Plans to Pedagogy
By Lisa Plenty, Director of Digital Learning and Innovation
Research indicates that the flexible use of learning spaces to suit the lesson design is as important as the consideration of light, temperature and air quality in boosting learning outcomes (Merrill, S. 2018). Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) do not reject tradition, but embrace flexibility to promote student-centred, personalised learning.
In our Week 8 Bulletin, Louise Wallace-Richards (Assistant Principal – Teaching and Learning) outlined our College involvement in the University of Melbourne Plans to Pedagogy (P2P) project. This initiative, to work with schools on researching and developing tangible connections between learning spaces and outcomes, has been facilitated by the University's Learning Environments Applied Research Network. We are one of 12 schools across Australia and New Zealand involved in the project, which is six months underway and will continue for at least the next two years.
I am very fortunate to lead Radford's involvement in the project, through which we connect with experienced researchers and representatives from other schools. This network gives us an opportunity to compare research, experience and findings, as we all work towards the best outcomes for contemporary learning in our schools.
In 2018 we have embarked on Phase One of Plans to Pedagogy. Working with a mentor, Marian Mahat from LEaRN, we have established a 'Spatial Learning Team', involving representatives from both the Secondary and Junior School staff. This team will continue working and planning together over the course of the project. Our action for Phase One involves two Secondary School teachers, Rachael Weeks and Sue Hassall, using the recently refurbished 'prototype rooms', investigating the research questions outlined by Louise last week:
• To what extent can teachers use space differently to affect student learning?
• To what extent do different classroom configurations affect student learning?
• To what extent do teacher pedagogical practices affect student learning?
To investigate these research questions, the following processes are currently underway over three Terms 2-4.
• Students and teachers were surveyed, seeking a baseline position on teaching and learning mind frames.
• A series of lesson observations have been undertaken.
• Participating teachers and the Spatial Learning Team engaged with a day of workshops with our mentor.
• Following the final observations in a few weeks’ time, students and teachers will again be surveyed to inform the measurement of growth in intentional use of space over the course of the phase.
Alongside the official components of Phase One, current research and Radford findings to date have been shared and examined with Senior Executive and Academic Executive, giving colleagues an opportunity to refine a common vision and build momentum. We have established an Academic Leadership (Heads of Department) Community of Practice group, which I have opportunity to advise. Together, we will plan a research-based approach to using Radford's flexible learning spaces in 2019.
The truly challenging aspect of determining optimal learning environments is the diversity of variables. There is not one room arrangement, style of furnishing or model of pedagogy that will suit every student, for every subject and in all circumstances. Therefore, we need to consider space and furniture in the design of our learning experiences and take a flexible approach. Rachael Weeks arranges the furniture in her room to suit her lesson design. Her students now know when they enter the room that the furniture arrangement indicates how they will work and learn. Sue Hassall has consulted her students as the expert learners in the room, to help consider the arrangement and what will work best for their learning. She has also made deliberate use of display space on walls to engage her students with the learning process and increase the sense of belonging in a shared space. Rachael and Sue will share more about their learning with colleagues at the end of the year, to help others design their use of learning spaces.
Our findings from Phase One, alongside teacher professional learning, will provide a solid, research-informed base to consolidate teacher and student readiness for the use of new, flexible learning spaces. In 2019, we will commence Phase Two of Plans to Pedagogy with a dual exploration of pedagogy and space in our new Junior and Secondary buildings.