My Take on ILEs

Kate Friedwald  |  July 2018

There has and continues to be much, mostly negative, media around Innovative Learning Environments.  How they are a repeat of the open plan initiative, using kids as guinea pigs, too loud, an excuse for higher class numbers etc etc.  I often find myself in conversations around this topic as well as facilitating around the effective use of the spaces and the adoption of innovative learning practices as a whole.  

So….this is my take on the topic.

I have seen some unsuccessful spaces where teachers are attempting to operate as single cell classes within a shared space.  This poses the problem of one teacher doing a quiet activity while another is in full blown noisy creative mode. A recipe for disaster.  Invisible walls are often erected because it is what teachers know and are used to. Without time and energy allocated to investigating and planning to make effective change then how can we expect to just throw teachers, and children, into these spaces and for them to work out well?

I also get to see the other side of the coin. Spaces where teaching and learning is humming.  Where the unique spaces within the environment are utilised for meaningful learning. Where teachers collaborate and co teach to get the most from their strengths.  Where learners are given agency of their learning and are rising to the challenge. Where teachers have more time to spend with individuals and groups. Where learning is richer and learners are happier.

So what makes the difference?  In my experience it comes down to the following four factors.


Shared Vision

Planning and Preparation


Notice how I haven’t included the physical space at all?  I’m sure you have heard it before but let me repeat. It’s not about the space but how the space is used.  So regardless of if it’s a big shiney new build, a converted let’s knock some walls out and see how we go, or across several traditional single cell spaces the above factors are still what I believe will drive success.

I will go into further detail around these four factors in a subsequent post but for now, and if it’s something you are looking into then think about the following.  Ensuring teachers can be flexible team players who are on board with the change. Creating a shared vision for what is trying to be achieved both for learners and staff.  Spending ample time planning and preparing as a team to ensure expectations, routines, timetabling and learning content are all well agreed on and taken care of. Communicating both informally and formally daily, weekly, termly, in person and via digital means. Communicating as a team with students, parents, management and the rest of the school.  He aha te mea nui o te ao?  He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

In my opinion, when done well,  ILEs can be incredibly successful and great for teaching and learning.  I am enjoying working with teams of fantastic teachers around creating such environments and am blessed that these teams have chosen to share their journey with me.

So what’s your take on ILEs?