Løkenasen Lower Secondary School as Pilot School

 

Løkenåsen has been selected as a Pilot School for the period 2003 – 2005.  The Central School Authorities emphasized the systematic research, collaboration with parents and documentation carried out by the school for its development of a new way of organizing teaching activating the students by empowering them in the choice of their curriculum, thus giving them responsibility in their own learning process. Students can also, to a certain degree decide where, when, how and with what they want to work. There is an emphasis on presentation of knowledge acquired and there is a strict framework, as well as close cooperation between student and form teacher, and between teachers.

 

The school has presented its organization at various school conferences and has received visitors from a number of other schools, both Norwegian and foreign institutions.

 

The new way of organizing teaching

The school day is divided into three main kinds of learning:

  1. Activities organized by the teacher. No teacher can be in charge for more than half an hour at a time in each subject, apart from presentations or tests.
  2. Obligatory time for self-study.  The students can choose what, where, how and with whom they want to work.  The teacher walks around helping everyone
  3. Optional time for self-study.  The students work individually and quietly and approach the teacher for help. The optional time they spend studying in class is saved up in a time pool, and the students can take time off at their own convenience, except when presentations or tests are scheduled.

In addition there are

  1. Courses.  Sometime teachers offer courses in a subject either to help students who are having problems in a topic, or to encourage students who want to learn more than the basic curriculum.  The students decide themselves if they want to take part.  This offer is always scheduled at the same time as obligatory self-study.

 

The students take an active part in deciding their own curriculum

The students’ curriculum is based on a National Plan, but there are openings for local adjustments and priorities.  At the beginning of each semester these possibilities are presented to the students who priorities what they prefer to work with in all subjects. This is done in various ways, sometimes in the class with everybody present, sometimes in groups with students especially interested in a particular subject.

 

There is also an active awareness building of learning methods in the school so that the students can decide which methods they prefer to work with, for example story line, project work, debates, role play, presentations, plays, tests, films, excursions, group work, pair work, individual work etc.

 

Every two weeks the students receive a written schedule of all activities that are going to take place.  Representatives from each class take part in a meeting to discuss their work plans for the following fortnight. In the class room the students are organized in groups of 6.  Each group has a group leader who has a certain place at the table so that new teachers always know who the leader is. This leader is changed every two weeks.  The group leaders take part in the work plan meeting; consequently all students will gradually take part in this activity.

 

Morning meetings take place as often as possible.  One of the form teachers is always present at these meetings. Messages are given, problems discussed and decisions made that concern the class as a whole. Class Council meetings are basically held once a week.  A student representative is chairing the meeting.  Both or all form teachers are present. 

 

Strict framework, close cooperation between student and form teacher

At the end of each two-week period the students present their results and/or they are tested in what they have learned in the various subjects during that period. They also have to fill in a form at the back of their plan; giving details about how they have worked and what level they have chosen (see below).  This form is the basis for a discussion with the form teacher at the end of the week and with the parents twice a year.

 

All subjects are divided into three levels.  The individual student can choose the level at which they want to work in every subject and for each plan. Basically the levels are divided as follows:

  1. Learn facts by heart
  2. Explain these facts
  3. Explain, analyze and draw lines between the facts

 

See example of a student work plan (link)

 

Students’ participation in decisions

During obligatory self-study, the students’ work is based on their written plan.  They can choose which subject they want to work with and whether they want to work alone, or with one or several other students.

 

There are no breaks apart from a possible hour for lunch.  The students can take a five-minute break when they feel like it, then they have to go outside!  Students always have to inform the teacher in charge of the class if they want to do activities outside the classroom.

 

Various study arenas

The students can choose to work in

  1. the school library
  2. a quiet area where no noise is allowed
  3. a group work area or group room where quiet talk is allowed
  4. the school “data room”
  5. one of the art and crafts rooms

 

There should always be a teacher present where the students work

 

How the teachers are organized - time

The teachers are responsible for their own subjects and are given a certain number of hours to teach them (state regulations).  This time is mainly spent in the classroom either for activities organized by the teacher or to attend obligatory self-study.

 

In order to offer our students the possibility to work in various arenas or to attend courses, the teachers dispose of some hours added to their teaching in their own subject, but within their expected workload.  These hours are generated as follows:

 

  1. The classrooms are built in a way that two rooms can be made into one by moving a partition wall.  Sometimes one teacher can then supervise 60 students.  (e.g during a film, a test and so on). 

 

  1. The school also has a certain number of substitute hours in case teachers are absent.  At Løkenåsen these hours are given to the teachers and count as a part of their ordinary workload, i.e. if there are no absentees the teacher can give courses or provide assitance in obligatory self-study time for the students. 

 

Optional self study is based on the teachers’ time to prepare classes; consequently it is time “on top of” their ordinary time for teaching. Optional self-study takes place in the classroom where the students work individually and quietly.  The teacher can then do corrections or quietly give feed back to students, tasks that belong to the teachers’ preparation time.  Each teacher gives an hour and a half to such an activity per week.

 

This way of working demands a great deal of cooperation between teachers.  They have all good working stations and obligatory working hours form 8.30 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon regardless of their teaching load during the day. The teachers also organize meetings for three hours outside their basic working hours at school.

 

How the teachers are organized - cooperation

The school has students from 8th grade (13 – 14 year olds), 9th grade (14 – 15 years old) and 10th grade (15 – 16 year old students).  Each grade has two main classes (50 – 60 students). These two classes are divided into three or four groups.  Each main class has three or four form teachers that are not only responsible to all the students for their subjects, but also for the social and pedagogical follow-up of their own group of 15 – 20 students. The number of teachers and of the student groups is dependant on the size of the main classes.

 

Each group of teachers belonging to a main class meets for 90 minutes every week to determine how to integrate topics, organize the time-table, etc. as well as attending an additional 60 minute meeting with the teachers belonging to the other half of the grade to discuss matters of common interest. In addition, there is a weekly hour and a half obligatory meeting for all teachers. This is to provide the possibility of sharing experience obtained and to follow up the guidelines of the administration and the pedagogical committee.  This committee consists of one teacher representing the teachers from each grade. Some of this time also enables teachers teaching the same subject to meet across the grades.