Our consultation process and living our norm of ‘Value the Voices’ has continued with our year 2, 3 and 4 students. A team of teachers in Learning Hub Two worked alongside children in a number of different ways. Some students focused on existing spaces and how they felt about them, others on potential new spaces and what they would like to see. Data was gathered using drawings, photographs, models and conversations.
How do you sincerely listen to a large group of students and for it not to become token consultation? Working with a group of close to seventy students produces a staggering mass of data- some great learning for us around student voice and how to get the most from it, and personally as well, just about to launch into a research project.
The important thing seemed to us to extract key themes that were raised by a number of children, whilst still hanging onto the individuality and creativity that individuals brought along. So a number of students were interviewed afterwards either individually or in small groups. In general these interviews were carried out with children who contributed elements that in essence added something new, without being unrealistic (more about this soon!).
Initial learning was done with Hub Two students gathering data about like and dislikes in the existing spaces. Armed with cameras, small groups of children took a series of photos of places they liked and disliked around our hub, glued these to a plan, added ‘Like’ or “Dislike’ symbols, and were then invited to comment and justify their decisions. In general students focused on the positive aspects of their spaces and were quite pragmatic about furniture, layout and facilities such as sinks, bathrooms and Comments often referred to elements within the space such as computers or furniture rather than the space itself.
One group commented that:
I like it because the table is mobile (picture of the back of the X4 teaching station).
I like this space because I can concentrate when I’m learning (picture of beanbags in the breakout room).
I like this space because it’s quiet most of the time (picture of the shield table at the end of the hub).
I like this space because it can shut its doors and it will be quiet (picture of breakout room).
I like this space because I can get supplies from here, that are organized in tote-trays (picture of tote-trays).
I don’t like this place because it is not tidy (book shelves)
Another group commented that:
I like this because it tells you what you are doing (picture of Literacy Tumble on the wall).
I like this because it tells you what stage you are in (picture of Reading progressions on the wall).
I like this because it tells the teacher who’s here (picture of guardian group roll).
I like seeing our pictures (picture of wall mounted TV).
I like this because it shows our clay and you can look at it (picture of clay artwork display on table).
Other common features that children commented on and liked were:
· Coloured ‘welcome couch’
· Large space where the entire hub could meet
· That there was lots of space- easy to find somewhere to learn
· Spaces behind furniture where children could sit
· Wall mounted TV
· Corners where they could sit and learn
· Coloured glass
Students were invited to put together designs for possible hubs. These were completed either individually or collaboratively. Some chose to draw and others built possible spaces using construction materials. Both of these were used as a basis for conversation, much of which was captured on video. A number of students participated in collecting video data, where they explained in greater detail what was involved in their design. They were also able to respond to questions about why they had included certain elements and what their thinking was.
Interestingly the learning spaces that children drew were mainly rectangular and often with small rooms coming off the main area. Children have really adopted the concept of working alongside teachers in a more central space and then moving out to learn more independently. Children often drew multiple small rooms as components of the larger space, often with designated purposes. One students design for example includes a larger space and then a number of smaller spaces to be used for: science, private learning and music. Another’s included a designated maths room, a reading space and a teacher’s room. Did teachers need their own room we asked “they might need their own space but would have to keep it tidy!” came the response.
There was a strong sense of purposeful spaces resonating with this group of children, for example science or specific facilities for cooking. When asked if this space would be exclusively for the use by their learning hub children commented that it would be ok for another hub to use the space too, and for them to have an alternatively purposed shared area.
The pragmatism continues into bathrooms. A number of children drew what they described as ‘private toilets’ accessible only by students in that particular hub. When questioned further about these they described wanting the toilets close so that ‘if I got really into my learning and was busting to go to the toilet, I could get there quickly’. In general the point was that proximity not exclusivity was the key. The toilets would be ok outside, as long as they were close (It is possible that children considered that the new hubs would have to utilise existing toilets).
Children commented on the small breakout rooms being quiet places where they could concentrate. They were able to close the doors and work undisturbed. This raises the question of how many breakout spaces a hub might need and how many need to be closeable.
Sinks and wet space areas were a common theme in the drawings, frequently appearing in the corners or ends of the hub. It was felt that the wet space certainly needed to be larger than existing lino areas and positioned away from the main thoroughfare.
A number of children commented on the desirability for more that one level within the space, with either a drop down or a rise up. One commented on the ‘Staircase to nowhere’ idea of a set of stairs with a small landing on them, one on a mezzanine level, another on a sunken area.
Bag storage was initially an issue at school and was solved with the aid of a project involving a team of students and a design expert. Some children commented that it would be better to have the bags indoors, out of the wind and rain.
Emerging Themes: The main themes to emerge from Hub Two students were:
· A space large enough for the entire hub to meet.
· Toilets in close proximity
· Internal bag storage
· Sinks and wet spaces away from the centre of the room
· Inclusion of ‘quiet spaces’
· Purposeful spaces that could be shared with other hubs
· More than one level
· Corners and spaces behind furniture- idea of ‘secret spaces’
The consultation continues…