Friday, 27 September 2013

Activity-based work spaces - the Commonwealth Bank

Yesterday a small group of colleagues and I had the opportunity to tour Commonwealth Bank Place in Darling Quarter as part of our research into the built environment, particularly with reference to the relationship between space and function. the opportunity arose through a parent at our school.

These buildings are on the leading edge in Australia of activity-based work. ABW recognises there is a spectrum of work styles, demands, functions and activities and that each day, people will have different activities to complete requiring varying levels of concentration or collaboration. Activity-based working delivers the working environment and tools for staff to choose different work styles to suit their work activities. 

Our question was: what can our school learn from this emerging field of thinking about workspaces?

There was lots to enjoy and appreciate about the tour. In no particular order of reflection:
  • Furniture can provide quiet nooks, privacy and isolation - you don't necessarily need walls!

  • Digital technologies are the great enabler of flexibility. If you don't need access to lots of paper files/records/documents, you don't need filing cabinets - nor do you need somewhere to dump your stuff! With mobile phones, you don't need a landline; with a laptop you don't need much else!
  • Atriums are great for visibility, light and generating a sense of connectedness

  • Even in a very big space, there can be a very human sense of connection created by being able to see lots of people getting on with doing their own thing - sitting, walking, talking, as individuals or groups. (Unfortunately, the people are absent from these architectural shots!) 

So what are the takeaway lessons for the school?

Not sure yet - other than that furniture is a key consideration in any construction of space!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Reflecting on change

The Association of Independent Schools (NSW) have developed an excellent resource called Embedding Excellence, which is a program providing a structured approach to school transformation. Information about the program can be found on the AISNSW websiteOne of the resources available through the program is a brief article that is one of the best things that I have read on change management in schools - an area of intense interest to me.

The article suggests the following elements as key drivers of transformational change:

  • the purpose of the change. In schools, there must be clarity that change is taking place in the interests of improving the learning outcomes for all students.
  • building capacity for change. The key here is building sustainably for the long term, developing the skills, knowledge, resources and structures that will be integrated for enduring effect
  • understanding the change process. The process is not linear, it ebbs and flows, and all the elements of change do not coalesce predictably.
  • establishing a culture of learning and evaluation. Significant learning happens in and through the shared experience of peers, so structures ought facilitate collaboration. This culture must also embrace evaluation, not uncritical embrace of change for changes sake.
  • distributing leadership. Both formal and informal leadership are needed to take responsibility for bringing about change around the strategic intent - the moral purpose.
  • resilient and resolute persistence for change. "The change process requires pushing ahead without being rigid, regrouping despite setbacks, and not being discouraged when progress is slow."
Lots to think about ....

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Vicious and virtuous circles in teaching practice

I have been thinking about vicious and virtuous circles recently. Cause and effect rarely run in a simple linear fashion, whereby one thing leads to another and then to another without other factors, the environment and the complexity of life coming into play. the key question seems to me - where and how to intervene?

A simple example: A teacher wants to use ICT devices in their classroom. However, some of the students don't bring one. This causes the intended learning experience to flounder, which diminishes the teacher's willingness to try it again. As the teacher uses the devices less and less, more and more students don't bother to bring their device and there becomes less and less chance that an ICT-integrated lesson will work well.

How can this example of a vicious circle be remedied? At what point can an intervention be made that could help the vicious circle to become a virtuous circle? Is it in the teacher's resolute determination to persevere, despite the difficulties? Is it in the school mandating that students bring a device? Is it in the school's provision of resources such as additional 'at the shoulder' expertise to bolster the teacher's confidence?

What other vicious circles exist in schools?