Can removing classroom walls enable more personalised learning and enhance student wellbeing? In this book we claim these outcomes are possible in an open-plan school for low SES students, if appropriate conditions are met. A major condition is the development of these spaces as supportive communities where teams of teachers address learners’ individual and collective needs. In making this case, we draw on a three-year Australian Research Council study (Improving Secondary Students’ Learning and Wellbeing, 2011-2013) where we analysed an attempt to improve educational and wellbeing outcomes for 4000 Years 7-10 predominantly low SES secondary students in regional Australia. This approach, the Bendigo Education Plan (BEP, 2005), entailed three major strategies. These were: (1) rebuilding four schools to include open-plan layouts, (2) developing teachers’ professional knowledge to enable effective teaching, learning, and student wellbeing in the new settings, and (3) curricular reform leading to a more explicit, differentiated curriculum, replacing a traditional age-based curriculum with a stage-based one. We argue that these three strategies in combination were crucial to positive outcomes for the BEP (see Prain, et al., 2014). We also report on attempts to personalise learning in two other regional schools with similar SES profiles.
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