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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




  • Steph Kitto (View all users posts) 02 Jul 2016 2:58pm ()

    Kia ora. My name is Stephanie Kitto. I am the junior syndicate leader at Clyde Primary school and a member of the NAPP 2016 cohort.  I currently team teach in a NE - Yr 2 class. 

    At the beginning of 2015 my teaching partner and I, after a lot of discussion and research around modern learning practice, decided to combine the NE/Yr 1 class with the Yr 2 class to create an ILE. We explored classroom design, looked at how best to set up the learning environment, and discussed what we wanted to achieve by working collaboratively. 

    We began by removing a large concertina door that separated our two classes. This enabled us to combine the two learning spaces and create a larger flexible learning space. At this point our caretaker very kindly customised old furniture to meet our needs. He created several low tables by cutting down larger desks and creating ply-wood table tops in the various designs we had requested. We up-cycled old classroom furniture that was no longer being used, eg: adding three sides to single desks to create quiet office spaces. 

    We have a similar teaching & learning philosophy and this provided a good starting point for developing a shared vision for what we wanted to achieve by creating an ILE.  It allows us to plan and teach collaboratively, drawing on each other strengths and continuously reflecting and improving our practice. We are constantly looking at what’s working, what’s not working, tweaking things, trialling new ideas and reflecting. Universal Design for Learning principles help us to ensure that we are focused on our learners.

    As many have already have mentioned in this thread, it is not about the fancy furniture and you don’t need to wait for a purpose built space. Modern learning pedagogy is all about future-focused, personalised learning. It is about looking at how to best meet the needs of each learner. 

    For ILE’s to be successful I believe it is vital that there is a shared vision and a shared understanding of effective 21st Century teaching and learning pedagogy. You need to be willing to work collaboratively, to critically reflect on your practice, be open to new ideas, and continue to learn from others. 

  • marcus cooper (View all users posts) 29 Jun 2016 9:22pm ()

    Hi all,

    I am currently at a Year 7-13 school on the outskirts of Dunedin. We have just had a rebuild of a teaching pod with 3 classes with a break out space joining them. We have 3 different curriculum areas using this space but we have not as yet collaborated between the 3 areas with some cross-curricular collaboration. This is in part due to the fact that we have predominantly Senior classes which are so assessment focused on particular Achievement Standards that the opportunity to collaborate has been difficult (maybe an issue for the timetable guy for next year). My request is for other secondary teachers in NZ to share how they are collaborating, cross curricular, combining AS or US in different curriculum areas to strengthen the links and learning outcomes.

  • Julie Lynch (View all users posts) 27 Jun 2016 8:48pm ()

    Why are innovator’s mind-sets and in-depth collaboration and cooperation crucial in resourcing ILEs? | NAPP Kōrero 6 2016

    Hello everyone. 
     'How do schools ready themselves for modern learning pedagogies?' I am undertaking NAPP 2016 so part of the requirement is to make a comment under Kōrero 6 2016, hopefully this is in the right place!

    I chose this particular question 'How school ready themselves for modern learning pedagogies?' as it seemed pertinent to the context I am currently working in. 7/8's of our school has been rebuilt over the last 3 years. The majority of the school moved into our new learning studios in Term 3 2015. The Year 1 team were already in their studio environment for nearly 3 years. The quest for developing modern learning pedagogy
    was an interesting process. Moving from single cell into studio environment where 2-3 classes were combined required planning, collaboration, communication whilst consider the needs of a whole range of stakeholders e.g. teachers, students, parents, teacher aides etc.

    Outside professionals proved invaluable resource. Teaching staff  worked with Mark Osbourne, and he held parent information evenings for our local community. Our local networks (OUR education network and PLGs) and outside facilitators such as Jan Hill where able to provide advice and help us develop tools to help the senior leadership team and teaching staff through the process e.g. studio protocols, continuum of where teachers sat on a whole range of teaching practice and then matching them with their studio colleagues. Collaboration took many forms through planning together, sharing resources, using tools such as Google Drive to support collaboration and revisiting the work of Vivianne Robinson and her open to learning conversations. All of this was crucial in developing teacher mindsets that supported collaboration and cooperation.

    In terms of readying staff for modern learning pedagogies the senior leadership team gave them permission to experiment. We didn't have the answers so it was about being in the learning pit and finding ways to work together to ensure effective learning outcomes for our students. 

    Innovative Learning Environments by Mark Osbourne is a fabulous read. In terms of school ready themselves for modern learning pedagogies. In particular his section on 'Do the learning spaces support collaboration?'. Mark talks about strategies such as peer tutoring, reciprocal teaching and the spaces should be designed with these activities in mind.  We have certainly seen the benefits of these approaches in our flexible environments.

    Julie Lynch
    Westmere School
    Acting Principal 

  • Rebecca McColgan (View all users posts) 26 Jun 2016 10:24pm ()

    Hi, my name is Rebecca and I am one of the Deputy Principal’s at Westmere School in Auckland. We are a Year 1 to 6 school that was rebuilt as an ILE a year ago. As the rebuild took approximately three years to come to fruition we had a lot of time to prepare.

    We are exceptionally lucky to have a very stable staff so the challenge for our move was to make a shift in mindsets and learn to work in more collaborative ways. We already had a few systems in place that were a good base to grow from, e.g. we had an open and shared system where all our documents and planning were shared and a culture that meant that we dipped in and out of one another’s planning - this meant shifting from onsite servers to Google docs and several teachers working off one plan wasn’t too big a shift. Our staff were excited about the prospect of working together and our principal was supportive of letting staff experiment and make discoveries for themselves. Walls were brought down and staff were able to try different ways of grouping and planning. Even in the rooms where the walls weren’t able to be moved teachers still worked together to try planning off one plan and trying to work with the children in different ways. We had been on the Assessment for Learning contract a few years beforehand so those practices seemed to naturally fit with ILE practice.

    Mark Osborne came in and ran workshops with staff and parents and our principal also worked to help educate parents through information sharing at parent events and through the newsletter. We kept good practice at the heart of all our decision making. What did research tell us was best practice? We constantly went back to research and shared and discussed readings with the staff.

    We also looked at the nitty gritty of working together, examining what people’s bottom lines were and setting up protocols for working together. Then we provided on-going workshopping with Jan Hill to continually work on improving relationships.

    We have redeveloped our Mathematics teaching to a problem-solving approach and are currently developing a conceptual curriculum. These have both fit in well with the ILEs as the pedagogy sits around hands on learning and learner agency.

    As for digital technologies, we have continued to treat them as the tools that they are. Focusing on best practice has ensured that they remain tools rather than a stand alone item or subject. They do however seem to be rather indispensable when working collaboratively, for teachers and students alike. Google Apps and Google Classroom have made collaboration much easier and their ease of use over a variety of different devices means we have been able to purchase different equipment so children are exposed to a variety. It has also meant that transitioning to BYOD in the near future is not a daunting task.

    The majority of our staff have said they would not go back to single cell teaching but there are certainly ongoing challenges to being in a collaborative space. It has been great to hear the thoughts of others in this thread to draw on their ideas and experiences. Thanks for all the great sharing.

  • Sonia4321 (View all users posts) 26 Jun 2016 4:32pm ()

    Hi All.  I am having a lot of fun trying to "modernize" my classroom.  We have very little funding available to change too much in the way of classrooms so I am trying to change things on a very tight budget.  I happened upon the Daily 5 system and this inspired me to completely change my Year7/8 classroom environment.  This met with some resistance from my children so I pulled back a bit and am changing things gradually.  I feel that a huge part of ILE is ensuring that the children have ownership of how things run in the room.  Anyway, I threw out all traditional desks and chairs.  (well, stored them in the hall!).  I went to some second hand shops and bought some large tables.  A couple of these I cut the legs down and the others I left normal height.  I then made some floor cushions and found a large fluffy rug, a couch and a bean bag.  I now have catered for all preferences and have the children who like to lie and work, those who stand and those who still like to sit at a desk.  I have completely overhauled my class library and the children like having their books categorized for easier access.  I have brightened up the room with coloured sheets and artwork.  I am also planning to get some plants and softer lighting.  All this has been done for around $200 and a bit of time.  I am hoping to make my classroom the test case for a positive change in our school.     

  • Sarah Gilbert (View all users posts) 23 Jun 2016 2:24pm ()

    The cost of change


    Recently I attended the Exchange conference in Melbourne which is the run by the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE). In terms of resourcing there was one key theme, less is more. It is not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on modern furniture. It is more important when transitioning to innovative learning environments that we examine our values and pedagogies. What changes are being made? What stays? What goes? Our school is currently in the process of doing this through the teacher inquiry process, and it will allow us to answer the following question more easily.

    How will we resource this change? These costs are hard to anticipate as we need to consider how much, and what kind of resourcing is needed to implement ILEs successfully.

    The teacher inquiries will be collated and used to create our school education brief for the next steps of our transition. This process will enable us to utilise the budget effectively and efficiently in order to have the right learning environments for our school community.

  • Allisa Holbrow (View all users posts) 23 Jun 2016 1:20am ()

    Hi, I am Allisa Holbrow, AP at Huapai District School.  We are currently 2 terms into an exciting journey in terms of embedding collaborative practice, to foster a "we" rather than the traditional "I" approach to practice, with the learner at the centre, increasing student agency.  For us this process is also being hastily sped up by the completion of the rebuild of 16 of our classrooms, by the end of this year.  These will be shared learning spaces , 'Modern or Innovative Learning Environments'.  

    At the onset of our journey it was important that as a staff, we had a shared vision around what a collaborative learning environment meant, defining what it is to us, and why we would want or need to change our current practice?  Ultimately, our practice needs to change to meet the needs of our learners (especially with a future focus in mind).   In the early stages, Core Education’s 'Collaboration — so much more than parallel play!' paper was one of the resources we presented to staff to prompt their thinking.   Defining the difference between connecting, cooperation and collaboration and the role they play in engagement.  At the onset staff had to be vulnerable and identify where they were at in regards to changing their practice.  Were they 'standing on the beach watching',  or 'toe dippers', or were they willing to 'splash about' or did they just want to 'dive right in'.  Professional development around growth mindset not only for staff, but for students as well has proven valuable.  We had to be aware of staff needs, and thinking if change was going to be successful.

    Relationships are vital when embedding collaborative practice.  We have focused on really getting to know our collaborative partners.  Personal profiles:  (this link from scil is great!) these profiles gave a real insight into the people we were working with.  Their passions, what energises them, what exhausts them, what stresses, them, communication styles, how best to repair a situation etc. This knowledge not only builds relationships, but also helps when there are difficult situations.  

    As we are still in the early stages of our collaboration journey, we felt it was important to think about all the practical, day to day issues that might arise.  We role played, and had robust discussions around scenarios.  Part of this professional development involved dealing with difficult conversations. We unpacked the article We Have to Talk: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations by Judy Ringer, as result giving staff a set of question stems to use when, or if needed.

    Student voice has also been a key part of our journey.  This has been collected within collaborative teams, and this value data is doing the talking to promote deep reflection.  Is student agency happening?  Are learning needs being met? Are our students engaged?

    Every staff member is now giving it a go, and through careful, well planned scaffolding they are beginning to experience success, showing a growth mindset. I look forward to seeing what the next steps of our journey brings..........


  • Nixon Eagle (View all users posts) 19 Jun 2016 10:32pm ()

    Kia ora and greetings from Hawke’s Bay.


    We are readying for the walls to come down between our senior classes this year to create a space for about 50 Year 6-8 students.

    In developing our vision of what we would like learning in the new space to look like we have been heavily influenced by the recent OECD Research on ILEs. It emphasises 7 key aspects:

    1. Learner at centre

    2. Social nature of learning

    3. Emotions are integral

    4. Recognising Individual differences

    5. Stretching all students - avoid overload and demotivating regimes

    6. Assessment for learning

    7. Building Horizontal connections


    What stands out is their argument that all aspects need to be present at the same time to have impact. Much of this is present within our current single cell classrooms but the chance for curriculum founded on greater integration is what is really exciting myself and fellow staff.


    We have also developed a matrix of learning behaviours with our students and the common language of this; ‘Engaging fairly, fully & safely’ is already in effect.

    Ngā  mihi

  • Sarah Simpson (View all users posts) 18 Jun 2016 6:01pm ()

    I agree preparation does go beyond choosing furniture.  In my school we currently have three modern learning environments.  The most successful is a 60 children year 5 class with two beginning teachers.  These teachers had the luxury of spending several days over a three week period discussing with each other and their mentor teacher how the class would operate. It involved visiting other schools, sharing the way they operate and their beliefs about good teaching.  I don't think it is a coincidence that this class is still operating with similar routines and systems from day one of this year.  So much of the unknown was removed through open discussion and developing a shared understanding before they even stepped foot in their room.

  • Hannah Simpson (View all users posts) 14 Jun 2016 4:16pm ()

    Hello, my name is Hannah Simpson and I am the AP at Kaikoura Primary School. I have really enjoyed reading about the different challenges in the comments above. We moved into our new spaces at the beginning of the year. Our preparation consisted of looking at the furniture at other schools and choosing our own- so, no preparation really in hindsight!! When we moved into our spaces it was more of a physical move for most teachers- in a sense fitting what they had always done into the new, larger spaces with nicer furniture! I took on the task of looking at how we use our new spaces and of looking at our pedagogy in terms of modern learning as part of my NAAP leadership inquiry and quickly came to understand that we had not prepared ourselves at all well! Having said that, we have managed to back-track and fill the gaps in our knowledge and in a sense re-launch our new spaces. Our junior rooms now collaborate for most of the day for reading, writing, phonics and maths and we are really enjoying finding out what works and what certainly does not! There is no magic formula and each school/space is completely different so we keep our minds open and the children's learning at the centre. The result has been far more personalised learning for our students and we have seen already a real improvement in their outcomes. The senior room makes use of modern learning pedagogy but the challenge  is how we extend collaboration to this class as it is alone at the moment. In summing up I think preparation needs to go far beyond choosing furniture, but you can and need to adopt an inquiry frame of mind and be open to learning along the way.


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