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Making the Shift: Perceptions and Challenges of Modern Learning Practice

As we move into the third millennium, Modern Learning Environments (MLE) - also referred to as Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) – have been strongly backed by educators, both internationally and within New Zealand. These open and flexible spaces are claimed to effectively support a range of student-centred, strengths-based pedagogies - dubbed Modern Learning Practice (MLP) - where teachers and students can engage in more personalised, ubiquitous and collaborative teaching and learning. Set within an educational context of a holistic national curriculum, a new way of thinking about schooling in New Zealand is emerging, with a strong focus on life-long learning skills and competencies. Endorsed financially by policy-makers and philosophically by educational thought leaders, the physical landscape of education in New Zealand is rapidly shifting. However, for a change of such magnitude to take place in public education, there must be clarity of message when establishing links between the physical environment, corresponding practice and their collective impact on student learning. It is a potential disparity in definition and purpose around what, exactly, constitutes MLE and MLP that this study explores. Specifically, in a school making the shift, what are the stakeholders’ perceptions of MLE and MLP? And what - if any - challenges are faced by a school’s learning community in implementing MLE and MLP? This mixed-method case study has created a snapshot of community perceptions at a recently renovated intermediate school undergoing a shift to MLP at a specific space and time. Through the use of surveys, interviews and focus groups, the perspectives of both the school and wider community have been gathered and thematically analysed. The findings suggest that, although perceptions of the purpose of MLE and MLP were largely synergistic across all participants, challenges in implementation were highlighted, which create on-going questions that could affect the success of the shift at this school and others. Implications for further research into the impact of MLE and MLP on student learning outcomes are identified and recommendations are made at the practitioner, school and policy level – from the imperative for a vision that better aligns with student-centred pedagogies, to the need for more robust conversation about the competencies that are promoted in these contexts, and how to address the subsequent dichotomy with regards to current assessment standards. This study will be of use to any school that is planning to utilise MLE and their associated practices in the future, as it discusses potential challenges as well as possible solutions surrounding implementation.
Type of thesis
Murphy, C. (2016). Making the Shift: Perceptions and Challenges of Modern Learning Practice (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10523
University of Waikato
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