Multi-Modal Classrooms

Hi Learners,

So the topic I picked for my inquiry assignment is Multi-Modal learning. I know it’s huge and I’m biting off way more than  I can chew, but already I am learning so much. Multi-modal learning means that information is being taught, absorbed and observed in a variety of ways, some of the more useful ones I am hoping to touch on throughout my own learning.

As I work on some readings tonight, one particular section popped up to me titled “Space and Time: What Might an Inquiry-Based Classroom Look Like?” (Natural Curiosity 2nd Edition, pg 26) and it hit me. Classrooms are probably one of the best visual ways to demonstrate to your class, and others, what your learning looks like on a regular basis. Educators spend hours laying out their classroom, figuring out the message they want to focus on for their year, what their personal goal is, and how they want their classroom community to interact. Each teacher will have their own opinions on how a classroom should look. Some will say that primary colours are a must because it represents the foundations of knowledge, others might say muted tones are best if you have a busy classroom so that the students are not overstimulated, still others will say they never use a “classroom” and prefer to do their teaching in an outdoor environment. Natural Curiosity 2nd Edition: A Resource for Educators provides some questions educators may want to consider while setting up their classrooms:

  1. Is this classroom conducive to learning in which students’ ideas and thinking are at the centre?
  2. How can I provide long periods of time for students to delve deeply into a topic?
  3. What values about learning does the physical classroom convey? For example. does the displayed work show  range of skills and levels of thinking, including errors and beginning ideas?
  4. Can all students find themselves represented in the materials and learning tools of this classroom?
  5. Have I ensured that each student’s thinking is visible in some way?
  6. Does the classroom set-up encourage students to connect their ideas with those that have gone before (e.g.. through archived discussions or the choice of books)?
  7. Are the materials presented in an undistracting, inviting, and aesthetically pleasing way that awakens curiosity?
  8. How can we bring “the outdoors in”, maintaining strong connections between classroom practices and the natural environment that is our focus?

Keep in mind that each educator has a variety of equipment and ‘stuff’ available at any given time. All of these questions are important to consider, but #1 and #5 particularly stand out in the case of multi-modal learning and the classroom. This is because #1 focuses not on the learner’s ability in a particular subject, but fosters the idea of developing a curiosity in the given subject, specific to that students’ thinking. #5 ensures the development of a classroom community, as well as equal and fair representation of each student’s work, even if it isn’t perfect. I would suggest that the teacher throw up a couple of his/her examples once students  have theirs up, to demonstrate that they too are in the process of learning.

A multi-modal classroom doesn’t have to focus on what ‘stuff’ you have available to the learners. It’s key to success is being able to recognize that there are different kinds of learners every year, and in every classroom, and figuring out how to represent that to your class in a variety of ways, whether that is visually, academically, or physically. If educators can keep the above listed points in their thoughts as they set up their classroom, the multi-modal classroom layout part is done, and the construction of multi-modal instruction begins next.

– Anna