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Monday, August 4, 2014

A visit to the Tutor Collaborative Learning Centre

I visited the Tutor Collaborative Learning Centre at Trinity Grammar last Friday. An old friend Colin Potts, who used to be Deputy Head and was on the planning Committee for the new building.

My relationship with Trinity Grammar is a long one, it was my first teaching job out of Uni 20 years ago! Colin took a gamble on me and hired me to teach a Year 11 class.

I taught in a lab without internet access (because there was no such thing as affordable internet access at this time). So the students were not distracted by the interwebs, and every morning and every night we switched on the internet computer, downloaded and uploaded emails. 20 years later, kids have non-stop access and this building reflects the growing needs of those students.

The space, even though many who use and work in it regard it as a library, had many positive attributes that you might look at if you are building new learning space.

Library staff were involved in every stage of the planning process. The result is a space that they feel connected with.  Staff support for new learning spaces is paramount to their success. They might not have made every decision, but just like a parent, the management team made them feel that their opinions were valued and respected (a popular sales technique!).

They contracted kitchen cabinet makers in to do the shelving and display cabinets rather than library suppliers -  it looks great and I am sure that they were cheaper than Raeco Library shelving. this means that the shelving spaces are a bit smaller than the normal metre, but the aesthetics make up for that.

The internal designers planned many vignettes for students to sit and work or reflect. Gerry the Head Librarian was saying that the designers came from a "ski resort" back ground, so lots of places for the students to kick off their shoes, get comfortable and chew the fat.

There were clear anchors established throughout the centre; the lecture theatre, the fireplaces, IT help. Destinations for students to travel to, therefore pulling the student population through the space encouraging them to use it, access it and explore through it.

The fireplace in the wider reading space adds a special ambiance to the space. I noticed many students curled up near the fireplace totally engrossed in their reading experiences.

Trinity have used their old collegiate network to encourage them to come in and assist with major displays. There are unique statement pieces hanging over the stairs, in fitting with a unit of work that the Year 10's are looking at and mini displays throughout the space which communicate the rich history of the school.

In their first year of operation, they employed a GAP student to help set up systems and professional industry standard looking displays. Managing a library space such as this one needs a leader to have sales and marketing experience so as to manage the floor space or real-estate space to encourage, excite and engage students.

Trinity seem to have many KISS (Keep it simple stupid) approaches to the space. For example using perspex signs with colour printouts for rooms and role descriptions rather than the expensive etched plates or tacky decals on doors. 

A staff member with an education background is employed at 0.4 to manage the events such as guest speakers, music recitals, book signings, debating. They work in conjunction with the head of library to ensure that the collection and promotion of resources reflects what is going on within the space.

The management team for the space is the property manager, event manager and the information services manager. All three work together to manage the space.

After the first term of operation they needed to put on more staff to assist with the flow of people and supervision of students through the space.

Self check out is present although Library staff expressed the challenges including the inability to engage students in discourse about what they were reading.

IT, Library and AV share the same space - this has worked well building a respectful team environment between IT and Library.


I spoke with many people during my afternoon there. Some felt that it was too noisy, others thought it was too chaotic, but everyone felt ownership over the space.  Management have set up a system to evaluate and improve the space with research papers being proposed and qualitative and quantitative data being gathered with regularity. 

There is value here in having a Director of Professional Learning and Research within a school to manage action projects and build that sense of continuous improvement within the learning community. Evidenced based teaching and learning offers schools powerful systems to continually improve on their outcomes.

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