Questions, Teachers and Learning Spaces…

Next year at the school of which I am privileged to call myself Principal, the College will implement two initiatives in 2013. They are:

1.      For Year 7, an inquiry based approach to cross curricular projects which result in richer, deeper learning; and,

2.      For Year 11 SOR, a blended approach to learning which results in acceleration of the cohort to sit the HSC at the end of Year 11.

These initiatives will need to be supported with:

1.      A group of teachers who are flexible, innovative and understand their role as one of coach and facilitator;

2.      Student centred pedagogy within a guided inquiry framework;

3.      Access to a reliable Learning Management System; and,

4.      Effective and efficient timetabling.



Yesterday, I sent an email to teachers. Attached to that email were plans for agile, flexible and contemporary learning spaces. The email read as follows…..



Hello All,


Following on from our Briefing this morning, please find attached plans for G2.


At this stage…..

For 6 lessons per fortnight, Rooms 4,5,17 & 18 will be used for Year 11 SOR 1.

For 12 lessons per fortnight Rooms 4, 5, 6, 16, 17 & 18 will be used for 12 lessons of Year 7 (4 x Eng. 4 x RE & 4 x HSIE) per fortnight

For 6 lessons (3 doubles) per fortnight All G2, that is rooms 4,5,6,7,15,16,17,18, will be used for Connected Learning.


A total of 24 lessons. Hhhmmm, what to do with the other 26 lessons per fortnight?


For the remaing 26 lessons, who gets first choice to use those rooms? Will everybody want to use those rooms? What happened to the teacher’s desk? Will any teacher want to use these rooms, now? What if students want to use those rooms but the teacher doesn’t? What if the teacher wants to “go in there” but their class doesn’t? What does “in there” mean? What is “in there”? And before you say, “It doesn’t worry me because that’s not my room”, should there be questions about “room ownership”? Is it more about the room or about the Learning Space? How will this Learning Space change the way I teach? If there is no teacher’s desk, am I really the teacher, or am I just another learner?


Dear Sir and Miss,


Can you please guide me as to whether or not I am asking the right questions?




5 thoughts on “Questions, Teachers and Learning Spaces…

  1. Hi Greg,A group go us from the Sale Diocese visited Corpus Christi Catholic High School in Oak Flates, south of Woolongong earlier this year. They have an integrated & inquiry based curriculum yrs 7 – 10. It is really well done. They welcome visitors. Check their website. Worth investigating. Their opproach my provides some ideas for you.David

  2. As soon as you remove the teacher’s desk from a classroom you remove that focal point of the teacher as the source of all wisdom and knowledge. This forces the teacher to go in and among and multiple centers of gravity can emerge. This is both liberating and challenging for the teacher and at the same time empowering for the students. I was surprised recently to have a discussion with a couple of Uni students who raved about the benefits of working on a task in the ‘Commons’ – a lecturer-free student study area with round tables and lounges. There is that shift to Bloom’s higher level skills so that learning goes beyond just understanding and recalling, to analyzing and evaluating, where students are asking the questions. It becomes about ‘how’ they learn, not ‘what’ they learn. Teachers need to ‘see’ this. I would imagine that after a short while teachers working in this space would forget about the open spaces and students would learn with each other. Perhaps there needs to be some PD around using these spaces, or peer coaching? Teachers need to be given permission to dare. Maybe students can teach the teacher about how this space is best used? So for the other 26 lessons maybe the Year 11 remain and the other teachers of these year groups are taught by the students how they use this space. Teaching the teacher and preparing students for life beyond the classroom. .

  3. To develop a suitable environment for creative thinkers requires a unique approach that acknowledges the specific context of all critical learners. Teachers should perhaps be referred to as learning architects who use space in a way that appreciates the creative possibilities that can arise from thinking ‘outside the square’.

  4. Question frameworks are valuable. Asking "Am I asking the right question?" is the right question.One of my favourite Authors is Tom Peters @Tom_PetersHe is Captain Chaos, but paradoxically complete gets the people elements. In one of the resources on is site: top 50 Have Yous, the trend is people/relationship focussed, but within that, the energy is put towards sustaining strong relationships that have a focus of design.32. Have you in the last two months had a presentation to the group of a cool, beyond-our-industry ideas by two of your folks?The thing that strikes me about the space above, is that it is both a pedagogical space, but more so, is a symbol of your (MDCC) commitment to change/innovation/design. The question may be, as per point 32. above, not simply "What face to face learning can take place here?" but, "What things we haven’t thought of, can we do here that facilitate design and innovation around how we all learn?An example would be the dynamic that has developed in the Hospo space while we have been innovating has been… contagious.. and very different to the energy that we are consumed with while ‘at our desks?’.It may be, that by seeing the space as a potential space, you may be redesigning work space in general? Maybe the question is, "This is not a classroom. What is it?" "Who will use it?" "How will they use it?" "When will they use it?" This is what you have posed above, and the answers to those will by dynamic.It may be the template for a shared learning space for all of the learners in our community – including adults. NBCS has a shared lunch room? Maybe this space foreshadows a shared design space, where people are collectively engaged in responding to the demands of their learning.These are the questions that occur to me. 🙂

  5. I found the quote I wanted:Attitude beats capital improvements—spend the bucks on the people, not (or more than) the plywood. Review your budget upon completion (the point at which you momentarily lock it down). Having given it your very best shot, immediately cut the capital budget by 15%–and put the entire sum into people programs. – Tom PetersIt is absolutely essential to design and innovate around systems, structures, and capital, but without a commensurate investment in people it comes undone.I am not certain of the figures, but the project you outline above is probably pretty close to this. The significant "cost" and "innovative mechanism" is people.Maintaining/sustaining/selling that – and having all the people feel like they are part of the investment is the goal, I am sure.

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