Curriculum Redesign – a Consultant’s Perspective and Overview

Exciting things are happening in the Calgary Board of Education. Our school division has been awarded three of the contracts for the protyping process for curriculum redesign.

Grade 4-6 – CBE is the lead school division – along with a consortium of other school divisions and stakeholders
Grade 7-9 – CBE and Black Gold school divisions are the lead – along with a consortium of other school divisions and stakeholders
Grade 1-12 – CBE is the lead school school division – along with a consortium of other school divisions and stakeholders

Let me be transparent here – I’m figuring this out – what it means and how it fits together. Our CBE Superintendents and Directors have provided lots of information and facilitated meaningful sessions/discussions helping Consultants/Specialists figure out the work. For me, blogging helps me to synthesize my learning – so here goes.

There are big ideas at play here, a new process, a fundamental shift in the way teaching and learning is organized by AB Education. A couple of good places to start are:

AB Education – Curriculum Redesign

Driven by Inspiring Education, curriculum redesign will take place over the nexy number of years. curriredesigntimeline

Curriculum redesign is about preparing students to become the leaders of tomorrow. The redesign will shift curriculum in a new direction as outlined in:
curriculum redesign

The Ministerial Order describes how curriculum will be redesigned. It describes the priorities of our new curriculum to focus on creating learning that results in engaged thinkers, ethical citizens, with an entreprenerial spirit.

Curriculum redesign in Alberta will begin with a process termed ‘curriculum development prototyping’. Prototyping begins with building on the innovative education practices already taking place in Alberta. Prototyping is a collaborative approach that engages a broad spectrum of education partners with the goal of developing a responsive, relevant, and engaging curriculum that will enable students to thrive in a changing world. AB Education goes on to state: “A key purpose of prototyping is to observe and evaluate co-creation of curriculum with the broader community that is consistent with the policy and cultural shifts…”. Co-creation and collaboration are key parts of prototyping.

The Curriculum Development Prototyping Guide describes the process and the elements to be included in some form in the new provincial curriculum. The Guide identifies the six areas that will be included in the new curriculum:

2. Language Arts (English and/or French and/or Fran├žais)
3. Mathematics
4. Sciences
5. Social Studies
6. Wellness Education.

As the lead/co-lead of three of the contracts with Alberta Education, the CBE will produce the following:

-produce a project plan
– develop K-12 scope and sequence
– develop learning outcomes
– identify and/or develop learning and teaching resources
– identify and/ore develop classroom-based assessements
– develop a graphic organizer
– provide a summary of process and learnings

The new curriculum is grounded in seven core values

– learner centred
– shared responsiblity and accountability for results
– engaged communities
– inclusive, equitable access
– responsive, flexible approach
– sustainable and efficient use of resources
– innovation to promote and strive for excellence

These are big ideas and ones that the CBE is well positioned to act on as they already exist in many forms through our three year education plan.

The direction of future curriculum in Alberta is guided by the following ideas:
– student focused – curriculum needs to be relevant
– focus on competencies
– opportunities for local decision making and greater depth of study – a program of studies with fewer learning outcomes gives more opportunities for learning to be relevant to student interest
– balance among formative and summative assessment
– digitally based
– collaborative and co-development models – a system that taps into local expertise
– synchronous development – an integrated approach to developing programs of study, assessments, and learning and teaching resources

Thew new curriculum, which includes the Programs of Study, Assessment, and Resources will be less prescriptive and more flexible. Where the current Programs of Study in Alberta may have several hundred specific and general learning outcomes, the new Programs of Study will have 60 per grade level – 10 in each of the 6 subject areas. The big idea is that we can do more with less – allow for more in depth study that is meaningful and relevant to students.

The Curriculum Development Prototyping Guide identifies a number of other key components of the curriculum development. These include:
Guiding Principles for Curriculm Development, Standards for Curriculum Development, Essence Statements for Subject/Discipline Areas, Cross Curricular Competencies and Indicators, and Literacy and Numeracy Benchmarks. Each of these are described in detail at Essentially, my understanding is that promising practice in classrooms should direct the next iteration of the the AB Curriculum.

This is alot of information and a new way of developing curriculum in Alberta. Here is a summary of my understandings of the what will/will not take place over the duration of the curriculum development prototyping contract (Feb -Dec 2014).

– Working with partners, the CBE will find exemples of best practice within and maybe external to CBE schools of teaching and learning that exemplifies the Standards for Curriculum Development, Essence Statements for Subject/Discipline Areas, Cross Curricular Competencies and Indicators, and Literacy and Numeracy Benchmarks that are outlined in the Protytyping documents.
– These exemplars will be delivered to ‘curriculum synthesis committees’ made up of CBE teachers and/or consultants/specialists, and/or directors/superintendents, and other stakeholders to make recommendations to changes to standards, essence statements, competencies, and benchmarks.
– Curriculum synthesis committees will make recommendations for up to 10 learning outcomes for each of 6 subject/discipline areas based on input from stakeholders by Dec 2014.
– Alberta Education will then use these recommendations to draft/write a new provincial curriculum by 2016.

There you have it, a Consultant’s interpretation of the Curriculum Development Prototyping process and outcomes. Ultimately, you should refer back to the AB Education links above for information directly from AB Ed. This blog post is reallly about trying to synthesize the big ideas both in terms of outcomes and processes. It helps me to sort things out when I can put the ideas on paper. I would love to hear from you about your perceptions and interpretations of the work. I am certain I will revisit these reflections often over the next few months as I begin to be engaged with the CBE work of curriculum development prototyping for grades 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12.

Roy Strum
Env/Outdoor Ed Consultant
Calgary Board of Education
March 6, 2014


Reflections on Inquiry Learning…

Inquiry Transforms Learning Environments for Students by Michelle Bastock, Brenda Gladstone, and Judy Martin is an article from ATA Magazine Volume 87 2006-07. The article provides an overview of the inquiry learning framework. The purpose of this post is to synthesize my own learning.

Bastock et. al. identify 7 characteristics of Inquiry Learning

1. Authentic – inquiry learning is real work that the world needs to have done. The learning is characterized by knowledge building. Students should create understandings relevant to their interest and curiousity.

2. Academic Rigour – inquiry learning engages students in challenging tasks. Challenge that is designed by the teacher in response to each student’s gifts and abilities.

3. Learning in the World – inquiry learning relates to the real world outside the classroom. Learning relates to real life issues, communities, and perspectives.

4. Digital Technologies – technology is used as a vehicle to extend and enhance student learning.

5. Active Exploration – curiousity, creativity, engagement are supported by investigations using interviews, fieldwork, and laboratory work. The key piece is investigation.

6. Connecting with Experts – inquiry learning connects students with experts related to their subject of inquiry. Learning from people who possess the knowledge and experience is an important component.

7. Assessment for Learning – assessment and instruction are intertwined. Formative assessment based on clearly articulated criteria that are transparent to the learner is central to inquiry.

Inquiry learning is student centred, responsive to student learning interest, and dependent on the teacher as a guide for learning. What jumps out to me is the strong connection to Richard Elmore’s Personalization of Learning work and the Instructional Core model used by the CBE as part of its pedagogical priorities for teaching and learning. The instructional core model places the student, the teacher, and content as the core of quality learning. Teachers use professional knowledge and experience to guide creation of the challenging learning task and assessment strategies and align those tasks/strategies with the AB Program of Studies. Students share their interest with teachers and codesign learning tasks with teachers based on what is personally meaningful to them. In this model, learning tasks and assessment are co-created by the learner and teacher. Inquiry learning supports personalization.

Can inquiry learning cover all areas of the Program of Studies? In theory yes. Is it challenging to make this happen? My sense is yes. Is it necessary to teach your whole curriculum using the Inquiry learning framework? my sense is no. It requires a shift in how we think we about instructional design. This can be challenging particularly when a teacher is used to designing learning tasks in a different way. A couple of years ago in my role as Consultant with the CBE, I lead a pilot initiative aiming to enhance student learning by working with local Outdoor Education Centres and 12 schools that attended outdoor school programs during the school year. The goal was to increase capacity for outdoor schools to respond to stated student and teacher learning needs. Outdoor school programs traditionally are predesigned learning experiences that teachers are asked to connect to their yearly classroom learning program. What we were aiming to do was make a deliberate switch in how learning is designed and assessed.

I’ve been doing lots of reading lately from Hattie’s Visible Learning. Its interesting to me the strong connection between ideas underlying inquiry learning identified by Bastock and Hatties meta-analysis of teaching/learning influences on achievement. Hattie states that effective learning take place when the teacher decides the learning intention and success criteria so that learning is transparent to students – this relates to Elmore’s instructional core model where teachers are guides to designing learning tasks and assessment strategies. Hattie states that effective learning takes place when teachers check for student understanding. Inquiry learning also places assessment as central to effective learning. Bastock state that learning tasks should be challenging within the inquiry framework. Hattie’s research also connects challenging learning tasks to effective learning.

For me, the gems from the professional reading I do center on realizing that there are many things that are effective when it comes to instructional design. The key as a Teacher is to design instruction and assessment to reflect best practice as identified in professional literature. Inquiry learning certainly is one of those big ideas that help to personalize learning. The next step for me is to wrap my head around how this could look for high school curriculum where learning is typically more content driven that aims to prepare students for university. Learning is one of the great joys of my life. Finding more effective ways to make learning meaningful and relevant to students is my goal. Good luck with your own journey.