The implementation of the New Curriculum in British Columbia has garnered a lot of attention throughout the world. Our population is made up of Canadians, immigrants and refugees from many different places, with many different schooling traditions. In my little school of only 328 students, we have 34 home languages. Yet what we are doing to prepare our students for the demands of the 21st Century is bringing good results.
Students are encouraged to ask the key questions laid out so effectively by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser in The Spirals of Inquiry.
- Where am I now in my learning?
- Where am I going next?
- What do I need to get there?
Suzanne Hoffman, Superintendent, Learning Transformation, Ministry of Education emphasizes the significance of “unveiling the hidden curriculum” by deliberately teaching and assessing core competencies. Deliberate instruction and reflection of communication, thinking and personal / social responsibility skills have the power to transform lives of our students (SAHoffman, Nov. 15, 2017). Mandatory self assessment demonstrates that core competencies are important enough to be measured and help students to learn about themselves as learners, to develop the skills required for collaboration and to supports the creation meaningful goals.
Aside from the students themselves, teachers have the most significant impact on the students in their classrooms. Teachers in British Columbia have a high level of professionalism. They are well educated and have regular access to professional development and opportunities for collaboration. As John A.C. Hattie aptly states in Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning ” (2013) “…those teachers who are students of their own impact, are the teachers who are the most influential in raising students’ achievement.” By making learning intentions explicit, teachers help their students to learn intended learning outcomes, as well as the strategies of how to learn. The development of scoring rubrics with students or a review of criteria prior to assignments or marking, helps students to understand expectations and plan their time. The challenge for teachers is to determine those strategies and practices that will enable students to ask complex questions, problem solve, work collaboratively and persevere to find answers and discover future possibilities.
In the new curriculum students are given far more responsibility for their own learning. One rationale is to improve student engagement in school. Another is to create students who will be able to respond to the demands of the 21st century. My son works as a designer in Lululemon’s “Whitespace” with engineers, scientists and technologists. Beyond the frosted glass and carded access, he is researching how clothes impact physical performance and the mental and emotional perception of athletic ability. The goal is to respond to trends, create markets and tailor sports clothing for 4-10 years down the road. To our amazement as his parents, the childhood fascination with lego, trials riding, downhill riding, skiing, snowboarding and the construction of death defying jumps were the things that provided some of the rudimentary learning required for the job. We can’t predict all of the jobs in the future, but the new curriculum sets out to enable students to ask and respond to tough questions and learn through engagement in the things they find fascinating. Students are now responsible for assuming responsibility for their learning, engaging with peers to learn cooperatively and participating in evaluating their progress.
In the not so distant past, teachers aspired to be a fountain of knowledge and rushed in to speed up the process of answering questions or finishing explanations expeditiously. Jon Saphier, recently featured in a Webinar sponsored by Corwin (Nov. 13, 2017), suggested three ways to make learning visible and deeper: Turn and talk. Explain. Restate. In the new Curriculum, we want students to take the time to think about difficult problems, to be comfortable being stuck, to engage in dialogue, to ask peers to explain their thinking, and to persevere until they discover their answers.
The shift from summative to formative assessment is necessary to assist students in this new role. In order for our students to take more responsibility for their learning, they require ongoing feedback embedded in their daily instruction. The focus is not on one letter grade but movement along a continuum to demonstrate growth in student learning. The initial response was the development of paper based portfolios that allowed students to self select items to demonstrate learning outcomes. The accessibility of technology has added several other layers and possibilities with the addition of pictures, videos and attachments with comment.
The Surrey School District has been using FreshGrade for the past four years to facilitate the collection of online portfolios to provide what Sir Ken Robinson calls “a continuous glimpse into each child’s progress that parents and students can share”. It is one of the possible online applications that BC teachers like for the ease of use by young children and the inclusion of BC Performance standards. The VSB is currently exploring how Office365 can be used in conjunction with various applications to fascilitate learning, store and showcase student work from entry in Kindergarten to graduation in Grade 12. All school districts in British Columbia are developing reporting directives for implementation in September 2018 that will mesh with the new curriculum.
Reporting has always included the aspect of what students are able to do, the areas that require future attention and the ways of supporting students. The opportunities introduced by implementation of the new curriculum in British Columbia are the source of many conversations with colleagues, students and parents about how our system in British Columbia can become even better. Let the learning continue…
Formal assessments continue to play a role in providing feedback about students and Provincial assessments , National and International assessments provide a snapshot of student performance in key areas and, over time, can help to monitor key outcomes of B.C.’s education system.
From the Ministry of Education Website:
B.C. students participate in three types of large-scale assessment:
- Classroom Assessment is an integral part of the instructional process and can serve as meaningful sources of information about student learning.
- Provincial Assessments:
- National and international assessments measure reading, math and science skills of B.C. students. Various age ranges participate and student achievement levels are compared with other provinces or countries.