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The IAG Innovative Learning Environment

The OECD‟s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) through the Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) project analysed how young people learn and under which conditions and dynamics they might learn better. By identifying concrete cases of innovative learning environments from all over the world, ILE aims to inform practice, leadership and reform through generating analysis of innovative and inspiring configurations of learning for children and young people.

The distinctive contribution of the ILE project is to analyse with numerous international examples innovative ways of organising learning at the micro level (learning environment) and how this connects to the meso level (networks and communities of practice) and strategies to implement learning change at the macro, system level.

As part of the ILE project over 120 short reports on innovative learning environments from more than 25 systems around the globe (the ILE Universe) were collected. 40 of these innovations were then researched in detail and constitute the project Inventory, an analysis of which has led us at IAG to build on the findings to develop the model below.

At the heart of all Innovative Learning Environments is the Pedagogical Core. This is the heart of the system and is rightly centred around the learners for whom the system exists. The ILE project identified that the key elements of an effective pedagogical core at the heart of an effective school model is the relationship between, learners, content, educators, and resources.

These areas are present in all schools yet the relationship between them is not always considered deeply enough when designing the structures and systems of both the learning environment and the experience of learning. In many cases each of the above areas are taken for granted and only once activated is evidence found to justify the forms they have taken. We at IAG work from the evidence base up, looking first to examples of best practice to shape these four elements of our school system. By being research led, informed and engaged we can ensure that innovation is deliberate and not faddish.

IAG sees Learners in the traditional sense but also views teachers and parents as learners to. As such we will build structures to ensure these learners are catered for. Such structures include our Advisory, our Leadership Communities, and our research pathways. We also view our learners as lifelong-lifewide. We educate them not to solely achieve short term goals, passing summative assessments which represent just a fixed moment in time, but to grow as learners with a capacity for ongoing self-directed learning lifelong and lifewide. In many systems the learner experience and education which is endured, to be survived, here at IAG we seek to empower all learners to thrive.

IAG sees Content (knowledge, competences, attributes and values) from the perspective of interdisciplinary and real-world contexts. For us teaching a prescribed content, often out of sync with the needs of both learner and the wider community, is irrelevant and of limited value to all concerned. Valuable content is that which is real-world, of worth to both the learner and society and applicable in the context of the Active Global Citizen. We will still ensure learner competencies in crucial foundational knowledge and skills, in particular hinge concepts which underpin both deep and broad knowledge construction. Content will be organised around Concepts and themes all of which will act as an umbrella for the design of challenging problems posed as inquiries for learners to engage with actively rather than being the passive recipients of ‘The knowledge’. In this manner Content will be dynamic, adapting in its form as a learners academic and social skills mature.

IAG sees Educators as including subject experts, advisors, parents and community volunteers. IAG will provide an innovative education through utilising as many people as possible in the role of the educator. This will supplement the core staff of advisors and experts with a more day to day role of leading and facilitating learning. Educators within IAG will work collaboratively designing and delivering the curriculum as they see fit while adhering to strict principles of rigour and collaborative problem solving. This empowerment of teachers benefits teachers as professionals and with that the learners. This is what we refer to as ‘Educators as Designers’.

IAG sees Resources (the materials of activating and supporting effective learning) as being diverse in nature and scope. Digital resources will be used to support our Blended Learning approach to pedagogy and to enable a ‘learning anywhere anytime’ culture. For us resources include the ever widening community. We will call upon the community, parents and carers in particular, to become resources for learning, supporting in and out of school learning such as getting involved in project work and providing internships. We will also ensure we offer innovative learning spaces, each of which will offer a different way of supporting learning. Learners will not sit at a desk all day, going to the same room at the same time each week for the same lesson. Fluidity in timings, pedagogy and schedules and personalised approaches to learning will be facilitated through the existence of a variety of differing learning spaces; places to work on your own, work in groups, to make, to design and to perform.

The Pedagogical Core of an IAG Education:

Developed from Innovative Learning Environments, (2013), Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing

Connecting the key elements above together within the Pedagogical Core is the ongoing relationship between Pedagogy and Organisation. Within the Core the OECD CERI organisation identify the intrinsic features of,

  • Learner grouping;

  • Innovative pedagogical options;

  • Rescheduling learning time;

  • and Teacher grouping.

With respects to feature 1 we at IAG organise learners into a variety of groups of varying sizes beginning with the truly mixed ability class, the IAG Team. Learners are organised within and between groupings depending on learning need (Master Classes), lesson structure (Advisory) and a students interest (Extended). Learners are also grouped by Language choice thus enabling enhanced opportunities for bi-lingual teaching and organised into Fluid Groups within English Literature & Language, Science and Maths to ensure the most effective an targeted teaching can occur at any given time. As IAG grows we intend to enhance our approach to grouping further introducing the tenets of Collaborative Group Learning and building structures which facilitate a closer relationship between a named educator and learner.

With respects to feature 2 we at IAG will predominantly apply inquiry-based, tech-rich models of pedagogy which will ebb and flow between individual (intrapersonal) and collaborative (interpersonal) learning. A strong application of formative feedback and feedforward, undertaken by subject experts, advisors and students alike will drive forward learning. The key for us is not to have a stagnant one size fits all pedagogy but to shift pedagogies from subject to subject, problem to problem and from learner to learner. At the heart of this is choice, agency and a learner self-direction.

With respects to feature 3 we at IAG will utilise flexible timetabling. In many schools a timetable is presented to a student at the start of the academic year and this remains unchanged. We will not apply such a schedule, instead a students schedule will be personalised, fluid and negotiated between advisor, learner and parent. Schedules will be reviewed three times a year with students gaining a variety of experiences while ensuring the optimum use of time for that child’s learning. To further this we will use a Blended Leaning approach with some learning activities face to face within the learning spaces and others online, thus enabling students to move forward at their own pace and making best use of the time available to them. To anchor a fluid schedule in systems we will observe a number of ‘Rituals’ such as end the day with Academic Advisory sessions, ending inquiries with a showcase of learning, ending the week with assemblies and ending the year with Graduation.

With respects to feature 4 we at IAG will provide a unique approach to teaching and support for each learner. Through the Advisory system a small group of teachers will become experts in the individual needs of the child, class and year group. To further this as the cohort of learners move up through the school their advisors will go with them. The Advisor is much more than a traditional school tutor with them taking a highly active role in guiding individual learning within all subject areas and especially though Advisory projects. Subject teachers will be paired up, delivering content to shared classes. This enables learners to experience collaborative teaching and relationships and will provide teachers with a supportive professional environment.

Learning, Information & Evidence and Learning Leadership

Developed from Innovative Learning Environments, (2013), Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing.

Driving the pedagogical core in perpetual motion are the 3 motivators, Learning, Information & Evidence and Learning Leadership.

As the diagram below highlights the role of these motivators is to inform the next; this is central to a formative and innovative learning environment such as that being created by IAG. Knowledge is central to learning. Knowing where you are, where you have come from shapes where you need to go as a learner and as an organisation.

We will develop highly innovative means of capturing, recording and measuring learning to inform next steps. Through the use of learning logs and e-portfolios learners will not only be able to recognise and record their own progress but will be able to share these achievements with a wider audience, especially parents and carers. This will also be a feature of teacher work which will, in terms of plans and expectations, be shared online with a wide audience. Transparency is a feature of democracy and as an organisation which promotes the values of liberation, transparency of all we do will be central to the experience of an IAG Education for Global Citizenship. Engaging with research will enhance the overall provision offered by IAG. As advocates of the learning sciences and engaging in research at varying levels, a research informed and engaged culture will permeate throughout IAG.

Leadership is essential to direct change and we see leadership which is truly ‘learning’ as being collaborative and democratic. This is why we will involve learners, parents, carers and teachers in the process of running the school. Democracy, voice and choice, will be palpable at every level of the school. One especially innovative feature will be our application of a Collaborative Leadership Model.

What is important about this model is the manner in which Learning Leadership feeds directly back into the role undertaken by the facilitating Educators. Subsequently, informed and guided, Educators make choices about the application of Resources and observe, measure and assess the impact upon Learners with this feeding into our robust systems of Information and Evidence collection and analysis. Thus the cycle begins again.

Extending Capacity Through Partnerships

Developed from Innovative Learning Environments, (2013), Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing.

A further feature of the innovative learning environment are those commonly overlooked by traditional school models, learning relationships with an ever widening community. We will foster partnerships with higher education institutions, in particular universities, colleges, companies, organisations and cultural institutions locally and globally. Such relationships will both support the pedagogical core but also offer support and guidance to our learning leadership. Relationships of this nature will be central to our ability to offer effective Internships as part of the Professional Pathways and to offer the real-world audiences for our authentic learning experiences.

Partnerships with families and the community are key. We want to be a true community school, open and transparent where we are of benefit to, as much as in benefit from those around us; in service to our community. Again such relationships will both support the pedagogical core and offer support and guidance to our learning leadership.

A final grouping of relationships can be drawn around us. We want to work with and not against other institutions of learning, primary and secondary, across the local, national and global educational landscape. We wish to work closely with other schools to help build an innovative learning environment in more than just our own context.

For us at IAG thinking this way about our own organisation is key. Considering what happens at every level as a school reflects the way we want our learners to view our world at an every increasing scale. We seek to establish ourselves as an ILE and recognise that to do so requires careful thought, planning and an approach which recognises the symbiotic relationship between all elements that make up an effective and innovative learning environment.
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