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Forum: How do schools ready themselves for modern learning pedagogies?

Started by Nathaniel Louwrens 03 Jun 2015 7:45pm () Replies (67)

As schools look to not only continue bringing teaching and learning into the 21st century but also to focus on the future, there is a growing interest in both Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) and Modern Learning Pedagogies (MLPs).


There is so much going on in this area that it can sometimes seem overwhelming. However, as with everything we do in schools, we need to make sure that the move to MLPs is for the right reason and aligns with the vision, beliefs and values of the school. Derek Wenmoth recently wrote about this in a blog post, Examining our educational beliefs:


“In the rush to embrace modern learning practice there is inevitably a strong focus on the practices that may change – the practical, observable things that will impact on how things happen in schools. For example, the emergence of large, free-flowing spaces, moving from individual desks to group tables etc. But these things alone will not change the effectiveness of our educational provision unless they are matched to our shared beliefs and values. It is there that we need to start – and continue to reflect and refine as we seek to develop an educational approach that is relevant to the lives of our modern learners and their future.”


One area of modern learning practice is around orienting learning and learning decisions around the learner. By doing this we will know that the learner is at the heart of all decisions being made. You can find out more about learner orientation by watching the video from CORE’s Ten Trends 2015 - Trend 6: Learner Orientation.


Wakefield Primary School Principal, Peter Verstappen, was quoted in the Education Gazette Article, Modern learning environments allow pedagogical shifts:


“The real business of MLEs is to shift teaching and learning to a model that truly enables students to become confident, connected, lifelong learners”.


They have worked towards this through an MLE and using the principles of democratic education:

  • student-centred learning programmes
  • students developing goals around what they want to learn about
  • starting with the strengths of the student
  • finding opportunities to contribute to the community.


  • What do you or your school see as important modern learning pedagogies/practices? Why?
  • How are you and the wider school community involved in decision making around the adoption and implementation of MLPs?
  • What role do you see digital technologies/e-learning having in adopting MLPs?
  • How are you or your school using digital technologies to support your modern learning practices and what effect is it having on student engagement and achievement?

Further reading/resources




  • Kylie Gorrie (View all users posts) 16 Jun 2015 3:01pm ()

    This year has been our first year in a MLE.  Two teachers, 1 teacher aide and 54  Year 7 & 8 Students.  Plus 1:1 devices with a mixed model of Chrome Books and iPads.  (School Owned)

    Before we even considered this approach there were several things we considered before making the transition. 

    • Pedagodgy - What is the practice that drives the learning
    • Teacher Strengths - We wanted a model where teachers teach to their strengths
    • Having teachers available for students not all tied up in workshops
    • Our students - What were their self managing skills like?  How can we set a programme that will cater for all?
    • Consulting our community on the change
    • Daily 4 for literacy and a Daily 3 for maths- How would this work?
    • Furniture and spaces - what areas of the room would facilitate the environment we had?
    • Adopting a personalised learning programme (we are still in the process of this)



  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 18 Jun 2015 1:43pm ()

    Hi Kylie

    Thanks for sharing what your school considered before moving into an MLE.

    I wonder if you can expand a bit on a couple of points:

    1. What pedagogies/practices have you found most effective in teaching within the MLE?
    2. What does your personalised learning programme look like?



  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 01 Apr 2016 9:51am ()

    Getting started in an MLE or more recently (globally recognised) an ILE (Innovative Learning Environment) is definitely a HOT topic – for both new builds and existing schools. Some catalysts for change include; new builds, upgrades and school merges.

    The challenges when creating physical spaces that reflect the 21st Century pedagogies (as Nathaniel has touched on above) can come from many sources - mainly existing attitudes and beliefs. For example:

    • Educators who understand change is needed rather than, “It’s how we’ve always done things round here”
    • Teachers who are comfortable with the unknown, rather than, “It’s not broken, why change anything”
    • Parents with no preconceived assumptions, rather than, “That’s not how we did it in our day”

    Some resistance can even come from students - some of which opt for teacher-directed styles and minimal effort to ‘pass’ to achieve grades. This video from Hampden Street School below shows a new paradigm shift - for everyone involved.

    Hampden street video screenshot 

    The process of challenging assumptions, creating new paradigm shifts and a culture of change readiness, is a complex activity. Getting started in an ILE (Enabling e-Learning) is a valuable resource that provides a guide, as well as school stories and resources to help schools navigate this pathway.

    For example, in this video Planning for Change, Principal Graeme Barber shares the journey at Woodend School to create an innovative learning environment with a strong focus on innovative practices.

    Come join us in the following FREE webinar as Scott McKenzie, Don McLean and Graeme Barber share their stories so far.

    smiley LIVE WEBINAR: Getting started in an ILE - 6 April, 3:45-4:45 pm

    Two primary schools, two very different journeys, each with their own focus on implementing Innovative Learning Environments in response to their learners' needs.

    Hampden Street School has some wonderful experiences and practices to share around connecting and partnering with their community and building learner agency, while Woodend School (new build) has been developing their pedagogy, supporting teachers to work collaboratively and innovatively through PLD and also engaging with their community. Register here>>>

  • Larissa Hogan (View all users posts) 03 Jul 2016 9:01pm ()

    It has been interesting to read about other people's journey's into setting up ILE's (especially the NAPP round tables and some of the posts here).  I was asked last year to begin a ILE with 54 year 7 and 8 students.  I wasn't given any instructions or expectations however I wasn't given any restrictions either!  This year has been one of the most time consuming and exhausting years of all my teaching and it has taken until now, at the end of term 2, that we feel that our students are self managing and that we have some professional grasp on the collaborative learning environment.  I am now ready to begin extending my students knowledge and engaging them more as learners.  I am concerned however that there is no school philosophy or direction of where we should be heading as a unified group of learners.  

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 07 Apr 2016 9:37am ()

    We were really privileged to be a part of a great webinar yesterday where Adrienne Simpson and Graeme Barber from Woodend School, and Don McLean and Scott Mackenzie from Hampden Street School shared their stories of getting started in and ILE. There really was something for everyone in this webinar.

    If you couldn't make it, you can Watch the recording.

    The presentation is embedded below, as well as a Storify of the key points that were shared on Twitter.

  • Deborah Waller (View all users posts) 01 Jun 2016 9:09pm ()

    We realized the importance of thinking about our pedagogy before embarking on spending a large amount of money on e-technology. This is because of the very real danger of making buying choices that don’t fit with how the teachers/ students want to use this technology. We are in the process of re-developing our curriculum and are asking ourselves serious questions about how more use of e-technology will be used to enhance and support our pedagogy. We want to make the best use of our funds and the selections we make need to ensure the best  outcomes for our students. None of our classrooms at present are ILE, but we are hoping to develop some  from our existing spaces.I found the enabling e-learning webinar very valuable for getting ideas about the processes involved in establishing an ILE from an existing build. 

  • Lisa (View all users posts) 12 May 2016 3:13pm ()

    ​Hi, My name is Lisa Cuff - I am the DP at Whakarongo School in Palmerston North and have been working now in a FLE for the last 5 years  - what an exciting journey it has been! 
    Our journey started with our Year 7-8 students, and moving into a new building - this was an building that had been extended and added onto. However, the building that it had been added onto had been built with this in mind. We held some wider school community meetings , just for the group of 90 students whom were moving in and we had developed some ideas around what we wanted. 5 years on and the whole school from Years 1-8 are now FLE (a roll of 516 and growing!) 

    Two years ago we wrote a school philosophy around what we wanted to see in our FLE - school wide. This was a valuable thing to do, once we had trialled it through the school (Year 7-8 for 3 years, then we moved to Year 5-6 for a year, now whole school). We had by then a good understanding of what good practice looked like, and how we wanted it to run. 
    We see the following things as really important - 

    Personalised and empowered students and teachers

    Students that were self managing, independent learners (empowered, engaged, enhanced and awakened)

    Teachers and students that were collaborative 

    Digital skills

    Students will develop lifelong skills, that are relevant, authentic and global  

    Teachers will engage students in a variety of ways, in different contexts, with different resources and spaces

    Teachers can use time creatively and flexibly, and students have more choice within their working space

    Throughout this the practices were the most important - that it was about empowering our students and giving them ownership to their learning, but also to our teachers. It was about and is about future focused learning and teaching - always looking at the best ways to meet the needs of our students at the time !


    We ran wider school community meetings to inform and to get their voice into how and what we were doing. Obviously we had huge board backing which was really important.  We have continued to collect their voice,and the student voice as we have continued on our journey.

    The digital technologies have been huge, and are being used a platform for learning. This year we went completely BYOD for our Year 3-8 and this is a developing skill for many of our students. The ownership and the flipped learning  and creativity that can be created by using our technologies is huge and is really important for our kids to connect on a global scale. The use of technology engages our students and empowers students to use technology in different ways to enhance their learning. It has enabled our students to work in different ways, to collaborate with others in a variety of situations and to become more independent in their work. 


  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 13 May 2016 10:00am ()

    Hi Lisa

    Thanks for sharing your journey into your FLE. It is really beneficial to hear of the planning that went in around your school philosophy as well.

    I wonder during your trial years, what learnings you had and what changes you might have made as a result of the learnings?

    How do you collect the voice of your community and students? What impact has this had?


  • Lisa (View all users posts) 13 May 2016 2:28pm ()

    Hi Nathaniel

    The trial years were interesting! We learnt to regularly slow the programme down and to ensure that we moved at the pace of the students - sometimes we were 10 steps ahead and needed for them to catch up. We also found that the student ownership and choice was one of the largest  - the more choice we gave the more confident kids became and the more engagement we had. We learnt that it was imperative to have one teacher who was the "leader" - to make all those hard decisions. We learnt that collaborative planning formats needed to involve all and to think about this for future planning. Assessment was a challenge and we had to keep adapting what and how that looks - this still continues today. A learning coach was imperative - 2 teaching, 1 learning coach. A big lesson we learnt was also we only ever have 3 teachers working together - when we added in a 4th it changed all the factors. 

    We have different ways of collecting voice - each Pod does it differently and has developed over time. Mostly it is done in a homeroom time, and digitally. We have surveys, we have interviews, brainstorms, meetings etc. We do the same with our community, along with regular meetings . We also hold a termly hui for our Maori families to get their voice. 



  • Deborah Waller (View all users posts) 02 Jun 2016 3:24pm ()

    Hi Lisa,

    Great reading about your journey into ILE and the collaboration with staff. It sounds like an amazing journey, and you must have had some skilled people "driving" the vision throughout the last five years. Obviously there is  also  a lot of trust among the different groups within your community.You talk  about the communication, with teachers, students,parents, community and whanau, and I can see this must be at the heart of making change successful.

    All the best for developing your assessment tools as I can see they need to look quite different in these student -led learning environments.

  • Kath Corby (View all users posts) 23 Jul 2016 2:34pm ()

    Hi Lisa.

    What a very valuable post with so many learnings in in - thank you.

    I find the different roles that you needed  an interesting learning - having a leader, a learning coach and a teaching coach...a re-definition of what the meaning of 'teacher' is for the 21st century and ILE's possibly?

    I think having a shared philosophy that is created collaboratively with all parties involved is key - as a school we currently have some staff doing some powerful things in terms of creating and facilitating learning in an ILE but it is not under a collective 'umbrella' such as a vision so that is the next step to ensure the great work that is happening continues and strengthens causing student achievement to go up!


  • LyD (View all users posts) 21 Aug 2016 3:32pm ()

    I really appreciate your slow down to move effectively. I'm working on building capacity in our syndicate to enable us to implement UDL and prepare our staff and students to work in a more collaborative learning environment. We are fortunate in that we have had time to prepare for our remodelling which will provide us with learning spaces that have the potential to be more open and flexible. As a group of teachers, we have been gradually exploring collaborative practices and what they  mean in our setting. I'm currently working on how we share our ideas and aspirations with our community and building networks to help us collaborate with our Intermediate school . We want to ensure the skills and independence our learners develop in years 5 and 6 fit with their new setting. Are any other schools collaborating this way? I'm interested in you findings.

  • Anita Yarwood (View all users posts) 22 May 2016 3:03pm ()

    Kia ora

    My name is Anita Yarwood and I am HOLA of English at Avonside Girls' High School. We are about to rebuild our school as it was badly damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes. We are moving site and will co-locate with Shirley Boys' High School in an ILE. We have two years and I strongly believe that one of the only new things about our shift in January 2019 should be a shift into a different space. So, we are working through the pedagogy that justifies the shift into ILE at the moment through a lot of reading and being lucky enough to visit schools such as, Hobsonville Point and Albany. We are also trialing collaborative teaching with year eleven English classes (NCEA level one) in an open plan space, not a single cell classroom. The trial has been the best learning experience, as we are constantly revisiting what we are doing and readjusting to make sure all ākonga are succeeding. We are working with ākonga individually introducing personalised assessment. At the same time, one of us will run workshops for half a lesson to introduce skills that we observe are needed by ākonga. We expect ākonga to goal set and reflect on goals during every lesson - and we wouldn't be able to do any of this effectively without digital support, which we do struggle to get as we aren't a BYOD school and we don't have a lot of digital resources. 

    But, what I am realising more and more is that the benefits to ILE is the potential for ākonga to experience deep learning which is really exciting. Schools can best resource this deep learning through extended time in the timetable - this will allow kaiako the time to build a relationship with every ākonga which means kaiako can best support a student's learning as they will have a better understanding of strengths and areas to develop. The second benefit of schools resourcing more time in fewer lessons means ākonga have the time to fully develop their learning. Often at secondary schools ākonga will learn a skill in one subject, only to have to replicate the learning in another subject e.g. research skills are taught in English, Health, History, Art etc. Ākonga are so busy learning HOW to research they don't have the time to research anything in depth. So collaborative teaching between learning areas to limit the double-up of teaching and time to allow ākonga to fully explore their new skills and to engage in deep learning is going to have to be one of our first school-wide steps to becoming an ILE. 

  • Julie McLaughlin (View all users posts) 03 Jun 2016 9:13pm ()

    I really like what you said about students gaining a deeper understanding across subjects and fully exploring new skills. I would love to hear how this goes. As a secondary teacher we often discuss the cross over of skills between Science and English or science and maths but don't often collaborate. The units meet both standards with a bit of tweaking but it would be great to hear how true collaboration works and the advantages and hurdles that you come across.

  • Candice Adams (View all users posts) 11 Jun 2016 3:37pm ()

    I agree Anita, that the ILE concept certainly has its challenges in a secondary setting. The idea of longer periods makes sense to me. As you say, this will increase the time that teachers can spend getting to know their students, and will allow time for higher level thinking to occur. Studies have also shown just how much time (that could be used for learning ) is lost because of transitions between classes. What is essential, however, is that secondary teachers have professional development to prepare them for the longer period times. You cannot approach a 90 or 100 minute period with the same philosophy as a 50 - 60 minute period. For some teachers, this will be a real mind shift.

  • Robyn Shears (View all users posts) 29 May 2016 6:59pm ()

    Hi, my name is Robyn and I am the deputy principal at Glenbrook Primary School a full Y1-8 primary in Franklin, south of Auckland. We have a newly built ILE space, which is due to open in two or three weeks and will take 60 of our year 3 and 4 students.

    As part of our vision for the school, the leadership team realised that we needed to start a more collaborative journey with our staff to prepare them for both changes in physical spaces but also changes to pedagogy that we wanted to see. We knew that this change in pedagogy, the drive for greater learner agency and the emphasis on developing 21st century skills couldn’t be achieved by outsourcing to traditional maths, reading or writing PD. It needed a different approach.

    Instead we began as a school our journey through Mindlab and upskilling our teaching and leadership staff into more modern and future focussed models of learning. Myself and two teachers (who are moving into the ILE space) began our studies in November and finish in a few weeks, and subsequently another 4 staff have started. By the end of the year we will have all staff and the principal enrolled or completed their study.

    I can’t highlight enough the change in korero that has occurred in our staffroom, especially now that the second group have started. Their excitement to try new things, like a flipped classroom, has been encouraging for both the leadership team and for other teachers. As part of the Applied Practice in Context paper we needed to reflect on our Community of Practice (my school) and changes and tensions relevant to it. The tension I identified was the introduction of ILEs especially with staff reluctant to change.

    Another strategy has been to visit other schools in our area www.ngatea.school.nz and www.tekowhai.school.nz  who are further into their ILE journey. Part of my leadership was to be involved in parts of the visit to ask challenging questions and at other times remove myself completely and let my teachers reflect on their own practice.  These visits wouldn’t be successful if the culture within our school wasn’t strong enough and positive. We want our teachers to have confidence in their own practice so that they can visit ‘leading ILE’ schools and see both aspects they can adapt and incorporate back at Glenbrook but also aspects they can see that won’t align within their own classrooms.

    Michael Fullan’s recent work Coherence talks about the factors needed to make change a sustainable practice. Too often schools implement a change but there is little thought into how these changes will be sustained over time and when new staff begin. By staggering our teachers through their post grad studies we know that conversations will continue to be present in our staffroom and learning hubs. This will also continue to build relationships amongst our staff as we help each other with assignments, many of which are practical and involve a shift in pedagogy.  This coherence amongst staff also helps us to bring our parents and community on board, as we all share the same journey. 

    It's great to be in a school where both teachers and students are excited about their learning journey!



  • Leah Boldero (View all users posts) 12 Jun 2016 3:29pm ()

    Hi Robyn

    I found your journey very interesting, as I find our school in a similar situation.

    We are in the process of 3 of our 5 classes being remodeled. So potentially we will have 75/80 year 2-6 with 3/4 teachers and 1 support staff member. 

     My greatest concern is that our teachers are not prepared for the shift in their practice this physical space is going to create, and the fact that we will still have two single cell classrooms. (Currently our year 7/8 and NE Class). How do you continue to build collaboration when the physical space splits staff? I'm not sure the relationship of those three teachers who will suddenly be team planning/ teaching etc. is the right combination, lots of concerns really.  As single cell teachers we have some very strong amazing teachers.

    We have also visited other schools, but I have got to the stage where I'm thinking, ok nice environments, nice furniture (which we have purchased) but how does the day to day management and learning work. I find visiting schools gives you the physical picture on how things could look and work, but not the skills in how teachers really handle the everyday learning.  (Due to your post I have learnt more about Ngatea School). 

    We have also started the journey over the past year trying to create a more collaborative environment between all our staff through teacher enquires, moderation sessions, shared target data sessions, Google planning. 

    I found it very interesting your journey through Mindlab. I searched their site and it looks very interesting as I am in the process of applying to complete my Masters at Waikato University, maybe Mindlab would be more practical hands on option.

    You mentioned how now 8 of your staff members have almost completed or started this journey as well.  How does the school support this learning? 

     Do they pay the fees as part of your PD? 

    Is it an option or an expectation for your staff to complete this course? 

    I can see how this learning journey would add to the learning and collaboration between staff. Did you have staff members who just felt overwhelmed by this process? I find sometimes I get a certain amount of resistance from some staff members when I try and introduce new ideas or learning, who feel any changes (even if taking away work load) overwhelming and increasing their work load / stress levels. 


  • Sue Ford (View all users posts) 29 May 2016 10:17pm ()

    Thanks for sharing this insightful page.  There is so much useful information which can be used to inform teaching practice.  I am relieved to note the idea that a MLE is more than a change of space, more importantly a change in pedagogy.  This is a relief to me as I am teaching in a school with limited prospects of change to the internal environment due to the buildings age, location and earthquake strengthening procedures.  I have a feeling our building may be protected by the heritage trust – but not sure.

    So… where does this lead our school?  We have a team working on growth mind sets, another developing future focus, student agency and a new environmental team.  We are all exploring learning maps, and setting our first round of student led interviews.  Small steps, but heading in a positive direction.

    There are many points raised with regards to teacher as a facilitator, students articulating learning, reading groups being interest based, students enabling and self managing their own timetable, self directed learning, using multiple means of engagement etc.  A lot of this I already do – so my shift in pedagogy may not be as massive as I was expecting.  It is reassuring to know. SO… my next challenge is to ignite the rest of the team and figure a way of creating a MLE or ILE with walls still standing!!

  • Kath Corby (View all users posts) 30 May 2016 6:40am ()

    A really interesting topic...

    We currently have a large no. of eLearning classrooms with 1:2 devices (chrome books and iPads based on teachers choice) that has been integrated over the last 2 years and it has been very interesting to see the change in teachers pedagogy and the differing levels of this change (and the impact of programmes of teaching and learning)...

    Derek's blog titled 'Examining our Educational Beliefs' raises the question that our own educational experiences shape our beliefs around this topic and I see the relevance of this statement - looking at the staff and the range of experiences and history in education indicates that this is true.  So how do you change the 'late adopters'...how do you dispel the myths that 'late adopters' may hold dear...

    I believe that the eLearning Framework created through collaboration as a staff may be an influential step:


    A framework created and worked through together holds the power to dispel myths and create curriculum responsive to the needs of our students.



  • Julian Adamson (View all users posts) 30 May 2016 10:34am ()

    Thank you to everyone posting to this page, it is really interesting reading about the different experiences of MLEs (or ILE or FLE....) 

    I am currently Assistant Principal at Marlborough Girls College and we are to be "co-located" with the Boys' College here in Marlborough in the near future (new site opens in 2021). We are having the discussion of what that might look like and what the site and buildings might need to be like. The exciting part for me is that we have started with the curriculum and pedagogy and not the buildings. We are asking ourselves what we want students in Marlborough to be learning and how they might be learning it, and then we will look at building spaces that suit this vision.

    A couple of questions we are struggling with are: How do we reconcile the high stakes examination system in senior secondary, with the renewed emphasis on the 'front end' of the curriculum. We have such a wonderful curriculum document that has so many important skills and values that we aspire to develop in collaboration with students and yet some of our staff continue to struggle with being 'driven by the assessments'. As much as we can be awesomely innovative with year 9 and 10, eventually we have to address this issue as an education profession.

    The second question is: 'How can we use foresight and future planning to make the new school we build as flexible as possible for future changes in education. Schools are built to last for at least 50 years (and possibly many more) and the chance of more change is huge. This can make schools nervous not to do too many innovative changes in case the educational landscape shifts and facilities become obsolete.

    Mix in with this the exciting work we are doing with BYOD, 1:1 classes, integrating across subject areas and developing Culturally responsive pedagogies and there is much to be excited about for the future of education!

    Mostly I enjoy the fact that we are getting to have these big conversations and to look in details at our curriculum and pedagogy. It is so rare in today's schools to get the opportunity to do so! There is some great learning happening. I will follow this thread with interest to learn from the ideas of others on similar journeys.


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