This is going to seem like an enormously obvious thing to say, but change within an institution is hard. In BC’s public education system, we are currently going through a wholesale change of all of our provincial curriculum. The changes are not coming all at once, but are being rolled out at different times, which means that some curriculum areas are waiting for their curriculum to be published in draft form, some are still in their first draft, while others are moving towards a finished version of their curriculum document. My subject area is French, and our curriculum document is currently in draft form. Knowing that implementation will be on the horizon soon, I am currently exploring a variety of ways to begin working with the new model.
Being a part of a large district, I am fortunate to have access to a large number of workshops, resources, and very talented colleagues. I have spent the last several years as a core part of the Learning Partners program at my school, in which we have worked hard to foster a culture of collaboration (see a short video I created about our program here). I believe collaboration is the best tool we have to support teachers through changes such as this, and for me personally to maintain a growth mindset through the transition. The best collaborations I have experienced are with people who think similarly but not identically, who push me in my thinking, and these experiences leave me energized and ready to work on the next steps beyond where we are currently.
On Wednesday of this past week, I attended a day of workshops with other department leaders from the south end of my district, hosted by our helping teachers and district administration. The first workshop I attended was focused on course outlines, and specifically ways to make them a living document that is relevant to the course and students throughout the semester, instead of being a document that you look at on the first day and then never revisit. This was the workshop I had been most interested in when I saw the outline, because it fit perfectly with my current process and thinking.
We began by looking at some samples of course outlines, and the key information that actually needs to be there. Over my years in this district, I have made connections with other languages department leaders, and I was fortunate to be attending this workshop with a couple of them who push me in my thinking, and with whom I have collaborated previously. The more we looked at the course outline samples, the more we were able to condense down the number of things that actually needed to be on the document. Looking at the course outline as a communication tool, it can become very streamlined. The audience for our communication is parents and students. In a typical BC high school, this audience gets eight of these documents per year. Looking for a way to align this information with the revised BC curriculum, we came up with the following list of things that needed to be on the document:
- the big ideas of the course (what do we want students to know)
- the skills and competencies (what will students do)
- the key content (what will students understand)
- how will it be assessed
The Know-Do-Understand curriculum model is the foundation of the new BC curriculum, designed “to support a concept-based competency-driven approach to learning.” (Source: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/rethinking-curriculum) Using the KDU model and knowing that our audience was going to be more focused on taking the course than hearing a great amount of detail on what it would involve, we focused on keeping it simple. We put together a short list of key information that needed to be on the document, and then began to look for a way to present it visually. We decided on a triangle as the overall organizing structure, with the big ideas at the top, skills and competencies on the left, and content on the right. In our original sketch of the framework, we had assessment as the foundation of the pyramid, and after some discussion we decided to put the core competencies (thinking, communication, and personal and social competency) around the outside of our triangle, to show that they encapsulate everything that we do. We wanted to somehow show that assessment was embedded in the centre of the course, and that through a combination of formative and summative assessment, we can guide students in their learning of the other components of the course. However, by that point our original workshop had ended and we had worked through the second one, and it was time to wrap everything up.
My colleagues told me to take what we had come up with and see what I could come up with from a graphics point of view, and so I started looking at the templates available on Piktochart. It wasn’t long before I realized there wasn’t a template that fit what I wanted, and so I decided to design my own. After a quick search for triangle infographics, I found one that was similar to what I had in mind, and I came up with the following template:
Using the information we had compiled for a French 8 course outline, it looks like this:
However, because I am the only one who can access my Piktochart account and modify the original document, I needed to create a version that could be more easily shared and edited by a wide variety of teachers in a range of subject areas. Even though the version above contains material related to French 8, our goal had been to create something that was generic enough that it could be used in any subject area. The final step was to create a Word document that used the template as its background and can be edited by teachers to customize the content for their courses: Course Outline Template
The process of going through the collaboration and creation of a resource like this is incredibly rich, and I’m posting it here in the hopes of sharing it with others.
Feature photo attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanwalsh/4006230793