All posts by roystrum

teacher, learner, consultant, coach, athlete, dad, husband, friend, all-around nice guy, future school administrator

Discipline Based Inquiry at Falconridge School in Calgary

In my new role as Assistant Principal at Falconridge School in Calgary, I’m jumping into discipline based inquiry learning.  There is much to learn and share, and I find my blog space a good place for processing my learning.  Our school is focused on improving student achievement, and a primary vehicle we are using is inquiry. The big idea is that when students’ curiosity is engaged, when teachers and students engage in a systemic investigations of problems, issues, topics, or ideas, and when classrooms are engaging in dialogue to pursue answers to questions that are worth thinking deeply about, then oral communication is enhanced and evidence would suggest that student achievement improves.

Authentic learning environments are a focus at Falconridge School.  Sharon Friesen, from Galileo Network at University of Calgary defines authentic learning as learning that takes place within a discipline that produces or creates something that contributes to the world’s knowledge. As a system strategy in the Calgary Board of Education, Personalization of Learning is a priority.  When teachers, as guides of curriculum, engage in conversations with students about important topics, interests, questions, or problems (related to topics in the Programs of Study), and engage students’ curiosity about the world around them academic success is advanced.


Using the work of Sharon Friesen, et. al, from @galileonetwork our school’s focus will be on advancing achievement through working with teachers around a practice that includes the key features of Friesen’s Discipline Based Inquiry work.


Much good work has happened at our school over the past number of years. Each year finds opportunities to continue the important of finding ways to help students be successful.  This school year we will focus on creating rich authentic learning environments at Falconridge School that create a space for students to have agency, to have voice, that builds oral communication proficiency, and ultimately leads to new opportunities for students on their path through life.

Roy Strum

AP, Falconridge School

Calgary Board of Education


September 2015 Environmental Learning Update

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greetings teachers,

here are some things that might be of interest to you


Twitter accounts to follow – Twitter is becoming one of the most valued professional development sites for Teachers.  If you aren’t on twitter yet, open an account, and start with following people.  There are many CBE teachers and administrators active on twitter.  Here are a few accounts I would recommend you start with:

@AACinfo (Alberta Assessment Consortium), @yycbike2school , @principalfero , @CBE182, @geoec , @everactiveab , @albertaed , @galileoeducnet , @yycbe , @gcouros , @hpec , @stevewclark , @doug_gleddie (phys ed focus) , and mine @jrstrum

Professional Learning


  • New CBE waste and recycling processes/equipment – by now all schools will have received new waste and recycling equipment – if you are unsure about what to do or how it works visit – Deb Wehnes @dewehnes  is our CBE waste and recycling coordinator – find her in outlook and contact her if you have questions
  • Our Canada Project – Learning for a Sustainable Future -LSF’s Our Canada Project encourages Canadian youth to engage in “conversations about the future” and actions that model responsible citizenship. Through the Our Canada Project youth articulate their vision for a more sustainable Canada and identify the actions they have taken, or will take, to achieve that vision. The Our Canada Project (OCP) website features an interactive map where students share their vision and action projects, including videos, pictures and text. As students celebrate their projects by sharing them with their friends and families, the word gets out to Canadians nationwide, showcasing the great work that youth across Canada are undertaking, big or small, individually or collectively, to make Canada a better place. LSF will provide an interactive 90 minute workshop for students in grades 4 – 6.  The activities will enable students to create their vision for a sustainable Canada and help them begin to identify a sustainability action project they would like to undertake to achieve their vision
  • City of Calgary Ecoleaders – Eco-Leaders is committed to providing youth opportunities to develop life-skills, participate in meaningful and relevant experiences and become leaders in their community.  This program inspires and supports students in developing skills that will prepare them to implement initiatives that are innovative and sustainable in addressing an environmental issue in their community. For more information on Eco-Leaders and this year’s application please visit here. Deadline is November 6, 2015 at 4:30pm.
  • Destination Conservation this program is offered at no charge to CBE schools. There is limited space.  Password: DC123  To register:  Student-led teams will design, develop and implement one (or more) school wide action campaign to help their school community make changes that add up to a positive impact on the environment and benefits everyone involved.
  • Farms to Cafeterias Canada – supporting school based food gardening –
  • Wavemakers Summit interested in water issues – grant funds included in this initiative
  • Green Calgary – a variety of possibilities for ‘experts’ to be brought into your curriculum

Grant funding

Roy Strum

Learning Consultant

Calgary Board of Education |

t: 403-817-6298

c: 403-862-1042

Reflections on John Hattie’s Visible Learning Meta-analysis Research


I had the chance to hear John Hattie speak at the Canadian Association for School System Administrators conference in July 2014 in Calgary. It was an exciting event – I had just finished reading Visible Learning and was just starting Visible Learning for Teachers. So many of the questions I had about how I should focus my efforts as a Teacher were validated or enhanced by Hattie’s research. The fact that our school division had embraced Hattie’s evidence based best practice research was serindipitous; the fact that it all made so much sense and aligned with other best practice literature (e.g. Friesen’s Teacher Effectiveness Framework) made it impactful reading on how i moved forward with my work in the Calgary Board of Education. This blog post aims to capture some of the big ideas of Hattie’s work.


Rank ordering influences of student achievement is a great summary of his research, and although Hattie’s interpretation of each influence is critical, I wanted to provide a series of rank order lists for easy reference.
Hattie categorizes influences according to various domains: student, teacher, teaching, curricula, home, school. He also provides a d value which is a type of effect size, the standardized mean effect, and expresses the mean difference between two groups in standard deviation units. Here are the influences on student learning separated by domain and ranked by the d value.

For a glossary of what each of these terms mean visit

Influences on student acheivement – Student domain
1. Self reported grades d 1.44
2. Piagetian programs d 1.28
14. Prior Achievement d 0.67
38. Pre term birthweight d 0.54
49 Concentration/persistence/engagement d 0.48

Influences on student achievement – Teaching domain
3. Providing Formative evaluation d 0.9
7. Comprehensive intervention for learning disabled Ss d 0.77
9. Reciprical teaching d 0.74
10. Feedback d 0.73
12. Spaced vs Massed practice d 0.71

Influences on student achievement – Teacher domain
4. Micro Teaching d 0.88
8. Teacher Clarity d 0.75
11. Teacher Student Relationship d 0.72
19 Professional Development d 0.62
21. Not Labeling Students d 0.61

Influences on student achievement – School domain
5. Acceleration d 0.88
6. Classroom Behavioural d 0.80
39 Classroom Cohesion d 0.53
41 Peer Influences d 0.53
42 Classroom Management d 0.52


Hattie’s research is extensive and significant in its findings. Visible Learning provides research based evidence of what we should be focusing on first in our teaching and schools. What we do as teachers makes a difference.

This year i am excited about working on a number of projects in a variety of schools focusing on building capacity of teachers in our school division. I’ll be sharing out my learning as I walk alongside teachers and we learn together.


Task Design and Assessment ideas from Sharon Friesen and Galileo Centre, Univ of Calgary


This past school year, I had the good fortune of joining in on the Area 2 Learning Leader meetings facilitated by the Galileo Centre from the University of Calgary.  Sharon Friesen along with her colleagues have developed ideas that have been embraced by the Calgary Board of Education as ways to increase personalization of learning, academic success, personal development, citizenship, and lifelong learning.  Friesen, @sfriesen who is the Author of ‘What Did You Do in School Today: Teacher Effectiveness: A Framework and Rubric” has written extensively about instructional design and assessment in our schools.  I had the good fortune of working alongside Sharon when she and Pat Clifford taught together at Banded Peak School in Bragg Creek, AB in the late 1990s.

This blogpost attempts to capture some of the big ideas that come from the rich conversation from Galileo as led by Amy Park, Chenoa Marcotte, and Candice Saar as part of the 2014-15 CBE Area 2 Learning Leader meetings.  Reflection is an important part of learning, and this post is my own reflection on some of the big ideas that come from the conversations with colleagues.

Here are some of the big ideas:

Teaching is an iterative cycle of Teachers as designers of learning; creating worthwhile learning tasks for students; building in assessment for learning; focusing on learning relationships; and improving teaching practice occurs in the company of peers reflecting on evidence of learning.


Teachers as Designers of Learning
– it is important that students are intellectually and academically engaged.
– it is important that intentional design of learning tasks takes place by teachers
– once a learning task has been identified, all the activities, sub tasks students engage in are in service of the larger task
– learning tasks should build off of one another to help students deepen their understandings

Worthwhile Learning Tasks
– Student learning tasks should be worthy of a student’s time and attention
– learning tasks should aim to be personally relevant to students
– learning tasks should be connected to the world in which students live
– design should be focused on building understandings
– design should be informed by disciplinary knowledge
– the work that students undertake should foster deep understandings
– the work that students undertake should be authentic; should identify a discipline or field; identify the steps in the process that someone in their field of work would engage in to come to new understandings/create/invent/problem solve
– learning tasks should identify learning and success criteria
– learning should be scaffolded
– student choice should be embedded in the task but not the task itself

Assessment for Learning
– assessment needs to focus on improving student learning
– assessment should guide a teacher’s decisions and actions about future instruction
– assessment should be ongoing, varied in nature, occur over a period of time, and provide students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate a full range of learning
– assessment should be planned and woven into instruction

Learning Relationships
– teacher student relationships should promote learning
– relationship should create a strong culture of learning

As a process, Friesen’s Teacher Effectiveness Framework aims to create meaningful engaging learning, where each student, each day knows where they are at in their learning, and where they are going, where tasks are authentic and include the rigour of the real work in that field of study, and where teachers create a culture where error is welcomed and a safe space exists where students reside.

Over the coming months, I will be working alongside teachers at a number of schools. We will aim to intentionally employ Friesen’s Framework to advance learning in physical education and environmental/outdoor education. This work will also aim to embed evidence based best practice ideas from John Hattie’s Visible Learning research. I am excited about the work and the potential for a broad impact across our school division.


Elementary Physical Education Task Design & Assessment Project – overview

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A new school year is underway and I am excited about the possibilities for the upcoming year. One project I am particularly happy to be co-leading is an elementary phys ed task design and assessment project that I am working on with Allen Wideman, PE teacher at McKenzie Towne School in Calgary.

Through my work last year with the learning leader team of Area 2 in the Calgary Board of Education, I was fortunate to be a part of the learning and conversation around designing meaningful learning tasks and building in formative assessment; a conversation lead by the Galileo Centre at University of Calgary. As a phys ed teacher, I was particularly interested in how the ideas related to teaching phys ed. The fact is, is that there were very few phys ed exemplars shared in the conversations about creating engaging and meaningful learning experiences. It got me thinking that we need good exemplars of task design in phys ed. So, I contacted Allen Wideman, who i met initially on twitter, and we got talking about the possibility of doing some work together that could be shared out with the broader community.

Long term athlete development literature identifies the 12 and under crowd as the most significant window of opportunity related to the development of physical literacy. Paradoxically, elementary school has naturally as its major focus literacy and numeracy as some its highest priority work. Elementary school also tends to have fewer teachers who are hired to teach phys ed as a specialist. Thats where this project comes in. Below is a summary document of what the goal, objectives and pedagogy of the project is all about.

This is a project you will hear more about this year. Allen and I are excited to be collaborating on this work. We think it can advance teaching and learning in phys ed across our school division in a meaningful way. So that any learning that we do as teachers has its broadest and deepest impact, we plan to share out this work on blogs and at conferences.

We are excited about doing this work which is grounded in Sharon Friesen’s Teacher Effectiveness Framework and John Hattie’s Visible Learning research.

Showing how Friesen’s Teacher Effectiveness Framework and Task Design and Assessment can be used in physical education is the intention of this project


Elementary Physical Education Task Design Project
Roy Strum, Consultant, CBE
Allen Wideman, PE Teacher, McKenzie Towne School
Goal: Use research based best practice to design learning tasks and assessment strategies in elementary physical education, focused on physical literacy that results in student achievement of learning outcomes.
1. Identify clear learning intentions and success criteria in each lesson
2. Ensure feedback is provided to each student, each day, about where they are at, where they are going next, and what it will look like when they get there
3. Create challenging, engaging instruction that includes intellectual engagement, academic rigour, and assessment of learning that is authentic and fosters deeper understandings
4. Create a culture that embraces the idea that ‘error is welcomed’
5. Collaborate with teachers to improve instruction
6. Utilize a variety of teaching strategies in physical education including direct instruction, tactical instruction, peer teaching, mastery learning, reciprocal teaching, micro teaching and deliberate practice.
7. Advance the development of physical literacy of students
8. Create video exemplars of effective physical education task design and assessment in elementary physical education
The Outcome:
This project identifies a number of key outcomes:
– Create examples of what elementary physical education can look like in schools where the focus is on aligning with best practice literature – e.g. Friesen, Hattie
– Use physical literacy as the primary lens for learning in elementary phys ed.
– Identify key teaching resources
– Collaborate with the broader physical education community
– Ensure student attainment of learning outcomes from Alberta PE Program of Studies
– Provide examples of meaningful task design and formative assessment in phys ed
The project will take place at McKenzie Towne School. It will be led by PE Teacher, Alan Wideman and CBE Consultant, Roy Strum during the 2015-16 school year. McKenzie Towne School is a K-4 school located in SE Calgary, Alberta. The project will focus on one grade for a 6 week period
Physical education in schools is often focused primarily on developing a positive disposition to physical activity. At times, missing is the explicit focus on learning, deliberate practice, feedback, differentiation, assessment, and challenging learning tasks. This is particularly true in many elementary schools where the natural focus is on literacy and numeracy and many classroom teachers also teach physical education.
This project grows out of educational literature – primarily Sharon Friesen’s Teacher Effectiveness Framework and John Hattie’s Visible Learning research. It is based on a number of key understandings
Effective teaching in elementary physical education is important to engage students in meaningful learning, both in terms of task design and influences on student achievement. John Hattie, in his book Visible Learning speaks to influences on student achievement including practices that reflect effective teaching. According to Hattie, effective teaching occurs when:
– A culture is created where error is welcomed; where learners feel safe to learn and relearn – this reduces vulnerability to take on something new and facilitates innovation and problem solving
– There is cooperation and preplanning that occurs between teachers – where they discuss, evaluate, plan teaching in light of evidence about student success
– There are clear learning intentions and success criteria – when these are transparent to the learner, and when learners know where to go next, learning occurs
– Modelling occurs of the success criteria
– Teachers check for understanding – where they are aware of what each student knows, to construct meaning in light of that knowledge and provide meaningful and appropriate feedback
– Students move from a single idea to multiple ideas and then relate and extend those ideas to construct knowledge
– A backward design is used for instructional planning – starting with the learning intention – including surface, deep, and constructed knowledge
– Peer learning is optimized

In addition, Hattie identifies other teacher influences on achievement that this project will aim to embody. These include:

– Teacher-student relationship – ensuring there are rules and procedures in place that are negotiated with the students. Teacher-student relationship also includes having clarity of purpose focused on learning and include a concern for the needs and opinions of others.
– Teacher clarity – teaching that includes the language, love and details of physical education. Teaching that includes appropriately challenging learning intentions and success criteria. Teaching that includes being able to communicate the intent of the lesson
– Quality teaching components – Teacher who provide challenge, have high expectations, who encourage the study of the subject, who value deep and surface aspects of their subject. Teachers who emphasize progress not ability and who are prepared to be surprised. Teachers who give agency and efficacy to students. Teachers who are caring, empathetic, and give positive regard to students. Teachers who provide feedback on how to be successful in learning. Teachers who structure situations so students can attain learning goals.

So, there you have it, our starting place.  We realize that there has been much great work done by dedicated professional physical education teachers over the years.  We also realize that there is a need to keep the conversation current and relevant to best practice literature today.  In the Calgary Board of Education, over the last few years, we have embraced the pedagogy of Sharon Friesen, the Galileo Centre, and John Hattie among other experts.  This project builds on the great work of HPEC’s special project – Everactive Schools – our hope is that we can regularly converse with colleagues both within the CBE and the PE community about our work.   Much of this will fall onto Roy, as Allen is teaching full time, and Roy is dropping in to co plan and co teach.

So excited!


Apps for use in Environmental Education – a starter list

forest2Technology can augment learning, find new ways to connect students to nature, provide new perspectives, and create multiple platforms for student learning.

Here are few apps that you might consider using with your students – i am providing web links but all are available as apps at istore or google play

Agents of Nature – discover species of plants and animals that live in Calgary parks

Project Noah Engage students in documenting local wildlife by uploading photos via mobile phone or tablet as part of a classroom or school-wide mission. A global community can help I.D. their “spottings” which in turn help scientists uncover and track wildlife populations.

Journey North – Your students can be citizen scientists, tracking wildlife migrations and seasonal changes in the environment around them. They can report their sightings from the field, view maps, take pictures and leave comments.

Weather Bug – Give your students access to the world’s largest network of real-time weather sensors for forecasts, alerts and more. Students can check weather conditions before heading out for field study or collect weather data over time and study how it impacts the local environment.

Creek Watch – – Be stewards of your local watershed by using this app to snap photos of a local waterway and report how much water or trash there is. The app aggregates the data and shares it with local water agencies to help them track pollution and water resources.

Whats Invasive – – Help scientists locate invasive species by making geo-tagged observations and taking photos in their natural areas. The information students collect can help stop the spread of invasive species which destroy native habitats.

Natures Notebook – – Observe and record plant and animal lifecycle events (also known as phenology), such as flowering and bird migration. The observations also help scientists understand how species respond to environmental changes.

iNaturalist – – Record nature observations and share them with the online community of naturalists. Students can also keep a log of the wildlife they discover and the biodiversity they experience while being outdoors.

Leafsnap – – Leafsnap is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.

Blogging as a Platform for Showcasing Authentic Student Writing in Gr3

Its been a thrill to be teaching the gr3 class at Mount View School in Calgary. I have been a guest teacher for the past few months, collaborating with teachers on embedding ideas from Sharon Friesen’s Teacher Effectiveness Framework, Task Design ideas from Galileo Centre, and evidenced based best practice ideas from Hattie’s Visible Learning research .

This morning the grade 3s were engaged with learning focused on expressing ideas and feelings related to conversations, text or media. We started with a conversation about surface knowledge and deep knowledge. We discussed what great reflective writing looked like, related it to previous writing work we had done with Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book and then set the stage that we’d be doing some writing on a platform new to our gr3s, Kidblog. We talked about what ‘going deeper’ means when it comes to learning. What preceded this discussion was a couple of videos used as a provocation for thinking and curiousity. Then we visited Chris Hadfield’s twitter feed and thought about what types of questions about surface knowledge we could ask him, and then what kind of deep knowledge questions we could ask him. Hadfield of course tweeted us back almost immediately to the thrill of our gr3 class.

Next we introduced students to our Kidblog site – how to log in, how to send your writing to be reviewed by teachers, and how to save a draft. We co-created an assessment rubric with the gr3s that identified key pieces of quality writing: opening,closing sentence, more than one paragraph, juciy words, reflective statements, including an illustration, giving the work an interesting title, good spelling, complete sentences. Students then got to work and myself and Bev Barnes, the other teacher, conferenced individually with students. We modeled peer feedback, what it looked like, and how long it should take. We talked about digital citizenship and how to keep ourselves safe when on the internet. We co-created feedback reflective questions that students could use when offering peer feedback. When students’ work was ready to published, we put it out there on our kidblog site

We were deliberate about creating an authentic learning task for students; framing the work around being ‘journalists’. What do journalists do in their work? How could we use journalism ideas to advance the context for learning and content.

Next we posted links to our blog, on @MountViewCBE twitter feed, to share the work with parents and community. We talked about commenting on others’ writing on a blog and what appropriate comments looked like. When students’ blog posts were posted, we encouraged students to read and comment on other students’ blogs.

The whole was extremely engaging to students. They were excited to be able to go home and share their published writing with their parents, grandparents in nova scotia, etc. Writing was focused on life in outer space, connecting the work to gr3 science topics like rocks and minerals and animal life cycles.

Plus Bev and I had a lot of fun collaborating on the planning and implementation of the unit.

One of the richest pieces of my work this year in my Consultant role with CBE has been embedding my work in schools. Taking ideas from Friesen and Hattie to create engaging meaningful learning for students. If you’re interested in having me work with you at your school in a similar capacity please look me up on CBE outlook. I’d love continue this work!

Roy Strum
Consultant, Env/Outdoor Ed, Social Justice learning, Student Leadership, Sustainability Education