Educational Workspaces – The Common Sense Approach

What if teachers from different learning areas worked in the same office space?

Many schools house teachers from the same learning areas in faculty or department offices, buildings or workspaces. These spaces are often a hive of activity in which much is accomplished to further the cause of teaching and learning within a specific learning area. It just seems to make the most sense, doesn’t it?

What would happen if this wasn’t the default setting for schools? A school determined to enhance cross-curricular experiences would certainly be interested in ways to break down the ‘subject silos’, wouldn’t they?

Sometimes the smallest of things can have the greatest of impacts. Here at HPSS teachers are separated into working spaces by community, not learning areas or department. Teachers in a community represent a cross-section of learning areas from across the curriculum. For example, as an English teacher, I share a workspace with science, maths, digital technology, social science, physical education and performing arts teachers. This is my home base each school day. We work together, we coach (advisory) students together, we critique and challenge together.

When you put a group of people into an enclosed space they are going to interact. The interesting thing is that when you place a number of staff from different learning areas in the same office space, amazing dialogue and collegiality is created. A strong sense of identity and curriculum ownership are created in the individual. We feel safe to discuss views, our own learning and are valued as a ‘learned’ colleague in the group.

Some of the by-products are:

  • that students benefit because teachers are exposed to different views and perspectives
  • the breaking down of ‘echo chambers’ in which traditional departments operate
  • the deconstructing of ‘mental walls’ about teaching and learning
  • the challenging of traditional discipline specific approaches to teaching and learning
  • seeking support from those who hold different perspectives
  • learning and discussing cross-curricular approaches and perspectives
  • increasing sense of value and belonging as an ‘expert’ in the workspace
  • exploring different approaches to teaching and learning
  • the honouring of the perspectives and values of colleagues
  • gaining insight and opinions from a diverse range of people

So really, does it make sense to maintain the status quo in a world that demands confident, connected, actively involved and life-long learners? How might we empower teachers to become increasingly connected to those around them?

Those who believe this is not achievable in a ‘traditional’ school need only consider what is required. Moving desks.