I don't particularly like acronyms... They are often used to mask ignorance or to impress those who are unfamiliar with the terms. Unfortunately education is filled with them!
Over the last few years two acronyms filling educational conversations have been MLE (Modern Learning Environments) and now ILE (Innovative Learning.....). The Ministry of Education is increasingly using these terms to describe the new school builds and the classroom upgrades that are taking place around the country. An example of this is two articles online today (which really led to this rant taking place).
I have been fortunate over the last couple of years to visit a large number of schools. This has included brand new schools and schools that have made the decision to redesign their environments. It is highly evident that there is considerable difference in school's responses to what an MLE means. At this stage I need to make it clear that I am not one of those leaders who has their head in the sand.... I believe schools need to adapt to remain relevant and to prepare our learners for their futures. What I am challenging is the large amount of money that is being spent on peripheral items that are not proven to have any impact on increasing learning opportunities.
Importance of Leadership
I have often had the opportunity to listen to a leader talk about what is happening around their school and then observe the complete opposite. During one recent school visit a colleague and I actually believed it was interval given what the learners were doing.... only for the bell to ring. Free range teaching and learning was the phrase that came to mind. I have then been exceptionally impressed by a school which has redesigned itself around it's vision with little expense. I believe it comes down to some key work from Julia Atkin- From Beliefs and Values to Principles and Practice. Schools that had a coherent vision from all staff seemed to be making a positive difference.
Considering the amount of money being spent by the Ministry you would imagine there was considerable research that pointed to increased student achievement. Actually after watching Cool Runnings last night ('All I'm saying, mon, is if we walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican, and *is* Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican'). shouldn't this research be NZ based?.....
Currently our lead team is working with lecturers from the University of Waikato investigating 'fit for purpose' learning environments. Based on this research we will then consider what the class layout, use of technology and furnishings will be.
Acronyms can't hid that teachers make the difference to students progress and achievement. Their ability to form effective relationships, to coach students and instil dispositions that will be useful for life will always be needed.
I look forward to sharing our (acronym free) journey with you. With our learners at the centre of every decision made.