Parramatta Catholic Education Office tours Elsternwick

This week I have had colleagues from the Catholic Education office in Parramatta NSW visit Elsternwick Primary to look at the use of flexible learning spaces, how technology is embedded into facilities and the curriculum, as well as a model of Inquiry learning. It was a privilege to be asked to share our journey so far as we talked through the various opportunities and challenges involved in utilising flexible [note flexible does not always mean open] learning spaces. We talked about one of challenges for teachers is opening or de-privatising their instruction practice within these spaces to their colleagues.

One of the challenges we can face is from senior teachers who remember the open learning spaces of the 1970’s where teachers often created make shift walls to fill open spaces. There was often little or no pedagogical thinking, data informed research or professional learning to support teachers working in these spaces in the 1970’s. I know I taught in these spaces in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

This has changed in the 21st century with lots of research to suggest that when we improve teachers instructional capacity we improve student learning. Note I am connecting flexible spaces with opportunities to deprivatize our work so that we challenge our anchors of the past and search for new instructional ways to engage and enrich learning. When we explicitly teach students collaborative learning and interpersonal skills within an inquiry framework we get improved learning outcomes as the understandings students develop are far deeper and more connected to real life situations 

We now understand that students need explicit teaching of skills and concepts but a deeper framework that enables then to construct understandings and action their learning.

I hope to remain in touch as their journey in Parramatta continues.

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3 Responses to Parramatta Catholic Education Office tours Elsternwick

  1. mwalker says:

    Thanks Greg and John for your comments. As you both say our work is to support and respectfully question our practices so that we can start a dialogue with teachers who daily make the difference with our youth. Perhaps our work as leaders is help bridge theory and practice for teachers. I remember an old ABC radio science segment which started with the question “Why is it so?”. I say lets not race to judgements in our quest for improvement but rather learn to ask the right question/s and seek multiple answers so that we can all learn.

  2. John Gildea says:

    Mark, as one of the colleagues who visited your school please accept once again my thanks for your willingness to share your school’s vision with us.I was particularly struck by your clear focus on a process for change; begin with the pedagogy and shared views on learning and from that comes the natural progression to more flexible and agile spaces to allow the collaborative, inquiry based learning to flourish.I was also impressed by how much student voice translated into your planning and development.It seems clear your school is leading some wonderful learning journeys! Your community is blessed to have yourself and your dedicated team of teachers committed to the best learning possible for their students.

  3. Greg Whitby says:

    Mark, we often spend some much time reinventing the wheel ourselves in education; it’s great when we find colleagues on similar journeys of discovery like us. The real benefits in visiting similar learning communities is that it affirms the directions we are taking and uncovers many possibilities and strategies, which we may have come to sometime in the future but now have been put right before us.

    I too, remember the open learning spaces of the 1970s and your comments are spot on. Suspicion and disregard of current directions are often based on simplistic comments like ‘we tried that 30 years ago and it never worked then’. This ignores the reality implicit in your comments that the implementation strategy of the 70s was flawed from the start. Opening the classrooms was not a response to an attempt to deprivatise or personalise, it was seen as just another stand alone school improvement strategy in much the same way as its successor ‘school based curriculum development’ failed in the 80s.

    Our approach in Parramatta has been to begin a dialogue with our teachers around an appropriate learning model for today’s world. This starting point, while it may take time, is opening wonderful responses by talented and committed teachers who want to do three simple things: the first, to do the best for their students and the second is, to share their practice with colleagues and thirdly, learn from each other.

    The diversity and innovation, which is arising from this is wonderful. In fact, we have moved from innovation to ingenuity because our teachers are building sustainable models for learning and teaching – firmly rooted in sound theory and practice.

    We talk about this success as our theory of practice. Keep sharing the great work at Elsternwick PS.

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