Case studies

The resources on this page demonstrate how some schools around New Zealand have chosen to use and alter their school property to support teaching and learning. Check back regularly to see new case studies.

The video below features principals, teachers and students at Mountview School and Waipahihi School in Taupō talking about how they use their schools’ physical space for teaching and learning.

The video focuses on how the two long-established schools have reflected on, and adapted, their teaching practices and made changes to their property that support those practices. Both schools are striving to teach and encourage collaboration, self-management, curiosity and creativity and use their spaces in varied ways to support this student-centred and future-focused approach.

Transcript: making spaces that work for you

[Music loud to open, then quiet throughout]

Mountview School Principal Carmel Hoetawa (CH): Here at Mountview School, we embarked on a journey of looking at what we need to do to prepare our students for the future world. When you have up to thirty students in the standard classroom with the desks and chairs, you have cluttered the space. So it required a change in our environments physically, within the constraints of the architecture that we have, and also it needed us to look really closely at how we were teaching, what journey we needed to go on as staff, what learning we needed to look at.

Waipahihi School Principal Tim Lovelock (TL): How is that we can make the space we’ve got work to maximise the opportunity for them to have connection with each other, with other teachers, with other age groups and make this really work for our kids?

CH: So the buy-in from the teachers was really important, the support from the Board was really important.

Mountview School Teacher Kristine Blewett (KB): What I was excited about when I came into this school was the way in which the principal and the senior leadership team and the staff were all engaged in moving forward into this way of learning.

CH: So we brought new furniture into the rooms, we created environments where children could choose how they learned in that environment.

Mountview School Teacher Bridget Kemp (BK): Getting new tables, getting cute furniture looks amazing and I’m grateful I’ve got it but if I hadn’t changed the way I taught and my pedagogy, this wouldn’t have worked. I think one without the other is not really going to make much difference at all.

TL: So what we have is what was a very siloed four classroom block that not has the ability for four rooms that are interconnected and have shared wet, cooking, science areas and breakout areas.

Waipahihi School Teacher Jenny Maloney: It’s the same square metres but it seems bigger, more usable, the carpet makes a huge difference.

TL: A teacher doesn’t belong to a classroom, they don’t live in a space so they move with the different groups of kids.

BK: The classroom’s set out so the children have independence on where they sit, they’re not stuck in any one place at any time.

KB: We can move the tables in any way we want, we can work outside if we need to, we can work over at the benches, whatever we have to do.

BK: They are in control of their learning, they self-manage themselves, they have to be organised at the beginning of the day, they have to have what they need done and they need to set it up. It works especially well around collaboration.

TL: You’re seeing a more genuine engagement around that learning in things like lots of thinking, lots of collaborating, and lots of connection with other kids and sometimes that’s not stuff that can be put in a book.

BK: I can just see them engaging and getting so much more achieved and I feel better because I can see that I’m meeting the needs of each child.

Child 1: We get to plan our own day out and what we do and when we do it.

Child 2: I like having different teachers for different classes.

CH: We developed professional learning groups where we had robust discussions that asked questions of each other of what was going on in our classrooms, how well it was working.

KB: We’re all about student agency so we want student voice, that’s how we engage the students. If they have input into their learning, they’re going to be engaged and they’ll want to take it to the next steps.

BK: Everyone’s more willing to share and to say ‘oh I’m doing this’ and they’re like ‘oh cool, how are you doing that? How does that work?’ and you’re like ‘ok I’ll give that a go.’

Waipahihi School Teacher Megan Fraser: I feel totally comfortable with anyone walking in and out of this space and observing me and giving me feedback and I think that is the culture that a collaborative space allows, where curiosity is heart of what we do.

Child 3: I like that we actually make stuff. You don’t design it and then it just lies down, you actually make it.

KB: I think here the devices have been a huge help. So we have devices but they’re not on the devices all the time.

BK: You can see it when you’re in the room, there’s a feeling in the room like there’s just everyone’s working, everyone’s calm, there’s no behaviours, it’s just, yeah, it just works.

TL: Collaboration in life and the ability to understand each other and to get connection is what success in this century and beyond, I think, is all about, and the more our kids know about themselves and how to do that with others, the better they’re going to be.

[Music to end]

Learning studio pilot project

In 2008, the Ministry of Education invited schools entitled to replacement or additional classrooms to participate in a pilot project to develop a ‘learning hub of the future’ – the Learning Studio Pilot. This work has informed subsequent guidance and reference design work.

The project aimed to deliver a group of flexible spaces at each school that would enable teachers to teach and students to learn in a variety of ways.

The project was assessed in 2012 by boards of trustees, staff, architects and project managers and the concept had overwhelming support.

The openness and flexibility created by operable walls and significant internal glazing allow variety of teaching and learning styles, furniture arrangements and locations from which to teach and learn.
The learning spaces had good classroom design, function, aesthetics, acoustics, lighting, heating, insulation, ventilation and air quality.

The learning spaces had good classroom design, function, aesthetics, acoustics, lighting, heating, insulation, ventilation and air quality.

Case study fact sheets

The factsheets below describe case studies of how schools around New Zealand have aligned their school property with their education practise.

Other sources

Te Kete Ipurangi provides information about innovative learning environments (external link) , school stories, guides for getting started and other resources including a module on the Inclusive Education website (external link) .

The Education Review Office | Ta Tari Arotake Mātauranga visited 12 schools to see how they were preparing their students as 21st century learners. You can read their full report or a two page summary on their website (external link) .

Core Education | Tātai Aho Rau produced a white paper about changes underway in education and how community driven and evidence based flexible approaches can assist the New Zealand education system as it evolves. The paper is available on their website (external link) .

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