After spending a month in a 21st Century team teaching classroom with an open learning environment, it has provided me with some insight into how transformative public education can be how little changes can have a massive impact on student learning. After sharing some of my observations and reflections with other PSTs, I’ve received many criticisms and concerns about this practice as follows:
- “How will the students transition into the structured teaching and environment of rows of desks and chairs in high school?”
Working at Commonwealth Bank for the two years prior to making the best decision of my life to pursue a career in education, exposed me to what it’s like to work in a fast paced corporate environment focused on results and productivity. It was what some might say – the ‘real world’. One of the changes that took place in my first year was the move to Activity Based Working (ABW) meaning no set desks, project based sand-pit areas and shared meeting spaces. This was a big change for many who were used to having their own desks and fixed seating arrangements and where there is change, there will always be resistance to this change. But this was probably the best change for the work environment, with a proven shift in mindsets towards productivity, efficiency and coming up with creative uses of the environment. This is happening in many innovative work places, so why should schools be left behind? Children are known to have more creative problem solving abilities than adults, so this is the first step to the much needed shift towards developing this exploratory mindset in children. Reading this MindShift article about this topic was quite enlightening on this fact that we must consciously move away from “inflexible, narrow thinking” and start to transform our practices from the bottom up. If adults can transition from traditional structured bureaucratic work environments to innovative and collaborative productive mind sets, these children can too.
- “It won’t work for all classes. It probably only works in this case because there are very few behavioural and classroom management issues”
One of the very first things I noticed from the first day of professional experience was how little classroom behaviour management was required compared to the traditional classroom environment. Students were engaged in their learning and students actually wanted to come to school to learn – all 88 of them. This was a testament to the teaching and experience of the classroom teachers, but it was also because of the how this learning environment promoted this behaviour. I can see how giving students the choice and freedom to work on their passion, along with explicit teaching of the skills to do so brings out greater engagement and motivation to learn at school.
Whilst I could go on about how amazing this environment is in fostering learning, there are some challenges and clashes to my own teaching beliefs that arose. These are just some of the questions that I will attempt to find answers for when I go back for my Internship:
- How can you cater for ALL students’ needs in a class of 90 students?
- How can I improve the quality of student questioning to increase student voice in the classroom?
- Students were streamed into ability groups within the class which has been criticised to a great deal in educational literature. What other learning structures could I implement to improve focus on student learning?
- Edmodo was used as a form of reflection but there was little focus on using this as a form of assessment to guide teaching. How could I improve or transform the use of this tool as an assessment for future learning?
- Passion based learning in the form of Genius Hour was used to allow students to work on their own passions. How could I structure teaching around Genius Hour to maximise student engagement and on-task behaviour during this time? What tools or strategies can I use to effectively monitor and assess student learning out of this task?
- How can I better utilise the team teaching environment to maximise engagement?
And just to finish up on this quote that’s grown on me recently by Jon Oringer (Founder, Shutterstock) – “The only way to build something of value, is to embrace failure”. To succeed, think of failure as a certainty rather than a possibility. This is definitely the attitude I want to instil in myself, as well as the students I cross paths with in the future.