Criterion 4: Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of personal professional practice.
What is important(and therefore worth spending time on) given where my students are at?
This year I have been fortunate enough to have a classroom of new vibrant coloured modern furniture. My class looks amazing! I want to investigate David Thornburg’s campfire, watering hole and cave strategy and apply it to my environment and the way the students learn. My inquiry will be about the impact of my MLE and Thornburg’s ideas on student learning.
What strategies(evidence based) are most likely to help my students learn in this environment?
The campfire is a place for gathering information, this is the place for the expert to tell her ‘story’ and share ideas. Most of the furniture in my learning space is arranged with this in mind. Most of the chairs are facing the front of the class where the expert is likely to stand and deliver. I have not been doing a lot of this lately as I prefer to be the ‘guide on the side,’ however, after reading Thornburg I have realised that there is a need to have a balance.
The watering hole is where people meet, talk and process information. I have 3 big group tables which seat in between 6 and 8 learners. I also have smaller group settings such as couches and ‘splats’ (coloured hard beanbag type chairs) which seat 2-3. Much of my teaching involves group work and I like being able to go and sit with each group and discuss their learning with them.
The cave is the place to reflect, create and apply information. This is a quiet and solitary space and probably the one that I find the most challenging to create. I have a corner in my room with cushions on the floor for this purpose. I resisted the cave idea for a while because I saw it as a place for hiding away from the teacher and avoiding work. So my challenge here is to make it work!
Teaching and Learning
I noticed that my year 13 class, who are not expected to have a device, chose to sit at the tables instead of on the couches and splats. I asked them why they did this and one student summed up most of their responses by saying that it was easier to use pen and paper, if they had devices they would probably sit in the more relaxed seating. Thornburg’s theory is not fully realised with this class and at this stage they seem content with alternating between the watering hole and the campfire. Nothing wrong with that!
In contrast, my year 10 classes can’t wait for the watering hole part of the lesson to finish so that they can work in groups or by themselves. I have a couple of students who regularly use the cave area to work in. Most of the class love working in groups and enjoy all of the different types of furniture. Quite a few also lay on the carpeted floor and work.
During term one I had several incidents where students who were walking past my class poked their heads in and commented on how cool the furniture was and asked why other classes weren’t the same. It is clear to me that students love the colours and the variety of furniture. One student said that the colours made her feel happy! They make me feel happy too, I feel excited about teaching in my class! I found a great article on the Edudemic site about colours and their meanings which explains how colours can work in a classroom, this reinforced the opinions of students and also how I felt.
What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for further teaching?
Being aware of Thornburg’s work has enabled me to make my students aware of the watering hole, the campfire and the cave. Some students have become more confident about using different parts of the learning space to work in instead of thinking that they have to sit in a certain place. They seem more comfortable and relaxed as a result.
The result of having new furniture has been happier students who sometimes rush into the class so that can get the seat that they want. As I mentioned earlier, the colours and styles of furniture create a positive atmosphere which is a great platform for any lesson. I would not go back to ‘old school’ furniture if I had a choice (I’m not crazy!) and I believe that colour and variety play a big part in encouraging motivation and creativity. I can’t wait until every class in our school has modern furniture. A few of my colleagues can’t wait either!
Is there something I need to change?
As the term progressed I tried out different ways of arranging the furniture. I’ll probably continue to do this until I have an arrangement that works the best. I would like to create more cave areas although maybe I should just let my students do this as needed.
What are the next steps for learning?
For myself, I would like to find some research on Modern Learning Environments and the impact that they have on student motivation, learning and assessment results. I have done a little bit of research but did not find that much that was relevant. If anyone can point me in the right direction that would be awesome!
I just found this article: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-physical-environment-of-classrooms-mark-phillips. It supports my findings and also has some great ideas to consider.