I can’t help but be excited about the direction education is heading in our province. The BC Education Plan provides the itinerary for this journey, suggesting five key areas requiring exploration and discovery. This adventurous journey will be one fraught with obstacles, yet filled with moments of enlightenment—all of which prompt those rich conversations that are occurring at West Bay, in our District and throughout the province.
I can’t help but think the crux of the Plan lies with the proposed changes to curriculum, in particular, reducing the number of prescribed learning outcomes in each curricular area. This one change could result in greater flexibility and choice, improved student engagement, opportunities for creativity to flourish, and more time for rich inquiry learning. Teachers are conscientious about addressing the prescribed learning outcomes, often feeling the pressure of time to ‘cover’ the curriculum. The unintended outcome, however, can be a lack of deep understanding. With fewer prescribed learning outcomes, more in-depth learning becomes possible. Teachers can be creative in how they facilitate the learning and students have time to explore issues reflective of their passions.
I can’t help but be impressed with the inquiry learning occurring every day in West Bay and Cypress Park classrooms. As IB School PYP schools, curriculum is framed around big ideas based on the Ministry learning outcomes, with inquiry as the vehicle driving the learning. A recent example of inquiry learning in Jessica Eguia and Rhonda Griffin’s West Bay Kindergarten class helps illuminate how time is integral in promoting in-depth, inquiry learning. The students were learning about chemical reactions using baking soda in order to gain a deeper understanding of how objects can be transformed. During the experimenting, Cole asked, “Does baking soda always transform things? Does baking soda make food puffier?” Rather than simply answer his questions, the teachers devoted the next lesson to discovering the answers. By delving deeper into issues of importance to the learners, students’ wonderings are validated and authentic learning can occur.
Jessica Eguia explains:
“In order to encourage our primary students to develop an enthusiasm for the process of scientific inquiry, we always celebrate their related ‘wonders’. As such, we are comfortable deviating away from the lesson plan, particularly when we sense that we have inadvertently captured the students’ collective interest and background knowledge. We feel that if a child knows how to appropriately express his/her love for inquiry and participate in teachable moments at a young age, this inquiry model becomes the norm for learning. We ensure that we maximize the impact of what is being taught and that the students’ learning is immediate and relates to real life. As the benefits of teachable moments are endless, we took the time to validate Coles’ wonder and seek answers to his questions.”
I can’t help but be amazed with the rich learning that arose from Cole’s inquiry. The answers to his questions were revealed and the Kindergarten learning outcomes were addressed in a genuine, student-centred, transdisciplinary manner. This hands-on inquiry lesson incorporated a myriad of skills, including predicting, estimating, measuring, observing, drawing and listening yielded authentic learning. Teachers took time to stray slightly from the course as they realized the value of recognizing students’ genuine curiosity which moves them forward to new levels of knowledge and understanding.
I can’t help but be enthusiastic about pending changes to the curriculum as I can see firsthand at West Bay and Cypress Park how engaged learners can be when the emphasis is placed on quality learning rather than quantity learning, deep learning rather than curriculum ‘coverage’. Fewer learning outcomes will certainly give teachers the gift of time to ensure robust, relevant, and rigorous learning happens consistently.