The Biggest Barrier To Learning, Is The Classroom Itself!


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Teacher Outside Students Tree

James Manwaring

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. He oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and has been working in music education for 16 years. James has been nominated for a National Music Education... Read more about James Manwaring

Is your classroom ‘holding back’ learning?

I don’t know about you, but I really love my classroom. Over the years I have adapted it, added, taken away; decorated and even hoovered it! I’ve covered it in photos, work displays and objects. I have moved around desks, computers and pianos. It is my home away from home and the scene of so much learning, but I wonder if the next step is to take the learning out of the classroom.

I recently blogged that I took the desks out of my classroom and this changed the learning entirely. 

My specialism is music and so often, it isn’t in the lessons that learning takes place, but it’s during a rehearsal or concert. For the average, non-practical subject classroom teacher, it might be more difficult to learn outside of the classroom, yet, I believe the classroom itself can be a barrier to learning.

Reasons

This can be for a number of reasons:

  1. It might be that you are teaching in a room that is not your own – your mark isn’t on the room.
  2. The room might sadly be a mess, not have enough chairs or be ill-equipped
  3. The very nature of sitting down on chairs  in another room is creating a barrier – especially by the afternoon if students have been sitting all day.

So, why not consider taking your learning elsewhere?

My mind goes back to that scene in The Dead Poets Society – a must see in my opinion. The maverick teacher of poetry takes his class outside to kick a football and teach them about poetry. It might be going outside or it might be finding a bigger space in the school. But I think that once in a while students need a change of perspective to get them to think differently.

Go Outside

Students also enjoy something different, risky and something that gets them thinking. The science lesson that takes place in the dark space of a drama studio, or the history lesson that takes place in the sports hall; students thrive on these experiences. I remember watching a lesson at my school, where the history teacher recreated trench warfare in the sports hall and I recall ‘taking my students out to the field’ to run around in order to create rhythms. I have seen English lessons take place in the music room and numerous geography field trips heading off into the local town …

Of course, moving learning means moving our planning – although impulse is also quite fun. If you are wanting a change of scene, then it may mean booking a room, thinking through a trip or working with another colleague for a room swap. My school has some lovely spaces and I wonder if a trip to your drama studio, where lighting can be changed, or a wander out to a big field where space and fresh air can be found. Whatever the situation, I believe that learning will happen and will develop in a new way. Plan something different, but also work with the environment. A classroom can really affect how students think and collaborate, so changing the room will have an impact.

And of course for the more adventurous activity, try to find local businesses and destinations to take your students to. Don’t let paperwork and risk assessments hold you back. Get your students not only out of the classroom, but out of the school!

Use Inside Spaces

Of course, teachers can’t be doing this type of thing, every day, so I’d urge you to not let your room be a barrier. Make it nice, make it inspiring and keep it tidy. A recent trip up to my history department gave me a chance to discover, the newly decorated room, of a now, qualified history NQT. She had spent hours making the room her own, making it ready for some serious learning. I really think a classroom can be made so much better with a bit of colour!

I guess my final thought is – what is a classroom anyway? Surely learning can take place anywhere, so let’s not let space be a barrier and let’s open our horizons.

Now, go watch Mr Keating, but do try not to get fired!

 


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