A couple of months ago we were visited by Cashmere Ave School to talk about the team taught MLE that was initiated this year – here were some notes I scrambled down on the day:
- Authentic learning, collaboration, agency, use of ICT, space, role of the teacher, metacognition – “Making our way in the world”.
- Integrated reflective practice – metacognitive process the students having a voice in where they are going and what they are doing.
- Conversations are being generated by the students with a learning focus because of the environment of collaboration. Team teaching.
- Flipped classroom – changing the role of the teacher
- Philosophy underpinning how the space is designed – not enough desks for everybody…
Yesterday, I visited the beautiful Cashmere Ave School to see the environment in action. It was the first time I’ve been to a Primary School for a while and quite a reminder of days gone by to see a space without loads of desks in rows or groups, but more a space that caters for a range of learning approaches. There were endless displays on the wall that were all interesting with significant connections to what was currently going on in the class, or what learning has been done. Bean bags and different seating options were available in lots of different places with groups set up in some corners and high table options as well. The students found other spaces too – some sitting in the corridor and others reacquiring the netbook box as a table.
We observed the class in action for just over an hour and saw the remarkable way that the class systems had been formed. The focus was maths and the 35 mins slot had been split into three with students either told to attend workshops to address pre-identified gaps in their learning, or select a learning activity like “workbook” or “mathletics”. The student knew they had quantity work expectations which were reviewed briefly in reflective questions at the end of the activity. The way the time was spent was recorded on laminated cards with non-permanent markers, so that the format could be reused for other blocks in the timetable.
The transitions and structure was so incredibly well organised with a team spirit very clear from the way that everyone knew where they needed to be and students became behaviour managers as well through reminding others in the class to get to what they needed to be doing. Everything was chunked so there was never more than 12-15mins in one place which kept the students moving, focused, engaged and active.
The reason for seeing the class was more of a general interest than a specific idea about how it could benefit my practice. However, now that I’ve seen the environment in action – now that I’ve been to education utopia – there are some key takeaways:
- The importance of tying things back into the curriculum – I have to get back into the Media Studies curriculum and making that visible in my classroom. Assessment remains the driver and I need to be more active in pushing the learning that underpins it. Using the learning to engage not the credits. This might look like: wall displays showing the key areas of Media Studies; learning intentions that refer back to A.O.s instead of the AS; regular articulation of the learning links.
- Self-Directed Chunking – self-direction in my classroom often relies on the student to chunk their own time within the space that is given to them. This wasn’t the approach in this classroom. The chunking was part of the planning – giving the students control over their activities but keeping them moving between them. There seems to be huge value in this. I’ll need to look into what this might look like in my context.
- Learning over Assessment – back to my goal of 2015 looking at how I can promote authentic learning above the rigors of meeting assessment requirements. In the Cashmere Ave MLE, intrinsic motivation was very high as students learnt for the love of learning (although some talked a lot about their desire to reach Stage 6). The teacher talk was very much based in learning – something I’m continuing to work on.
- Learning Environment – everything about the space was created for the students to be used by the students. There was no teacher desk, no teacher focused areas. The flexibility allowed students to work in different ways and in ways that met their needs. Back to attempting to shift things again in Media….
This was a super opportunity to expand my understanding of teaching and learning and look into a context significantly removed from my own. Still buzzing.