Rhona Soutar, director of instruction for school district 72 (SD72) presented the, “what’s changing and what’s staying the same,” of the new provincial K-9 curriculum – currently being implemented in schools province-wide – to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday night.
“The reasons behind this redesign are what we’ve been hearing from teachers, what we’ve been hearing from families, what we’ve been hearing from students and what’s going on elsewhere in the world,” Soutar said.
“This is not just something we’re doing in B.C., this is something that’s happening everywhere in response to changing economies and societies.”
About three or four years ago, Soutar told the board, there was a conversation, province-wide, between educators and their students, about “what students want from their education,” and the things that stood out were that they wanted their education to have purpose and they wanted it to be personally tailored to their own interests and passions.
This curriculum, she said, keeps those goals in mind.
“Personalized learning is one of those important things and one of the areas that students were identifying as needing a change,” Soutar said. “There are lots of ways to do this. Essentially, it’s about choice. It’s not about ‘this is the one way, and everybody does it the same way, in the same place, at the same time.’ There’s lots of collaboration and lots of different people involved. It’s all about increasing student engagement.”
But they can’t change the entire system, obviously. There are still things that have been taught that will continue to be learned.
“While there is change, it is important to know that the foundations – the literacy, the numeracy and the social responsibility pieces – are still the foundation.”
The difference, Soutar said, is that while it may still be the foundation, it won’t be the focus.
The previous curriculum focused on what the students “know,” having them memorize many, many pieces of specific information and be able to recall that information on demand, Soutar said, while the new curriculum focuses instead on what the students “do.”
“What we’re essentially trying to do is create students who, at the end of their student career, are going to know who they are as thinkers, know who they are as communicators, and know who they are personally, socially and have cultural awareness and know their social responsibilities within that.”
This means there will need to be a shift in assessment strategies, as well. Teachers in the new curriculum will obviously not be able to simply put checkmarks and “X”s on a page beside a student’s answers and then count those checkmarks to determine a mark if the education system isn’t about having a correct answer to a question.
Soutar was asked after her presentation for clarification on just how teachers will be evaluating student learning under this new system.
“What’s really the wonderful part of this curriculum is the focus on what students are doing,” Soutar said. “That’s where we’re going to get our evidence, as opposed to looking at numbers and test scores.”
Trustee John Kerr pressed the subject of assessment.
“All that being said, is there still going to be a district testing protocol, for example, for reading comprehension, writing, math, that kind of thing, for getting a sense of where our students are in terms of core competencies?” Kerr asked.
“Absolutely,” Soutar said. “We don’t yet know for sure, what the provincial assessments are going to look like, but they have been clear that they are still going to hold literacy and numeracy as being foundational and that’s not going to go anywhere.”
For more on the new curriculum, visit curriculum.gov.bc.ca