From the Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning

Louise Wallace-Richards - Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning

Louise Wallace-Richards - Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning

In last week’s Bulletin article, our Principal Fiona Godfrey wrote about the new learning spaces currently being built in the College, and the work that is being done to ensure that the furniture purchased for the new spaces is fit for purpose. Informing current discussions about what furniture will be suitable for the Secondary School Learning Commons building are the findings from the College’s involvement in the University of Melbourne’s Plans to Pedagogy project. Lisa Plenty, our Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, is leading our engagement with this research project, while Sue Hassall and Rachael Weeks, Secondary School teachers, are our key staff working with Lisa to collect data based on the primary research question: to what extent can teachers use space differently to affect student learning? Additional areas of focus of this project include:

1. To what extent do different classroom configurations affect student learning? 
2. To what extent do teacher pedagogical practices affect student learning?

In next week’s Bulletin, Lisa will provide insights into the research data collected to date.

Radford’s engagement in research projects such as Plans to Pedagogy demonstrates the College’s commitment to:

ensure that our planning for future learning spaces is going to best facilitate the desired pedagogical practice and encourage flexible approaches to learning.

Aims of Plans to Pedagogy, Lisa Plenty, 2018.

The main source of data for the 2018 Phase One of the research project is our prototype rooms, namely rooms 31, 32, 33 and 34. These rooms, and others in the Secondary School this year, have undergone refurbishment, including improvements to the lighting, heating and cooling, acoustics and, most importantly for the research project, the furniture in the rooms. Tables and chairs in the rooms are on wheels, soft furniture such as ottomans and lounge-like chairs have been provided, and students and teachers are being encouraged to use the furniture to facilitate innovative pedagogy including flexible approaches to learning.

I have visited many schools over my career and have typically seen classrooms set up in ‘traditional’ styles with tables facing a board at the front of the room, tending to encourage a didactic style of teaching only, with the teacher being at the centre of the learning. Where possible, with the introduction of new digital screens since 2017 in our Secondary School classrooms, we have sought to mirror the style of classroom set up in the Mackinnon Senior School building, that is, ensuring there is no front to the room per se, with the digital screen at one end of the classroom and the whiteboard at the opposite end. This simple set up assists in encouraging a student-centred classroom approach, and in our refurbished classrooms, through the furniture provided, we are also promoting the opportunity for students to learn in clusters of tables, which facilitates student-centred learning typified by group work, informal interchanges with teachers and other students, and frequent self-directed learning. (Plans to Pedagogy, Lisa Plenty, 2018).

Innovative classroom furniture and layouts

Furniture that is not set up in rows, facing only the front of a room, also enables teachers to more effectively move around the class to assist students with their learning and keep a close eye on their progress, including their use of ICT in the lesson.

The new Learning Commons building will provide opportunities for the second time in Radford College’s Secondary School history for teachers to have indoor breakout spaces, and the opportunity to en masse be able to engage in team-teaching and co-teaching. I say “the second time”, because our Mackinnnon Senior School building allows for walls to be opened between classrooms, and for teachers to use the breakout spaces of the commons for student-centred learning approaches. Our new building, with its ten classrooms and large breakout areas, will provide much needed spaces to support pedagogical innovation in the Secondary School. We are seeking to achieve what Imms, Cleveland and Fisher advocate in Evaluating Learning Environments Snapshots of Emerging Issues, Methods and Knowledge (University of Melbourne, Australia, Sense Publishers, 2016):

[to] enable students to increasingly take responsibility for their own learning and encouraging teachers to become the curators of learning experiences, that range from whole class didactic encounters, through collaborative peer-peer active learning to reflective one-on-one consultations with students – often within a single lesson.

Professional learning will be provided for Secondary School teachers in Term Four to learn more about how to use our new spaces and classroom furniture effectively to enhance learning experiences for students. One of our Leadership Community of Practice groups will also be devising a paper before the conclusion of the year, informed by the Plans to Pedagogy project, to assist teachers to make the most of our new spaces in 2019. I encourage you to read Lisa Plenty’s article in next week’s Bulletin for more details about the Plans to Pedagogy project.

Louise Wallace-Richards
Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning


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