JELPP – Volume 32, Issue 1 (Jun 2017)

In the mi[d]st of policy enactment: Leading innovative learning environments (ILEs) in New Zealand schools

Michele Morrison, Jeremy Kedian

Innovative learning environments: Beginning with the concept

Jeremy Kedian1 and John West-Burnham2
1Leadership Innovation NZ, New Zealand; 2University of Worcester, United Kingdom


There is an observable trend in a number of countries, of schools moving away from the traditional or industrial modes of school organisation and leaning towards what has become known as modern or innovative learning environments (MLEs or ILEs). This has created difficulties for educational leaders who have found the change problematic. This article addresses the need to develop an appropriate and comprehensive conceptual understanding of the ILEs in order to introduce a different learning model and environment. In this model the authors use the notion of architectures to describe the process of “building” the concept. They propose the development of learning, social, thinking, futures, organisational and physical architectures. The article is speculative, yet includes appropriate theorizing. It acknowledges that the notion of ILEs is new, and requires time to be refined and embedded in existing educational systems.


Innovative / modern learning environments; learning architectures; social justice; learning; innovation in schools

The “state of play” concerning New Zealand’s transition to innovative learning environments: Preliminary results from phase one of the ILETC project

Chris Bradbeer, Marian Mahat, Terry Byers, Benjamin Cleveland, Tom Kvan and Wesley Imms
The University of Melbourne, Australia


Driven by international trends and government policy, it is a requirement for all newly built schools in New Zealand to be designed as innovative learning environments (ILEs) with flexible learning spaces. These environments, celebrated by some for the “transformational” educational opportunities they may provide, also raise questions about whether the anticipated pedagogical value of these “non-traditional” spaces is based on idealised visions of teaching and learning rather than empirically derived evidence. Before such complex issues can be efficiently addressed, evidence of the actual “state of play” of ILEs is required. Drawing on New Zealand specific data from a large Australasian research project, this paper triangulates principals’ opinions, teachers’ perspectives, and the literature on some key preliminary issues: what types of learning spaces can be found in New Zealand schools; what teaching styles are evident in these spaces; what pedagogical beliefs are driving ILE teaching practices; and what types of learning activities are occurring in ILEs? The paper provides an evidence-based platform for further discussion about the opportunities and challenges surrounding the use and practice
of ILEs in New Zealand.


Innovative learning environments; teacher change; deep learning; teacher mindframes; New Zealand; evidence

Social justice and curriculum integration in a New Zealand primary school: A foundation principal’s view

Barbara Fogarty-Perry


Setting up a brand new primary school is always a challenge but with limited resources this challenge is exacerbated. A model of curriculum, developed by James Beane (1997) and defined as “Integrated Curriculum”, which used a democratic approach, was trialled in the new school. It was co-constructed with students and had not been previously used in a full primary school before in New Zealand. This proved to be yet another challenge. In this reflective narrative, the Foundation Principal shares her experience of the development of the model based on the principles of social justice and democracy and the unexpected results it brings.


Social justice; modern learning environments; curriculum; diversity

Disrupting the “paradigm of one”: Restructuring structures to integrate learning in a modern learning environment

Noeline Wright


Curriculum integration in secondary schools appears to be difficult to achieve in schools that are built on traditional models of single classrooms and a compartmentalised curriculum. The relatively insular nature of secondary school classrooms is, however, being upended in the design of new schools in New Zealand, which disrupt the single-cell classroom tradition. One principal of a new school labels this old model as the “paradigm of one”: a shorthand descriptor for the single-classroom, single-teacher, singleclass, single-subject, single assessment arrangements generally prevalent in such contexts. The aim of this principal and this new school is to provide responsive, connected, collaborative, and deep learning.

This article outlines efforts of that secondary school to restructure the “structuring structures” usually underpinning secondary schools, and organise learning. To that end, staff have interrogated, pulled apart and reconstituted the national curriculum document to provide an integrated learning structure. In rethinking conventional views of curriculum implementation in a secondary school, the school has created an innovative “logic of practice”.

I examine the thinking behind curriculum decision-making in this school and provide a glimpse of how this is played out in the first two years of its existence.


Structuring structures; logic of practice; new schools; curriculum integration; paradigm of one; modern learning environments; flexible learning spaces

Teacher leadership report: How student-led pedagogy in modern learning environments (MLEs) can improve literacy learning

Ann R J Briggs, Bek Gabites, Scott Mackenzie, Julie McIntosh, Josh Shelley, Peter Verstappen


Our teacher leadership story comes from two schools collaborating on a New Zealand Teacher Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) project exploring the effect of student-led learning practices on literacy achievement within modern learning environments (MLEs). Our rationale is that learning which is individualised for all learners leads to more equitable outcomes for all. It also enables student ownership of learning, which in turn increases success for all learners, measured through improved student engagement, positive shifts in attitude, and improved progress and achievement.

We undertook two cycles of participatory action-based inquiry to find out how successful collaboration and student ownership within the MLEs could impact on literacy engagement and achievement. We noted considerable progress in the development of key competencies, influenced by the transfer of ownership from teacher to student through choice, sharing of the curriculum, and engagement with the wider range of resources readily available in an MLE. Giving students a say in their topic and context increased their engagement and led to improved outcomes in literacy achievement. The support provided by our school management for teacher-leadership of the innovations has enabled research-informed student-led pedagogy to be developed at both schools.


Teacher leadership; Modern Learning Environment (MLE); student ownership; key competencies; teacher collaboration; literacy

A New Zealand case study: What is happening to lead changes to effective co-teaching in flexible learning spaces?

Jo Fletcher, Julie Mackey, Letitia Fickel


De-privatising teaching and working collaboratively with fellow teachers in purposively designed school buildings requires effective leadership. The principal is situated amongst those closely affiliated to their school such as teachers, parents and students, and yet they need to work alongside the wider school community, the school’s governing Board of Trustee members and national educational policy-makers and administrators. This article uses a single case study of a school leadership team who changed the school culture from traditional one teacher per classroom settings to four to five teachers with approximately 105 students in flexible learning spaces. The principal and three members of the governing Board of Trustees of the school were interviewed. The study found that the leadership team had invested considerable time into sustained professional development in ways to effectively develop collaborative teaching communities within flexible learning spaces. The professional development, led by the principal, was underpinned by the principal spending time seeking a clear understanding of research-based practices that supported the change. This explicit knowledge of the principal allowed teachers, Board of Trustee members and parents to have confidence in the changes to teaching strategies in flexible learning spaces.


Community of learning; co-teaching; innovative learning environment; case study; primary education; principal leadership; school change

Collaborative teaching in flexible learning spaces: Capabilities of beginning teachers

Barbara Whyte


Increasingly, New Zealand primary and intermediate schools are adopting the concept of flexible learning spaces and promoting team teaching approaches. Such open spaces and pedagogy can be challenging for even experienced teachers to adapt to. Is it realistic, therefore, to expect novices to work successfully in these challenging spaces from the onset of their teaching careers? Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes in New Zealand equip graduates with the knowledge and skills to plan, teach and evaluate learning for a diverse class of children with individual learning, social and cultural needs. However, while researching their own practice working within new spaces and pedagogy, some experienced Bay of Plenty intermediate and primary teachers articulated additional necessities for beginning teachers starting out in such complex teaching environments. Analysis of their ideas suggests such spaces require teachers to have particular capabilities if they are to work collaboratively in open learning spaces. This paper argues that ITE programmes and leaders need to be proactive and include appropriate theoretical and pragmatic coursework, to assist student teachers to cultivate the capabilities required of collaborative team members, by the time they graduate.


Flexible learning spaces; collaborative teaching; collaborative capabilities; novice teachers; student teachers

You have to start somewhere: Designing, tailoring and tinkering. A reflection on leading a change process

Christine Harris, Chris Panther


This story of leading change is written by the Principal and Deputy Principal of Thorrington School in Christchurch where the leadership focus has been to shift curriculum design and teaching practices to be more responsive to the needs of learners. The article considers the shift in the practices of twenty teachers over a three-year time frame. The school does not have purpose built Modern Learning Spaces / Environments (referred to as flexible learning spaces in this article) so considerations for moving towards flexible learning had to start with changing mindsets and pedagogy. Initially there was a group of early up takers from amongst the staff who adapted their classrooms, furniture and processes to implement a change in practice. Although other teachers in the school recognised the success of this team the impetus to change practice across the whole school was largely rhetoric. Over time school wide resultant change was an amalgam of purpose, support, and development of new skills and strategies. Various drivers for change were recognised as being helpful for some teachers but not for others. Changes in teachers’ mindsets happened independently of each other and at different times for different people but together they eventually combined to change the attitudes and behaviours of teachers towards flexible learning practices. Although student achievement data is improving in all areas across the school this article does not track the trajectory of student data for consideration nor does this article address the community consultation process that occurred alongside this journey.


Leading change; flexible learning; change drivers; teaching practices; physical spaces; pedagogy; future focus; mind sets

Assessment within ILP: A journey of collaborative inquiry

Linda Harvie, Steve Harper-Travers, Amanda Jaeger


Innovative Learning Pedagogies (ILPs) have given rise to much focus on the pedagogical changes required to ensure students work collaboratively, apply knowledge, create outcomes and communicate these outcomes effectively. One key element that has had much less focus is how students are assessed when working in an Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) and how this assessment information might be communicated to all stakeholders. As a school, we commenced our collaborative inquiry using action research-based Professional Learning to enable us to assess and track students who might not be in our assigned class and reflect upon whether traditional written reports to parents fitted the new pedagogies.

Key findings from collaboration with teachers, students and parents demonstrated the desire for a system of assessment that was online and allowed:

Higher levels of student voice and agency

On-going review so that the most current information about achievement and goals was available

Parents to share in the richness of their child’s learning journey

A holistic profile of the students, rather than one which purely focussed on academic achievements.

We believe that the outcomes of this assessment inquiry will have a significant impact on all teaching and learning in our ILEs.


Collaborative inquiry; assessment and reporting; innovative learning pedagogies; distributive leadership; developmental action-research