Open-learning spaces

Just a quick post as something in the latest Education Review caught my eye…

“Children, teachers battle noise in open-learning spaces”

A relatively brief article and interview regarding some research into open-learning environments conducted by a PhD candidate around speech perception in open-plan classrooms.

I’m not commenting on the quality of the research nor the accuracy of the outcomes, I haven’t read it so I don’t know. What I am interested in is the pedagogic practice that was taking place in these open-learning spaces. After listening to the interview there was powerful justification in implementing an open-plan learning environment, the PhD student (Kiri Mealings) outlines benefits such as: a child centred approach, less authoritarian, range of activities, group work, promote the sharing of skills and experiences through team teaching, joint planning, sharing of resources, student movement between areas. Essentially to facilitate a more cooperative and supportive atmosphere.

Unfortunately even if all of the aforementioned benefits took place it doesn’t sound like the teachers actually changed their pedagogic practice to harness the opportunities presented by the new environment. Instead, through her speech perception analysis, Kiri found that students at the ‘front of the classroom’ performed at around 75% but those at the ‘back of the classroom’ were only performing at around 25% (compared to the roughly 80% homogenous performance in a closed classroom).4421755040_eec92f1b23_zPerhaps the school should have invested in some professional learning for the teachers so that they weren’t recreating a closed classroom structure in an open learning environment. We make the assumption that teachers can readily adapt and change their pedagogies to best suit the demands of their schools but too often great initiatives fail because the teachers are not adequately supported, nor professionally developed, to embrace the shift in pedagogies and engage in new ways of exploring learning with students.

The TEMAG report outlines critical issues in teacher quality and training programs across Australia… well this doesn’t just stop once we graduate! Continuous professional development is critical to maintaining a world class professional workforce that adapts with the ever changing nature of the profession, the context and the students we work with.


An unfortunate infographic on Teacher time

So I received the first edition of Teacher Magazine in my inbox today and dutifully scanned through some of the articles (having featured in an article I figured it’s only fair). It was here that I came across a rather unfortunate infographic…

See Teacher Magazine here…

The “Did you know?” infographic is a summary of the results of a study undertaken by the Grattan Institute on Making time for great teaching (the link to the report on Grattan website is dead but it can be downloaded from here). The unfortunate part is the underpinning messages that I was gleaning from what was represented.

  • Reduce teacher involvement in extra-curricular activities
  • Don’t waste time on subjects with small enrolments or non-core subjects
  • One period a week on pastoral care is ‘too much time’
  • 1 to 2 periods a week on PE is ‘too much time’
  • 1 period a week on research skills is ‘too much time’
  • Just get more money to fund teacher learning time

Of course the full report does go into detail on other elements such as the amount of time wasted supervising students in the schoolyard, detentions and exam supervisions… This isn’t even a complete list! ACER what messages did you think educators were going to extract from this?

On the plus side it suggests a program of professional learning taken from high performing education systems around the world that requires approximately 135 periods (112.5 hours) of professional learning throughout the year blending:

  • Teacher mentoring and coaching
  • Lesson and grade groups
  • Research groups
  • Teacher appraisal and feedback
  • Classroom observation and feedback

Not a bad list of suggestions but if you’re suggesting that being out in the schoolyard building relationships with students, supervising extra-curricular activities to support students engaging in their personal interests, or engaging in pastoral care activities to promote student health and wellbeing aren’t directly linked to quality “teaching and learning” then I must be doing it wrong…

Can someone tell me how to do it right?