Page 40 - Independent Schools Magazine
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How teaching has evolved into a new dimension
Transforming classrooms into creative learning spaces
Mrs Caroline Hulme-McKibbin, new head at Kensington Prep School,
London, explains the transformation of learning spaces encouraging
 more independent and critical thinkers.
When I first arrived at the school I was struck by Kensington
Prep School’s forward-thinking approach and its vision to equip pupils for the future. The school has innovated teaching and learning around new principles of critical thinking, independent exploration and collaborative learning.
Teachers were concerned that pupils weren’t developing sufficient skills to succeed in this fast-paced world: they were risk averse, liked being spoon-fed and were people pleasers. But the real skills they need in an unpredictable future were different: flexibility, willingness to take risks, ability
to work collaboratively and at a deeper level, resilience, reflectiveness and more.
Ensuring academic rigour was
still key and teachers wanted to strike a careful balance between ‘toughening’ girls up and retaining their childhood. “We didn’t want to lose young children’s natural curiosity – in fact quite the
reverse we wanted to build on and develop the play-based learning
of the Early Years throughout
the school” says Deputy Head Claire Raines, and Head of the school’s Innovation Team. “Our
concern was that our ‘traditional’ classroom design was holding back the teaching and learning needed for future proofed learning.”
An innovative £2.7m ‘Creating Spaces for Growing Minds’ building project has been completed
(with £2m from the GDST, and £700,000 raised by parents) which has transformed classrooms into creative learning spaces. The new facilities now provide spacious classroom breakout spaces, a high-tech Explore Floor with multi- screens and moveable furniture, a recording studio and an eco- greenhouse.
The Explore Floor is perfect for project/immersion work and is a very versatile space. At the flick
of a switch with the multi-screens and a ceiling-mounted projector, the room can be converted into an immersive experience, for example, depicting London along the Thames, or a scene from a St Lucia rain forest. The new spaces have enabled the development of a Year 6 entrepreneurial project using the Explore Floor for all the summer term. This year pupils have been challenged to design and deliver a unique event or experience with the aim of raising funds for charity.
Throughout the school the breakout spaces have had a great impact and allow much more independent and collaborative learning. Pupils can work much more independently and together problem solving in small groups.
The role of the teacher has also evolved. The school trained teachers to be coaches and new technology was also introduced, encouraging pupils’ independence and IT confidence. The online learning platform ‘Firefly’ is now used throughout the school by pupils, teachers and parents.
Girls have iPads for research, flipped classroom learning and presentations.
The ‘Creating Spaces for Growing Minds’ project was the result of much research looking at the latest thinking from educational experts such as John Hattie
Erica McWilliam, Jane Simister, Carol Dweck and others. INSET days for teachers were devised with an internal ‘learning-to- learn’ programme and teachers have also undertaken a four-day foundation Coaching course with independent coaching experts. The focus of the pupils’ learning approaches now centre on the four areas of critical thinking, persistence, inquisitiveness and collaboration.
The Innovation Team has closely monitored and evaluated the impact of the innovative spaces and teaching and learning on the pupils’ learning. These included qualitative and quantitative evaluations from Year 2, 4 and 6 regarding working in new ways in their learning spaces, also listening carefully to pupil, parent and teacher perspectives.
The results demonstrate the new spaces have had a significant impact on the girls’ learning experience and achievements.
The pupils say they have more freedom in the resources they choose and the way in which they learn. They feel they have more creative freedom too. As one Year 6 girl said “I almost felt free in the Explore Floor meaning my ideas could go free.”
My aim is to continue to strengthen the school’s future- proofed education where children can be more independent, self- starting, resilient and collaborative in their learning; skills which are just as important as the 3 R’s.
  40 Independent Schools Magazine
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