Problematic curriculum renewal in Saskatchewan – put this on Michael Gove’s reading list

February 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

by Alec Patton

It’s difficult to transform a curriculum across an entire system. It’s even more difficult to transform a curriculum without resorting to sweeping diktats that deprofessionalise teachers and school leaders.

This is the subject of EdTech’s excellent early analysis of Saskatchewan’s move to an outcome-based curriculum. This will mean, among other things, more enquiry- and project-based learning, so on paper it sounds great. The problem, as he observes, is how it’s being rolled out:

The implementation of this brand new curriculum has been poor at best. The government mandated a new curriculum, cut staff at the ministry level and asked them to write a brand new curriculum. To my knowledge, many of these were written by one individual. The results is a document that is thin on resources, and supports outside of the big idea/outcome and some supporting indicators.

The province has then asked school divisions to implement these in very short order. The challenge of teaching in Saskatchewan often means multiple grades and up to 8 subjects. As part of a curriculum team we’ve wrestled with how exactly to support teachers with this daunting shift that is about much more than simply new content. As one teacher said today, “Having been a student for 16+ years, a teacher for another 20+, I feel like this is pretty much starting from scratch”. He’s right. Embracing concepts like Understanding by Design, Assessment for Learning, Inquiry, Project Based Learning is to say the least overwhelming if you’ve not had to do this before.

We’ve been given 3 days to work with teachers. We’ve been asked not to take teachers out of class for more support as they felt like too many teachers have been out of class too often in the past. I understand and appreciate that perspective. Which leaves us as a curriculum team scratching our heads as to how we are going to help our 600+ teachers sort out how they’re going to fulfill their obligations to teach these new curricula.

Under present circumstances, he writes,

We face a real danger of teachers giving up, reverting to old practices which, while may not be aligned to these philosophies at least provide some sanity in an overwhelming and initiative fatigued environment. I don’t blame teachers for that.

He makes four brief, practical recommendations, the first of which is to increase resources and planning time so that teachers can get to grips with the new curriculum. So obvious, so rarely done.

Read the full post here: Curriculum Renewal: There has to be a better way «Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech.

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Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.

Probably the most innovative songs in the world: ‘East St. Louis Toodle-oo’ by Duke Ellington Probably the most innovative song in the world: The Beatles ‘A Day in the Life’

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