PLS in practice
- Week 13
Oranga School is located in the small residential suburb of Oranga, Auckland, New Zealand. The school sits in the shadow of the extinct volcano Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and is nine kilometres to the southeast of the city centre. It has a current roll of 360 comprising mainly Pākehā and Tongan students, and smaller groups of students who are Māori, Samoan and other ethnicities. The roll is predicted to grow quickly over the next few years due to the large numbers of ‘In-fill’ housing being built in the suburb to meet the housing crisis in Auckland. The school is in the midst of a major building project on site, to allow for roll growth, this comprises of a new ‘Innovative Learning Environment’. The new build is due to be completed by the end of Term two. At the same time, a 6-classroom block is being modernised into Innovative Learning Spaces and will also be completed by the end of Term two. We hope to cover these two projects in greater detail in future blog posts. DCIM\100MEDIA\DJI_0013.JPG Principal of Oranga School, Bridget was appointed to the roll in June 2019 and arrived in the middle of the design phase for the new spaces. After a visit to NZ by Terry White (Project Director) and Murray Hudson (Gratnells Managing Director) in February 2020, Bridget and her school were invited to join the Planning Learning Spaces project. Terry White explains how this partnership started with the school. “It was a natural evolution of our publication “Planning Learning Spaces” to work with schools in partnership to use our process framework to develop a learning-led design approach for the development, design and transitioning to new spaces and places to learn within schools. Our process recognises the importance of all those involved in learning and living in new or remodelled learning environments to be the co-creators not the consumers of these spaces. We believe that to achieve this there needs to be a culture of openness and collaboration where everyone can be a leader of learning and be empowered through the new design process. To enable and establish such an ethos where such approaches are valued, made explicit and modelled in day to practice for everyone in a school and its learning community requires committed and innovatory leadership. In developing our early projects in New Zealand, it was a pleasure to be asked by Bridget to work together with her and her staff to put Planning Learning Spaces in Practice into action to support the design of new and remodelled spaces in the school. I first worked with Bridget at Freemans Bay School, Auckland. We shared many learning conversations and being invited with the Planning Learning Spaces Team to engage with her again as the new Principal of Oranga was a privilege. Bridget is a committed and exceptional leader. We knew that through working together with her and the staff we would not only be able to support the design and development of new learning spaces but gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of our design framework process. We were able to take an innovator design approach through our framework to focus on the learning behaviours and activities desired in this new collaborative space to be remodelled from of an existing traditional six classroom block. Through this process with Bridget and the staff the initial design developed to offer a shared and collaborative use of the learning zone and a wider ranging and diverse range of learning activities.” Similarly to our pilot school, Grey Lynn Primary, Oranga school had a number of PLS workshops facilitated by Sandra Jenkins. Principal of Oranga, Bridget Lummis says “When the School started with working with Sandra on ‘Planning Learning Spaces’, one of the key discussions we had with our staff was talking about zoning. Looking at the different learning zones and how teachers were going to work within the zones, rather than just looking at it as one big teaching space. We were able to break it down and look at not only where those breakout spaces were going to be placed, but how the learners could be supported in these spaces, particularly those learners who had sensory needs. So that for me was a really important part of the process and the staff really responded to that. You could see as well that after that particular ‘Professional Learning’ session the staff went away, looked at the current spaces that they were in and how they could incorporate those sorts of areas within them. Looking at where the large grouping spaces were, where there were more opportunities for individualized learning opportunities, and where the group works sort of happens. I think that this was a really crucial part of our Journey.” Principal Bridget Lummis gives us her thoughts on working with the PLS team to modernise the school buildings. Blog post written by Doug Crutch (NZ Facilitator)
- Week 12
What are the benefits of having learning zones within a collaborative learning space? • Designated activity areas. • Students learn and embed new skills in these zones. • Opportunities for collaboration between students. • Teachers and support staff can work with smaller groups. • Equipment and resources assigned to specific areas of the learning space. • Gives students the option of where they want to work. • Appropriate for a range of learning and teaching styles. Zoning up a learning space is important because it allows students and teachers to have defined yet flexible areas to work in. Each of these zones allow students to complete tasks with specific skills and use the appropriate resources that they may require. When taking staff at Trumpington Park Primary School through our PLS Design Framework, it was clear that they wanted to include a variety of different learning zones within their new space. In order to do this, they were aware that each zone had to be carefully designed with the correct kit in mind, for the activities taking place. Learning activities are at the centre of our PLS framework so it is crucial that these can be done effectively in any given space. The Year 4 teachers felt that their new space had to give their students the option of how, where and with whom they wanted to complete a given task. With this in mind, both myself and Project Director, Terry White, worked with the staff to first identify the types of learning activities they wanted to ensure were being done properly in the space and then we further developed this in order to choose specific kit that would allow the activity to take place. In the new learning space at Trumpington Park Primary School, staff have now got zones for independent, paired and group work, in addition to practical, quiet and an ICT area which they didn’t have before. All these zones will give students the options of where they want to work and also allow them to choose the type of furniture that best suits their learning needs. Next week we will be heading back to New Zealand where our Facilitator, Doug Crutch, will be heading to Oranga School who started our PLS journey a few months back. We look forward to hearing how the staff are getting on and the changes they are going to put into place for their new learning spaces.
- Week 11
In our last post from Grey Lynn School (NZ), the staff wanted to develop how they could clearly identify and convey what a learning activity involved and how it was going to be conducted in the specific zone within the learning space. Our New Zealand facilitator, Doug Crutch met up with School Principal, Alicia Whata and her leadership team to show them a photo he had taken in a corporate collaborative area, that simply indicated what was expected in that space. Alicia and her team felt it was visual, simple and clear. Alicia explained “Because we didn’t have a description or in fact a shared understanding of what the learning zone might be used for, our next step was to come up with a common language to define these activities and zones, and then clearly and simply display that information to the staff and children.” During a workshop being facilitated by Sandra Jenkins, initial discussions with the learning teams, highlighted that there was inconsistency in their understanding of the activities and zones, but it was agreed by all, that they wanted the same language around what learning zones look like and their purpose. This could be done through using the same terminology across the whole school, from their newest learners right up to their our older ones. During this session, the teachers went on to contribute the names of the activities, their understandings and ideas on how they thought the information would be used and this was then drafted into a shared understanding which resulted in five activity posters. As well as the names and descriptions on the posters, Alicia identified the need for pictures of the children in the learning hubs doing the activities, to be included on the activity posters because as she said, “You could put in all sorts of images but if the children see themselves in that activity, it will be more meaningful and it’s very important to personalise the process”. Doug also spoke to Lucy who is a teacher (to students in years 1 and 2) to find out how the journey has been so far from a staff perspective. Lucy said “The workshop inspired some valuable discussion about what the zones and activities really meant to different the teams who had different ages and learners.” “There was a lot of discussion on the naming of the activates and zones and a big part was that ‘Te Reo’ (the Māori language) was to be used to name them. The name is the first thing you see on the poster and it is the gateway to understand what that zone or activity means. Using Te Reo will empower our learners to use these terms every day in their learning and share what they mean with their families.” This term will be the first time that the year one and two students have used all of these names. Lucy is looking forward to unpacking the posters with the children and teaching them about their meaning and how to use them. She also feels that because the posters are visual and a ‘Talking Point’, they will help clearly explain the activities for families and visitors who come into the space. The school plans to carry out a review after 4 weeks of use, to measure the impact of the posters and to consider what might need to be adapted. Once the review is under way, the school also wants to investigate how practical it will be to take the posters off the walls and place them into the middle of the zones, to help define and support the activity.
- Week 10
Staff at Trumpington Park Primary School in Cambridge, have been led through the PLS Design Framework to re-design their Year 4 classroom. In addition to introducing zones within the room, staff were keen to look at how specific types of kit could enhance the way they delivered teaching and how their students could learn in more effective ways. One specific type of kit that they chose to have in their new learning space was to have writable table surfaces. All the tables within the room have a writeable surface so there is no confusion for the students. Both the teachers thought this would eliminate the need of extra resources that they currently use and it would also allow students to freely capture thoughts and ideas as they are actively engaged in their learning. By having their tables with writable surfaces, the year 4 teachers are keen to see the positive impact this will have on their students. Some of the learners are reluctant to try new learning methods because they are worried about making mistakes, but by having this option, the teachers are hoping it will boost confidence and their attempt to try things more willingly with their learning. Writable surfaces are favourable for practical lessons where students can use the table tops to draft their design ideas, but staff at Trumpington Park Primary School are keen to use this resource in all their lessons. For core subjects like Maths and Science, students will be able to do their workings and rough drawings on the table itself as they are listening to their teacher deliver the main input. It requires no additional resource apart from a dry-wipe pen and eraser, which most schools already have access to. In relation to capturing student’s learning that is done on the tables, teachers can easily take photographs or videos of the learning and use this to evidence the student’s journey. In addition, there are many more benefits for having write-on surfaces for example; A good tool for presentation and collaboration.Ideal for group work, each student can contribute their ideas on the tabletop.The teacher can use the surface to model/demonstrate something in a guided group.Support staff can use the surface to explain concept/method to students. Over the coming weeks, students at Trumpington will be introduced to their new learning space. Due to current Covid restrictions in schools, the students will first use their space in small groups in order to become more familiar with the new kit and explore ways they can do their learning. We are looking forward to hearing from the students about their thoughts on the new learning environment and also see the positive impact that their new write-on tables are having on their day-to-day learning.
- Week 9
This week, our New Zealand co-ordinator, Doug Crutch, went to visit the staff and students at Grey Lynn to see how the school was progressing with their new way of learning. After being introduced to the PLS process and its take on zones and activities, the staff at Grey Lynn School are in an ongoing process of getting to grips with how these changes will work in practice. Having transitioned from single-cell to more open-plan learning spaces, it takes time to define the learning activities and areas where students will gather to learn. The staff are keen to work with their students to work out what zones should look like and the types of activities that take place in them. A large collaborative space for 90 students works differently to the traditional square classroom for 30 students. The return of the blank printed floor plans and the 1:40 scale models that were used during the PLS process became very handy to allow staff to look at different ways to distribute the activities and the affect that has on the movement of students. The next stage for staff was to see in practice what so called nooks and zones were going to be most suitable for specific activities. Some zones were found to be able to host a couple of different activities at the same time such as a workshop as well as paired groups. Other zones were found to be suited for dedicated activities only, such as a makerspace or low sensory area. As one would expect, the year groups had a big influence on what activities took place and what those activities looked like. An Individual learning session for years 1 and 2 looks quite different to that of years 5 and 6. After the completion of the theory units of the PLS process, towards the second half of last year, the Year 5 & 6s were able to quickly define zones in their space and their students adapted well to the changes to the layout and the new way of learning. However, it became difficult to maintain the momentum due to a couple of Covid 19 lockdowns that came at the end of the year. The beginning of this year saw the arrival of new staff members and students moving up the year groups. These changes have required the staff to see if a review of their zones and activities are required and what new perspectives may now be required. One area that became evident last year was a need to clearly identify across all year groups, the expectations of the school as to what the activity was and how it was going to be conducted in the zone. Our next blog post from Grey Lynn will look at how the school plans to clearly convey these expectations to the staff, students and the wider community.
- Week 8
Staff at Trumpington Park Primary School are pleased about having their newly designed learning space available, ready for students to use at the start of the Summer term. Reflecting on their new Year 4 learning environment, teachers Emma Norman and Anna Patuck give us their views; “Our new year 4 space feels fresh, bright and spacious and it allows flexibility in the classroom for learning. Nothing in the classroom is fixed which means the style of teaching and learning can be altered depending on the lesson, which is fantastic,” says Emma Norman. “I am particularly happy with the sense of space that has been created in which I can see how the children will be able to move around more freely and work in different ways. There are lots of exciting and innovative elements within the design that I am looking forward to using with the children. I can clearly see how the room promotes collaborative learning which was the overriding criteria that emerged from the design process,” explains Anna Patuck. It was clear from the very beginning of the process that both teachers wanted to start getting their students ready for a new change. With this in mind, one area that they were keen to change was how the teacher input was delivered. Whilst teaching her class, Anna wanted to deliberately test out teaching specific lessons from different areas within the room. She wanted to see whether her students would continue to engage and concentrate in their learning even though she was standing or sitting in a different spot within the classroom. It was clear that Anna wanted to break the mould of the usual traditional model of standing at the front of the class to deliver a teaching input. The teachers also wanted to be able to move around freely in order to engage and work with different students. From one of our early workshops focussing on the school vision, it became clear that the school wanted to implement in their next practice, the ability of their students to take more ownership and responsibility for their learning. In designing the space with the school, it became important to create activity-led learning zones that would provide the wide range of choice and opportunity needed to enhance their delivery of the curriculum. This enabled the teacher to facilitate, and the students to make choices as to where, when and how to learn. Within the new design, we have collaboratively created an adaptable and agile learning space that meets the needs of all students and their teachers.
- Week 7
Making a reality of your vision It is rewarding to see as we are developing our PLS process in practice, how reflecting on the vision of a school, defining current and next practice are key design drivers for the design of new spaces in schools. This further supports the process of engaging all stakeholders around issues of design in schools. As part of the workshops we deliver, we understand how important it is to work with a range of school staff in order to gain a broad insight into the school’s vision. At both our pilot schools, we have worked with a range of teaching and support staff to ensure different voices are heard. At Grey Lynn School (New Zealand), Principal Alicia Whata says “The school vision while easily spoken requires the leader of the school the principal to enact and make action of our vision. Our leadership team has been provided with incredible support and a very specific way of thinking so that systems and processes can support our people to make that vision a reality in our spaces. The Planning Learning Spaces Framework has provided an opportunity for us in our school to develop clarity around how the learning is organised here. The teachers in any school organisation have the greatest impact on whether an experience and learning are positive or negative, therefore the outcomes that we are seeking through the very specific ways that we’re thinking of working with Planning Learning Spaces has really forced us to think about what our practice used to look like in a single classroom in a single cell space and how we move to a collaborative environment. It’s truly a case of moving from ‘me’ to ‘we’.” By taking staff through our school vision workshop, we are ensuring that the school values underpin the core design principles that are put into the new learning space. Deputy Principal at Grey Lynn School, Toni Jarmin, says “This valuable work is being systemized to ensure levels of accountability to drive our school vision for learning.” Reflecting on the work her staff carried out as part of the PLS workshop, Alicia Whata explains the positive impact it is having on her staff to work with the school vision. “This work is very supportive in connecting how our teachers organize learning every day ensuring alignment with our school vision.”
- Week 6
As a result of the successful implementation of our PLS process at two schools, we will be showcasing the Design Framework we have created at the GESS Dubai Education Global Leadership Summit next week. By joining us for the virtual session, you will gain an insight as to what our PLS process involves and how it works effectively for any school environment. The Planning Learning Spaces Core Team will be presenting our findings and they include; Murray Hudson– Managing Director, Gratnells LtdTerry White– PLS DirectorBhavini Pandya– PLS UK Lead facilitatorSandra Jenkins– PLS NZ facilitator By working closely with school staff and students we take them through this process which will be explained in more detail at our GESS presentation; Explore the school’s vision and values and how they translate into the day-to-day observable behaviours for learning and teaching.Review their current and intended next practice for learning and teaching in line with the PLS framework headings.Translate these outcomes into learning activities and behaviours for learning to inform the design approach.Re-imagine the interior design of the intended new spaces and learning zones within the school.Develop and test the new organizational model needed to collaboratively deliver the required learning and teaching experience.Develop a strategy for change to develop and transition into the new learning spaces.Review and evaluate the use of spaces. The PLS process has enabled the schools that we work with to create and re-imagine their learning spaces. In focusing collaboratively on developing the next practice we have supported the re-design of existing learning environments and the transition from single-cell rooms to more open-plan collaborative spaces. Commenting on how the PLS process made staff reflect, Principal Alicia Whata says “We were able to think of these key questions; what are the learning needs of our students? How do we need to organise the learning to make this happen? and how does our learning space design and organisation enhance and facilitate this process?” The PLS framework itself is a very reflective process that allows all key stakeholders to continually judge the effectiveness of the changes that have been made, to ensure it is having a positive impact on both the teachers and learners. Join us at the GESS presentation to find out more information.
- Week 5
You cannot design a learning space without understanding the pedagogy behind it. To fully comprehend what a learning space needs, you must work with the teachers to find out whether they are able to use the space effectively or whether it needs to be modified to have the best possible outcome on the learning and teaching. Staff at Trumpington Park Primary School were keen to design a space that was suitable for their year 4 students. After taking them through the initial phase of our process which focussed on collecting data, analysing the school’s ethos and vision statement, we started to look at what was working well in their current space and areas they wanted to enhance further in the next space. This allowed us to concentrate on the PLS key themes such as pedagogy, curriculum experience and organisation of learning. Staff were able to reflect on their current approaches on learning and teaching and the ways they wanted to enhance them for future practice. The challenge: During the current and next practice workshop, they identified that they found it difficult to re-group students effectively and quickly. As this was one area that the staff wanted to look into further for their next practice, they had to articulate how and what they would need in order to overcome this challenge. In their current classroom, students would be sat in groups of 6 at the rectangular tables that most primary schools use. This in itself, made it difficult because students were not able to move these independently and it would take up a lot of the learning time to re-arrange the furniture in order to meet a specific task. The year four teachers saw this as a real issue because ultimately curriculum time is precious and they didn’t want to be seen as wasting time moving tables and chairs around to suit the needs of the children. In reviewing their practice, the staff have identified other design models to compliment the range of activities that would be delivered in the learning space. By allowing the staff to identify what challenges they were facing and then think of possible ways to overcome these, gave the PLS team ideas to work with in order to find multiple solutions. The solution: Designed new tables that could sit four students together- ideal group size for this class The table is triangular shaped, light, and has a writable surface for students to use. Students are able to move each table by themselves as it is very lightweight and has a wheel to support moving it around learning zones Tables can be configured in different ways depending on the learning activities taking place- independent/paired work or group work The learning environment has been further developed with the use of circular and flipped write-on tables for the group to gather around Tables of different heights have also been included to offer students a range of individual and collaborative learning experiences. Multiple ways of having children work at tables and gives the children opportunities to decide how they want to learn and with whom. Join me again next week where I will be going back to Grey Lynn School in New Zealand to find out from the staff how their new spaces are working for them. Bhavini Pandya
- Week 4
Our Planning Learning Spaces in Practice project at Grey Lynn school, New Zealand, has continued to support the staff in re-thinking and further developing the critical links between pedagogy and space in their new collaborative learning environments. The staff and students have moved from single cell, teacher-directed group organisation into open collaborative spaces. This left the new principal, Alicia Whata, with the challenge of transitioning staff and learners from their existing practices based around a ‘single- cell’ approach to working in more open and collaborative spaces in their new learning zones. Headteacher, Alicia Whata, identified that in order to effectively work collaboratively in the new spaces and ensure that all learners and staff benefit from the learning gains of the new design, they would need to go through a process of reflection around their current and future learning practice and the new ways they would need to organise the learning. Grey Lynn’s school vision focuses on three main areas; Learning, collaboration and future-focused. With this in mind, collaboration was a key area that all staff wanted to ensure they developed in the new design brief for the learning spaces. After having taken all key staff through the PLS framework with the support from Project Director Terry White and lead facilitator Sandra Jenkins, the staff feel ready to use their new learning and design model more effectively. Staff from the school have commented, “We appreciate the opportunities that the PLS process and workshops have given us to reflect and discuss the issues that impact teaching and learning in our learning hub, and to collaboratively generate solutions to any challenges”. Deputy Principal, Otelani Kiata says “This strategic work has given the leadership team opportunities to dive deep to ensure that we have the systems in place that give traction to the why, the how and the what we do, ensuring all aspects align with our vision statement to “Learn today to Shape Tomorrow”. As part of the PLS UK Core team, I am pleased to see that our PLS process is having such a profound effect on the way teachers deliver lessons at Grey Lynn School. Our goal from day one has been to ensure all school staff have a voice when it comes to the design of learning spaces and to feel empowered to make changes. This is the case at Grey Lynn and it’s great to see plans being adapted for future learning. Next week I will be taking you back to our project at Trumpington Park Primary School, here in the UK, to talk with staff about their thoughts on the newly designed space. Bhavini Pandya
- 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’.