Sunday, June 9, 2013


Visiting groups of educators often ask how do we run our professional development at Freemans Bay School. 

This has got me thinking about our professional development model - ofcourse it has been a journey and has changed over time. However what has developed sits within a framework of key beliefs about   personalised learning, as it is with students.

We expect our professional development or teacher learning model to emulate or parallel our learning model with students. We don't want a one size fits all, front of class, one size fits all whole class instruction for students or teachers. We do want learning to be personalised,  authentic, meaningful, contextual and set in small groups or with individuals. It is also set within the context of solving problems around student learning outcomes.

Teacher learning model reflects student learning model
·         Personalising learning
·         Opportunities for interaction / small group/ online
·         Interaction / feedback/ feed-forward
·         Replicates teaching methods (virtual and real) expected of teachers
·         Capacity to delve deeply into topic based on student and teacher needs

Key concepts front loaded
·         Future focused learning
·         Personalising learning
·         E-learning
·         Inquiry
·         Reflection frameworks
·         Interaction / online / small groups/ feedback/ feed forward

 Encourage as many staff as possible to grow the vision.
·         to present at conferences, workshops and participate in vision school tours.
·         to apply for awards / fellowships/ university study
·         to present to each other – in open workshop style
·         Around school vision, beliefs about teaching and learning

This model starts with co-constructing what our beliefs are about personalising learning and then drills down to specific issues with student outcomes. Teachers are able to work together on common themes, researching and discussing ideas, trialing new ways to respond to issues and co-constructing new ways of teaching practice. The learning needs of teachers are identified and co-constructed based on the needs of students.

   Collaboration, innovation, reflection, feedback, feed forward are all part of the process.  New practices are expected and results shared in a supportive structure for learning. In other words teachers are supported to explore problems related to their students learning through a variety of learning experiences that are co-constructed with their peers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Student led conferences are a real celebration of personalised learning at Freemans Bay School.  Our teaching and learning beliefs put the child in the driving seat of their learning journey. We believe that students are active participants in learning, with the opportunity to engage in a dynamic, interactive process, sharing aspects of their learning with those who matter most to them – their parents and their whanau. (Family). 

For all of the students in our school, including our newest five year olds, students are asked to talk about what is happening with their learning and to share  their learning goals and next steps for learning.  Parents have an opportunity to check in with the teacher to discuss where their student is achieving in relation to what is expected for their age. Student led conferences give parents the opportunity get to the heart of the students’ learning at school and to explore ways of supporting learning at home.

At our student led conferences yesterday, parents were able to go into KnowledgeNET, which is our online learning system, and view and respond to student learning reflections. We hope that more parents will start to interact through commenting on their students’ learning on KnowledgeNET as we believe that such interaction is a powerful motivator for learning.
Freemans Bay School Student Led Conferences 2013 on PhotoPeach

We had an exceptional turnout at the Student Led Conferences. 96% attended on the day had already booked times. Of the 14 students whose parents are yet to make a time, some are away and some are unwell.  Parents who were unable to have their student led conference yesterday are encouraged to make a time with the teacher over the next week. To ensure that their child is able to participate in this powerful learning experience.

W.B. Yeats captured the challenge of personalising learning in his quote: “Education in not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thinking about school design

In 2010 at Freemans Bay School,  we demolished a large subsiding classroom block and built new learning hubs in a two story building. This building design was scoped to develop flexible spaces to enable teachers to teach and students to learn in a variety of ways.  The remaining school buildings since have been identified as either leaky or past their use by date. We are now in the Ministry of Education’s new schools building project.

The challenge of totally rebuilding Freemans Bay School sparked my interest in thinking deeper about how spaces are designed and used to engage learners. The new building block gave us an opportunity to try working more collaboratively. 

Visits to schools, universities, libraries and co-corporate organisations continue to play a significant role in shaping my thinking around design and pedagogy. I have had many rich conversations with; educational, Ministry of Education, architects and business leaders with a passion for exploring change and innovation in their own contexts.  

I am thinking about how learning occurs within school design and what does that look like.
In terms of design I wonder what does exemplary practice look like? How does it link with what we believe about learning and why do we believe that? How is that prepare students for their future - say the year 2030.

While at the CEFPI conference I visited the Owen Glen building and  the Engineering School at the University of Auckland. I looked at the building design through the lens of flipped learning. In other words here were tertiary students, in charge of their learning and doing it in ways that is natural to the way they learn. I took a few pics on my phone and reflected on what they might mean for future learning spaces in our new school builds.

What does  the culture of learning look like at University of Auckland?  on PhotoPeach

What is your thinking on how design in schools should link with learning beliefs and in preparing today's five and six year old students for the year 2030?
Mark Treadwell presented this Prezi Learning to Learn as the opening Keynote at the CEFPI conference in Auckland last week.

Mark provoked us to stop using the term - preparing for 21 century learning - after all we are in the second decade of the 21 century so we just need to get on with it!

He discussed how learning happens! An important prerequisite for anyone involved with learning including businesses and corporate organisations, Imperative information for educationalists who need to know how the brain works and how we actually can rewire the brain to make learning happen!

Mark then linked brain / learning theory on what should happen int school building design - where students should have the opportunity to:

  • Have different spaces to do different things
  • Have spaces to collaborate, work in groups and work in teams
  • Have quiet places to work on your own and to loose yourself 
  • Have spaces that can be reinvented - that are flexible
  • Have spaces that meet the needs of individuals differences
  • Have interesting views and outlooks
  • Natural light
  • Great acoustics
  • Explore concepts and ideas when learning
I recently ready Noreazena Abu Samah, Noraffandy Yahaya and Mohamad Bilal Ali,  paper called,  "Individual Differences in Online Personalized learning Environment,"  which has some correlations.

They conclude:

" In order to develop a learning environment, individual differences need to be taken into consideration to ensure the impact on students' achievements and satisfactions. Therefore, the learning environment must be suitable for their differences, to include their learning styles, learning orientations, preferences and needs in learning. In addition , there is a need for instructional design  to include new conditions of learning, such as; new information, context for learning and practice, feedback, transfer, organizers and attention devices. For this reason, the integration of interactivity functions in the learning environment could ensure that those external conditions of learning are provided to students."

We need to think about the types of teaching and learning practices that school design enables and the way design and teaching pedagogy can support the way the brain works and the ways we learn in both physical and digital environments. 

What is your thinking about linking how the brain works and school design for learning?

Enabling Teachers to Change Pedagogy through School Design

Last week I enjoyed the Australasia Region Conference of Council of Educational Facility Planners International. (CEFPI) here in Auckland.

Stephen Harris gave a thought provoking presentation called "Factories no More: The Key Role design and furniture has in enabling Teachers to Change Pedagogy"

Stephen Harris is principal of Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney. On the  school website you can view information about the school, Stephen's blog and their professional development arm activities and related research called scil.

Stephen contends that schools that think about their vision for learning that prepares students for 2035 and beyond, that have modern open learning environments that promote flexibility, collaboration and personalised learning will disrupt old thinking and cause learning to happen that is fit for purpose.

I had a look on our Ministry of Education website examples of recent remodeled learning environments.Sadly they do look like classrooms that I experienced as a student in the 1960s.
They are currently  promoting examples of single celled classrooms with adjacent cloakbays.

Stephen was exploring the notion that the design of a school, that drives where education needs to go can cause teachers to shift from old last century thinking and learning to happen at a different level.

He provoked thinking around: What are we prepared to change in order to shape a positive, resilient learning culture?  Promote what you expect to happen in teaching and learning in the design of the building.

Use design to cause learning to happen otherwise we might end up with graduates like this one - who says - " I choose C!"

What are you prepared to design into the fabric of a  building for learnng?  How does this link with your thinking about learning, preparing students for 2030 and why?