Manaiakalani Leaders Study Tour

As teachers, we know that nobody is an pedagogical island: you cannot learn within a vacuum. As such, taking inspiration from other schools is an integral part of bettering our own professional skillset. Which is exactly why I was so pleased to be able to visit and participate in a teaching environment that was so different from my own.

On Friday 19th March the MDTA cohort joined our school leaders to attend a tour of Stonefields school and to participate in various workshops. This experience made me more aware of how a modern or innovative learning environment functions: my own practice will benefit from the new ideas that this trip inspired.

Making Learning Explicit

Explicit learning was the focus for the Stonefield teachers, ensuring that they have a firm understanding of the learning cycle and understand the terminology concerned with learning. Even in junior classes teachers would facilitate vocabulary lessons using the Stonefields learning words as a focus. To reinforce this understanding, diagrams, words and phrases associated with the learning cycle were visible throughout the school.
Stonefields Learner Qualities
Metacognition and Self- Regulation

 The children were not only aware of the learning process in teacher-lead sessions, but were able to apply it when planning their own inquiry focus for "breakout" or inquiry time. The students had the freedom to engage with a range of topics from planning a trip, studying plants or learning to program a basic video game. It is fun for the students, and gives them the chance to lead their own learning through personally developed lines of inquiry.

I thought that the notion of being stuck in "The Learning Pit", a metaphor which describes being stuck or confused in ones learning, to be very powerful. The children are taught that The Pit is, in fact, a positive place to be and are taught strategies to climb' out of it: That the children should want to experience The Pit. This may sound surprising, but by entering and subsequently climbing out of this situation, the children learn self-efficacy and get the chance to demonstrate precisely what they have learned. This illustrates the process of self-regulation and encouraged the children to be resilient in the face of difficulty.
The Learning Pit 

Construction of an modern learning environment (MLE)

One of the workshops I attended discussed the construction of modern learning environments. There are many misconceptions surrounding these spaces, and some people imagine them as large classrooms with brightly coloured furniture and beanbags. However, in reality, much thought is put into the design of an effective MLE. The design of Stonefields was purposefully orchestrated to be  optimal for the needs of teachers and learners both.
An example of the various spaces that are used in the classroom
    At first when I visited Stonefields I was overwhelmed, I felt that the environment was so unstructured and I could not imagine what it would be like to teach there. Now that I have spent some time at the school I realized that I misjudged the situation. Yes, the children were working in different spaces around the hub, but learning was occurring. I could not believe how articulate the children could be when talking about their school, learning process and inquiry topic.

This experience has caused me to view modern learning environments in a new light and I will be sure to apply this learning in my own practice.


  1. I have enjoyed reading your posts Danni, I appreciate honesty and reality to form learning. I like how you are open to discuss your feelings and how you analyse and reflect on your feelings to make sense of them for your own learning and teaching. I admit I was in a similar boat to you when first walking through the Breakthrough, but the possibilities and learning opportunities are phenomenal, as we saw. Look forward to seeing how you manipulate your modern learning environment :)

  2. Thank you Georgia! I enjoy reading your posts too, they illustrate your journey clearly and honestly :) Hopefully I'll be breaking some doors down at school to give my learners some extra learning space haha


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