Archives for July 2014

The Learning Environment Summer Institute 2014

In early July, 15 educators met to explore the learning environment in grades 1-3. Staring with the influence of Reggio-inspired educational philosophy, a greater emphasis on the alignment of learning conditions in primary classroom environments, and a greater emphasis on the student outcomes, educators are beginning to rethink many current practices with respect to the physical environment, inquiry-based learning, self-regulation, and documentation for assessment purposes. Participating teachers engaged in self-directed research on the Reggio model of education, identifying key components (the natural physical space, inquiry based learning, documentation, pedagogy of listening, student as protagonist, co-construction of knowledge, knowledge mobilization, reflection on learning).

Participating teachers collaboratively engaged in a “rethink, repeat, remove” framework for reflecting on their current physical space. After viewing examples of classrooms from 3-4 years ago and classrooms now that have adopted an inquiry stance, teachers shared their current thinking and began to discuss what they intend to keep for next year and what they will change. Some topics of interest to rethink – creating islands of microenvironments for the arts, reading, science discovery, access to numeracy and other materials, open snack, decluttering, neutralizing, teacher’s desk, student desks, word walls, and utilizing the outdoors. A good starting point is the article by Patricia Tarr, called “Consider the Walls” available online as a PDF.Invitations to Inquiry and Microenvironments

Self-regulation took up a large portion of the afternoon. Drawing on the research of Dr. Stuart Shanker, we viewed videos and discussed the differences between compliance, managing behaviours, and self-regulation. Calm, Alert and Learning was the text we read and examined the case studies within. The link to the videos is as follows:

Inquiry-based learning is recognized as a growing piece of the student outcomes and engagement. We addressed misconceptions about inquiry based learning (no, it is not a free for all, and yes, assessment for, as and of learning play critical parts as does carefully layered structures like the social studies inquiry process and knowledge building circles). We reviewed examples of inquiries from AMDSB classrooms, Natural Curiosity (, Visible Learners, the K-2 Connections website

and Emergent Curriculum in the Primary Classroom (by Carol Ann Wien). The importance of knowledge building circles as a means to engage in the process and enure knowledge mobilization continued to emerge as a common thread to anchor the class. Other topics of discussion included the role of the literacy block in supporting inquiry, integration of subject areas, and timetabling.

Questions to ponder as we left the session…

  • Reggio Philosophy
  • Physical Environment
  • Social Environment
  • Self-Regulation
  • Documentation
  • Inquiry

What is the relationshop and interconnectivity of these concepts within the framework of our education system? What will you consider as your next steps as you think ahead to planning for next year?

Thanks to everyone who attended, it was your thinking and contributions that made the day successful.