Monday, 1 May 2017

Aligning pedagogy and buildings for creativity and excellence

It was Sir Winston Churchill who said 'We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us". We have completed detailed design, the contracts have been let, and the contractors are on site for our (almost) complete school rebuild.

We have taken our time to think carefully about the pedagogy that we think should drive learning at Hornby High School. Remember that 'pedagogy' is just a piece of jargon meaning 'how we cause learning to happen'. Our pedagogy is best described by these three words 'Learn Create Share'. - the pedagogy of Manaiakalani. From that we chose to make our mission to be 'A centre of creative excellence'. How have we tried to make the built environment reflect that vision, and that pedagogy?

Our first desire was to try to make the school (well the school entrance) as little like a school as we could. That was the second thing I ever said to the architects, and this is the result - the Waterloo Road entrance to the school as it will appear later in 2018.

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Why did I want that? If we are to succeed in engaging whanau and community, we have to break down the barriers that many may feel based upon their own often less than inspiring experiences of schools in decades past. I wanted to make sure that the architecture would present the least barrier possible.

The next question was - how can we create buildings that support creativity?

In it's most obvious form, in our specialist teaching spaces we have placed the creative arts at the centre of those spaces, with sciences, foods, and technologies placed physically around them.

It seemed obvious to us (and the architects) that creating 'functional adjacencies' (don't you just love that jargon? It means making use of the cross-overs or common elements between different departments) would more likely support teacher and student collaboration. So we placed these subject areas together. We want staff AND students to share their ideas around the creative process.

In the more general teaching spaces we have created a mix of small and large spaces that support student collaboration (working together). We have also made sure that there are plenty of spaces that will support student activities creating .. well, creating 'stuff'. So our 'learning hubs' as we currently refer to them will all have areas suitable for lower end sciences, arts and technologies. By 'lower end' I mean those that require less in the way of specialist equipment rather than meaning less demanding. It's all demanding. Our aim is to support the process and the act of creation, whether it be in drama or foods, electronics or painting, chemistry or physics.

All of these spaces surround a whare and a central courtyard. We are a community, a community that values and respects its cultural origins, and its need to work, live and play together.

Our current challenge is to reshape our pedagogy, those approaches that we use to cause learning. We see this as a step by step process. While schools elsewhere in the world have done this, we cannot expect to simply copy their journey and their solutions. No-one has done this before in our Hornby secondary school community, we have to develop our own solutions, our 'Hornby Way' if you like.

The basis for excellent achievement right throughout the school is the development of high level skills in the junior school. One of the strategies we are using to improve those skills at the junior level is to extend our 'connected curriculum' from Years 7 and 8 into Years 9 and 10.  The highly successful business kete, and arts kete, developed and run in Years 7 and 8 are being pushed out to Years 9 (2017) and 10 (2018).

A very successful trial in project based learning in 2016 is being further developed in 2017.

We are trying to take more learning risks; progress never occurs unless we are prepared to take risks. Our third strategic goal is "To foster inspirational, risk taking and enterprising leadership in all members of our learning community". This goes for staff as well as students. And just as for students so it has to be said for staff that 'it's okay to fail'.

We are pushing hard to develop the use of digital tools in our students' learning. Digital tools are acknowledged as an accelerator of learning, as long as they are used with new pedagogies. Using new technology to do what we have always done is, as Alan November would say, simply creating a $1000 pencil. The evidence being accumulated by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre out of Auckland University supports the belief that the technology, combined with the Learn Create Share pedagogy, is an accelerator. Actually it's more than that, it's a game changer for our learners.

So we have shaped our buildings, and we are shifting our pedagogy. When the first of our new buildings is opened in later 2018 we'll enter that phase where our buildings will shape us. We will make yet another step along the path of our journey to become 'A centre of creative excellence'.

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