Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) are also called Modern Learning Environments (MLE) or Flexible Learning Environments (FLE).

ILE learning spaces are being used collaboratively by teachers, and learners. Digital tools support this collaboration. This Thing is about pedagogy for ILEs and ideas for how to create an effective ILE.

What’s an ‘Innovative Learning Environment’?

ILE large learning spaces are designed to be flexible, to encourage collaboration and inquiry, for learners and for teachers.

The Ministry of Education describe ILE as a ‘learning eco-system’. They share OECD’s holistic view  that learning environments are “an ecosystem that includes learners, educators, families/whānau, communities, content and resources like property and technology”.

New Zealand’s New Super Classrooms from Channel 3’s Story programme shares insights from NZ educators about ILEs.

What does an ILE look like in NZ schools?

Stonefields School:

Auckland Normal Intermediate School:



Pedagogy for ILEs

The MOE outline how ILE support the essence of the NZ Curriculum (English medium) and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (Māori medium), putting “learners at the centre of teaching and learning, …[with] a curriculum that engages and challenges them, is forward-looking and inclusive, and affirms New Zealand’s unique identity.”

The MOE’s website on ILE has two models:

  1. ILE as outlined by the OECD with a ‘pedagogical core’ and elements: educators, learners, content and resources.
  2. The Educational Positioning System (EPS) by Core Education and Dr Julia Atkin. The EPS encompasses strategies and structures, philosophical frameworks and community and culture.

Karen Boyes‘s blog post, Modern Learning Environments – the underlying philosophy to success, expresses concern (shared by a number of educators) about the need for a big pedagogy shift for a MLE/ ILE. She highlights five considerations to ensure success:

  1. Be clear on your underlying philosophy of learning
  2. Create a safe environment by redefining mistakes and failure
  3. Teach students to take ownership
  4. Ensure students know the learning process
  5. Celebrate the learning – not the end result

Collaborative Teaching in ILEs:

ILEs have brought to the forefront, a ‘new’ way of teaching – collaborative teaching or co-teaching.  Chris Bradbeer, in his blog describes collaborative teaching, citing “two or more people sharing responsibility for educating some or all of the students in a classroom…[by] planning, instruction and evaluation” (Villa, Thousand and Nevin, 2008, p. 5).

There are 4 models for co-teaching (it can have different names):

  1. Supportive co-teaching where one co- teacher is in the lead role; others provide support.
  2. Parallel Co-Teaching where co-teachers work with different groups of students in the same room.
  3. Complementary Co-Teaching where the co-teachers share responsibility for teaching the whole class.
  4. Team Teaching where both co- teachers are equally responsible for teaching and learning.

This Prezi by Kim Noel shares some of the models for co-teaching and tips for making it effective. Effective co-teaching strategies are outlined in detail by Dr Richard Villa in his blog.

Te Kowhai School have gathered together a number of useful resources for teachers to explore when working in a collaborative teaching model.

try-this-iconTry this

There is so much information available about ILEs that your task this week is to spend some time looking at the ILE resources that interest you.

In your blog, reflect and share:

  • What you think are the 5 most important attributes a teacher needs to have to work effectively in an ILE / collaborative teaching space.
  • Justify why have you included the attribute.
  • Rank the attributes with 1 being the most important and 5 being the least important.

explore-further-iconExplore further

Some more examples of ILEs in New Zealand:

Hobsonville Point Schools:

Albany Senior High School:

Hingaia Peninsula School:

Resources to support you as you enter into a co-teaching environment:


10 commandments of co-teaching by Barbara Plumber and 5 tips for team teaching from Concordia University are a good place to get started.

Redesigning your Classroom:

Anne Kenneally from Core Education shares some of her ideas about creating learning spaces based on her the time a few years ago where she experimented with student designed learning spaces. In this EDtalk Anne explores the changes in her students and their learning environment.

David Bill, outlines 8 Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom right now.  He gives some ideas for how you can redesign you own teaching space – whether you are looking to reorganise one corner or your classroom or redesign the entire room, these tips may help you throughout the process.

Core Education have a number of resources to support you in setting up and using the spaces in your classrooms for specific purposes considering the learning setting and purposes of each, and the inclusion of learning studios, and caves, campfires and watering holes.

Director of innovation, Stephen Collis (Sydney Centre of Innovation in Learning) explains Professor David Thornburg’s terms cave, campfire, and watering hole, and the different functions of these spaces in a learning environment.

Research about ILEs:

Innovative Learning Environments by Mark Osborne from CORE Education outlines some of the key questions that research suggests should be asked “in order to maximise the likelihood that all learners’ needs are met”.

Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education.

Future-focused learning in connected communities  from Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye’s 21st Century Learning Reference Group aims to help inform government planning around 21st century skills and digital competencies.

Innovative Learning Environments report from the OECD offers a helpful set of guidelines for innovating in learning environments. The executive summary is an easy read to get the general idea of what they have discovered.

Schooling Redesigned – Towards Innovative Learning Systems report led by the OECD looks at what redesigning schools and schooling through innovation means in practice and how this might be brought about.

The nature of learning – Using research to inspire practice  is a summary of the OECD book (of the same name) which links what we know about how people learn and how the learning environment is designed.

Knocking down walls and buying new furniture – what are Innovative Learning Environments in NZ schools really about? by Dianne Smardon and Dr Jennifer Charteris look at how the ILE compares to the “open barns” of the 1970’s.

Concern about ILEs:

Top schools give multi-million dollar classrooms a fail grade is an article that came out last year (2015) expressing some concern over the ‘new’ ILEs being built.  A reaction to this article from Sally Hart, a NZ educator, can be found here – Everything is nothing with a twist…I am not a non existent teacher who just lets students go!  Radio New Zealand post and podcast, Backlash against open-plan classrooms, highlights some concerns around ILEs.

Specifically, concerns have also been raised over how hearing impaired students will fare in ILE classrooms and this article on Stuff.co.nz discusses some of these issues.

This CORE Education blog post by Lynne SilcockWill Innovative Learning Environments Work for Everyone, addresses some of the concerns that parents and teachers have. Some noted that a child might feel lost, forgotten, or overwhelmed in larger, open learning spaces. Also of interest is Mark Osborne’s post: Will my child get lost in an innovative learning environment?.

Mark Wilson, Principal of Cashmere High School, produced a Sabbatical report on the effectiveness of modern learning environments on improving student learning and achievement.

Additional Resources:

Dr Cheryl Doig explains ways in which collaboration in schools can be enhanced and five characteristics and three mindframes necessary to lead collaboration in schools.

Innovative Learning Environments Research Study from Deakin University draws from the research literature to inform a discussion around case studies undertaken over four months in 2010 in 12 Victorian schools.

Anglican Church Grammar School, in partnership with the University of Melbourne’s ‘Learning Environments Applied Research Network’ (LEaRN) and the Australian Research Council ‘Evaluating 21st Century Learning Environments’ (E21LE) project evaluated the impact of the physical learning environment on teaching and learning in Does the space make a difference? It is an empirical retrospective of the impact of the physical learning environment on teaching and learning evaluated by the New Generation Learning Spaces Project. Click the image to read.


References: Villa, R. A., Thousand, J. S., & Nevin, A. I. (2008). A guide to co-teaching: Practical tips for facilitating student learning (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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23 teaching things is written by Lucie Lindsay and Bronwyn Edmunds at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work.

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