School Philosophy - A Generative Approach to Curriculum
A Perspective, not a method
A generative stance towards curriculum is for us a particular perspective — a way of looking at teaching and learning — and a way of being in the world. We intentionally use the phrases "generative stance" or "generative approach" because we want to underscore that a generative curriculum is a way of thinking and not a method.
For us, a generative approach is a particular collection of "best" practices which reflect what we have learned as teachers and what current research emphasizes, and which borrows from several branches of philosophy. Generative curriculum is not new, nor is it experimental. Rather, it incorporates elements of best practice which teachers have long supported in many schools.
Generativity implies generosity in our view of children as learners, in the opportunities which we provide for them, and in the spirit with which we live peaceably together in this place. With respect for the individual backgrounds of the children before us, we know that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach which will meet their needs. We work instead to develop a broad repertoire of teaching strategies to enable children to approach their learning in different ways. We help them to recognize that there are multiple ways in which they may interpret the texts of their lives and with which they may represent their understanding.
We see teaching as a human act rather than a technical one, and remember the importance of the relationships we nurture at West Dalhousie. Believing that children need to feel safe and cared for, we cultivate a sense of community. Believing that we often do our best learning when we have someone who will talk it over with us, we support dialogue in our classrooms and engage children in thoughtful conversation. We know that children also need to have voice in decisions about their learning and choice in how they will take it up.
We organize our curriculum around deep, significant questions that have confronted human beings for centuries. Our current question has evolved from those that went before and is the result of many hours of reflection and discussion by all members of our school community. "How Do You Know?" We enable children to explore a topic in depth, to return to earlier topics, and to make connections in their learning in our classrooms and in their lives beyond our walls. We encourage our students to critically question their world. Remembering that as teachers and parents we offer models of adulthood to children, we show them that we, too are lifelong learners who still have many questions to ask. We recognize and model the importance of wonder and imagination.
Throughout its rich history, West Dalhousie School has had a tradition of curriculum innovation and we owe much to the colleagues who came before us. Today, teachers who come to our school join us because they want to pursue a generative approach to curriculum The result is a strongly cohesive pedagogy, which grounds our work and supports continuing critical inquiry.
A curriculum document is a cultural inheritance — a society's summary of that which it values as worthy of knowing. We believe that the curriculum we engender at West Dalhousie will offer children that legacy, and will enable them to shape a kinder, gentler, and more ecologically sustainable future.
Our School is Organized for Learning
We are organized in multi-aged groups of grade: K, 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6. This structure provides for a workable range of instructional groups.
Within each grade group, students are placed in flexible groups for instruction according to the teachers' diagnosis of their needs. Instructional groups are flexible and may vary from one subject to another.
At West Dalhousie School, we work within a strongly collaborative culture. In keeping with our belief that dialogue and shared experiences further our understanding, we meet weekly on Friday afternoons as a whole staff, as well as in Professional Learning Communities to develop our professional practice and share expertise.
Grade teams collaborate regularly to plan and implement instructional programs for their students. Through team teaching, both in grade teams and within classrooms, we capitalize on the expertise of individual teachers, create greater flexibility in the grouping of children according to needs, promote constructive decision-making, and develop professionalism throughout the staff by mutual sharing.