Exploring new student-focus school curriculum

On Feb. 23, nearly 100 teachers of all grades from Vanderhoof gathered for a district-wide workshop on the new B.C. school curriculum.

Jo Johns

Jo Johns

On Feb. 23, nearly 100 teachers of all grades from Vanderhoof gathered at Nechako Valley Secondary for the second and last school district-wide workshop on the new B.C. school curriculum.

B.C.’s Ministry of Education announced last fall a new curriculum for the province’s schools to prepare students for today’s changing world of technology and innovation.

Including the first workshop that took place on Jan. 12, the two days for guided exploration of the new curriculum were facilitated by six teachers of from various grades and disciplines: Evelyn Dickson Elementary’s Roberta Toth and Becki Larsen teach grades 4/5 and Grade 3 respectively, Nechako Valley Secondary’s Jo Johns and Lisa Thiessen teach Grade 7 and English for grades 9 to 12 respectively, EBUS Academy’s Sarah Barr teaches Grade 8 through distance learning, and Michelle Miller-Gauthier is School District No. 91’s literacy support worker, as well as involving with special education at W. L. McLeod Elementary.

The new teacher-created curriculum focuses on the process students take to reach their end goal, Barr said.

“It’s who they want to be when they finish,” she said. “Can they problem solve, can they communicate, can they learn to learn.

“Employers want to know if they are a self-starter.”

The core of the new curriculum is its three core competencies, to bring students to fruition: communication, thinking, as well as personal and social, Toth explained.

“It really focuses on their strengths, so students can take risks,” she said. “Students are more intrinsically learning because they own the learning.”

Whether in applying for jobs or post-secondary schools, projects are becoming more important than transcripts.

“People are looking more of that portfolio, rather than grades,” Toth said. “What does a grade mean?”

Concentrating more on students than subjects, assessment strategies are changing to focus less on content, Johns said.

“For me, students are not just doing the work,” she said. “My role is providing some structure in what they need to do, not giving them a lot to remember.”

For example, when learning about static electricity, some students wrote a letter, while others created a comic strip, Johns explained.

“It’s not about a test after a unit, but showing what you know,” she said.

Though some teachers for students from Kindergarten to Grade 9 started trial running the new curriculum this year, full implementation will take place next fall, phasing in senior grades in 2017.

Teachers can continue to provide feedback to the curriculum draft — reflecting the rapidly changing world as well as the change in people’s understanding of the act of learning, Johns said.

Referring to a discussion with other teachers, the changing approach to learning can be compared with the change in driving examinations, she explained.

“There were no Novice or Learning stages,” she said. “Now there’s feedback, there’s practice.”