Learners Tool

Authentic Engagement with Learners

Kia ora! This section of the website is all about the learners.  

The overarching objective of the 2023 Mayfield Project is to create a set of tools that support and facilitate authentic listening. In order to promote JEDI outcomes through the design of learning environments, it’s key that the needs of learners are at the core.  

We’ve created a tool to support learners to authentically listen to themselves.  

The tool:  

We want to make it easy for designers of space and designers of learning to be inspired to run a range of workshops that support authentic listening. 

Our tool comes in two parts:  

Create Your Own Workshop

Part one is a set of cards that will inspire ideas for how to design workshops to engage with learners. The process enables people to create tailored workshop plans that respond to the context in which they will be run. This will ensure workshops respond to learner needs, abilities, age and could be used indoors, outdoors and with a range of available resources.  

We’ve created a set of cards which can be used in a range of combinations to help you design a workshop. 

Learners | Create Your Own Workshop

Authentic Engagement Toolkit

Click on the buttons below to use the cards online


How To Use The Cards

The set of cards is organised into four categories:  

  • Goals outlining the goals upfront ensures your workshop has some scope around what successful engagement looks like.  
  • Finding Out – establishing an authentic reason or objective for the workshop.  
  • Taking Action these cards provide ideas around what you might do with the learners and what types of students they might be best suited for.  
  • Checking In – these question prompts help learners think about the activities through different lenses of JEDI and also help as a check to ensure your workshop is achieving it’s goals.  

Using a combination of these cards will enable you to design a workshop with a clear scope, goals and desired outcomes. They will support you to design a lesson that is tailored to the context and learners within the learning environment and will support them to authentically listen to themselves. These cards were developed and refined through our workshop experimentation process, to make sure that the lessons created will have JEDI at its core. 

Ready To Go Workshops

Part two is a collection of workshops that our group has designed, using the cards from part one. These workshops have been tested and the outcomes have been documented below.  

This section will grow overtime as more workshops are designed and tested. Over time, this section will become a depository of ideas, research, inspiration and tips for people to draw upon when designing their own workshops.  

Learners | Ready To Go Workshops

Authentic Engagement Toolkit

Click on the buttons below to use the cards online


Young people are active producers of varying knowledges and cultures and have their own perceptions and understandings of the importance of the places in their lives. It is not that young people know less than adults, but rather they “know something else.”  

(Matthew & Limb 1999, p.68).

Interested in more information about the Learners Tool from the Authentic Engagement Toolkit? Read below to find out more.


    • Be patient. Authentic Listening takes time.

    • Consider each individual. What adjustments can you make so that all learners participate?

    • First time working with a group of students? Play an icebreaker before you begin to create connections, familiarize yourself with the group and build trust.

    • Create a comfortable working space. For example, working in small circles, working on the floor, or outdoors can relax your participants.

    • Plan ahead! How will you record your findings? Many children do not respond to interview style questions. Consider nominating a photographer to capture student responses with photos and videos.

Early learners

    • Keep learning activities short and focused with plenty of movement breaks.

    • Play based learning activities are appropriate. Engage at their level; younger students open up more when they are participating in an activity together. Play with dinosaurs, bake something in play kitchen or simply colour alongside them.

    • Learners may need prompts to help them express how their body feels when they are experiencing an emotion. For instance, ‘When you felt upset, did you notice your breathing change?’

    • Consider using puppets, stuffed animals or toys to enact scenarios to encourage conversations.

    • Writing will be challenging for most learners.


    • Children in this age group are developing their reading, writing and oral language skills, however, many will need support and time to finish written activities.

    • Learners will respond to concrete objects (real things) when learning new things.

    • Provide a ‘hook’ at the start of a workshop. For example, a mystery object or scent to boost engagement.

    • Doing a whole class activity? Consider breaking into smaller groups before sharing ideas to encourage reluctant speakers to more fully participate.

    • Learners may respond well to thinking routines such as ‘think pair share’. Remind them that one person listens while the other talks, then give them time to swap.


    • Learners are able to engage with more abstract topics. Be willing to let the conversation digress. Sometimes we find out the most about a learner when we let them take the lead in the conversation.

    • Share a bit about yourself and your reasons for running the workshop. When the participants feel they know you, they are more likely to open up to you with their feelings.

    • Keep content relevant to the lives of the learners.

At the core of learning environments are the learners themselves. Educational experiences that take a learner-centred approach are essential in promoting the level of engagement that leads to more positive student outcomes.

The focus of this section is unlocking ways in which learners can better communicate their spatial and learning needs. Part of this is supporting students to increase their self-awareness of their learning experiences. Student needs are the critical piece of information that will enable designers of space and learning to promote JEDI outcomes through the design of learning environments.

    • A learning environment is about the learners, so their voices need to be heard.

    • It’s common for learners and young people to jump to prescriptive solutions rather than articulating their needs. We call this the, “I want a slide” or “I like pink rooms” effect. 

    • Designers of learning and designers of space are equipped and trained at responding to user needs. The information gathered from learners is not always easy to use or easy to translate into a design. It excludes the opportunity for designers to authentically respond to user needs.

    • Learners should be guided to better understand and articulate how they feel in various learning environments through their emotions and sensory experiences.

How can learners engage with their feelings and senses to better understand their learning environments and communicate their needs? 

Can we create a tool that supports learners to listen to themselves?

The tool will be used by designers of space and designers of learning who engage with learners. The tool will support learners to listen to themselves, their peers and become more aware of the space around them.

The tool will:

    • Help learners articulate their needs.

    • Be used within the classroom to help learners understand how to regulate and articulate their emotional needs within their environment.

    • Support anyone who needs to engage with students about their experience of learning environments.

    • Create an inclusive environment within their classrooms by helping students understand how their peers may perceive spaces, learn and express themselves.

    • Be used by students to build relationships and trust with teachers to be able to better express what they need in a space to support them to learn.

    • Learners understand that we all learn differently, and how different spaces might support different types of learning.

    • Learners feel they are all heard. As sometimes the learners who need the most help are not always willing to ask. Allowing them to express themselves in a variety of ways to make sure they use their best voice.

    • This information will support designers of learning environments to better respond to learner needs and therefore promote JEDI outcomes.