been incredibly generous with Ashton - giving him multiple chances.

I have tried to get alongside Ashton to try to understand him.

I have tried to 'catch him being good'.

I have attempted to avoid confrontation

I have ensured he gets his pill at playtime.

I have picked my battles...