Saturday, August 18, 2018

Rebuilding our School: Reflections

Freemans Bay School
Engage  Empower Enrich

Freemans Bay School is one of the oldest schools in the New Zealand. Established in 1888, it is part of the Auckland City, Western Bays network that is expected to have long term population growth.

This means that more new schools will be developed in Auckland under the Ministry of Education Flexible Learning Environments policy. (FLE).
Having been through a total new rebuild at Freemans Bay School, I have been reflecting on where we could make systems improvements on designing and transitioning into FLE environments.

Now that we are at the end of our three year rebuild project, this post is around my thinking on:

What system changes need to be explored at a national level and school level to support schools in a learner led design process that will not only see the buildings completed but also support collaborative ways of teaching and learning in the new spaces?

MOEs policy of FLEs requires a systems thinking revision at  national level.

In UK and Scandinavia the first consultant that is appointed to any new education facility is the education design consultant. This person is the lead consultant who supports schools through the process of developing and supporting the school vision both at the design stage and beyond.

We need to rethink our systems nationally to ensure that school leaders and teachers are supported to work in collaborative and flexible learning environments in a strategic way.

Having visited many new and refurbished  FLE schools in NZ and overseas, I am interested in how our MOE design policies and procedures can be strengthened to ensure that the dots a joined between the school vision for learning and the design,  incorporating evidenced best practice to inform their decisions. This process needs to be resourced at a national and school system level.

It is important for schools to consider strategically how teachers, in their teams can transition into new spaces - contextualising new ideas concerning curriculum, pedagogy and co-teaching. If the teachers theories of practice are not aligned with appropriate practice in FLE spaces they may not engage in the shifts of practice required.
Meeting the increasing diversity of students is recognised as being a too bigger ask for one teacher working in isolation.

Hattie’s comprehensive study of factors affecting schooling concluded that the most powerful strategy for helping students to learn, was ensuring that teacher work in teams. (Hattie, 2009)

Asking teachers to make the shift to a collaborative learning focused environment in teaching teams, on a daily basis, adds a significant layer of complexity to teaching and ways of working.

When teachers have shared ownership of groups of learners they need to be able to spend time together to plan, research, implement and adapt their practice

In our NZ primary schools teachers already have 30 hours class contact time with 1 hour a week mandated for classroom release. Time is a significant barrier to the success of collaborative learning focused relationships. This issue needs to be addressed at a national and school level.

At FBS we have recognised that staff need to be strategically supported through the change process, to be prepared to collaborate to deliver a personalised learning curriculum. 

This support is provided through a mixture of vision led workshops focused on collaboration, coaching and teacher led inquiry. We have cut down the number of after staff workshops to ensure that teachers have time to meet and to discuss their learners needs.
In 2010 Linda Darling-Hammond et al researched how high performing countries organised successful professional development for teachers. The findings were ‘extensive opportunities for ongoing professional learning embedded in substantial planning and collaboration time in school’.

Schools need to consider how they can support the daily collaboration of the teaching teams and additional PLD opportunities, based on best practice, that promote their school vision around learning in their  FLE environments.

What system changes to we need to have at a national and school level to support teaching and learning in FLE environments?