Saturday, April 16, 2016

ILE, the Curriculum and a Couple of Wonderings

Scrolling through the Mindlab Google+ community, I noted a post about ILE (Innovative Learning Environments) and an opinion piece in the PPTA (Post Primary Teachers Association) April News.  ILE is quite the educational buzz statement right now.  Leaders I meet are either in the “I have one” group, or “I want one” group, or the “I don’t think so, it’s just a fad” group.  Given how topical it is, it is not surprising that something on ILE caught my eye.

It was a particular comment that jumped up and demanded my attention.

“…students complete projects which aren’t related to the curriculum”. 


The poster then finished with some questions: 

“Is this possible? What learning and/or projects are outside the New Zealand Curriculum?”.

Intrigued, I wanted to find out more.  

Initially, I felt my annoyance level rise.  Surely schools are smarter than that.  I wondered who would suggest such a thing and how well did they really understand the curriculum, because the beauty of our NZC is that it is flexible and it is all encompassing. 

I needed more.

I know not to take the odd comment here and there by its pure face value, and felt I should read the original before passing judgement, especially considering the original was written from a perspective outside my context.  You see, when someone makes some comments that are not from your sector of education, it can be all too easy to fall into the traps of misunderstanding and unrecognised bias. 

So I hunted out the original source.  

It was an interesting read.  You can read it in the April issue here 

I was curious about what was said in relation to project work not linking to the curriculum, and after reading the article, I think it could be easy to misunderstand the initial intent of the author.   I am not sure if he realised that what he wrote could be taken in a way that assumed his understanding of how to incorporate students independent work into the curriculum was lacking.  What he actually said was "...the kids work on independent projects that don't have to have anything to do with the curriculum." 

Interestingly, I am even more curious about what types of project might possibly have nothing to do with the curriculum.  You see, our curriculum in NZ is most comprehensive and yet flexible, and I am struggling to think of a project that could not be linked back to the curriculum.  There may well be projects that are not able to be integrated, but I am struggling to think of one!  I wonder if this is because as a primary trained teacher (elementary for my US readers) I am a 'Jill of all trades' which basically means as a teacher, I can pretty much justify any learning and link it back to our curriculum.  Perhaps you dear reader, can think of some projects! 
I wonder if what that author has failed to make explicit, and hence missed, is that the project days are (I think), most definitely linked to curriculum, but he has not quite made the link as to the how.  

Some of the other opinion pieces on ILE are also interesting and raised a few more questions and wonderings  for me.  

My first is that I keep hearing and seeing people say "The MOE (Ministry of Education)  should pay for PLD" , and it sits a little uneasily with me.  Whilst that would be nice, as a leader contemplating with my team a journey into building and remodelling single cell classrooms into collaborative ILE spaces, (funding dependent) I believe it is my responsibility, alongside our BOT (Board of Trustees) and SLT (Senior Leadership Team), to ensure that our teachers have the capacity, capability and support to make this happen.  It would, as I see it, be strategically linked to our priorities and funding and time would be allocated accordingly.  So, I wonder, if you knew you were having an ILE being built, wouldn't you do that?  Is that not naturally what you would ensure was happening?  Wouldn't that just make sense and be a fiscally and pedagogically smart and responsible decision? 

My other questions are:

What is the philosophy behind the ways classes are operating?

What PD and support, including time, have the teachers had prior to implementation?

How are they (teachers) making explicit links to the NZC?

Who is overseeing what is occurring and how current is their pedagogy.  

Is there a team investigating best practice?  

These are just my starting wonderings.  I am confident if I was to sit and reflect on this for sometime, that I would have more.  

On a more constructive note, I did happen to agree that using research to make our decisions around ILE is smart, and that good learning (and teachings) does happen anywhere - it does not depend on bricks and mortar and flashy furniture.  

Further Reading: (I have blogged on ILE related topics prior should you be interested)


  1. Pertinent questions Stephanie. I too have a lot of similar questions around ILE, because I think the concept is often misinterpreted by different stakeholders and maybe poorly implemented. Hence my literature review for Mind Lab.

    1. I would be most interested in your lit review when marked. Stakeholder voice is important.

  2. slide I put in ALL my work with schools around ILE/MLE

    1. Thanks Greg! You and I have been in this game long enough to understand the importance of 'due diligence'!