Dale Bass – Kamloops This Week
The new curriculum students will be exposed to this school year is a way for the province “to ensure that we stay on top of the world,” in the view of Education Minister Mike Bernier.
For Jamie Robinson, the Kamloops-Thompson school district’s new director of instruction, the curriculum coming into place for students in kindergarten to Grade 9 is a way for students to learn by following their curiosity, by doing rather than by just sitting and listening, by creating rather than only reading textbooks.
The new curriculum will also be expanding to grades 10 to 12.
This year is considered a transition year in which teachers will be testing concepts that help build it for implementation in the coming years.
With three key focuses — thinking, communication and developing personal and social skills — the new curriculum is personalized, giving teachers more flexibility in how they teach.
It moves away from the pedagogy of years gone by, Robinson said, when a teacher would stand at the front of the classroom talking about a subject, with students then reading about it and then completing a worksheet.
“Kids can get information,” Robinson said.
“They know how to Google. The mandate we are following is to produce educated citizens with intellectual capacities, personal and social competency and the ability to think. We are doing it so kids can build the core competencies.”
Robinson said it is learning by doing, rather than the system when he was in school, “where we sit and we get.”
Robinson doesn’t believe the changes will be a challenge for longtime teachers because the new curriculum was created by teachers working with the ministry.
Bernier said the ministry, working with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, is allocating $7 million in teacher training and to help districts buy computers and equipment that may be needed.
Bernier noted in a recent press conference that additional computers and related equipment may be required because coding is another component of the new curriculum.
“The technology out there now has been here for a while, but we want to make sure that our students are prepared and our students are ready for everything that’s changing in the world,” Bernier said.
“So, coding was a big part of it and making sure we had a financial commitment to help teachers be ready to teach coding, which is also just as important.
That doesn’t mean the three Rs are being ignored. Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic remain foundation skills and will be part of all learning.
“With the new curriculum, it really allows what we’ve been talking about. It’s that collaboration and communication, skills that are so needed in today’s society,” Bernier said.
“When you look at trying to get a job, when you look at moving to post-secondary, whatever you choose to do after kindergarten to Grade 12, you need to have those additional skills,” he said.
“This new curriculum really enhances — on top of the core competencies, broadens those opportunities to make sure they’re ready to graduate and move on where they choose to go in life.”
What does the new curriculum mean?
All the buzzwords are there — core competencies, pedagogy, investment and the like — but what does the province’s new curriculum mean in actual learning?
Jamie Robinson, School District 73’s director of instruction, explained, pointing to a workshop at a recent in-service day for teachers. The goal was to demonstrate project-based learning — essentially learning by doing. Teachers were challenged to show innovation on technical imagery and design something that would be useful for humans to use.
Robinson said it meant looking for information applying science (physics) to actually build something, working as a team, learning to collaborate and co-operate, problem-solving and confronting challenges rather than just turning the page.
“It’s more of an inquiry-based approach,” Robinson said of the new curriculum.
Robinson, who has been involved in education for 24 years, made the move to SD73 from the Central Okanagan School District. He’s been impressed with what he’s learned about SD73’s commitment to the concepts that underscore the new curriculum, describing the district as a leader in the province.
There are many examples, but Robinson said one that epitomizes this embrace of personalized learning is Bert Edwards science and technology school.
Last December, the school invited Education Minister Mike Bernier, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake and SD73 trustees and administrators to visit to see what teachers there were doing.
The tour included a stop in a Grade 6 classroom, where teacher Rob Wielgoz was giving a robotics lesson.
It didn’t involve a blackboard, textbooks, worksheets or a teacher giving the lesson.
What the visitors saw were students working with Lego, sitting on the floor and using a table, working together to build their own robots and add coding so their creations would move.
Wielgoz told KTW at the time that one of the lessons he hoped the students were learning was that it is acceptable to be wrong if they face the hurdle and solve the problem. The lesson also brought in math skills to help kids figure out what wasn’t working and why.
After watching the students, the education minister said, “You know what I see here? I see children talking, walking and learning.
“In my time, we wouldn’t talk or even dare ask a question in case we got it wrong. Man, these kids know more than I do.”