Discover, Embrace, and Echo
processing curriculum design
by Greg Gerber, SCSBC Director of Learning ◊
The start of the school year brought with it a renewed sense of urgency for schools to begin, or continue, considering what implementation of the new British Columbia curriculum will look like. This represents a major change, and calls for deep consideration with respect to how schools might best introduce and engage staff in exploration of the plan. Some staff will see potential represented in the plan. Others might comment on how they can continue doing what they are already doing but just change the language they use. Still others might perceive the plan as change for the sake of change. So, how might your school manage the introduction and engagement with the new curriculum facilitating a perception of possibilities, towards enhancing learning in their classrooms?
Acknowledgement of a fundamental change of paradigm for the curriculum from content-focused to skills and abilities, or competencies-focused is the first step. While this may seem like a small and obvious aspect of the plan which calls out a level of importance on something that most teachers have always been working to foster, this target shift ought to necessarily influence all aspects of our planning and implementation.
A focus on competency highlights the uniqueness and individual development of each student. Our aim shifts toward facilitating growth in each student, toward becoming, in the fullness God intended. Now this idea is not new in Christian schools. But having our provincial curriculum state that wholeness, competency, and character development are of foremost importance is new, resonates with a biblical image of growth and development, and promotes the deeper understanding often articulated in our school mission statements. What a wonderful change, soon to be the new normal. Now teachers are being asked to engage with, and ensure a focus on character development and competencies. But what does this look like?
To begin, the teacher will consider which of the core competencies they will focus on developing. This could be a core competency as outlined by the curriculum or it might be a core Christian competency as outlined by the school graduation profile. For some schools, these have been outlined using the tenants of Teaching for Transformation, while others have built statements of what it means to be followers of Christ based on the fruit of the spirit, the beatitudes, or other scripture. Regardless of where our character and spiritual development goals come from, teachers will begin planning with this focus. This biblical competency-based focus then will effect and necessarily guide the pedagogical practices.
For example, let’s consider a method for how a teacher might plan for a lesson or unit in science. Our science teacher first determines that the students in her class would do well to focus on creative thinking, and more specifically, the school’s articulation on this front which states: “discovering, embracing, and echoing the creativity inherent in creation as a reflection of the Creator.”
Discovery. Embracing. Echoing. Creativity as reflection of God.
These become the target. This is what the teacher is to aim classroom activities toward. Achieving these targets will require particular kinds of pedagogical methods. The competency driven goal is the end-point guiding the next step – pedagogical planning.
Pedagogies should be considered next, given that the development of competencies are dependent upon engaged activity. To develop creative thinking, discovery, deep engagement, and seeing evidence of God’s creativity, we acknowledge that certain activities will foster these kinds of outcomes far more than a theoretical reading or covering of content will do. So, our teacher will brainstorm activities to have her students engage in, such as: group articulation of wonderings about the subject matter, issue identification and inquiry, observation of the natural order, solution postulation, and others. Given that competency is the goal of the lesson or unit, activities will be more student-focused than teacher-focused.
Pedagogical strategies will focus on engaging students first through exposing their own knowledge, thoughts, and curiosities about the topic. Students might then be given the opportunity to refine their curious questions through observation or group or individual exploration. Students will be encouraged to investigate and answer these questions and perhaps work toward posing possible solutions for earlier articulated issues or connected problems. The teacher will explain many facets of the content as students determine the need. Students and teacher will be engaged in assessment and evaluation throughout the process.
Interestingly, up until this point, consideration for the content matter to be used in the lesson is unimportant. This represents a major shift in the way we think about preparation and planning. Development of competency is directly dependent on pedagogical methods; it’s not immediately dependent upon the content involved.
Let’s return to the consideration of our teacher planning for her science lesson. With an articulated competency target of engaging student creative thinking and having considered learning activities and methods to facilitate achieving the target, the content and specifically related skills become important. The teacher ask herself, “What topics will we investigate and think creatively about together?” Concept could center around anything at this point – butterflies, inertia, astronomy, botany, or waste management. While remaining true to the curriculum guidelines, the content will allow the class a device through which they develop the learning targets of competency, and will learn plenty of important information along the way, the content matter itself does not drive the process.
Where a competency-driven model of learning takes hold, there is freedom to authentically engage biblical truth through exploration of both the prescribed curriculum, and teacher and student content interest areas. The new BC Ed Plan affords teachers this opportunity and invites us to explore and adopt a new paradigm for engaging with teaching and learning. Success of having teachers embrace the potential of this paradigm relies largely on how leadership engages and introduces the change represented in the new BC Ed Plan.
SCSBC looks forward to working with you as you introduce and begin implementation of the BC Ed Plan.