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.