Monday, October 27, 2014

Redesigning Learning

What is possible? What can learning look like? Is this the best for our students? These are some of the questions we (as teachers) are constantly asking ourselves and at the end of last term decided to really make the most of the skill set we had across two commons and combine the way we immerse our kids in a world they are unfamiliar with in preparation for our next block of learning.

Our first year we started with 36 students, 6 staff and 2 learning commons (year 0 - 3 and years 4 - 8). We taught in teams of 3 and by the end of our first year, we had grown in size and had staffing changes. Our second (current) year, we saw the need to open up another common.  We started with 3 commons (Common 1: year 0 - 2, Common 2: year 2 - 5, Common 3: year 5 - 8). Common 1 & 2 co-taught (with 2 teachers), while Common 3 team taught with up to 5 teachers as one time.  Each space has 35 - 40 students, the most we have had in a space.  So what is in store for next year? We have new staff on board and even more students.  Time to sit down and redesign what learning could look like.

Our school vision states that we value Collaboration, Relationships, Personalised Learning, Innovative Practice and Authentic Learning. So how are we living this out? At the end of term 3, the teachers in learning common 1 & 2 sat down for the day and looked at possibilities. We used a design thinking approach to solve x.

Identify: What is the issue?
We wanted to honour our school values and ensure we were offering the best opportunities for our learners.

Observe: Gathering information about the issue from observations and experiences
We started the day by immersing ourselves in what was already happening within the school.  We gathered information about the current teaching and learning by directly observing each learning common and interviewing students about their experiences.  We asked broad question such as:
- What does school mean to you?
- What works really well here?
- What’s one thing you’d change in your learning common?

Then we dug a little deeper with specific question such as:
- What was it like the last time you did (e.g. Maths, PE, developed a skill)....?
- Why would visitors to the school think that teachers planning the day is better?
- How does HPPS compare with your last school?
- What would your reply be to someone who asks "why do you plan your own day?"
- Describe a favourite learning moment...

Share: Working with others to better understand the issue
The responses were vast, but had common themes. Students valued the ownership they had over their learning, noting that it prepared them for the 'real world' when they have jobs and need to organise themselves.  They mentioned teachers were there to support their learning and guide them, not tell them what to do.  The mention of trips was loud and clear - they wanted to go out and experience the 'real world'.

Looking at the themes from our observations - we were armed with our Moonshot idea of how might we transform practice in our school in order to actively live our our school values of collaboration, relationships, personalised learning, innovative practice and authentic learning.  

Ideate: Generate as many ideas as you can
We then sat down and wrote down possibilities. With ideas flying, this was beautifully messy.  After our ideas were squeezed out, we filtered out what was not feasible  and developed a shared vision moving forward.

This is all about DOING. We quickly came up with ideas of how to immerse our students (5 year olds - 10 year olds) in our theme for the coming term of Effective Communication.

Critique - Refine
We get together most afternoons to discuss highlights and challenges during this process.  Already, three weeks in we have made changes to what we are doing to refined and remix to suit our learners. We have had great feedback from our students, with many surprised by how they work with one another regardless of age and ability is not a factor.  We have seen our learner dispositions really shine as collaboration and relationships being the driving force behind our immersion. Although it has at times been challenging, messy and tiring, the outcomes we are seeing with our students have been rewarding and reinforce why we are doing what we are doing.