You may have seen the front page of the Vancouver Sun last month announcing new Draft Curriculum the Ministry of Education has set out for Grades 4-9 in math, English, social studies and science. While these subject areas are up first, other areas will follow over the next several months. The Ministry will be collecting feedback over the next several months, and I know there will be conversations in our schools, at our PAC Meetings, and elsewhere in our communities.
This is a very important conversation and one piece of the larger transformation at work in education in British Columbia. Last month I wrote about the use of inquiry in our schools, and the new curriculum is a wonderful match for this approach to learning. I am very pleased that the new curriculum was written by some of our province’s finest teachers, including several from West Vancouver who were involved with the process. I encourage you to take a look at the documents here. In addition to the new curriculum, there may also be changes coming in the areas of assessment, reporting, and calendar planning. These changes come from a place of strength – BC continues to have one of the highest performing education systems in the world.
It is not only the province looking at innovation and transformation; West Vancouver School District has a long-standing commitment to ensuring our students are prepared for the ever-changing world. There are a number of structures in place to support the shifts in our classroom – one of which includes our innovation grants. The Board has allocated $100,000 annually to support groups of educators engaged in collaborative inquiry. These educators use this release time to investigate, explore and plan ways to improve student achievement.
This year we have an amazing 54 groups of teachers (34 at elementary schools and 20 at secondary schools) working on projects supported by our Directors of Instruction Gary Kern and Lynne Tomlinson and a number of key lead teachers including Cari Wilson (Ridgeview), Janet Hicks (West Bay), Kelly Shekill (Rockridge), Dave Moroz (Sentinel), and Jamie Topp (West Vancouver Secondary).
Some of the areas of exploration include:
- Flipped Classrooms (a model where the classwork and homework are reversed)
- Increasing the use of self-evaluation and formative feedback
- Increasing choice in how students can display their learning
- Using technology to support personal inquiry projects
- Adapting mindfulness strategies to counter anxiety and stress
- Increasing physical literacy through visual feedback
- Increasing engagement in the visual arts by building connections to practising artists
Often innovation is seen to be synonymous with technology – and many times technology plays a key role in our new approaches. But as this list shows, innovation in education is far broader, as our teachers look for new ways to engage students and create vibrant learning opportunities. We have a staff that is reflective and continually looking to better meet the needs of students. Their commitment and dedication around these projects are fine examples of these efforts.
I am sure you are seeing that education looks different today than it did when you went to school. Be sure to talk with your child’s teacher, principal or others on the new ways we are working to connect with our changing environment and students.
Finally, I want to recognize the terrible devastation from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines as I know this tragic event has personally affected a number of our staff and families. I am pleased that a number of schools are already looking for ways to support the relief efforts. I am always so impressed by how our schools rally to offer support during these times. Our thoughts are with all those affected.