Posted: 9th April 2019

The New Third Line Learning Environment

The start of May will see the opening of a radical new learning centre in Clongowes. Deputy Headmaster, Mr Martin Wallace explains the thinking behind it…

The traditional classroom is a temple to a teacher-centred style of education that fostered a general deference to authority, which was not altogether a good thing. The old Third Line Study functioned more as a space to be supervised than a place where learning could thrive. The world has changed, the needs of society have changed and even the needs of the economy have changed. The era of the knowledge-worker who is employed because of what she knows is effectively over. We have gadgets in our pockets to replace those people.

Possibly for the first time since the beginning of mass education, both educationalists and economists/employers are crying out for the same outcomes from schools: they want well-balanced, adaptable young adults who can think critically, show initiative and be creative, open to growth, empathic, resilient, capable of shaping narrative and, quite significantly, be a team player. It sounds remarkably like our aspirations for the Clongowes graduate. What has become much clearer in recent decades is the important of the learner experience, especially in those crucial early adolescent years.

Positive learning experiences

The thinking behind the new learning centre is simple: when it comes to the learner experience for our young students, we want to spoil them. The new centre will provide a variety of learning models, variety of moods and will cater for the different types of learners:  the kinesthetic/ physical, the interpersonal/social, the visual/spatial and the academic/reader. The main L-shaped space will still have seats and desks, but a relatively small proportion of the desks will be fixed in place. These will suit the minority of learners who prefer to sit in the same place each night. The other students will choose where they sit and their desks are configurable in different ways.

Learning by doing will be accommodated through the provision of a computer room, a piano practice room and an ‘art’ room. There will be two pods where students can work on digital-based project work, planning debates or other team-learning experiences. A cooperative learning room, identical to those we have had since 2015, will be part of the suite as well as a learning support room. Students won’t be obliged to sit in silence for two hours but they will be obliged to maintain a library-level of quietness and a low noise level in those areas where they are working together.

The boys have experience of the old Third Line Study, the temporary study in the new refectory and the Cooperative Learning Centre. Their experience of these spaces has been audited and their reflections have rhymed well with the research. The challenge for them after Easter will be to explore the full possibilities of the new Centre after the novelty has worn off. Part of their learning experience is to take ownership of the space and be creative in its use. There will also be a challenge for us to exploit the possibilities of the new learning environment, not just the model classroom.

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