Mr Kelly, whose firm has been involved in the design of collaborative learning centres at the University of Melbourne's engineering faculty and at the Sir Gustav Nossal select entry school in Melbourne's southeast, said the idea of the stimulus package was sound.
He said the template classrooms were based on the traditional top-down teaching system, with the teacher lecturing to a seated class, whereas more innovative designs featured circular tables or more flexible spatial arrangements that allowed children to interact and learn by participation. Mr Kelly acknowledged that such designs required more space per pupil, but said research proved they gave children a better education.
"Collaborative learning centres"? Where do they think up these names? It's bad enough when our school starts talking about being a "learning community". What a crock.
I'm sure there are some subjects where a collaborative approach works well. Drawing on my very distant school experience, I remember it working well in subjects like chemistry and biology where we carried out shared experiments either in pairs or groups of 4. However, collaboration only takes you so far in high school. I also remember having to collaborative assessments, such as researching and writing a history paper, and what ended up happening is that 5 people sat around and traded gossip whilst one did the work!
I'm also sure that collaboration would work very well where students have strong self-discipline that drives them to actually tackle the task at hand, rather than loafing around having a gas-bag. In undisciplined environments, where you have a reasonable proportion of trouble makers, bone heads and blatherers, I'm sure it is a recipe for utter, shambolic disaster.
I always preferred silence in the classroom, as it allowed me to concentrate on what the teacher was saying, or to concentrate on the work that we had been set to perform. Chit-chat is distracting, even if carried on in a low voice. Even the passing of notes is distracting. How are you supposed to take in information if there is a high level of background noise and distraction? If a school is near a road, the teachers complain about the noise from passing cars, saying it makes teaching difficult. Well, if car noise is a problem, why is child noise not?
We hear about more and more kids being diagnosed with ADD and all its variants. If that is the case, why would we want to introduce an environment that is even more distracting than a quiet, well structured one? Surely the best way to deal with kids that are bouncing off the walls is to put them in a calm, structured and non-distractive environment, rather than one that will set them off like an epileptic exposed to disco lights?