Santa Clara School staff believes in a contemporary approach to teaching and learning. Following numerous studies in multiple countries, contemporary learning environments have become more prevalent in primary schools in Australia and around the world.
Contemporary Learning Environments refer to much more than just the physical layout and furniture choices in a classroom. It’s a combination of different structures, instructional strategies, and curricular approaches that allow a child to have access to what they need when they need it, to know what their next steps are in their learning, and to pursue areas of strength and interest – developing ownership of the learning process and independence in students
Flexible / contemporary learning spaces are a student focused approach to teaching a unit of work. The learning space is divided into smaller task focused spaces that relate directly to the learning behaviours student should display when working in each area. E.g.
- Cave: The cave is a space where students work independently to complete tasks – They can reframe ideas gathered from interaction with other students and stay focused on their own work
- Waterhole: The waterhole is a space where students work in small groups to complete tasks. They are encouraged to discuss, collaborate and share ideas.
- Campfire: The campfire is a space where the whole group / class meets to receive instructions,
These spaces provide a more personalised and independent learning experience for our students. We find that the physical constraints of a traditional classroom limit our ability to do this.
Santa Clara School’s flexible learning environments also address other elements of the learning environment such as how students are grouped during learning and how time might be used more flexibly during the day to allow students to gain the most from their learning experiences.
Integrated planning and conversations with colleagues in other subject areas / year levels allows teachers to develop common language for skills that go beyond the concepts explicitly mentioned in the curriculum. For example, writing a claim, supporting it with evidence, and using reasoning occurs in almost all subject areas, though not always in the exact same format. In a flexible learning environment, teachers more easily regulate their language, and students make overt connections between subject area content and important life skills. While this may not always show up explicitly in a standardised test result, students build their ability to see the world as inter-connected, which we know it is. It is our role as educators to develop flexible, independent, life long learners and this approach allows us to do so.