Listening to all voices

This week, I was invited to share the system’s strategic direction at a school forum and to explain why ‘agile’ learning spaces support contemporary pedagogies.

While acknowledging the diverse needs of every school community, some of the concerns and issues expressed by participants have many common features.

At first glance, some parents and teachers prefer the security of  traditional classrooms because they think that new learning spaces that are agile denote noise, chaos and student anarchy. 

There is also concern about new ways of working and teacher unfamiliarity with such ways.  Quite often, I am asked why we are  “experimenting” here with children’s learning in the new models that are emerging.

The point is, I understand how difficult it is to make a conceptual shift between traditional and contemporary models of schooling. However, what we and other educators are doing is striking a balance between what we know works (good practice) and what learning sciences has found (good research).

When we see this working well, as a principal and parents explain in the links below, we see good practice as theory and good theory in practice.  It is a seamless, transparent and democratic process.

I say democratic because we are striving to improve the learning outcomes for every student, not just the best and brightest. Democratic in that the responsibility for learning is shared by the entire school community not just teachers or principals.  It is a collaborative process that requires team-teaching and team-learning.

Each of us do must do what we can to support the process; to share experiences (and where necessary express concerns) but most importantly, to listen to all voices – principals, teachers, parents and students with an open mind.

7 thoughts on “Listening to all voices

  1. Greg

    Very well put.

    It highlights the importance of ensuring school leadership teams take on the responsibility, and have the capabilities to effectively lead the contemporary learning agenda.



  2. The possibilities of enhancing and improving student learning outcomes and improving levels of engagement in flexible learning spaces are empowering for both student and teacher. I can understand some parents, and for that matter teachers, fear or anxiety that this is so different to the way they learnt whilst at school but I do have difficulty understanding their lack of trust for teachers who have always demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that students receive the best education available. I know where I would want my child to be learning and it isn’t in a traditional environment.
    As leaders in education we need to work very hard at gaining trust and developing transparent relationships when building for change within our school communities.

  3. I sometimes wonder Greg if the core principles that support the move to ‘aglie’ learning spaces were simply stated, then a lot of the confusion would be averted. I feel the conversations seem to be focused on the ‘packaging’ and not the parcel on this topic!

    Are we not adopting these spaces to adapt to the changing needs of our students..who live in a connected world where collaboration and shared learning experiences are more and more important? Aren’t we skilling them for a world that is increasingly global and connected, ensuring that they have a basic understanding and skill set to manage and succeed? Are we not allowing greater learning opportunities and more variety in the delivery, so that our students have the opportunity to learn in the ways they learn best- sometimes in small groups, sometimes in classes & sometimes individually?

    We can no longer reflect on our pasts, drawing comfort in the way things were. Although seemingly radical, our classrooms are simply starting to reflect the changes in the world & workplace. We no longer operate in a world where individuals work on isolated tasks. Working together, drawing on each other’s strengths, learning from each other is recognised as the way forward. But more than anything, the realisation and recognition that learning can happen anywhere at any time gives creedance to the ideals of ‘agile learning spaces’. Our learning spaces need to be flexible to allow multiple learning activities, in multiple ways to take place in various groupings. This is what we are striving for- the opportunity to provide greater opportunities for learning that cater for students’ individual learning needs.

    I am tired of hearing about the spaces and the styles of teaching….I wish the conversations would focus more on the learning!

  4. I am probably stating the obvious. I see many teachers using the excuse of lack of resources or that they are stuck in traditional spaces. The real problem is fear of losing control in spaces that they are not masters of. We are having some success with Principal’s and school leaders in queensland by focusing on spaces and pedagogy together. What I have seen is that the pedagogy must come first. A great example of this is a school in Melbourne called Mordialloc College. They spent a number of years working on pedagogy and then built the spaces to support their vision, not the other way around. They are in a great position to take advantage of new technologies and new ways of learning (Digital Pedagogy)

  5. I agree Brett, Mordialloc is a shinning example of what can take place. I’m in a unique position at St Agnes Catholic High School,Rooty Hill where we have two agile learning spaces . The spaces are not important. What has happened is the quality of teacher discussion on how to use the space and the art of teaching. Presently we are exploring the type of learning we want to take place in these areas. This is a conversation happening in the staff room and with the students. Try opening up the conversation for the students and listen to their comments. Very enlightening. From this the necessary furniture will be provided however my sense is that teachers are discussing this, their teaching and student learning in ways that never occurred before. What is important is how we are sharing our practice and learning from each other. Do the students benefit? I believe so because we have more engaged students in the classes and less problems. Other factors would input on this but I have staff exploring and discussing different approaches.
    It is a work in process.

  6. I had the opportunity to visit some schools in Melbourne at the end of last year including primary schools in Brighton and the grand Broadmeadows complex of secondary schools. The point that came through quite clearly was the importance of having the beliefs about learning expoused, shared and committed to before any physical changes were made. This was noted by all those we spoke to as the most challenging and yet rewarding part of the process. The building stuff was easy;albiet not cheap! but the stuff that is going to happen within those spaces was and is the key.This also included the students in the discourse with , for example, Year 6 helping to design their own furniture and shaping the use of the learning space. I came away more convinced thatn ever of the great benefits of what our system is on about.

  7. I guess in this world what is constant is change. Changing or shifting from traditional to contemporary teaching methods may not be that easy but we should be open to any changes and possibilities so we can reach our ultimate goal: giving the best and effective education to our kids.

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