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Feb 13

Chris Smeaton

AISI: Not just another acronym

Education is full of acronyms and AISI is another. So what does it stand for- Alberta Initiative for School Improvement. AISI has been in existence since 1999 and has provided substantial funding to school divisions across the province with a goal of encouraging and promoting creativity and innovation in Alberta schools. Projects are three years in length and 2012-13 marks the fifth cycle of AISI in Alberta.

Although defined as a three-year initiative, Holy Spirit has categorized AISI as an opportunity to build on the existing strengths of our teachers. It has been the driver of educational change by focusing on the professional learning of our staff. In my five years with Holy Spirit Catholic Schools, I have witnessed tremendous examples of the benefits of AISI for our students. Teachers are teaching differently because students learn differently, resulting in increased student engagement. Instead of students being simply information receivers, they are becoming knowledge creators. They are learning how to learn and building skills that will assist them in being successful in their 21st century world. AISI continues to provide students with increased autonomy, mastery and purpose in their learning.   

We know that teaching quality matters! Our classrooms and society as a whole are far more diverse than ever before. And although schools have continued to evolve, the world has changed at an extraordinary rate. How do we prepare students for a world that is in constant flux? In Holy Spirit Catholic Schools, it is excellent teaching through AISI support that is leading that charge!

AISI in our division is helping create the professional conditions and supports necessary to prepare students for their “unknown” future. It allows teachers to be reflective of their practice in order to improve student learning. Through grade and subject level meetings, teachers share promising practices with one another. Our collaborative peer mentor program has teachers implementing research-based strategies to enhance their own instruction. Learning communities are established where teachers engage in collaborative planning and visit multiple classrooms to witness outstanding practice. School administrators continue to improve their skills as instructional leaders through robust classroom supervision in order to provide feedback on excellent teaching.

Even though AISI funding was cut in half two years ago, our Division has been able to continue to leverage educational transformation. Work on formative assessment, 21st century competencies and learner intellectual engagement has characterized our last three AISI projects. Our teachers are continually implementing more creative and innovative practices in their classrooms. They are implementing a research-based model of teaching that encourages pedagogical risk. The result of this work is students who are becoming critical thinkers and collaborative learners. AISI is not just another acronym in education; it is a way of life in Holy Spirit Catholic Schools.  

NOTE: This article was published in the Lethbridge Herald on February 13, 2013

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