My 8 yr old son had his teacher/parent interview a few weeks ago and as I sat in the classroom and took in the learning space it dawned on me that there was a very different style of teaching happening in this classroom. It piqued my interest and I decided to interview my son's teacher. The discussions that came out of these interviews have led me to understand that I am just seeing the tip of the iceberg in regards to the possibilities of flexible learning, and how if primary and secondary schools continue to develop in these areas then there will be a flow on effect to a greater extent in the tertiary system in the long run. The Dimensions of flexibility grid (Collis and Moonen, 2004) formed the basis of the interviews, I will concentrate on instructional approach and resources, delivery and logistics to compare and contrast the 2 interviews.
My colleague is a lecturer on the certificate in basic cookery which is a 1 year full-time programme. It is fixed in terms of start/finish dates and its criteria for entry is open. Her over-riding philosophy when designing and teaching is that the students will learn by doing and by making mistakes. The department has a commercial sector which incorporates a cafeteria, function department and coffee bar. There is a fine dining restaurant which is open to the public and is run by the cookery and front of house students, under supervision.
The students have access to course information through a number of forums, e.g. moodle, you-tube, on-line quizzes, class time. The students have choices within the 'organisation of learning' where they can submit work in a variety of forms, through word processed, verbal or practical processes and have measurable assessment techniques in place to provide fair evaluations and feedback.
Contextualised teaching is used where possible, eggs are cracked open, smelt, whisked, cooked and examined to understand how they cook, when they have gone off and many other observations. Videos on methods of cooking are used as teaching tools and downloaded onto moodle for the students to access at any time.
Reflection techniques are used continually to evaluate the effectiveness of the teaching, e.g. how well did it go? how can I improve? why didn't the student understand?
http://www.slideshare.net/ewan.mcintosh/seven-spaces-of-technology-school-building-design. The children have tote trays for their personal belongings, the desks have gone and there are different areas set up for different styles of working, e.g. standing areas,bean bags, swivel chairs, cushions, calculator desks, quiet spaces, learning caves, round tables.
The spaces are well planned with a clear vision from the teacher and collaboration with the children, the children spend the first week on an orientation programme to help them navigate their way through the new structure, there is daily discussion about why the child chose this particular space for their work.
The children have a class blog, they share experiences with other schools on skype. They have virtual learning networks and computerised maths tutorials.
The key to the success of the flexible learning spaces in the primary school classroom is the clear instructional goal the teacher has, her collaboration with the children in the set up and her communication with like minded colleagues in the virtual world of twitter and learning networks.
Casey, J., & Wilson, P. (2005). A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education. Retrieved from http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/docs/publications/flexible-delivery-a-practical-guide-to-providing-flexible-learning-in-further-and-higher-education.pdf
Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning in a digital world. Open and Distance Learning Series: Kogan Page Ltd.