PLS in practice
- Week 23
This week we are back at Oranga School for the Official Opening of their two new collaborative learning spaces, Block 2 and 3. Such an important event for a school needs an equally important visitor to cut the ribbon and who better than New Zealand’s Prime Minister, ‘The Right Honourable’ Jacinda Ardern. The opening was all about the children and the community, from the formal Māori welcome by members from the local Ōrākei Marae, to the powerful performances by the schools Kapa Haka group. Bridget Lummis, the Principal of Oranga School, comments on the significance of this Official Opening; ‘The opening of our two new buildings is a significant milestone for Oranga School. The buildings provide all teachers and students with spaces that are intentionally designed to enable flexible teaching and learning. We know that these collaborative environments will better support teachers to deliver the Oranga School vision: Achieving excellence as a community of lifelong learners. Both buildings have two learning hubs that include open areas for collaborative learning, quiet spaces for independent learning as well as spaces for students to explore technology, media, and the arts. The flexibility of these spaces is key and furniture will be able to be changed around based on the type of learning that is happening. Our collaborative environments will ensure our teachers make the best use of their skills and passions. Research supports the theory that the design of flexible learning creates a secure and stimulating learning environment that supports innovative and imaginative teaching practices. The end result is improved levels of student engagement, which can lead to improved academic achievement.’ The Planning Learning Spaces team is proud to be supporting Oranga School with the opening of their newly designed buildings. We are delighted to see how the learners, staff and local community have come together to celebrate this auspicious occasion. The PLS team have been working with the school over the last eighteen months, in order to support them turning their School Vision into a reality. We have achieved this by guiding them through a learning-led approach using our Design Framework and resources. We will be back Mid-September to share with you an update from our partner schools in New Zealand and to find out how their new learning spaces are making a difference to their learning and teaching. Written by: The PLS Team
- Week 22
Re-designing a learning space is not something that is left to just school leaders and designers. The students must be involved in order to feel part of the process. Our PLS Design Framework relies on the thoughts of the students at different stages so that we can ensure their ideas are incorporated into the new space. After completing the new learning space at Trumpington Park Primary School (UK), the PLS team and school staff were keen to find out what the students thought about their new learning environment. Reflecting on the whole space, students commented; ‘It’s more spacious and we have a new smaller room that you can go into. It’s good in this room because you can work with different people at different times, and you can be quiet there.’ The new space has been designed with specific learning zones and these are proving to be impactful with the learning activities taking place. There are now more spaces for students to work collaboratively, which was a key focus for the school. ‘I like the ‘cubby’ because it can be made quieter because of using the soundproof screen but we still feel part of our class.’‘I love our triangular tables because you can write on the table and it helps me develop my ideas as we discuss things in our lesson. You can move them around and work in different groups and teams and I have worked with more people now and understood more things.’ ‘Our round table is good to go to for group discussions and when we need more help.’ ‘We love working together on our small round table because we can flip it over and use it as a whiteboard to share our work.’ The learning space has now given students more choices in terms of where they want to go and learn. Specific kit was chosen to allow students to work in different size groups depending on the learning activity. In addition to tables, we also guided the school through making different seating options to give their students more variety. All of this has allowed the students to take more ownership of the way they learn. ‘I like the high table because you do not always have to sit down when you work, and standing up for some of my work helps me concentrate. Sometimes I sit on the stools and they are good because are very comfortable.’ ‘I like working on the high table because it helps me think differently about what we are doing and being high up feels good.’ ‘I like the bean bags next to our write on wall because you can relax and work at different heights at the same time.’ ‘Our grass benches are good because you can easily find a place when the class needs to come together and they are great to sit and read on.’ Hearing directly from the students about their thoughts on the new space is so important. It shows that the learning environment is having a profound impact on their learning and achievements. The PLS team are incredibly pleased to see the staff and students settling in so well in the new space and we look forward to hearing more about how the new class use it in the next academic year.
- Week 21
This week we are back in Grey Lynn School to catch up with the year 1 and 2s to see how they are defining learning activities within their use of space. Transitioning into the use of more collaborative learning environments is a learning journey for students and all staff. The Planning Learning Spaces in Practice projects have all recognized the importance of developing a local and relevant shared language that helps to describe the use and intended learning activity for the students and staff in more open environments. Jody Hayes and Alice Nicholson-Byers are two of the three teachers in the Year 1 and 2 space at Grey Lynn. They had indicated that they wanted to explore ways that they could more effectively communicate the learning behaviors and activities that they wanted to convey to all students and staff in their learning zone. Jody comments on the collaborative spaces. We have recognised the importance of ensuring we meet the full range of students needs in our collaborative spaces. There are many considerations and layers of activities to plan and to think on that we have been establishing as we develop the use of these spaces. This is particularly important as teachers who are new to the school and come to work with our more collaborative learning approaches. With the support from Planning Learning Spaces, I have been working with the school to support the development of appropriate language that can be used to describe the learning activities in their new spaces. As we’ve seen in previous blogs the school developed ‘Activity Posters’ that conveyed through the use of simple local language and visuals, what activities were expected at that time in that space. We have recognised that although the posters are effective in identifying learning activities in a learning space, they are not adaptable to reflect the changing nature of multiple learning activities in a space through the teaching day. In a bid to take the posters off the walls and place them in the action, we are prototyping the introduction of MAPs (Movable Activity Placards). This picture shows a simple zoning of space identified by the ‘Movable Activity Placards (MAPS). The teacher has established and is leading a guided group activity and is also able to monitor collaborative activities with four pairs of students. This picture shows the tiered seating presentation area being identified by the students through the MAP to be now a space for independent quiet learning. Jody finishes with her comments on the effectiveness of the MAPs. I believe the MAPs are the key to empowering students to decide what they need (as the next stage) as they consistently support the communication of what may otherwise be a hidden or invisible component of our space. They are key to creating and maintaining a shared language of learning.With the MAPS being small and with their portable nature, this will allow the activates to be indicated in different areas at different times of the day or indeed to be taken with us to the library or to our outdoor classroom or even further afield when involved in Education outside the classroom (EOTC). The MAPS can also support students with learning needs, for example, the use of the imagery of the Cave could be used as a concept to support students in self-regulation as they meet their sensory needs when they are feeling overwhelmed. Planning Learning Spaces believe that by developing the approaches that Jody and Alice are describing will empower students to work with staff to co-create and lead their own learning. This collaborative partnership starts to develop a more self-managing approach to the use of space engaging the students in where, when and how to learn. Our next post from New Zealand will be back to Oranga School who have a very special celebration with the opening of their new learning space. Written by: Doug Crutch (NZ Facilitator)
- Week 20
This week I went back to Trumpington Park Primary School to find out from the staff what they thought about the PLS Design Framework and the impact it has had on their teaching and the student’s learning. Now that the full class has moved into the space, both teachers, Anna Patuck and Emma Norman have been able to reflect on the difference the new space has made. Going back to the start of our process, Anna comments on workshop two which focuses on the school values and ethos. “It was helpful to start with school values as we may not have necessarily done this before. The starting point was really helpful as it was worthwhile as it got us to dive deep into our core values and think about how this affects a space. We then started to think about lessons in more detail, which is always important.” Following on from this workshop, the PLS Design Framework gets teachers to think about their current and future practice. Emma reflects on this workshop and explains how their mindsets have changed; “This workshop was really useful because it allowed us to look at the issues we currently have. It made us think about how our current furniture was possibly holding us back from doing different learning activities and ultimately made us reflect on how we’re actually using the whole space. We now look at our lessons with a different mindset, because we are keen to utilise our space as effectively as we can.” Thinking about the impact the new space has on their students, both Anna and Emma have witnessed how much more choice their students now have in terms of where and how they want to learn. In their previous traditional classroom layout, tables were in rows or groups of 3 and it meant that students were not able to collaborate properly with each other. Now, their new learning space has allowed all students to move tables easily to suit their learning needs. Students are taking more ownership of how they want to learn and with whom. This was a major key area that the PLS team focussed on during the process. Another difference that both teachers have found is that children who would normally be taken outside to work with a teaching assistant, are now staying in the room with all their peers. The teaching assistant is now able to support students in any area of the room and this has meant the learning space is now more inclusive. Both Anna and Emma said that they hardly have students leaving the learning space now, which is fantastic. “The PLS process has changed everything and for the better.” – Anna Patuck Next week we will be going back to New Zealand to hear from Doug Crutch. He will be updating us on the progress Grey Lynn School have made since our last visit.
- Week 19
I last updated you about Grey Lynn School in week 11, where we saw the ‘Activity Poster’ project come together. The posters have now made their way into the ‘Learning Hubs’ where both teachers and children have had a chance to use them to support their daily activities. With school holidays and a senior camp taking place now, the school has found time to review the use of the posters. Principal of the school, Alicia Whata, felt that the trial of the activity posters has been worth the effort, and although at this stage the review process had shown mixed results over the different years, the overall result was positive. Alicia commented that the initial decision-making process by staff was to identify how the posters would look, their content, where they would visibly sit in the space and how they would ultimately benefit the learners. She went on to say how the review was now able to ask the question, what do the posters mean for teaching and planning and what improvements could be made? One observation from the feedback in the review was that the posters, being a flat object fixed to the wall, meant they became lost and couldn’t easily associate with the many different activities that occurred in the spaces. The team thought that going forward, it would be great to take a smaller version of the poster off the wall and place it into the centre of the activity, maybe a 3D object that could be moved around tables. Having these as movable objects, and amongst the activity would allow the teachers to incorporate the use of them into their planning and design phase. The children could easily focus on the language relating to the activity and review the guidelines when working in this activity, ‘this is what we do, this is how we work, this is the equipment we need to bring and this is what we want to take away.’ I also asked Teacher, Jody Hayes from the year 1/2 Hub, how she felt the trial was going with the ‘Activity Posters’; “Yes, I absolutely think the zone posters are of use and zones are vitally important to assist the flow of different needs at different times of the day. As the zones are static currently the next step or area to trial for Alice (one of the other teachers in the Hub) and myself is to try and make the zone labelling (Posters) more movable and/or flexible.” “The current ‘Maunga’ Space (Presentation Space) is being used as a ‘Wananga Space’ (Small Group Space) so it would be good to have a portable sign to indicate what zone the space is being used for at that time. This would help us have clear communication to and with our learners, empowering them to be able to select the zone needed at different times of the learning cycle.” I think from the comments above, the ‘Activity Posters’ have been reasonably successful in helping staff and children get a better understanding of the activities they are engaged in. However, by making small versions and putting them into the centre of the activity, the children, in particular, will have a better opportunity to focus and reflect on the activity components. Many of the teaching staff, are already looking at fabricating these smaller movable versions and it will be interesting to see how that process has played out in the coming weeks. I have been working on this aspect of the PLS process with both Terry White (PLS Director) and Bhavini Pandya (PLS Lead Facilitator) so that we can design a set of universal learning aids that can be used as part of the PLS Design Framework, to support both staff and students. In the coming weeks, I will be going back to Grey Lynn School and we will also visit Oranga School who have a very special celebration with the opening of their new learning space. Written by: Doug Crutch (NZ Facilitator)
- Week 18
This week I went back to Trumpington Park Primary School to observe the full class of year 4 students in their new learning space. You may remember back to my earlier blog posts; the year 4 students were first using the new room in small groups before moving the full class in. By starting off with the smaller groups, it allowed students to familiarise themselves with all aspects of the new learning space and it also allowed the staff to find out what teaching styles worked best. The three main areas that I focussed on during my observation were; Student engagement with their learningStudent movement within the learning spaceHow was the learning space shaping the way practical lessons were being taught? Upon observing a very engaging and practical D.T lesson taking place, it was clear how much the students really enjoyed being able to choose where they learn, with whom they work with and how they would use the room to their advantage, when completing a learning activity. As the teacher delivered the main input, some students were writing notes on their table tops so that it would help them remember key learning points when they started the activity independently. Student engagement was exactly what you would hope for. Every single student was focussed on their task. By allowing them to choose where they wanted to sit, also resulted in them choosing peers they felt they could work well with and ultimately show improved focus on the learning. The new learning space has allowed students to get around more easily. There is lots of space between all the tables so that students can get to other areas of the room without any issues. During the lesson itself, I observed how smoothly students moved from one area of the room to another, whether this was to magpie ideas from a peer or to collect resources to help them with their DT task. During the PLS process, we took the staff through a workshop which looked at how the new layout would affect the way different lessons would be delivered. It was important to ensure all curriculum areas could be taught in the new space and after observing this DT lesson, it was clear that a more practical activity was easier done in this new space compared to the traditional format that most classrooms follow. The teachers felt they could get around to see all students during the lesson which is always important. It is really good to see that a learning space that has been designed with so much rigour and thought, can have such a positive impact on students, staff and the way teaching is delivered. Next week, we go back overseas to hear from our New Zealand Facilitator, Doug Crutch, and find out how things are shaping up in the schools he is working with.
- Week 17
The students in Year 3 and 4 at Oranga School have now moved into their newly refurbished two Hub modern learning environment. It was previously a standard series of 6 single cell classrooms. An early morning blessing was held the week before the school moved in, and was led by two Māori elders from the local Ōrākei Marae. Seba Dilaimi, one of the six teachers who is moving into the space, takes us through an interesting project that the two hubs carried out before they arrived in the space. “So, as we came into the space, we shared the journey with the children. Everytime that we, as teachers, came in to see progress, we would go back and show the children photos of how the space was progressing and where it was at. We spoke to them a lot about the space and then in the last week, before we moved in, we did a project with the children where they drew a map to scale. Every meter was 10 centimetres and then they measured and scaled down the furniture as well that we had in the classroom. They then made the furniture silhouettes out of cardboard, and placed them on the map with much discussion.When we (the teachers) came into the new space to set up the furniture on Thursday afternoon, we literally had a photo of their plan and we placed the furniture where they had decided it should go. It was really good for us as the children had noticed on the plan that say in this room, you can only put this amount of furniture in there and we’re like, “oh, that’s really interesting.” So, they were able to came up with things that we wouldn’t have seen as teachers, which was really good and it proved to be a really worthwhile process.” I also asked Seba how the move itself went and what her first impressions of the space were: “We moved in within a day and a half and had great support on the first day from Parents and Staff moving the big stuff. The next morning, we brought the kids across and every child carried something over so they were able to be part of the process. It was so great and when they came in on Monday, and it was like, they’d always been here. My first impressions of the space were that is lovely and big with lots of breakout spaces. It really is going to be perfect for our kids. Teaching that can be done in the new space that they couldn’t do before. We love the small ‘Maker Spaces’ which are in such a central area, it’s just so easy for the children and the teachers to find everything that they need, they’re not having to walk all the way from one side of the space to the other. The children and staff are loving the space.” Each Hub has 61 children and three teachers at the moment. Seba says that they haven’t named the Hubs as yet, they are planning that exercise once the kids settle into the space, and they hope to use it as an inquiry process as to what names are appropriate and why. There are a range of spaces that connect and compliment the learning activities taking place in the year groups. Individual nooks and Makerspaces allow students to choose different learning zones. The makerspaces can be opened or closed to make the connection between the main learning space. As I said at the beginning of the post, the Year 3 and 4 students and teachers are up and running in their new space and it will be great to follow them as they get comfortable with the new learning environment. For those who have read the week 13 blog post, you will be aware that Oranga School has another new space, ‘The New Build’, due to open at the end of next month. This one has been built from scratch and is going to be a five-teacher equivalent classroom for year groups 1 and 2. We look forward to bringing you that exciting addition to the school in our next blog post from Oranga School. Written by: Doug Crutch (NZ Facilitator)
- Week 16
Making a reality of our vision for learning at Trumpington Park Primary School When staff at Trumpington Park Primary School were taken through the PLS Design Framework, they identified several key areas that they wanted to develop as their next practice within their new learning space. These included; Ensuring the learning space promotes collaboration to take place effectively between all staff and students.Giving students more ownership and responsibility for their own learning.Enabling students to choose where, how and with whom they learn. Collaborative working in different groups During the design process, staff were keen to ensure there were different zones within the learning space that allowed them to collaborate with groups of varied sizes. In addition, these collaborative spaces would also be used for different learning activities and stages within the students learning. Students leading learning Staff were keen to move away from the traditional teaching methods because they wanted to empower their students to have more ownership of their learning. Students are now having opportunities to become their own leaders of learning through enquiry-based approaches. Giving students the freedom to choose The newly designed space has allowed students to decide where they want to complete their learning activities, how they want to learn and who they want to collaborate with. Learners are now more motivated and engaged to work with others to find solutions to problems. Students are now making their own choices to develop their learning and are less reliant on teacher-directed activity and instructions. Many students have commented that they can contribute to the learning of others and receive the same in return. “I can help others and they can help me.”
- Week 15
This week’s post is back to Oranga School in central Auckland, where we look a little closer at the two major building initiatives under development on the school site, and some of the support Planning Learning Spaces was able to offer Bridget Lummis, the newly appointed Principal of the school. The ‘New Build’ a 5-classroom equivalent Innovative Learning Environment. Sandra Jenkins (PLS New Zealand Lead Facilitator) had already been working with Bridget on developing ideas for the internal design of the new Innovative Learning Environment and she comments: Towards the end of 2019 Bridget Lummis, the newly appointed principal of Oranga School contacted me for feedback on plans she had been presented with for the development of a five-classroom equivalent block that was to be built at Oranga School. We both agreed that there was little alignment in these plans between how teaching and learning would be organised and implemented, the culture of the school community or the vision of Oranga School. Over the next few months, we had several discussions around ensuring that the planned learning spaces would be intentionally designed to support teaching and learning organization, linking to the Oranga School vision for learning, referencing the framework in the bestselling book, Planning Learning Spaces. Sandra and Bridget will get to share with us, in a later blog post, their design journey where they endeavoured to ensure that there was a sense of place, culture and local community reflected throughout the new building. As a result of this approach a Fale (house or building in Samoan Architecture) has been designed to stand at the centre of this collaborative and connected learning zone and we will be very interested to see how that structure plays its part in learning. Refurbished Existing six classroom ‘junior block’. Terry White (The International PLS Project Director) now comments on the work he undertook with Bridget to review the developing plans and he comments: The refurbishment of the ‘junior block’ was also to be developed into innovative learning spaces enabling two teams of three teachers to work collaboratively in each of two connected learning hubs. The establishment of the Planning Learning Spaces pathfinder approach in New Zealand enabled early dialogue around the initial concept designs for the refurbishment of the existing ‘junior block’. The initial design concept given to Bridget, recognised the need for an open plan learning zone to provide space for two learning teams to collaborate. As with all refurbishments there were some building challenges in designing a varied and diverse range of learning activities in both spaces to give equal access and opportunities for both groups of learners. In developing the design further with Bridget the PLS team drew on their collective experience in ensuring that in such open and connected spaces there was a range of dedicated areas for learning and a range of flexible spaces for adaptable and more agile learning activities. Developing key design drivers. The two learning teams would work together in each of the hubs but there was also the need to ensure connectivity between these two spaces to allow for a more wide-ranging sharing of resources and spaces as and when needed. One of the important design considerations was to establish a studio space that could be closed to enable active or creative applied learning but through the use of glazed screening be cable of opening up to support learning activities in each of the learning hubs. This is being developed as a glazed set of doors with visual connection always constant between the two spaces whether open or closed. In order to create such a space in the other learning hub the design needed to be modified as illustrated below to build in a second studio space. As can be seen from the photos, the refurbishment is close to completion. Bridget and her team are eagerly awaiting the completion of their first ‘Innovative Learning Space’. Future blog posts from Oranga School will look to cover the journeys, staff and students will take in both this refurbished space and the 5-classroom equivalent ‘New Build’. Blog post written by Terry White and Doug Crutch
- Week 14
This week I went back to Trumpington Park Primary School, to see how the students and staff were settling into their new learning space. As you may remember from my previous blog posts, this space has been designed with specific learning zones, so it was interesting to see how these were being used by the students for different lessons. Both an English and Maths lesson were delivered in the new learning space and it was really good to see how well the students regrouped with peers more easily and how they used the different learning zones to collaborate with one another. One of the noticeable changes that was seen was that the students had the choice of where they wanted to complete a learning activity. From the minute they came into the room, they chose where and with whom they wanted to sit, in order to listen to the main teaching input. During the independent learning part of the lesson, all students were able to move around the room freely and work collaboratively with their peers on a range of learning tasks that had been set. The teacher had used all areas of the room to spread out a range of learning tasks for her students, and this made it evident that the students had the option to choose where to go. This was one of the driving factors during the design process: allowing students to have ownership of the space and their learning. It was clear that the students enjoyed learning at different heights in the room too. Some students preferred to be sitting on the soft bean bags with their peers, whilst others liked being higher up on the stools at the IT bench. When speaking to some of the students about why they had chosen to sit at the higher table spaces they said “I like this high table because when you stand up, you don’t have to bend over”. Another student commented on the stools and explained why she preferred sitting there because “they make me feel taller” she said. One student spoke to me about how he prefers to use the alcove area because it is quieter and allows him to focus more on his learning. Prior to redesigning this room, the alcove area used to be a cloakroom space. However, during the design process, the PLS team identified that this space could be used more effectively with the students. By relocating the cloakroom into the corridor space, it has allowed students to have another focus area within the main learning space and by watching the students in action, it’s clear how much they enjoy learning in this new quieter space. It has been fantastic to see how happy and engaged the students are in their new learning environment and we will be going back in the next week to speak to them in more detail about the impact the space is having on their learning and wellbeing. Next week we will be going back to our pilot projects in New Zealand to hear how everything is shaping up there.
- Schools returning
We are very interested in how schools will deal with pupils’ staged return during the pandemic. Here is our contributor Gary Spracklen on Good Morning Britain explaining how The Prince of Wales School in Dorset will deal with returning students, introducing the concept of ‘kingdoms’.