Features of a School for Learning...
The most critical feature of a school for learning is that the staff (including management) are learning. There will never be a set of immutable ‘right’ practices. A learning teacher and a learning school will be able to identify their vision and purpose and what values and beliefs are the basis for their particular practices. They will be engaged in reflecting upon how particular practices help them achieve what they value and believe. In addition, their vision, values and beliefs will be continually revisited, at times challenged, and together refined.
(adapted from Julia Atkin's paper From Values and Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice 1996)
Below is an image which gives one example of this. Last Saturday a good number of our staff spent the day in a series of workshops that centred around the theme "Shifting Capacity for Innovation" and provoked thinking and reflection around the ideas "exploring innovative practices; re-thinking learning design; and making real impact on the learning". This was attended last year by staff as well and together demonstrate our schools intent to take our own learning further.
Change is underway in our school. We are on a journey to ensure schooling at Waipāhīhī is relevant, effective and powerful for the tamariki of today. The shift in the way we work together and in the educational understandings as to how children learn best underpin the significant changes ahead of us all. This is a challenge for all our teaching teams and some of the most visible examples of this can be found across each of teams. From the open, highly collaborative environment of our New Entrant area through to our senior school school there are a number of initiatives that are working towards this. In visiting these spaces you will see less closed doors, children moving fluidly across traditional classroom boundaries, teachers collaborating in their teaching, and students increasingly self regulating and managing their learning.
But what does 'Teacher Collaboration' look like?
The traditional view of teaching is one teacher with the sole responsibility for a classroom of children. Teachers often feel that their classroom is their own private island and each classroom is different to the next (Little 1990). There are few jobs in society that require an individual to work entirely on their own. Most jobs require communication with other individuals to ensure best practice. Cooperation amongst educators is essential to ensure there is continuity and cohesiveness within schools. Collaboration involves a greater partnership between educators.
Watkins (2009) distinguishes between cooperation and collaboration with the idea that cooperation implies individuals working together to achieve individual goals, while collaboration involves working together to achieve a group goal.
This year one of our major school focus is about collaboration. We are examining and exploring the ways in which collaborating with each other improves our learning and the learning of others. It’s not just about having open rooms, large spaces, and access to computers. Collaboration is about working with others to use strengths to accomplish goals. It’s about being part of a team, doing your part, and demonstrating commitment and perseverance. This way of working together allows children and adults to build a stronger and deeper understanding of concepts, as they are challenged, supported, and affirmed in collaborative environments. Learners can more ably identify their strengths, express their ideas, and build empathy towards others.
Our challenge as teachers in our school is to develop our abilities to set tasks and learning opportunities which teach and foster these skills. We are learning alongside the children in partnership with them. All done so that each of us can innovate and change what we do to meet the learning needs of each and every one of our children that we work with everyday.