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By Nathan Shrowder

Head of Middle Years

Agile Learning Spaces – what this means for students as well as parents

Education in the 21st century is shifting and the model that adults today experienced at school is very different. You may have read about these changes or heard us talk about this in articles or at parent evenings. However, have you ever stopped to think about what this really means for your child at school and how different these experiences are from your own education?

What we do know is that employers no longer want students who can just recite factual information.  The world we live in now requires a different set of skills and experiences. Employers want people who have the ‘soft skills’ or ‘essential skills’ such as inquiry, communication, team work, resilience, independence etc. None of these can be learnt straight out of a textbook. It is through a different approach to education and the types of activities we set up for our students, that these ‘soft skills’ are developed.

So what really has changed and how different is this to the education that most of us probably had. Quite simply, we no longer just have rows of students facing the front, with no talking, listening to the teacher who is supposed to be the holder and supplier of all necessary information. We called this the ‘Sage on the Stage’. Education then moved to a model where the teacher positioned themselves more on the side of the classroom as a facilitator and allowed the students to help drive their own learning. This has become more of an inquiry approach which is the basis for the philosophical teaching in our Middle School. The teacher doesn’t always have all the answers but they are there if needed and they will help guide the students in the right direction for them to find the answers themselves. Teachers went from being the ‘Sage on the stage’ to the ‘Guide on the side’. Another way to now view the role of the teacher in the classroom, is not necessarily the ‘Guide on the side’ but more the ‘Guide on the ride’. Our teacher will be going through the ‘learning ride’ with the students and they will all approach the ups and downs together. The teacher is not the all-powerful, all-knowledgeable guru. They are simply a facilitator to allow the students to develop their own learning.

The future is unknown but the direction it is heading means that it is more important than ever for our students to be able to generate and be the designers of their own learning. They need to understand how and where they learn best and in what format. It is for this reason that so many schools and corporate businesses are incorporating Agile Spaces in to their buildings. We are understanding more and more that how we set up our learning or working spaces can be integral in how effective, efficient and successful the learning can be. Being agile with our spaces simply means we are flexible and willing to change things around and experiment with our classroom layouts.

This year in the Middle School we have had a focus on ‘student choice and student voice’. We want students to feel as though they have some choice when it comes to how and where they learn best.  Part of this process is for us, as teachers, to understand the importance of how we are setting up and utilising the space that we currently have. We are working through ways in which we can set rooms where all students feel as though they have a space that suits their learning. This involves looking at the type of tables and chairs in the room, as well as the actual space available for students to possibly sit on cushions or at lower kneeling tables. We will also explore different teaching styles that allows for more flexible options as to where the students work. In these past weeks, we have purchased some large cushions to place on the floor, standing desks for those who don’t like sitting down for an entire lesson, more writeable tables for students to use during brainstorming and group work activities and floor chairs that allow students to sit anywhere on the ground and still work comfortably. We will slowly move these new items around to different classes every few weeks so that all students have the opportunity to experiment.

So what does this mean for you as parents? Well, you might end up having conversations with your child about how their classrooms are being set up or what type of activities they have been doing in class and this may seem significantly different to the education you received at school. You may have doubts or questions as to why we need to implement all these changes, and we are more than happy to sit down and answer any of your queries. However, all we ask is that you understand the reasons behind these changes and that you support this change. We are trying to create an environment where your child and every other child in the class can achieve success.

This is an exciting time in education but it also means that we will sometimes try new things in the classroom and it won’t always work straight away. Our staff are excited and willing to experiment with their spaces and their teaching styles and I hope that you are willing to come along on this journey with us.


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