"As each generation does, our children will grow up to shape the world. They need plenty of creativity and enthusiasm for the task ahead. Nurturing them in loving relationships with plenty of freedom to play is wonderful preparation." - Laura Grace Weldon
"The CBE supports the goal of strengthening the curriculum to prepare students for the future. We trust that government will consider all the feedback gathered across the province and make the necessary changes prior to implementation in September 2022." - CBE, April 8/21
Children live in an odd juxtaposition of home and school, where one offers them the comfort and freedom of a loving, caring anchor in life, and the other the entry point where they begin to acquire skills and attitudes to prepare them for eventually leaving the proverbial nest.
As parents, we invest everything we are capable of offering to ensure our children feel safe yet capable, protected yet willing to take risks, loved yet confident.
As schools, we invest everything we are capable of offering to ensure our students develop competencies, strengths and approaches that will carry them successfully into adulthood with essential academic and life skills.
And our work with students is always guided by the provincial curricula which determines the lenses through which our students encounter the world academically and socially.
There are several ways to approach academic learning within schools - a classical education, for example, emphasizes the study of history, languages and literature through language rather than with images, and has a foundational commitment to the moral development of children, including the idea of immortality and a superior Being as foundational to understanding how the world exists. Classical education is often referred to as 'traditional education' too, and rests on the premise that the accumulated knowledge of a society can be handed down to the next generation in totality - the world has an ordered knowledge that can sequentially be taught to all children since the goal of education is to have all people understand the world in a particular way that will ground them in strong moral principles of living. Children are all taught in a similar way to reflect their common need to develop the same understandings of how the world functions.
Conventional education, on the other hand, does not have theological foundation and sets as it's purpose the socialization of children to promote the meeting of particular learning needs, understand the world from a more 'scientific' or 'exploration of facts perspective' and to conceive of education as a way for a child to develop their individual skills and aptitudes towards living a quality, educated life as an adult. The focus, therefore is more on the learner and how to best access their ability to learn rather than on a codified content of knowledge every child must learn to be successful. The goal of conventional education is to produce functional, skilled people who are able to create a successful, independent life for themselves and their families within a secular society of competing interests.
Within these two broad frameworks of learning exist numerous subsets that have evolved through many, many decades of 'schooling'. Through the twentieth century in particular, schools offered primarily teacher-centred, lecture-style instruction (a classical interpretation of teaching) that was, for the most part, effective for sharing information students could not easily access by themselves, and encouraging of students to take greater interest in the content and lessons presented. Those students who were able to make sense of new knowledge through listening were the most successful with this teaching approach, and there tended to be a high attrition rate in high school environments where students who found themselves struggling academically left school to pursue other, less academic avenues for building successful lives.
Throughout the last century, there evolved pockets of educational research and theorizing that acknowledged not all students were alike in terms of being able to learn, and a multi-faceted approach to instruction began to emerge that recognized all children could become learners if they were offered different opportunities to learn. As well, significant social changes through the 20th century presented numerous challenges for educators - families moved farther apart as the result of industrial growth, religious affiliations began to decline, women became more predominant in the work force and the social fabric that had held society together for many centuries - withstanding much social upheaval - ultimately began to realign the socialization of children away from home, church and community to secular, individualized, smaller spheres of influence.
These changes, influenced heavily by drastic technological advances that occurred through the latter half of the century, caused schools to re-think approaches to childhood socialization and learning.
Researchers studied how children learned, and affirmed the growing awareness that not all children learned best by listening in a lecture-style, teacher-focused environment - nor did this style encourage children to become independent thinkers. The era of teaching all children in the same way began to unravel as schools and educators looked for new teaching paradigms that recognized individual students' learning needs, changing social norms and exponential technological growth within the academic environment.
A new conception of 21st century learning has emerged from the immense changes that unfolded through the last century. While honouring the value of a classical education in many ways (for example, disciplines of study are a typically classical influence), 21st century learning approaches content, teaching, learning, building the classroom environment, assessment and even the use of technology in the classroom from a much different perspective: rather than viewing teaching only through the lens of a body of knowledge a teacher must present to a learner, teaching is structured to be more learner-focused, with the learner contributing to establishing their own learning goals within particular parameters while learning to apply new understandings to novel situation.
Over time, it has become clear that both approaches can be effective strategies for teaching children, depending on the ultimate goals of a society/school/family. There is also significant evidence that affirms most teachers recognize there are multiple ways to teach and that different approaches work best in specific learning situations. 21st century, learner-centered approaches to teaching and learning have been informing teaching practices in Alberta for at least the past twenty years, both formally within a couple of the Programs of Study, and informally as teachers have adapted their renewed understandings of content, student development and how children learn best based on their individual needs to flexibly support even the most traditional of curriculum documents.
Alberta's curriculum has made room, historically, for students to successfully analyze, evaluate and synthesize, as well as to apply new understandings and skills, in a wide variety of real life and classroom-based situations. Educators have clearly demonstrated that learner-centered approaches to teaching are truly able to enhance traditional, teacher-centred instruction as they offer students meaningful contexts to practice and master their emerging skills.
Whether a parent considers a classical education to be most appropriate for their child, or that a conventional approach that encourages individual growth would be ideal - or any other subset of these two primary academic perspectives to be the most relevant for their child - it is a component of what parents are being asked to respond to in the survey to the new draft curriculum: does this curriculum meet your expectations for your child's learning overall?
Consider: What is it that I believe curricula should offer my child as a learner?
This is the lens through which you will then consider the new draft curriculum - will it be able to provide the education for your child that you believe to be most valuable for their successful living?
Responding to the Draft Curriculum - Read the grade/subject areas here:
Draft Kindergarten - Grade 6 New Curriculum Draft
Once you have read this draft, you will be asked to:
- Describe what you believe are the strengths of the draft curriculum
- Describe what you believe are the opportunities for improvement in the draft curriculum
- Offer General Comments
As you read through these draft curricula pages, it is a good idea to use a chart (this is the one we included in the Connect Message today to families) to gather your thoughts and impressions. Each grade level in each subject area offers multiple Initial organizing ideas (think themes) students will be expected to study and know. Each organizing idea is followed by guiding questions and specific learner outcomes - or the learning goals for that particular theme. There are structured knowledge, understanding, skills and procedures columns for each organizing idea. Consider whether your child will be able to successful accomplish the objectives and tasks in each category next school year, based on your understanding of your child as a learner.
Once you have read through each draft subject/grade area pertinent to your child's next grade and jotted some of your impressions on the chart, consider the workload included across the multiple curricula. Minutes of instruction per week per subject area are mandated by Alberta Education, as indicated in this chart:
It is a worthwhile idea to consider workload at this point - will your child be able to accomplish all that is required in the assigned minutes in class, or will homework become a reality for them? This is important general feedback for the survey.
There are more specific suggestions for evaluating curriculum as a parent in the Monday Connect for today (April 12/21). We do encourage every parent to take an hour or so of your time and respond to this critically important draft - it holds your child's future success in the confines of the document and the opportunities for feedback will be critical in ensuring children's learning needs in the youngest years will be met successfully in the years to come.
Principal, Eric Harvie School