On Friday, the Ministry of Education launched BC’s New Education Plan. At the heart of the plan is personalized learning - a focus on learners owning their own learning and the challenge of designing a more responsive and flexible system that will meet the needs of all learners and help them to realize their full potential.
The plan consists of five key elements:
• Personalized Learning for every student
• Quality Teaching and Learning
• Flexibility and Choice
• High Standards
• Learning Empowered by Technology
So why the need for a new plan?
Education reform is a global conversation as educators and governments wrestle with the challenge of how to best prepare young people for challenges in a changing world. And while there are elements of some systems globally that are in crisis, there is the overall sense that here in British Columbia, our system has many strengths and that any transformation focuses on moving from good to great.
Sir Ken Robinson talks about change in education. This RSA Animate provides a good introduction to the need for educational change.
In the BC’s New Education Plan, Delta Secondary School is featured as one school where elements of the plan are already taking place. http://www.bcedplan.ca/happening.php This is deserved recognition of a school community that prides itself on innovative practice, lifelong learning, and engaging student voice.
So how are we currently meeting the aims of the plan?
Personalized Learning for Every Student
Personalized learning provides individual learners with the instruction and support they need to gain the required knowledge, skills and competencies. Differentiated instruction, curricular adaptations and lesson design are a few of the approaches that our teachers currently use to meet the needs of learners.
Our effort to implement quality classroom assessments and fair grading practices are vital to developing greater student responsibility, motivation and engagement – all key elements of a more personalized approach to learning. The use of formative assessments to inform learning is one way we are helping learners shift from being passive participants to becoming creators of meaning within the instructional process.
However, much of what we currently provide in the area of personalization occurs within the constraints of a traditional structure of secondary schooling. I suspect that a system wide commitment to more personalized learning will require shifts in many of the structures that we have come to know as teachers, parents, and as students ourselves. Current structures, like 80 minutes classes, and timetables with uniform blocks of time allotted to discreet subjects work against what many see as an interdisciplinary approach.
It is also widely felt that the current provincial curriculum has too many prescribed learning outcomes. There is a call for fewer outcomes if curriculum is to be tailored to individual needs and interests which will allow learners to focus on higher order concepts rather than simple and discrete facts.
See the Interactive Discussion Guide for more on Personalized Education in BC. http://www.personalizedlearningbc.ca
Quality Teaching and Learning
At DSS staff are involved in on going professional dialogue around the big ideas of formative assessment, differentiated instruction, learning through inquiry, and critical thinking. We are utilizing technology, but also reflecting on how technology must align with good instructional practice. Progressively more teachers have been engaging in professional learning networks (PLN ) and connecting with other educators via social media. Through professional development days and bi-monthly collaboration mornings, staff are building knowledge and sharing instructional strategies. An emphasis in the province’s plan on professional learning is acknowledgement that we are moving in the right direction.
Flexibility and Choice
Delta is a leading district in providing flexibility and choice, another key element of a personalized learning agenda. At DSS we endeavor to engage students through a range of elective options in the Fine Arts, Technology, Applied Skills and choice programs like the DSS Dance Academy, Secondary School Apprenticeships, the EDGE Program and Independent Directed Studies. DSS students are able to access programming through the Delta Access learning portal or even take advantage of some of the unique programs available at our neighbour school, South Delta Secondary.
We’ve engaged student voice, through student focus groups and the Tell Them From Me Survey (TTFM). Students owning their learning makes a difference.
Moving forward, we must continue to promote creative, critical thinking and support students in their pursuit of their personal interests, and provide greater flexibility and depth within coursework.
Delta Secondary is a highly successful school. We have a history of high graduation rates, and excellent performance in provincial exams. Consistently, more than one third of our students meet the requirements for the honor roll, with similar numbers achieving recognition for excellent work habits. Yet there is a strong sense that we are only scratching the surface in terms of deeper engagement in learning and that given the opportunity and support, our students and teachers are capable of even more.
Learning Empowered by Technology
Wireless connectivity allows for student use throughout the school. Many students have their own digital devices that have the capacity to support learning. Yes, messaging and social media can be a distraction but as educators we have a role to play in guiding appropriate use of technology for learners. Slowly, more teachers are seeing the upside of having personal devices in their classes. Quick story: Not long ago I was covering a class when a student asked if he could go to his locker to get a calculator. I suggested that he simply use the app on the smart phone in his pocket. He looked at me with hesitation … was this a trick?! I’m sure that he thought I was setting him up to take it away!
Having said that, a growing number of teachers are integrating technology into their lessons. Learners are using an expanding number of digital tools – to research, collaborate, present and represent their learning and teachers are increasingly more curious about utilizing digital technologies to support inquiry.
I’m encouraged to see the alignment between the new BC Education Plan and Our Bold Vision for the future of Delta Secondary School and the Delta School District. As in our vision, a personalized learning agenda places the success of the learner at its core. Stated simply, that’s why we’re here. Quality teaching and learning, flexibility and choice, high standards, and learning supported by technology, take a look for yourself!
The plan put forth by the province is certain to stimulate dialogue amongst educators and stakeholders. At Delta Secondary this conversation has already begun. I urge you to join in the discussion. http://engage.bcedplan.ca/