Monday, 5 October 2009

Poles apart

I am just returning on the train from two days spent at the Times Education Supplement exhibition at Olympia. We were asked by the organisers if we would support them in presenting the classroom of the future at their event. We were provided with 65 square metres in which to build the futuristic space.

I agreed to support TES as this was not the normal type of event we would attend and it was attended by teachers rather than designer and builders. These would include BESEC for example.

This event was very much attended by the users of our buildings. The exhibition would give us the chance to test some of our thoughts on the teaching profession. Our thinking in relation to learning environments has be driven by our own beliefs, research and guidance issued by the government. Our classroom of the future or learnspace as we like to refer to it is a flexible diverse and adaptable space. I believe the classrooms of the future will be heavily influenced by IT and furniture. In a single space we have tried to allow the ability for several activities to be carried in a single period. The activities could include create, investigate, communicate, generate, educate, collaborate and integrate.

Much of this is already adopted in the way primary children are taught. They use group working and project based learning. Their furniture is flexible and they sit on the floor or even outside. At secondary school everything changes. We use 56 square metre rooms with 30 seats and desks all facing the front where knowledge will be imparted.

What has been interesting from the exhibition has been the reticence from the teaching profession. I initially thought the issues were about fear of the IT. However I think the issues are deeper. The teachers seemed to feel by having a class broken down into small groups it would be too hard to manage and they wouldn’t have the time to control the students.

There is without doubt two very polarised camps. The design and construction industry seem to have aligned with the government and PfS in delivering new schools. At the conferences supporting this camp there are very few teachers. On the other side there are the teachers who have their own defined view. At present never the two shall meet.

We can't continue to design and deliver schools and spend all of this money and not engage and embrace the profession who will be working in them. The BSF programme is about transformation but at the moment we are delivering schools without the teaching practices aligned. We need to get an understanding from both sides and see how we can move forward together. We mustn’t forget the driver for this investment is to improve the futures of our children. Until we move away from the pressures of delivering grades there will not be the space to update how our teachers teach and our learners learn.

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