The shifts in the BC curriculum are coming fast. Next fall the “draft” stamp comes off of all curriculum in K-9 across all subject areas. And if the current timelines remain in place, the same will happen one year later for grades 10-12. As I have written here before, the changes have been overwhelmingly well received and the conversations that have come out of them not just about what is covered in school but how it is covered have been outstanding.
As we get close to the September full implementation date, I am nervous that I see some beginning to look for solutions to cover the curriculum. And just what does that mean?
For many of us growing up, we saw the grade 8 Social Studies curriculum as the Patterns of Civilization textbook. The Science 10 curriculum was the Science Probe textbook. I talk to many parents now who believe the Math curriculum in our elementary school is really the Math Makes Sense textbook. The new curriculum does not only shift what we are teaching, and how we are teaching, but also forces us to think differently about resources. The focus on big ideas, students constructing knowledge and core competencies require different kinds of support resources. If the era of a single textbook being able to equal a course of study was not yet over, it is now.
We have our second of two days this year dedicated to the implementation of the curriculum this week. The day will focus on the competencies (communication, thinking and personal and social). It is a very rich day that schools have planned with teacher leaders at each site leading the work on their staff. Along with Aboriginal education and resources, the competencies were the number one item that staff across the district have wanted to focus on. The work in our schools has been exciting and inspiring. Teachers and administrators are working together looking at all aspects of teaching and learning and what the shifts mean for them, and their students.
As we get closer to September, there will be anxiousness around resources. We need to look to avoid the easy solutions of books or programs that promise to ‘cover’ the curriculum. There will absolutely need to be new resources over time to support the new content, competencies and inquiry-based focus of the curriculum. Aboriginal education, in particular, is an area that has not been well covered in previous resources and is embedded across all areas in the refreshed curriculum.
Just as the curriculum has been a process rather than a proclamation over the last several years, so should the work to find resources to support the students, teacher and classroom. I think we need to think carefully about format – how much digital and how much paper based? We need to think about consistency – which resources should be standard across classes and schools? We need to think of local vs. broad – which resources should be centred on the local community? We need to think of content vs. process – should the resources be big ideas / inquiry focused or focused on subject content? And what about professionally produced vs. locally teacher-curated resources? And do we always need new resources – what do we have now that still works or could be used differently to support student learning?
I see some problem-based experiences that students do to support their learning and I see some other “new”resources that look like the old resources with a fresh coat of paint and where words like inquiry and problem-based learning were sprinkled throughout but little else changed.
And all of this is just the start. The refreshed curriculum is a real chance to also think carefully and differently about the resources we use to support learning. And we know there is something reassuring when our children bring home backpacks of books – each one representing an area of study.
In our urgency to get up-to-speed with the changes in curriculum we should be thoughtfully looking for resources that help bring learning to life for our students and not ones that cover the new stuff in the older, familiar ways.
As I have said before, exciting times!