Educators NZ - Wellington school embraces Innovative Learning Environments

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Wellington school embraces Innovative Learning Environments

In a bid to bring their school into the 21st century, Wellington Girls’ College introduced innovative learning environments (ILEs).

When replacing old prefabs at the school, the staff began thinking about how the replacement spaces could work.

Teachers began brainstorming what classroom spaces would work well with new digital tools and more modern approaches to learning. Staff then visited schools in Auckland to see ILEs in action.

According to OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), an ILE can be defined as:

  • Learner-centred: With a focus of all activities
  • Structured and well-designed: With the role of teachers to support inquiry and autonomous learning
  • Profoundly personalised: ILEs are sensitive to individual and group differences in terms of background, prior knowledge, motivation and abilities
  • Inclusive: They are sensitive to individual and group differences in terms of learning needs
  • Social: OECD says learning is most effective when cooperative and in group settings

Following the school visits, the staff then incorporated what they learned into the design for these new spaces, deciding the best approach was the co-teaching model (two teacher collaborative learning spaces with attached breakout areas).

In practice, this means two teachers with two classes are in one space at a time.

The school has been using these spaces for the last four years and Principal Julia Davidson says the school loves having both ILEs and single cell classrooms. 

"We know ILEs don’t work in all situations and some teachers can feel a loss of privacy. But others feel really empowered and supported by their colleagues.

“The pupils like it too - senior English students agree the larger class groups make for better discussions and the co-teaching model with the change in approach to assessment means there’s more flexibility for managing time,” she says.

"We started by thinking about the method of teaching and that drove our changes. If we’d just changed the building without thinking about the teaching practice first it wouldn’t have worked for us,” Davidson says.

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