As Term 3 begins in New Zealand, I always think that halfway through the year is a great time to check how everything is going in your innovative learning environment. When teachers begin to collaborate, one of the bonuses is the frequent "check in" moments. Those quick discussions at morning tea or the after school sessions when you talk about your day.
However, I also think it is important to really stop and reflect on how teaching and learning is working in your class. When you're working in an ever changing, evolving environment it's important to assess how you are doing!
I wanted to share two tools that I think are really valuable to support teachers in doing this. They could be used alone or together. The best thing, is they are both free! The first is the Core Education MLE Matrix. This has been around for a while and is still an excellent tool to track how your school or space is progressing, towards sustainable and mature innovative learning practice. Depending where you are on your ILE journey, you would use different parts of the matrix. It's a great way of seeing how far you have come and what your next steps might be. The questions also support you to check if you really are where you think you are.
How could you gather evidence to support where you think you fit on the matrix?
Could you involve learners or whānau as part of this process?
There are ten dimensions to explore and five process elements. There are also guiding questions posed as success measures around ubiquity, agency and connectedness.
The other tool that I recommend looking at is the Grow Waitaha Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. Once again, this is free and available on the Grow Waitaha website. Permission has been given for adaptations to be made. For those unfamiliar, Grow Waitaha is a programme running in Canterbury, supporting education renewal in the area after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
The Monitoring and Evaluation Framework describes the areas that schools need to consider if a future-focused vision is to be realised. When in use with a school it effectively becomes a ‘tool’ that can be used to monitor progress over time. Its purpose is for schools to be able to evaluate, plan and monitor their progress throughout their build process to ensure that they will be in a position to maximise the potential of their new or redeveloped spaces.
Although designed to support schools through the building process, it could easily be adapted for use in your ILE. The framework identifies nine aspects that enable schools to advance with their transformation of teaching and learning practice. Schools can identify where they think they fit on a rubric, reflect and plan out next steps accordingly.
If you use these tools, it's important to remember that no ILE is the same and they are ever changing, evolving places. Changes in staffing, learners, community, leadership and buildings can all have an impact on teaching and learning. It's not a race to get to the "final column" of these tools and to stay there. Often, it's a case of forward and backward movement, revisiting something that has fallen by the wayside, deciding that you need to go back in order to move forward.
Two examples I have seen recently of this have included:
A teaching team who has moved into a new, purpose built learning environment. They have needed to revisit collaboration with their learners and really build some understandings about working together in their new space. They had done some prototyping of this in their previous environment, but the learners are struggling to transfer these skills.
A teaching team that has had several staffing changes. They have needed to go back and redevelop their shared vision for innovative learning, in order to make sure they move forward together as a cohesive team. They are also planning how to include their learners in this process.
Speaking of the learners, there is the other piece in this process. Half way through the year is always a great time to collect some student and community voice. Check out this previous blog post on Student Voice in the Collaborative Classroom for some tips!
How best could these tools be used in your space?
Could you include them as part of a staff meeting?
Would your collaborative teaching team benefit from looking at them together?
What other questions do you still need to ask?
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.