Teachers advised on move to modern learning

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School teachers must show the skills that they are asking their pupils to show and for many this means changing their mindset on how their classroom looks and operates.

Mark Osborne, an expert on Modern Learning Environments, is attending the Teaching and Learning Conference in Oamaru being held at St Kevin’s College and said yesterday that these qualities include problem-solving, collaboration, resilience and communication.

He said for years teachers have worked on their own and students have sat rigidly facing the front of the room in an ‘industrial-style’ setting.

“Schools need to move away from having kids know stuff, to knowing stuff and doing something with it,” he said.

“As part of that we have to change the physical space, the classroom, which hasn’t changed in 150 years.”

“Its important to combine learning with outdoors, projects, modelling, and learners teaching each other.”

Modern Learning Environments being promoted by Mr Osborne and Future-Focused Education, involve the creation of large open-plan spaces which include different areas for learning. For example, technology, quiet areas, interactive, construction and art. In an older school this may mean taking out walls in a block of classrooms and many new schools being built by the Ministry of Education are being purpose-built in this way.

“Within schools we have the greatest variance between teachers in the OECD.”

“Teachers working together in a team environment is one of the greatest ways to decrease that variance.”

Taupaki School principal, Stephen Lethbridge, who is also a keynote speaker at the conference, said teachers can’t hide in a Modern Learning Environment.

“When you open up classrooms to observe and take part in, you have to walk your talk.”

Mr Lethbridge, has been a principal for eight years and supports open-plan work environments and encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.

He said student-driven time-tabling and students selecting to go into teaching clinics are just a couple of examples of where education is heading.

Just how far individual schools want to take these concepts is up to them, Mr Osborne said.

“Some schools are extremely traditional.

“But being a walking text book just doesn’t work anymore.”

He said Modern Learning Environments are third on the government’s building priority list after earthquake-prone and leaky buildings.

Conference convenor, Deirdre Senior, said the discussion is timely given the MOE is expecting schools to spend money on Modern Learning Environments.

“It’s not just about the physical learning environment but also looking at teachers and the different ways in which students learn,” she said.

“The biggest thing is to shift teachers’ thinking.”

By LINDA MCCARTHY