Monday, 23 November 2015

Open plan classroom

Just a couple of points I want to make before you read the Age article below:
Open plan classrooms are not new. I remember doing a teaching round in the early 80s at Somerville in an open plan classroom.
Teaching spaces should not be closed boxes ( which is the case in many secondary schools) Visibility equals accountability.
Staff collaboration is essential in modern teaching and is aided by open plan teaching spaces.
Some students do find these spaces too noisy and disruptive.
It encourages collaboration amongst students and facilitates mentoring.
Some teachers don't like it, it doesn't suit their style. They don't need to 'team teach' ( teachers shouldn't be forced to do that) but they need to 'get over' open learning spaces. sorry... but they do.
Principals should not force teachers to team teach. They often do, thinking a great teacher will help a struggling teacher. the jury is still out on that.
These spaces need the right furniture, lighting and access to technology.
Some of these spaces are frustrating because there are no display boards or storage! Architects should not be allowed to design schools without an experienced teacher looking over their shoulder!
Open plan doesn't mean 'free for all'! Teachers need to still manage their classes.
Oh and I should say, you could only describe my classroom as open plan! It works perfectly.

Having said all that....now read the article below.

They knocked down walls to revolutionise learning and now they are putting them up again.  
Open-plan classrooms have caused nothing but trouble for many schools, which are putting up partitions and walls to counter the deafening noise created in the barn-like spaces.
Distracted students and teachers with strained vocal chords are another unintended consequence of the open-plan classroom trend, according to Macquarie University PhD candidate Kiri Mealings.
"They are definitely not suitable for critical listening activities with young kids," she said.
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Research by Ms Mealings released this year found 50 to 70 per cent of surveyed children said they could not hear their teacher very well, or at all, in open-plan classrooms.
"The teachers in the poorly designed classrooms were also struggling with vocal health problems," she said. "We had teachers resigning and having to take lots of days off."
At Laverton P-12 College, about 300 students learn in the same open-plan space.
The school has developed protocols to minimise noise and disruption in its four open-plan buildings, all of which were constructed in the past seven years.
Teachers avoid singing, clapping and rhyming activities with primary school students. Principal Richard Jones said students struggled to hear oral presentations and discussions, which also disrupted adjacent classes. 
A large proportion of students speak English as an additional language and need to hear to develop their oral language skills, he said.
In a bid to restore the peace, the school is installing flexible, floor-to-ceiling glass walls in its open-plan buildings. Mr Jones said this was part of a broader push to lift the school's academic performance.
"We need to be able to hear students read," he said. "We need to be able to hear students answer questions in full sentences. We need to make sure we are developing those skills."
Open-plan classrooms were briefly popular in Australian schools in the 1970s and re-emerged as an education trend about a decade ago.
Many schools say they help students collaborate, encourage team teaching and put the focus on students.
Business is booming for Tony Haydar, who runs Portable Partitions, a company that manufactures and supplies mobile room dividers to Australian businesses and schools.
In the past two years, his company has installed partitions in more than 200 open-plan classrooms nationwide.
"The main issue is distraction," he said. "In open-plan classrooms it is hard to maintain the focus of the students from both a visual and acoustic point of view."
Mr Haydar said schools rushed to roll out open-plan classrooms because they did not want to be left behind. "They went along with what everyone else was doing, even though it wasn't their gut instinct."

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/schools-hit-a-wall-with-openplan-classrooms-20151123-gl5vo8.html#ixzz3sOEPQ5Ci 
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