Redefining the learning landscape in Canada
I was not aware that BC’s new curriculum is part of a bigger movement that is currently happening throughout the country. C21 Canada is “a national, not for profit organization that advocates for 21st Century models of learning in education. The goal of C21 Canada is to witness an accelerated pace of 21st competencies, instructional practices, and digital resources and services being integrated into Canada’s learning systems” (C21 Canada, 2017). I was even more surprised when I realized that my school district had participated in the writing of “Shifting minds 3.0: Redefining the learning landscape in Canada. According to C21 Canada (2015), in order to be ready for the 21st century, students need these seven competencies: “Creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship; Critical thinking; Collaboration; Communication; Character; Culture and ethical citizenship, and Computer and digital technology.” As a teacher, I know that traditional teaching practices won’t be sufficient to ensure that all of these are acquired by the students. Therefore, a change in the way we see teaching is necessary. C21 (2015) mentions that leaders, administrators and teachers need to adopt a transformative view where “learning is a social process, with students and teachers working in partnership with each other and with experts beyond school, supported by digital technologies. In the transformative view, collaboration, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurial know-how, and ethical citizenship infuse teaching and learning. Students and teachers co-design their work. The learning environment, which extends beyond the classroom, is purposefully designed for students to think, research, analyze, develop and improve their ideas, and demonstrate deep understanding through the work they produce” (9).
This looks promising but in order to change old practices throughout the whole school system into new ones, it needs either a reform or improvement. Here is what C21 says about each one of these change in teaching practices:
“Whole-system reform requires conditions that support educators in examining and reshaping the foundations on which their practice is built (leadership and management, as well as teaching). The Shifting Minds Index envisions these as five core elements of public education: curriculum, pedagogy, learning, environment, governance, and citizen engagement.”
“School improvement— an expansion of teaching capacity across all schools. [.. School] strategic innovation—a reinvention of schooling. (See Figure 1.) School improvement planning is founded on best practices that are proven to have worked in the current system. Innovation looks for the next practices. Because education is complex and the stakes for students are high, a dual strategy of both improvement and innovation can offer a reliable way to maintain stability while enabling forward momentum. »
The question is: how is a transformation brought about in a system as intricate as the education one? There are recommended strategies that focus on collaboration between administrators and educators, support system for all professionals in the school system, and experimentation allowed within the schools.
“Figure 2 highlights some of the ways system leaders are putting these three strategies (plus visioning) into practice. All of the tactics support system improvement; some can also be used to promote innovation” (C21, 2015).
C21 (2015) also mentions that the “power of conversation—to change or modify commonly held beliefs, to generate new actions, and to hold participants accountable for the actions they pursue—cuts across all strategies designed to change the way things are done in school” (12). Within all these suggestions and guidelines, it is important to remember that no school district will be implementing innovation and improvement the same way. There are so many factors influencing this change such as: the district or leader’s view on learning, the size of the district, the prepared strategic plan, the line between the freedom to innovate at the school level and the intention to reach a sustainable change.
“Figure 3 offers a way to counteract that pressure, using a disciplined approach that emphasizes conversation and shared learning at each step.”
I think that everything that I have mentioned above sounds promising. However, when are teachers and administrators supposed to do this? There are already so many demands to make sure that all the students’ needs in the classrooms are met. Snyder (2013) provides some examples on how this change could be made and to reach sustainability. He suggests that the school district:
“For change to happen, the system as a whole must become more collaborative and strategically experimental. Figure 5 identifies six interconnected parts of the whole, and lists some ways each part can promote whole-system transformation.”
While reflecting on the information above, I keep thinking of some of the new initiatives happening in my school district and I am wondering if they are not inspired by this document or at least by the research used to create it. There was a day of professional development which brought together lots of teachers to learn about Google Education. There has been an invitation sent to all employees to discuss what leadership should look like in the district. There was the distribution of laptop for all teachers and more money for professional development. I think it is great, I just wish that leaders would not only listen to the ones who are the closest to them, who agree with them, or who speak the loudest but also to the quiet ones or the controversial ones. Innovation and engagement often come from taking risks and being willing to accommodate failure in the process of achieving a goal. If teachers are provided with a safe environment to take risk and practice new approaches, then change will naturally occur at every level of the organization.
Adapted from Sean Snyder, The Simple, the Complicated and the Complex: Educational Reform through the Lens of Complexity Theory, (Paper prepared for the Governing Complex Education Systems project, Directorate for Education and Skills, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, November 2013), Retrieved February 6, 2017 from https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/WP_The%20Simple,%20Complicated,%20and%20the%20Complex.pdf
C21 Canadians for 21st Century Learning & Innovation. (2015) Shifting minds 3.0 redefining the learning landscape in Canada. Retrieved February 3, 2017 from http://www.c21canada.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/C21-ShiftingMinds-3.pdf