Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Redesigning Learning

The redesign of learning spaces is linked to rethinking and redesigning schools. This clip from, System Redesign - How to Transform Your School is an excellent resource for opening up the thinking and conversations about redesigning the system of schooling. I'd be interested in others responses to the clip.

There has for a long time been a sense that there is a lack of congruence between school buildings/learning spaces, teachers/teaching and learners/learning.

A former colleague and mentor of mine, Kate Clancy (an outstanding educator and now Principal of Santa Sabina College, Strathfield, Australia) has, for many years, described this problem as learning taking place in 19th Century schools, with 20th Century teachers and 21st Century learners.

The video clip is a nice synthesis of some of the current thinking around redesigning. It draws upon some recent work from the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, an organisation I was fortunate enough to visit in 2006 to examine innovation. iNet is the international network that evolved from SSAT. It connects nicely with the concept of Next Practice – an area I am particularly interested in exploring further with schools.

What if … ? questions can open up thinking beyond current practice and shape new practices.

I was recently in a school that has established a strong working partnership at the leadership level with it’s neighbouring primary schools and the secondary school. The possibilities are endless for redesigning learning by exploring some of the "What ifs?".

What if …
  • There was shared leadership across the schools to improve numeracy for all students
  • Stage 3 and Stage 4 teachers worked together to address transition in investigating, planning, implementing and evaluating programmes
  • Teaching expertise were shared within and between the schools and was made available to other teachers and to the students
  • The network of neighbouring schools saw themselves as a learning precinct with shared responsibilities to the communities they served.
The list could go on!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Designs on Learning

Recently I was part of a conversation about a school building project. The design of the learning spaces is quite exciting, doing away with traditional classrooms as isolated boxes. The design has curved shaped walls defining a number of spaces opening out into a large central area.

In the course of the conversation I was struck by the danger of replicating existing structures and places within this new design. It was stated that a desk for every child is required so that the children can learn to write.

So there is the new design, recent technologies and traditional classroom furniture; and low and behold, before too long we have the familiar and recognisable classroom.

It was put to me that the school leadership needed to see what was possible elsewhere so that they could imagine school in new ways, rather than recreating what was in new spaces.

Of course there are schools that are exploring new ways of doing schooling - not just in design of buildings, but in the design of learning.

Of interest is what is happening at
Wooranna Park Public School. The school has designed learning spaces within the shell of a traditional school. The school describes itself as having

... endeavoured to create a learning environment for students that prepares them to live in a rapidly changing world, caters for their personal needs and passions, and excites their thirst for learning.

Another school that has the most amazing design is the Hellerup Skole in Denmark.

What both these schools have in common is a recognition that before considering the design of schools serious consideration needs to be given to the principles of learning that should inform and shape what the learning looks like. The learning spaces should be designed to support the desired learning.

This caused me to ask, "If we were to do school that wasn't to look like school, what might it look like?" This, I think, would be an interesting area to investigate with students.

This another clip that is provocative in opening up thinking:

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