Earlier this week, a large group from our division participated in a facilitated conversation led by Mark Bevan and Karen Shipka from Alberta Education Workforce Planning Branch. The group included trustees, senior administration, principals, associate principals, ATA local executive, lead teachers and members of the PD Council. The purpose of the conversation with this varied group was to:
- Unpack the Ministerial Order on Student Learning,
- Review the goals of Inspiring Education and
- Discuss the future adults (parent, teacher, principal, superintendent, trustee) of 2016.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the way we currently deliver education is neither beneficial for ALL students nor for preparing them for a future world of unprecedented change. While some students benefit from the ability to regurgitate knowledge and prefer compliance over engagement, ALL students would benefit from an education system that develops an intrinsic love of life-learning, enhances creativity and innovation and develops strong critical thinking skills. The Ministerial Order on Student Learning proclaimed in May 2013 and Inspiring Education released over three years ago speaks to that type of education system.
To be frank, this is not something that is coming, it is something that should be occurring in our classrooms today, right now. To also be fair, this type of learning environment is happening in many classrooms around the province but not in all classrooms and not throughout the entire Alberta system. This is simply unacceptable as ALL students deserve this highest quality of learning in every classroom. However, there are some precursors that must be put into place for all classrooms to meet the Ministerial Order.
- Permission- teachers need to be given the ability to be creative in their own classrooms. They need to collectively agree on the 10 most important outcomes for each grade level and subject and teach those outcomes deeply with great understanding of student interest to ensure relevance. Our goal needs to be engaged students who come home excited about their learning as opposed to compliant students who reply to the age-old question, “What did you learn today?” with “Nothing!” In order for permission to be provided, teachers need not only be learned but learners.
- Removal of 20th Century Assessments- I’ve spoken openly about my disdain for how Provincial Achievement Tests are used by institutes and the media in previous posts. There will always be a place for some form of standardized testing but not in the way they are currently being used. There are too many 21st century skills and competencies that cannot be effectively measured in a paper and pencil test. We need to find more appropriate methods of communicating learning instead of simply measuring achievement.
- Creation of an Assurance Model- It would be unfair and I believe categorically incorrect to simply allow the teacher’s “marks” to stand. Even with the high standards we have in Alberta, there is a large continuum in teaching ability in our classrooms. Diploma exams were resurrected in the early 80’s due to the inconsistencies in teacher quality and grading practices. But the accountability system we currently live in does not promote the rich learning that Inspiring Education is promoting. However, parents have the right and government (who spend billions of dollars) deserve to be assured that high quality learning exists in all classrooms. An assurance model compared to the accountability model is desirable!
- On-side parents and communities- Although we’ve all gone through schooling, what may have worked (operable word is may) for you will not work for your children. There is too much research out there that does not support our antiquated system of education. Because that is what is known and what you are comfortable with does not mean that it is the right way! We still hold on to structures (2 months of holidays in the summer for example) that do not make any sense in this day and age. It is time to let go of past practices and move toward an engaging environment where your child is highly engaged and being prepared for their future and not your past.
- Educators themselves- Most parents trust their child’s teacher implicitly. If educators are not having these conversations about Inspiring Education with their parents, we will graduate another generation of students not prepared for their changing world. We cannot stand back and let others tell the story- it must come from us. Furthermore, our actions (teaching pedagogy) must be aligned with Inspiring Education… NOW! Given that we no longer have Provincial Achievement Test in grade 3, we should be able to show parents and the community how vastly different and greatly improved our teaching practice has become. Our engaging creative classrooms must be evident given the removal of this barrier.
The Ministerial Order on Student Learning and Inspiring Education is where we need to be in order to develop success in all students. The permission for creativity and innovative practice in the classroom, focusing on key learner outcomes and ensuring learner relevance for engagement are monumental changes to the system. Yet, without these changes, education will remain relatively uninspired with at best transactional and incremental adjustments instead of the required transformation. The pathway to achieving our transformed outcomes for education may not be crystal clear but our vision of Inspiring Education must always remain in sharp focus!