Truth: Change is hard.
Here in B.C., we’ve gone through a period of curriculum change that has transitioned through draft documents, public feedback, revisions, and then implementation periods. The end result was that every single course at every single grade level got a new curriculum document. Think about that for a minute – every school, every teacher, every administrator, in the entire province, now has a curriculum change to implement. If you’ve ever tried to change your own diet or exercise habits, you know how hard that is. But change on an institutional level across an entire province? To call it a challenge is serious understatement.
As a province, we are now in the implementation phase. In real terms, teacher now have to find a way to evaluate the resources we have in our schools, and assess whether they fit the new curriculum or not. If not, we need to know how to select materials that will meet the new requirements.
Experience is a great teacher.
During the curriculum revision, I have served on a Surrey school district committee tasked with selecting a new program for our French as a second language classes. We were pushed by the fact that the program we were using for senior French (grade 11 and 12) was out of print, as well as the knowledge that the revised curriculum was coming, and change would likely be necessary at every level.
We went through small scale district piloting of a variety of programs, and arrived at a point where we felt we had found the resources that were the best fit for our revised curriculum. The next step was to have a wider scale pilot of these resources in a number of schools around the district.
Building collaboration into a challenging process makes it easier.
In my school, I created teacher teams using teacher assignments and schedules to allow as many opportunities for collaboration as possible. We have met several times through the year, and just before spring break, three of us used a release day to take a closer look at both the curriculum and the program we have been using.
To assess how the resources align with the curriculum, we started with the premise that in our revised curriculum, all areas of learning are based on a “Know−Do−Understand” model to support a concept−based competency−driven approach to learning.
Three elements, the Content (Know), Curricular Competencies (Do), and Big Ideas (Understand) all work together to support deeper learning. The primary focus of our analysis was the skills component of our curriculum. If we started from what our students needed to be able to do (the curricular competencies) then we could compare that to the resources we were using, and see whether they were doing those things throughout the course. Because of the design of the program, we knew that we could fill in content that needed to be supplemented, but the skills were paramount. If they weren’t DOING the skills repeatedly over time and in meaningful context, that was a deal breaker.
We created a chart (below) to outline the core skills at the French 8, 9 and 10 levels. These were the grades that most participating teachers were working with, so these formed the basis for comparison. We felt it was important for all teachers to be aware of these skills, regardless of which grade level they are teaching. If we know where our students start and where they need to end up, we are better prepared to support them through the process.
Using these core skills, we created charts for each grade level, and compared them to the resources we had used. The resources were from CEC Publishing in Ontario, and because there is no made-in-BC resource, they were not a perfect match, but were close. You can view the summary charts here:
Teachers using other resources could use a similar process, and just change the resource names to suit their purposes. We have a few more months to go before we are finished, and a few more blanks to fill in our charts. The best part of this process for us was doing it together. Collaboration makes us better teachers, and sharing ideas make a process like this much easier! We now have a much better idea of what our students will know, understand and do by the end of our courses, as well as how to fill in areas where our resources don’t meet the requirements of the curriculum. If you’re in the middle of this process, I hope our experience is useful to you. The more conversation and sharing we can have around the process of change, the easier it will be for all of us.