Kelowna educators study B.C.’s redesigned curriculum

An unprecedented gathering of 1,500 teachers, vice principals and principals, senior staff, board members and students.

  • Thu Feb 11th, 2016 6:00am
  • News

At this week's non-instructional day for teachers in the Central Okanagan

For the first time in more than two decades, teachers, principals and vice principals along with senior staff from the Central Okanagan School District gathered under one roof for a collaborative learning session this week as educators began to learn more about a redesigned curriculum being implemented in B.C. schools.

More than 1,500 strong took in a day-long working session designed to help educators understand the changes being implemented in kindergarten to Grade 12, some of which is already in place in schools and some of which is still being worked on. Local teaches facilitated 60 different sessions being offered at the event, held at KSS, with the motto “Together We Learn” as educators explored the redesigned curriculum.

“What was really exciting as someone new to the district was having everyone together with a common purpose,” said superintendent Kevin Kaardal, in his first year as the district’s superintendent. “I’m so thrilled with the leadership of all of our partners, particularly with the collaborative approach that the Central Okanagan Teachers Association and our joint educational change committee took. I was very impressed with the 60 teachers that stepped forward to share their expertise with their colleagues as facilitators. That takes a certain amount of courage.”

Called Building Student Success: B.C’s New Curriculum, the redesign of the curriculum in B.C. schools is being implemented across the province beginning this year and over the next two years. Changes in K to Grade 9 are optional this year and will be the official curriculum next year while changes in Grades 10 to 12 will be optional next year and official in 2017-18.

Mandated by the provincial government, the new curriculum will place more emphasis on the deeper understanding of concepts and the application of processes rather than on the memorization of isolated facts and information, according to the government’s web site detailing the changes (curriculum.gov.bc.ca/).

Across the province, educators have been given two learning days this school session where kids are not in school and educators can learn the redesign. In the Central Okanagan, the first one was Tuesday and another day will follow in late May.

“Never before has a curriculum been changed top to bottom,” said Susan Bauhart, the president of the Central Okanagan Teachers Association. “It really was just the start and the level of expertise in the district is varied. Some teachers are using it this year, others are planning to move into next year when it’s mandated and the 10 to 12 curriculum is only in the draft phase so they don’t know what it’s going to look like. But the fundamental principles are there and that’s what Tuesday was all about. It was a wonderful opportunity for us all to be together. I don’t remember another single event that drew everyone together.”

For the past several months the school district’s joint education change committee—consisting of teachers, principals and senior staff—worked together to design the day-long session.

“It was just a phenomenal day of bringing everyone together under one roof to learn together,” said assistant superintendent Terry Beaudry. “We went to multiple sessions and really heard from our teachers excellent questions but also excitement about the next steps as we move forward with the redesign.”

At the heart of the redesigned curriculum are literacy and numeracy foundations of reading and writing as well as essential learning: What students are expected to know, be able to do and understand at each grade. It also focusses on core competencies of creative and critical thinking, communication and personal and social responsibilities.

As teachers begin to put those into practice in local schools the first of two non-instructional days this year was certainly seen as a big success.

“It was a great day,” concluded Kaardal. “It was a career highlight for many people because it brought everyone together and we were working together for a common purpose: To improve learning for our students and that was fantastic.”

Highlights of B.C.’s Redesigned Curriculum

•Personalized learning: The redesign provides flexibility to inspire the personalization of learning and addresses the diverse needs and interests of B.C. students.

•Ecology and the environment: Revisions to the science curriculum were made to ensure better representation of ecology and environmental learning.

•Historical wrongs: The curriculum includes the history of the Asian and South Asian communities and their contributions to the development of our province, as well as the injustices they experienced.

Flexible learning environments: Teachers will have great flexibility in creating learning environments that are relevant, engaging and novel, giving consideration to local contexts and place-based learning.

•Aboriginal perspectives and knowledge: Aboriginal culture and perspectives have been integrated throughout all areas of learning using the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Those are:

-Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family the community, the land, the spirits and the ancestors.

-Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships and a sense of place.)

-Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.

-Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.

-Learning recognizes the role of indigenous knowledge.

-Learning involves patience and time.

-Learning requires exploration of one’s identity.

-Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shred with permission and/or in certain situation.