Flexible Learning Spaces - Implications for Teacher Wellbeing
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The design and construction of Flexible Learning Spaces (FLS) in New Zealand schools has been government policy since 2011. As teacher wellbeing is increasingly recognised as a critical contemporary educational issue, understanding how combining teachers in collaborative teams to work in large, open spaces with large numbers of students affects teacher wellbeing is an unexplored area of significance. This research specifically sought to reveal aspects of FLS that challenge teacher wellbeing, while also examining how the affordances of FLS may actually support teacher wellbeing. This qualitative case study captured the narratives of eight teachers working in FLS in New Zealand schools. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, focussing on an exploration of the participants’ self-reported sense of their wellbeing and the opportunities and challenges FLS present to their wellbeing. Four teachers took part in interviews, and a further four teachers involved in the focus group. Data analysis revealed unique opportunities presented by working conditions in FLS. Five emergent themes suggest both resources and approaches that best support teacher wellbeing in FLS. These recommendations suggest strategies and best practice for individual teachers, teaching teams and school leaders. The findings also have implications for teacher education institutions, and future research. Responsible state and national educational policy should ensure the wellbeing of teachers, who are key to the education process if teaching is to support effective learning. This study of the relationship between teacher wellbeing and the implementation of FLS policy is therefore timely, as this area is under-researched, and this study contributes to filling this gap. By carrying out this research it is hoped that teachers can gain a deeper understanding of the nature of their own wellbeing and through this foster the wellbeing of the teaching profession.