By: Clinton Llewellyn

A pupil in Waipukurau School’s composite Year 7 and 8 class works away in a comfy chair in the Innovative Learning Environment. Photo / Clinton Llewellyn

Waipukurau School might be turning 150 years old in October, but it has embraced the latest educational trend – Innovative Learning Environments.

For the 75 pupils in the school’s composite Year 7 and 8 class, gone are the days of regimented rows of desks and a lone teacher standing in front of a classroom that is quiet enough to hear a pin drop.

Instead, students can sit back on couches and comfy chairs dotted around the large L-shaped space, while they choose which of the “workshops” listed on a flatscreen TV they intend to complete that day – all under the supervision of not one, but three teachers.

Principal Tim Hocquard said the decision to introduce the new learning environment at the start of the school year was made with under-achieving students in mind.

“Our higher-achieving students are capable of learning no matter what environment they’re in, but for our students who are under achieving, nothing had really changed for them,” he said.

Pupils were encouraged to take greater responsibility for their education and become independent learners by choosing workshops they felt best suited their needs, he said.

Those achieving at lower levels had less choice and would be told what workshops to do based on their needs as identified by their teachers.

“What we have noticed is there has been an increase in the students’ independence with their learning and a lot of the lower-achieving students have become more engaged with their learning because they’ve got a choice – that’s the positive about it.”

Taking more responsibility for their own learning meant pupils were able to choose to sit with friends.

But Mr Hocquard said although the new environment was more “social”, there was no less discipline in the classroom and pupils still faced repercussions.

“Students know that if they are working with a friend then there’s an expectation they will be working and not mucking around. And because they’ve got three pairs of eyes on them, it’s harder for them to fly under the radar.”

Mr Hocquard said the teachers involved had found the increased collaboration between them “hugely rewarding” and “good lines of communication” and new technology meant parents were kept up-to-date with their child’s progress.

“The students are starting to share work electronically and we are using Google Classroom so the kids can take a photo of their work and upload it and parents can view it.”

Still only seven months into the experiment, Mr Hocquard said the signs were encouraging and the school was investigating whether the model could be rolled out in junior grades.

“There doesn’t seem to be any drop-off in performance.

“The students who were at or above the national standards are still at that level, but the ones who were below the national standards, some are poised to be at the national standard by the end of the year, which is great.”

Source: Hawke’s Bay Today


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