Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Reflections before we welcome our first visitors to our ELS's

Over the next two days we will have twelve teachers from St Joseph's in Timaru visiting our Engaging Learning Spaces (ELS's). 

Our ELS's have been designed by the staff, with the students to proactively respond to our strategic goal "To engage every student in deep learning for success" (St Joseph's Oamaru Strategic Plan).

Determined not to let the fact that plans to modernise our traditional school building simply aren't an immediate reality for our Catholic diocese, we decided to be creative and innovative with our existing spaces. Inspired by a visit to Myross Bush School where Tim Lovelock and his team have enabled team teaching to happen in single cell classrooms, we have worked hard to redesign our school layout to match our modern pedagogical practices. As our ELS's evolve, feedback from our community after ten weeks is already showing that we are successfully bringing our strategic goal vibrantly alive in new and challenging ways.

We are definitely beginning to show that we are much more than simply a "school". We are beginning to reflect a "Learning Commons" (Price 2013). We see our school as part of its community that welcomes mentors, experts and families into its learning spaces; is radically transparent and freely shares its expertise with others and stimulates conversations about learning with the widest target audiences. Learning spaces welcome the disruption of visitors, because, as Stephen Harris (principal  Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning SCIL) says, "the more students have to articulate their learning, the more they live it " (Price, 2013,p.186).

"Modern learning environments (MLE's) can support teaching as inquiry better than single-cell classrooms. Working in an open, flexible learning environment where inquiries are shared, interventions devised collaboratively and reflections based on both self and peer observations, leads to a more robust, continuously improving community of practice " (Osborne, 2013).

Our ELS's are not MLE's but we believe that they offer similar benefits to MLE's. Our ELS's are continually evolving. Just as inquiries evolve, our whole learning commons is a living inquiry where students, staff and families are the researchers and developers continually reflecting on actions, resources and plans to bring learning alive for all participants.

We are looking forward to welcoming our visitors and sharing our ELS's as we extend our learning relationships beyond the boundaries of our school walls. 

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