Parents ask why

As I wrote in a previous blog, I had the opportunity recently to ask Stephen Heppell to respond to the questions most commonly asked by parents and teachers about contemporary learning spaces – why and how.

In his response to parents, Stephen addresses why we need to move on from traditional ‘cells and bells’ learning spaces.  This is not about experimentation but emancipation.  Parents need to let children be the judges of these spaces.  Check out students talking about Grey Court School in the UK.

More videos to come including Stephen’s advice for teachers transitioning from traditional to contemporary spaces.

4 thoughts on “Parents ask why

  1. I always enjoy watching and listening to Stephen Heppell. He does make sense. I particularly like the way he speaks ‘to parents watching’ and his analogy with the old car.
    My question though – For us who believe so much in what Stephen says why is it so difficult for us to make this happen?

  2. Helen, I ask the same question. I think we assume parents don’t need to see (contemporary learning spaces) to believe. The difference between new cars and new learning spaces is the take-up.

    If every school embraced this – parents wouldn’t need to look far to see these spaces in action and what they delivered.

    For decades, teachers’ work has been hidden behind classroom doors. Part of the angst in all of this is educating parents and the community about how teachers work especially in these spaces. Parents think that in a classroom of 90 students, there will be less connection with individual students. We have to move them away from the belief that small classes equals effective groupings.

    Our schools are an enduring experience for many; a connection to the past and a context from which we can make some sense of the rapid changes of the last decade.

    Of course, Stephen Heppell is right in that we cannot predict the future but we at least have a responsibility to deliver 21st century schooling.

  3. Hi Greg,

    This is definitely a thought-provoking post and video. As a fan of so-called agile-learning spaces and practitioner in them for the last year via our school’s Connected Learning program, I concur with Heppell on the need to deprivatise the classroom and architecture is obviously a very important part of this.

    At the same time, the necessity of transformative teaching becomes EVEN MORE apparent in the agile space than it does in the privatised one. I’ve seen first hand inexperienced teachers struggle with open-learning spaces and the knee-jerk reaction is often to resort to an approach which is, paradoxically, more teacher-centred, more chalk-and-talk, less interactive and ultimately far less engaging.

    That said, I’ve also seen experienced and inexperienced teachers alike abuzz with new possibilities, colleagiality and a new dynamic.

    IMHO, the architecture HAS to form part of the complete breakfast, so to speak. Poor transitions are just too costly and if I were a student lost in an open learning space without good pedagogy (and with teachers ill-at-ease with the new design), I’d probably much prefer to be in the traditional classroom with a good teacher any day.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan. But I’m also at the coalface and I can see both sides.


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