No. I haven’t become confused (at least – no more than usual). Nor have I become caught in a cyclical wormhole which intersects with the space-time continuum. After doing some more readings I am looking back to move forwards, considering what my teaching was like last year to what it will be when I return from study leave at the start of next year.
A school I’ve worked at began its modern learning journey ahead of physical structural changes. We addressed pedagogy. It was a small school which would typically average a class and at each year level. When we wanted to utilise the ‘power of three’ we split into two hubs – something which neatly coincided with the physical structures available. We made heaps of changes, learned a lot along the way and continue to do so. I strongly believe in ‘the power of three’ and the underpinning philosophies of MLE/ILE (whatever acronym it is up to now). I worked with incredibly talented, committed teachers and under sound educational leaders. The community cares a great deal for their children (as I suspect is the case everywhere). I was very blessed there.
However as I look back at what was happening and consider how those lessons can be applied to the future, I also wonder if there was a different way we could have established it in order to suit our specific context – how often though does one look back and go – ‘yep – that was perfect!’. I don’t actually know that there was another way we could have gone about it.
Yet at the same time, I suspect that part of the way our teaching was shaped was by the physical structure of the building itself, though we did our absolute best to decide pedagogy and then fit the building constraints around it. I wonder if our experience would have been different were we in a purpose-built ILE. It very well may be exactly the same. Again, given our drive was pedagogical in nature and concerned with our students’ needs in an every-changing society, I am not sure that a different context would have seen anything particularly different.
I also wonder how much of this reflection is prompted more by nostalgia and the socio-political policy expectations of outcomes. It is easy to look the the ‘greener’ future, only to turn and look back at the ‘greener’ past.
I have also recently begun to ponder the impact of the sensory rich MLE environment on those who are challenged by excessive sensory stimulation, mainly prompted by a random article I read. This is where I think soundproofing is key. Yet at the same time, the growth I see in students has been amazing, particularly with regards to the key competencies. Oral language growth was also incredible (in the junior school at least – I have no idea of the impact of MLE on oral language growth in the senior context where I did not teach). There was a tremendous growth in vocabulary and sentence structure, particularly as older students have worked alongside younger students on common interest. This growth of the tuakana-teina relationship has been excellent to see.
MLE has certainly developed a sense of ako (reciprocal learner-teacher relationship in which the roles switch) within our classroom. I would like to continue developing this.
With regards to MLE/ILE – whatever it’s called now – I’ll find out before I go back next year- I think one of its greatest strengths is the power of team teaching and having different age groups working together. I think where it can fall down is when one tries to fit existing, traditional practices under a new umbrella and call it something different. I think though, that this is true of regardless of the style of classroom that you teach in.
Some practices will remain the same, or at least very similar. But some need to radically change to enable MLE/ILE to reach its potential. I also don’t think that MLE/ILE is for every teacher or every student. I suspect that for some students a more ‘traditional’ classroom is just what they need, whereas for others it is one of the last things they need! As with many things in education and learning – there are many paths to the same goal and not all paths will work for all children.
So where to next? Well I am still pondering what play-based learning will look like next year. I have begun my self-directed paper focusing on where play-based learning fits in with the demands of the NZ curriculum and what this might look like in policy and practice. Hopefully this will provide me some of the answers that I seek.