Last night I attended a regional working session on the #bcedplan in Kelowna. The purpose of the meeting was to share some of the thinking and work that has gone into the plan and get feedback from the group. The presentation looked at the areas of curriculum, student reporting and grad requirements.
The presenters were clear – what they were sharing was different than the presentation last week and the one they will do next week. Feedback given at each regional meeting (there are 9 on these topics) get incorporated into the vision. The plan is continually emerging based on feedback from the field.
The presentation was only 2 hours, but I left really excited about where education is going in BC. Political issues aside, based on what I saw last night education is moving in a direction that makes me excited to be in the field. As a parent, I am happy that my children are going to grow in a system that is going to try and meet their needs rather than the other way around.
Here are some of my initial thoughts about last night on what we heard and talked about last night.
Grading and Reporting
No letter grades K-3 will continue. However, it looks like letter grades will be optional in grades 4-9 – the decision will lie with school districts and with schools. Anyone who reads this blog regulary knows who I feel about this.
Assessment for Learning
With a de-emphasis of letter grades, there will be a corresponding emphasis on the 6 Big Ideas of AFL. We will have to sharpen our assessment tools – a real emphasis on Clear Learning Targets and Descriptive Feedback. While we didn’t speak specifically about AFL, the connection is clear.
In all the reading I have done about the #bcedplan one thing that is universally agreed upon is the need to change the curriculum. If we are going to change teaching and learning in our province, the curriculum needs to change – based on what I saw last night it will…and for the better.
The IRP’s are a great resource, but they are terrible curriculum.
– Sharon Jerowski
The curriculum is being redesigned in a way that is enabling. By enabling, the Ministry wants the curriculum to be laid out in a way that allows teachers and students to experience it. It will be organized in a way that allows classroom teachers to engage in inquiry, project based learning etc. Ultimately, it will be a curriculum that will enable teacher and student creativity.
One of the most exciting things about the new curriculum is the importance of competencies. According to Sharon Jerowski, the vision for the new curriculum will be less about courses and more about the development of competencies. Content will be fixed – something that you will move through in a linear fashion, but competencies are on a continuum and students will move through them at their own rate. As it stands now, the competencies are defined as Communication, Criticial Thinking, Creative Thinking and Innovation, Personal Responsibility and Social Responsibility. With a curriculum that has significantly fewer outcomes, these competencies will be woven (they often already are) into classroom instruction in a purposeful way.
We were given a draft example of a Science 7 curriculum. I wish I had an electronic copy to share, when I get one I will add it to this post, but it looked awesome! Looking at it as a classroom teacher, it lends itself to the project based learning I have been doing. The document will be digital, so the main interface is simple, but there will be links that can take you deeper and give you more information should you need it.
I have spent my entire career in Middle and Elementary schools, so admittedly I am not well versed in this area. Last night, our presenters mentioned they have only just begun talking about how this might change. The discussions at the tables and on the bus home indicates to me that this will be a big challenge.
The biggest obstacle is a complete paradigm shift. If we are more focused on competencies and learning at grades K-9, then how do we shift to letter grades and courses requirements in Grades 10-12? Without letter grades, how do we give out scholarships, get students into universities?
All good questions – ones that I certainly don’t have answers for. However, if we are focused on process and learning for the first 10 years of education, why do we need to focus on product in the senior secondary years? Is it just to rank students for scholarships and university? I don’t feel that reason is justified.
Overall, it was a great night that has me excited about the way education is moving in our province. As mentioned earlier, there is nothing concrete at this point and the plan is emerging as it is vetted around the province. I was most appreciative of the committee working on this aspect of the plan – they were truly appreciative of our attendance and welcomed (begged for?) our feedback. They do not want to do this work alone and realize the importance of involving the education community.
I know my thinking will change and develop as I discuss the plan with my colleagues, but change is good and growth is even better.