Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Five year olds starting school this year at Freemans Bay School will graduate to  start in the workforce in the  2030s. We are thinking about what those work places will look like by exploring  the thinking that informs ways of working in leading corporations, universities and other tertiary institutions. Two recent visits in Auckland to the ASB North Wharf Building and Lion Corporation gave an opportunity explore the philosophy behind their new buildings. 

Both corporations  have a focus on the key principles of collaboration, openness, innovation and sustainability. Like the recent school builds we have viewed, these new corporate headquarters breakdown traditional silo ways of working. These designs naturally draw people together  to share, collaborate and innovate through a series of  gathering and meeting places. The key principles of design in these future focused work places join the dots between the ways our students are working in schools today and their role in society in the future.  

Derek Shortt, ASBs property manager, took staff from Freemans Bay School on a tour of the new ASB North Wharf building. The spaces are made up of a series of 'neighbourhoods' and 'boatsheds' - both have a nautical and waterfront theme. Workspaces include places for highly focused individual work, spaces for meetings for small and larger groups to work. The design principles are based on ASBs business vision:
  • Choice
  • Collaboration
  • Community
  • Transparency
The principle of collaboration is intrinsic to the building design and to the organisations way of working. Put simply -  "people working togetherto make the outcome of their endeavours better than the sum of individual parts." (Navigating into the Future, ASB North Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand, 2013)-

The ASB design supports freedom of choice, flexibility, sharing expertise and building a powerful creative work community.

Lion Corps new headquarters adjacent to Freemans Bay School in Napier Street is a fun and funky environment. It has a village feel with design elements that  bring together quintessential Kiwiana, with motifs from Cape Reinga to the Bluff.                                                                                                     
Principles of collaboration, innovation and creativity are intrinsic to the Lion Corp fit out. Every aspect has been designed to bring people together throughout the day. People are encouraged to move around and utilise the various work spaces creating opportunities for dialogue as they encounter others while on the move. This creates a village feeling, building community and a sense of physical, personal connectivity and well-being.                                                                                                                                                                                                               
When thinking about design principles for our schools we need to look at other types of building design for inspiration. We need to consider future focused design of corporations, universities, art galleries and museums. When we look at solutions such as these two corporate case studies we can join the dots and aspire to create learning environments that are powerful, creative, flexible, collaborative, open communities of practice.



Monday, April 14, 2014


In 2011 Chris Bradbeer, AP at Stonefields school started a PLG (Professional Learning Group) which meets once a term for a building tour and discussions around  thinking about the physical and learning design. The sites visited have included, primary, secondary schools, tertiary institutions, libraries and corporate organisations. Understanding the vision of these organisations and how learning and working happens from the inside has provided opportunities for meaningful conversations around how design, research and learning philosophy converge. I love these meetings and have been to most of them. I follow Chris's blog and enjoy his reflections on the design process that has continued at Stonefields school. 

Last week we visited Stonefields School fantastic new learning hubs. Chris discussed with us his thinking about the optimum number of teachers that works well in a learning hub. Two is too little - as that relationship lacks bounce! More than three becomes too complicated. Three is the number that works best.

It was wonderful to see so much shared ownership of the school's vision through teacher and student voice. The leadership team  has spent a lot of time with their school community, parents, staff and students, reflecting on what had worked well in the first building stage and considering new steps for the latest learning hub. The learning hubs include kitchens, creative making spaces, digital recording rooms and breakout spaces. Although the hubs are distinct, they are open and interconnect visually.

We observed a range of student learning activities during our visit during their 'Breakthrough Time". Students were involved in a range of personalised, collaborative learning activities utilising both indoor and outside learning spaces.

It was a privilege to talk to these students  during Breakthrough and see their engagement  in  learning.  

The school staff have a real commitment to coaching students about how we learn, experiencing being stuck and developing strategies to get through being stuck. They are explicit about what learning feels like, that the frustration you experience is  OK - you just need to know what to do to get through it. 

The leadership team worked through a major consultation process to prioritise the ideas they wanted incorporated in the design. This process is continuing as they canvas parents,staff and students for ideas for the master planning of their site.

I am humbled by the generosity of  principal Sarah Martin and the team at Stonefields School who continue to share their thinking about their school design process and allow others to view it in action.

We have such a lot to reflect on from out visit  and really appreciated  the openness and time given at Stonefields School as we begin our own journey to rebuild  Freemans Bay School.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


In recent years, the design of new and remodelled school in New Zealand  has evolved dramatically from teacher-led, front facing, private, single celled classrooms to student-focused, flexible shared teaching and learning spaces. The opportunity for schools to remodel or rebuild is a catalyst for school leaders and communities to explore school values  and beliefs about effective teaching and learning. The design process is a catalyst to reflect on thinking of the changing nature of learning. The process itself can influence changes in the ways that teachers teach and engage learners in meeting their current and future learning needs. Visits to schools that have been through this process is an opportunity to explore recent trends and thinking about learning and design, the deep thinking behind decisions made and what  the learning  looks like in practice. T The building design can be a driver to develop shared culture around learning that is open, sharing, flexible and collaborative. It reflects the thinking of learning design - the learning philosophy, culture and partnerships around learning.

Te Kura O Pukemiro (click on the link to see slide show)

Te Kura O Pukemiro is in Kaitaia, Northland, New Zealand. This school is a Kura Kaupapa Maori School where the students are delivered their curriculum in through the context of Maori culture, values and the language of Te Reo Maori.  The Kura (school) caters for students from Year 1 to Year 13. 

The connection to tikanga, (Maori cultural values) are explicit in learning and also explicit in the building design. The central courtyard draws visitors into the atea (formal entry) which  leads to the Wharenui (hall). 

The  school  buildings are grouped around the courtyard. Each building is named after a significant ancestor of the whanau (families) of the local area. The open teaching spaces each have an Awhina (break out) space and shared wet areas. The Kura is Kaitiaki  (Guardian) of the adjacent wet lands and bush regeneration, conservation areas care of which is supported by the local community and kura. Conservation and guardianship are common themes in the curriculum. The Kura was built to a Green Star rating.

The vision of this school is for learning to  be collaborative, creative and agile. The building design enables this learning philosophy to take shape through three learning studios. Each learning studio has a large central  learning space and with a break-out spaces which act as 'caves' and 'campfires', The students have access to working individually, in groups or creatively through these break out spaces that are colour coded to their function. Students also have access to a digital production space, including green screen.

Year 1-2, Year 3 -4, Year 5-6 students grouped in the three studios, shared by three teachers.   Each student is assigned to a Whanau (family) leader, who is their learning coach and is the person for the learning partnership between the students family. This teacher supports the students pastoral, and learning needs. The students explain how they learn at Hingaia Peninsula School in this Campbell Live News TV Clip.

The teachers and students are able to combine groups and classes according to student learning needs and interest - in a personalised learning environment.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


This week I attended an Auckland CEFPI event at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. 

CEFPI stands for Council of Education Facilities Planners International. It brings together architects, educators and planners with a passion for education design and thinking. 

CEFPI  is quite new in New Zealand. It is a valuable forum  for  sharing ideas about the connections between design and thinking about teaching and learning.

Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) had only been open for 27 days. Principal Mauri Abraham, DP, Claire Amos and an enthusiastic and passionate team of teachers explained their thinking about the school design and thinking about teaching and learning.

The building design is based on a series of learning hubs. In these open learning areas, the students work on an integrated curriculum called "Big Modules"  with three teachers at a time. The learning theme is focused around a theme, currently, "Identity' which is delivered in a co-teaching style through the lens of the relevant curriculum.

Teachers all have a role as 'learning coaches'.  Each learning coach currently has up to 10 students assigned to them. The learning coach stays with the student through their secondary schooling years and supports the student and family with their learning action plan. They meet regularly to coach and mentor students, supporting them to achieve the best they can. This is a way of developing true partnerships around learning and really brings latest educational research to practice in an innovative way.

Students also have passion projects, called 'Big Projects". These include subjects of students choice, including; Dance, Dance , Robotics, Design, Enviro studies (utilising the school wonderful wetland environment), drama, music and a range of other rich curriculum areas.

They also have individual projects called "My Time". These are workshop style and students can sign up for them during the week or work on them in their own time. As we walked through the building we could see notices for workshops that included E-learning, Music, Gaming and a range of other topics.

The learning principles of - being  Open, Visible, Connecting and Flexible have driven the design ensuring that this is an exciting, future focused learning and environment. It is a place where students are truly empowered as learners.

I could see many links to the thinking of our curriculum design at Freemans Bay Primary School - our curriculum design is around enriching, engaging and empowering students. The HPSS, Big Module, integrated curriculum around a  relates to our "learning pathways' integrated, action learning curriculum. The 'Big Idea' - passion projects - aligns with our Funky Fridays - where teachers and students choose learning workshop around student interest and teacher / parent passion.   We are developing a more personalised curriculum - where our students take more responsibility for their timetables and managing their learning. For example our Yr 5 and Yr 6 students can sign up for workshops that supports their learning goals and action learning. 

The staff at HPSS school explained that many of the staff are studying or have completed study at Masters level. At FBS our Board of Trustees supports our teachers to continue post grad study. This means we bring a educational research focused lens to our practice. I love the idea of every child having a learning coach, and wonder how we could resource that in a primary school. Could it be expanded to the community - local business people or high school students? This is something we could certainly think about.

 I note the commitment to being a cashless school as well - and this is something we are working on at Freemans Bay School. Our parents are notified of how to pay accounts on line and now our lunch system will be paid only through the YQ app available on smartphones or through the web. (Not related to curriculum - but a huge savings of time and very convenient).This approach has improved payments for school donations and activity fees from the beginning of the year so it is a win win!

I think it is much easier to integrate curriculum at the  primary school level. HPSS has made a  committment to a more holistic and deeper  approach to learning - rather than a traditional secondary school timetable and silo approach to curriculum.  The learning environment at this school certainly supports the statement on their webpage - " A school where learners enjoy innovative personalised learning, engage through powerful partnerships and are inspired through deep challenge and inquiry to achieve academic and personal excellence." An inspirational visit!



In 2010 we demolished a large subsiding classroom block at Freemans Bay School 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.

Visits to schools, universities, libraries and co-corporate organisations in New Zealand and Australis  have  played 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 fortunate to be a recipient for the Auckland Primary Principal Association and ASB Bank Travel Fellowship for one school term in 2014.  This is an opportunity to visit schools in UK and Scandinavia to explore school design.

I am interested in how the physical design can drive thinking around teaching and learning.  

Specifically the following key questions are what I am looking at.


·     What are the beliefs and thinking about learning evident in new schools visited across different countries?

o      the schools key beliefs about learning
o      why they believe it and what does it look like in practice

What does teaching and learning look like in these new design classrooms?

o      role of teachers
o      role of students
o      role of e-learning

How have the new designs enabled new teaching and learning practices to emerge?
o    the processes and preparation for teachers that was required to transition to the new spaces
o     the innovative pedagogies that have emerged due to  new design
o     the types of practices that have emerged in the new spaces (e.g. collaboration, groups, team teaching, social interactions, flexible learning, personalised learning) and how these have changed over time
o     the culture,  leadership and the organisation that facilitate (or impede) innovation pedagogies in design
o     changes of job functions of staff that have emerged to match thinking about pedagogy  within the design

Physical Design
·         How are the school beliefs about learning reflected in space design?
o      ways the learning spaces support the schools thinking about learning
o      the relationships between and significance for learning in particular spaces
o      the relationships between indoor and outdoor spaces and flows and their role in learning
o      changes the school would like to make and why

·         What impact has new school designs had on?
o      students perception  
o      teachers
o      school community
·         How has the new physical design supported e-learning?
o    the ways that personalised learning through technologies is supported by the design
o    the types of e-learning practices that have emerged in the new spaces
o    relationships between virtual and built environments

·         What changes have been made to embrace new technologies?
o    how design facilitates  e-learning
o    ways the learning space has enabled evolving forms of pedagogy

 I am very excited to be doing this research and will use this blog to share my findings as I go.

I am also interested in any research on the topic - so if you have any to share please let me know via the comments on the blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Professional Learning Design 2014

I often get asked what does our professional learning at Freemans Bay School look like?

I thought it would be useful to map out what we do for our professional learning and our thinking about why we do what we do.

To support our vision  to "Engage, Enrich, Empower our learners we need to have a professional learning programme that mirrors how learning happens in the classroom. The focus of our learning is based on the inquiry process, future focused learning and strengthening personalising learning for teachers. We are always tweaking what we do - but this is the current outline:

  • Cycle of Inquiry and Target Groups 
At risk students, including Maori and Pasifika students are identified each year. Teachers develop an action plan to meet the these learners needs. They are our most at risk students and as teachers, we have an obligation to do our best to accelerated their progress so they can be the best they can be.

Each whanau (teacher team)  creates a data wall with photographs eg Padlet.

At risk student progress / action plans are discussed regularly at whanau meetings.

Reflections on this work is recorded on the teacher action plans and forms part of regular team and across school discussions.

The Black Boxes of teacher and student learning frame our professional discussions as we are interested in what changes have been made in teacher practice as part of the cycle of inquiry and what difference this has made to student learning. As for things to change - teachers have to try new things to hook - especially disengaged students - into learning.

This diagram is taken from "Teacher Professional Learning and Development, Best Evidence Synthesis" Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, Fung, 2007

  • Professional Learning Groups: 
The professional learning groups are based on future focused / blended / e-learning   to improve student engagement and learning outcomes in a pedagogy that  The PLGs are small groups of teachers from across whanau. (teams) 

This year  GAFE is being introduced to explore how these can support learning and working in our school. This work also ensures that the pedagogy is appropriate for meeting the needs of students in their ever changing world.

The teacher goals and action plans for the PLGs are recorded online on KnowledgeNET our LMS and are reviewed annually..

  •  Leadership Development
The Board of Trustees supports teachers extending their university qualifications through Post Graduate studies. This ensures that our leadership team is bringing up to date theory to practice to encourage changes in teacher practice and improved student outcomes. This includes sharing of best practice, collaboration, observations, mentoring and coaching. The leadership team teachers are released regularly for observations and coaching. They encourage their teams to participate in teacher talk to encourage best practice in teaching and learning. The focus on continuing university study is part of our philosophy of being a community of learners and ensuring that our decisions around what we do are based on the latest research around learning.

Ultimately we would like all teachers to have the opportunity to observe and have 'Teacher Talk" converstions with peers. However in a primary school context it is difficult to resource this - unless the teachers themselves can find ways to do this eg CRT time, team sharing students etc.
  • Learning Walks
Myself as principal and Deputy Principalscomplete learning walks across the school as well, usually once or twice a term.The purpose of these is to ensure teaching and learning reflects the school vision. To protect and drive the school vision. The leadership team have all completed post grad papers and other professional development around coaching/ mentoring / learning conversations. This work gives our leadership team the opportunity to grow their leadership around teaching and learning.
  • E-Learning PD workshops 
The e-learning team has regular staff workshops to support teachers tin the use of a range of technologies used in the school. These workshops are skills based and are about introducing ict skills, practising and developing new ways of personalising learning for students.

  • Teacher Reflections
All  staff to complete their on line reflections in KnowledgeNET. This includes reflecting and sharing their learning goals and action plans, reflections on their learning experiences, professional readings as well as providing evidence for RTC attestation.

Students also share their learning goals and reflections on KnowledgeNET. Both processes mirror each other. We want our teachers to be learning the same way our students are learning and visa versa.

Action Learning:
This year we have a focus on Action Learning Inquiry learning. This is driven by a desire to have our learning more personalised and intergrated. Each term teams review  their action programme and plan collaboratively the next terms action learning unit. There are workshops to review and share practice.

Kiwi Sport
As part of our commitment to kiwi sport, we have some kiwi sport skills professional development. These are a lot of fun and good for team building across the whole staff.

In term three we will commence whole school Pasifika Maths. This PD is informed by  (Quality Teaching for Diverse (All) Learners in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis 2003).  This will challenge our thinking in terms of culturally appropriate  pedagogy and give teachers new ideas to trial with their teaching. 

Our professional learning for teachers is aligned with our beliefs about teaching and learning to give traction to our vision of "Empower, Enrich and Engage" all learners in our school.