A learning vision that seeks to be more learner-centered and responsive to their need is something that we should all desire for our children. Providing a learning environment that balances the necessary core numeracy and literacy skills within engaging and enriching curriculum contexts is part of the core role that all primary educators have. Make no mistake, our children are getting taught core foundational skills every day. We have adjusted the timetable to better incorporate all of the elements (see example below). Our children are asked to apply those core skills in a range of learning activities every day within the whole school environment.
A key element of sharing the development of our learning vision has been enabled initially through our one on one connection meetings that you have all had the opportunity to participate in. If you want further discussion around your child’s learning programme and the structure that supports that then your child’s guardian teacher, and team leader, can facilitate that with you. Then if needed Amanda, Jen, and myself are available. There is always an open door for further connection and understanding to be developed. This is a team effort. We are not a one size fits all school. Please be assured that as well as the most recent opportunity to talk with your child's teacher at the one on one connection meetings we have just had, there will be ongoing newsletter postings about our learning structure. A further plan is in place for postings that showcase specific team learning story examples and early next term, a community event around our learning vision with the whole staff teaching team involvement will be held.
So far, this has been a five-year journey on developing our shared learning vision and the relevant supporting principles and key teaching practices that support it. Over that time the team has morphed and developed into the outstanding staff team we have today. Together they are passionate about developing shared solutions to making learning work better for our children. This is our passion and our job.
Every industry has a craft that they specialise in. For teachers that is education. The core role within that is developing an in-depth understanding of how to structure a learning programme that is reflective of the learner's needs. With the increased enlightenment over time of brain development and evidence-based learning research, it would be negligent of us as a profession (and as a school) to not be willing to challenge the status quo of what we, as parents, have come to assume learning looks like.
20TH CENTURY EDUCATION
Unfortunately in schools, most students continue to be educated in the same way as they were in the past, being taught a standardised curriculum through rote learning and individualised testing, at a one-size-fits-all pace. Far too many students are struggling to learn because they are disengaged and lack motivation. Why go to school when you could learn the same information faster by watching a Youtube video or playing a computer game? Why memorise facts for a test when you have all the information in the palm of your hand anyway? Past methods make little sense to today’s students who learn and think differently, and they make little sense in relation to the changing workplace, where making use of information is now far more valuable than simply knowing things. Schools are failing to teach students to respond to rapid change and how to handle new information because they are clinging to obsolete methods. The old adage still applies - if you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you always got!
Somehow, over time, a good learning environment has come to be thought of as something akin to a good office environment. Tidy, well managed, industrious, and focused on output. We are putting the focus back on the conditions we are providing for learning to happen. We are focusing on the environment we are providing for our children to be engaged, connected, and happy in both the how, and what they learn as a 21st Century Learner.
A 21ST CENTURY EDUCATION
A 21st-century education is about giving students the skills they need to succeed in this new world and helping them grow the confidence to practice those skills. With so much information readily available to them, 21st-century skills focus more on making sense of that information, sharing, and using it in smart ways.The coalition P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning) has identified four ‘Skills for Today’:
A Typical day in the life of a Waipahihi Learner
The day starts with time to connect with their friends and guardian teacher/morning admin.
This part of the day is facilitated by teachers with a range of teaching and learning approaches, These will include:
* Small targeted groups with individual learning goals with a numeracy and literacy focus generally these are called workshops
* The opportunity to practise and maintain skills independently
* Connected curriculum tasks/experiences
* The opportunity to be active and embrace pockets of play inside and outside
Check connect and re-set in guardian groups
This period of time follows the same structure as above
12.30-1.00 -KAI TIME (lunch eating) happens across the school in small groups supported by classroom teachers. Good to remember if you are dropping your child's lunch off!
2.00-3.00 Continued learning programme within the teaching team
The exciting thing about our change of structure is that anytime between 9.15 and 2.00 there are multiple active outside Learning Coaches.
The role of the Learning Coach is to provide a balance of open-ended creative opportunities, teach specific sport and physical skills, social coaching, to challenge thinking, and be present and accessible for every child.
Over time, to compliment the trust you have in us as professionals, we will continue to inform you to build an understanding of what a learner-centered 21st-century school looks like.
We are all working with the same intent - that is we want the best possible environment and outcomes for our children and their learning. We've got this.
As a school with the vision 'Immersed in Learning', we continually challenge ourselves to take every opportunity to tweak, change, and adapt our practice to better meet the needs of our learners. We now know more than we ever have about how the brain develops and what key elements support children to learn the appropriate skills and concepts to be successful in this fast-changing modern world. This, alongside seven weeks of unforeseen distance learning work thanks to COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to consider the structures we have in place and question whether they are reflective of current research and best practice.
Research shows that children need the opportunity to develop their own agency around their learning. Learning should be designed in ways that allow students to develop their ability to make choices, access a range of environments, and be active participants in their learning (Elmore, 2016). When learners have the power to be active in making decisions about their learning, intrinsic motivation, creativity, higher-order thinking, and overall achievement tend to increase (Toshalis & Nakkula, 2012).
We are excited to introduce a slight tweak to our timetable across the school. Our intention is to extend the learning and play opportunities beyond the classroom walls and better utilise not only our physical environment but the skillset of our wider staff team to support learning. This will mean for an extended period of the day there will be a number of teachers in the role of a Learning Coach outside.
We are providing children with a flexible timetable that better supports their natural learning rhythm. We want to provide children with multiple learning opportunities daily and some choice and control over how and where they learn while being firm in the knowledge that ‘opting out’ is not an option. We have systems and structures in place to ensure that all children's needs are being catered for and met. Core curriculum subjects and skills are highly valued and taught as part of every learning programme across the school. Where and when necessary, or appropriate, additional support with a slightly more structured approach may be developed alongside whanau, i.e. visual timetables.
In trying to understand how your child’s learning may be structured you sometimes have to dig a little deeper into their classic answer of “I did nothing today” or “I just played all day”
Ask your child how their day is structured?; What do they like about it? How does it help them learn?; What thinking did they do as they played?
Below is a short 16-minute video from world-renowned educationalist Sir Ken Robinson that will help you frame up an understanding of why we think these questions and considerations around learning are important. Please take the time to watch it.