Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

"Being Together" in Learning: A School Leadership Case Study Evoking the Relational Essence of Learning Design at the Australian Science and Mathematics School

Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

"Being Together" in Learning: A School Leadership Case Study Evoking the Relational Essence of Learning Design at the Australian Science and Mathematics School

Article excerpt

Background

Many secondary schools in Australia have remained wedded to the industrial design logic of 20th century mass education that siloes curriculum areas to a single isolated subject teacher per walled classroom (Whitty & Power, 2003). In this historically entrenched "Fordist" model of schooling, the teacher is often entrusted to deliver subject-specific curriculum content to classes of 25 students or more, with the school day consisting of a rolling entourage of year-levelled students moving from subject to subject and teacher to teacher. The design of these privatised and inflexible schooling forms inhibits collaborative and collective forms of schooling practices. By their very inflexible and isolated nature, they do not enhance the relational essence of "being" in teaching and learning together in schools. We argue that, as a consequence, valuable learning opportunities are missed for both staff and students that could be made possible if relational understandings of how we best learn together (Giles, 2011) were to be put into practice.

By "relational" we mean three aspirational relational modalities of schooling. Firstly, there is the relationality that comes with more personalised learning practices that call upon leaders and teachers to be actively engaged in ongoing reflective attention to student learning lifeworlds, including students' learning interests and how carefully crafted school structures, "contributive" leadership practices, and an enabling school culture can work together to foster deeper pedagogies of engagement. In other words, schooling modalities that constrain learning engagement are addressed, and relational modalities that foster learning are enhanced. By contributive leadership, a phenomenon regularly described by the interviewees at the Australian Science and Mathematics School, we mean a cultural willingness of all staff to support learning innovation where and when it is needed for student learning. It is not directed from "above", but rather is inculcated into what it means to be a teacher in this place. Careful attunement to the relationality of learning modalities can nurture identity formation, and provide more opportunities for learning, along with developing the essential capabilities needed for learning and work futures including, but not limited to, the development of ethical behaviour, lifelong learning, creativity, problem solving, and entrepreneurism (Giles, Smythe, & Spence, 2012).

Secondly, we mean the relationality of the learning disciplines (the subjects) and how they naturally speak to one another when an overarching inquiry question is posed necessitating sophisticated teacher and student thinking and planning about how the disciplines, when forged together, can more authentically represent how we all experience and make sense of our world. Thirdly, we mean relationality that can be enabled by the physicality of open learning spaces equipped with "cutting edge" ICT, which together provide students and teachers with networked learning opportunities in and out of school and promote more face to face "unplanned" or "just in time" learning discussions during school hours. Open space in an ICT-rich learning environment represents the relational attunement of a school's architectural design (Kraft & Adey, 2008) to the lifeworlds (Roche, 1987) of young people and how, in the digital age, they best learn together. In other words, closer physicality promoted by doing away with classroom walls allows teachers and students all to be "seen", "heard" and "connected" in their learning. We argue that, with all three forms of relationality in schools advanced, "being" in learning together organically grows. In other words, a learning community that continually attends to these fundamental modalities of relational learning design is indicative of a school that has carefully thought through, planned and put into practice, within ongoing cycles of action and reflection, more opportunities for student and staff learning throughout the school day. …

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