Local educators work on English module design

New curriculum requires innovation.

Four high schools in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows district are going to be exploring new ways of studying English language arts.

One class of students at each of Thomas Haney, Garibaldi, Westview and Pitt Meadows secondary schools will be part of an innovation partnership, which was announced by the province last week. A group of local educators was selected for one of 15 partnership projects.

Kirsten Urdahl-Serr, a district helping teacher overseeing the project, characterized the new curriculum in B.C. schools as “a major paradigm shift in education.”

The innovation projects encourage educators to discuss and plan how the new curriculum should be implemented, from changing timetables to opening new academies, she said.

The participating students will use a module design approach to learn English language arts. There will be two or three teachers assigned to multi-aged groups of students, in grades 10-12. Teachers will choose areas of their students strengths and passions in developing the curriculum.

Urdahl-Serr explained that could be anything from poetry to graphic novel study.

“I don’t know what the teachers will come up with.”

The students chosen to participate will be those who have shown an ability to work independently, and they will select study modules based on their interests over the school year.

Urdahl-Serr said the module design proposal outlined in the new curriculum is “a little pie-in-the-sky,” and local teachers in the innovation project will put a framework around it. When the new curriculum rolls out at the secondary level next year, teachers should be able to get moving with it.

“The best laid plans always come down to logistics.”

The district will receive $8,000, and most of that will be used to provide relief teachers to spring the innovation project team members from their classrooms.

“The teachers we have are well seasoned, well versed, experienced people,” said Urdahl-Serr.

She added that School District No. 42 is well known for innovation. Leading the way with the Thomas Haney student directed learning model, the environmental school, or recently becoming one of four districts in the province to eliminate letter grades from report cards at the elementary level.

“We’re well known for being a hotbed of trying things out,” said Urdahl-Serr. There’s an innovative spirit here.”

The education ministry said it has changed the curriculum in response to a world that is in a state of constant change and rich in technology, where knowledge is growing at an exponential rate, and is instantly available.

“The redesign of curriculum maintains a focus on sound foundations of literacy and numeracy, while supporting the development of citizens who are competent thinkers and communicators, and who are personally and socially competent in all areas of their lives,” says an introduction to the document.

Much of the work has been done by teachers, and one of key people involved in curriculum development is former district superintendent Jan Unwin.

The local agreement is one of 32 innovation partnership programs

now in place in public and independent schools throughout the  province.

Projects are selected by the Innovation Partnership Working Group, including the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, B.C. Schools Superintendents Association, B.C. Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association, the Federation of Independent School Associations of BC and the Ministry of Education.

The working group received 119 project proposals for the first two intakes of the Innovation Partnership.

“It’s an interesting page we’re turning in education,” said Urdahl-Serr.

“We’ve got a year left to pull it all together.”


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