Standard 4: Create and maintain safe, and supportive learning environments
2016 - 2018 Application
Students, irrespective of their backgrounds, unique learning styles and interests are most prepared to learn in places where they can relax and secure. Their participation in learning may be constrained if they feel uncomfortable, unsafe or afraid in their educational environment. Providing a comfortable, appropriate learning environment is as essential to students’ success as any teaching strategy or educational tool. An “inclusive”, supportive and safe classroom environment, is one in which different kinds of knowledge, different approaches to learning, and different belief systems are not only expressly recognised and respected, but also valued and affirmed.
Effective learning can only take place if a student feels secure enough to share their opinions and thoughts. Teaching time, resources and the physical space must always provide a challenging, safe and supportive environment for learning.
In order to provide students with this safe environment I always employ and encourage the following:
• collaboration with students to develop a group agreement that sets the parameters for class discussions and activities (especially in the Science lab)
• value all student contributions and make this known
• use a range of questioning techniques which open up discussion rather
than trying to get to a quick right answer
• recognise that some students may not feel comfortable sharing; and employ methods to overcome this (think/pair/share, table tennis answers)
• explore ways to ensure that all students get an opportunity to speak, such as using talk tickets.
Carey is of course daring to be more than just a place where learning happens – our new Learning Spaces are environments where students are encouraged and challenged to create their own learning and learn from their peers! Over the past few years a lot of emphasis has been placed on reshaping our teaching and learning model to ensure that students are prepared for the 21st Century. While we are constantly bombarded with buzz words like differentiation, personalised learning and even more recently positive psychology, little thought has been placed into the deign of classrooms, the very place where learning and teaching takes place - that is until now!
At Carey our innovative spaces are a product of teachers changing how they teach and view student learning. Teachers like myself have realised that differentiated methods and varying learning expectations require an environment that is radically different from rows or groups of desks. As teachers have transformed their roles into facilitators of learning, they have found that standing in front of the classroom or lecturing is no longer prudent. Teachers and students need to be able to easily move and rearrange furniture, as learning needs change throughout the day. Students need to talk to one another and collaborate with each other to make meaning of their learning; rows, even clusters, of desks, make collaboration difficult. Creating comfortable spaces that reflect the world outside of the classroom allow students and teachers flexibility to move, communicate, and express themselves in creative ways.
In my classroom students and teachers work together in many different ways. At one point, a student may be researching and need a quiet space to focus. This space is called “the cave.” In the next 15 minutes, that same student may need to pull his or her team together to share the information and plan for next steps. This dynamic is called “the campfire.” In another 20 minutes, I may need to pull the entire class together to allow time for students to report back to the class on their discoveries - this is known as “The mountain top”. This kind of flexible learning requires furniture that is as mobile and fluid as the people who use them.
2013 - 2015 Application
While we continue to reshape our teaching and learning model to ensure that students are prepared for the 21st Century, we must also concentrate on the classroom – the very place where teaching and learning takes place! By planning, redeveloping and trialing a new classroom layout I have been able to implement and encourage true 21st Century skills and effectively improve student learning. By exploring this new approach to engage and support all students, I have dramatically changed my teaching process to support more student participation, manage engagement and encourage student ownership of learning.
My work in the Junior School (Year 4) also allows me to influence and assist teachers in developing and maintaining a safe and inclusive environment. I have been a key player in the Year 4 Action Learning Team which has investigated the use of technology in the Media and I have successfully lead the team to develop appropriate circle time efocus discussions.
My skills as an expert origami folder have also allowed me to develop strong relationships with the Year 3 and 4 students!