To meet the needs of all learners, Education Services collectively supports innovation and professional learning aligned with Surrey Schools’ vision of Learning by Design and its inter-related priority practices: Curriculum Design, Quality Assessment, Instructional Strategies, and Social and Emotional Learning. All learners benefit from purposeful, engaging instruction that seamlessly integrates the district’s priority practices and nurtures students’ intellectual, personal, and social and emotional proficiencies. Development of these core competencies is central to the work of Surrey educators.
Professional learning opportunities provided by the district aim to help teachers become more intentional and strategic in developing students’ core competencies, as well as design learning environments that embed the priority practices and reflect the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Engaging students in learning experiences that use thinking, collaboration, and communication to solve problems, address issues, and make decisions is an integral part of the learning in all curriculum areas.
Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors. Learning is connected to the broader community and extends beyond the walls of the classroom and school. Connecting learning with community members, parents and extended family reinforces the links between school and other aspects of the learner’s life.
Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational. Deep learning engages the whole student (and teacher) – heart, mind, body and soul. When we work together, collaborate conceptually, and combine our energies to reinforce commonalities across multiple subject areas, we make learning cohesive, connected and relevant. The relationships teachers develop and foster with their students is essential to student success.
Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions. Empowering students to take ownership of their learning leads to meaningful student engagement. Within safe learning environments, students feel comfortable taking risks and view mistakes as learning opportunities, ultimately developing the perseverance to overcome obstacles and meet goals.
Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities. Teaching and learning involves everyone in the community: Elders, classroom teachers, family members, mentors and older and younger students. Learning is a socially constructed activity in which we work side by side with more knowledgeable experts to learn a new skill or craft in an authentic setting.
Learning recognizes the role of indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge and perspectives are part of the historical foundation of BC and Canada and contributes to non-indigenous understandings of the world. In order to integrate indigenous knowledge and perspectives in meaningful ways, educators in all curricular areas must first develop their own understandings.
Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story. All learners can benefit when oral methods are used to recall and recount the past. Stories help all of us make meaning of life and allow us to step out of our own shoes, see differently, and increase our empathy for others.
Learning involves patience and time. Effective instruction honours learning as a process in which teachers gradually shift responsibility of learning to students over time. To further learning and develop awareness of oneself as a learner, students must reflect on their learning, thereby becoming more autonomous and empowered to take ownership of their learning.
Learning requires exploration of one’s identity. Learning begins with a positive self-identity. Exploring their own identities in a safe learning environment helps students develop empathy towards their peers, build stronger relationships, and dispel stereotypes and perceptions about other cultures and groups of people.
Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations. A key aspect of learning is demonstrating respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration of other people’s work and feelings.
Curriculum Design in the Classroom
Teachers approach curriculum in purposeful and intentional ways, designing learning experiences that are relevant, meaningful and support students in acquiring the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to prepare them for their futures. Learning is messy and complicated. As teachers circulate and engage with students in conversations that focus on moving learning forward, we see students who are grappling with challenges, generating ideas, revising their thinking, and finding their way through various stages of the learning process. We may see students spread on the floor in groups, sitting individually looking at their work on a screen, in quiet spaces editing video or audio, or out in the world interviewing, filming or researching. Learning experiences are framed around topics where there are problems or challenges that encourage students to develop ideas and questions of their own that they then pursue through projects they design and create.
With our new curriculum, everyone is talking about it being concept-based and competency-driven. Figuring out what this really means and what it looks like in my classroom has been so rewarding for me and my students. Instead of being driven by covering the content, I have a more holistic focus that keeps the learner in the center. Now, we explore significant content only, and I am much more concerned with the students’ cognitive development and their social, emotional and physical well-being. Surrey Teacher
Curriculum, instruction, and assessment are interconnected. When designing a framework for quality assessment, teachers build on the processes outlined in the curricular competencies and provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning.
Quality assessment consists of both formative and summative assessment. Formative assessment places teachers and students in the position of gathering and acting on evidence to inform day to day teaching and learning. Throughout this process, teachers develop students’ ability to reflect and set goals in order to take ownership of their learning.
I think one of my strengths is that I’m self-aware and I know when I’m not learning. When I’m reading, if I’m not understanding something, I use reading strategies. This year in Humanities the part of the textbook on Justice in the Middle Ages was hard to understand, so I read slowly and used sticky notes. I wrote different things on them. For the parts I could understand, I wrote summaries like, “Royal courts are for major crimes.” When I didn’t understand, I wrote questions like “What kind of penalties and sentences did people get?” My goal is to use more strategies to help me think and understand more. Mrs. D. told me it would help if I started making more connections.
When I read I make personal connections but they’re just basic instead of ones that help me understand better. I have to relate what I say to my life and I have to talk more about my feelings about what I read. I have to explain how what I read is similar to something in my life and how it is different from my life.
Effective summative assessment involves teachers developing well-constructed performance-based tasks that ask students to demonstrate curricular competencies and content learning in a variety of ways. It is reserved for those occasions when a snapshot of student achievement is required or necessary.
If teachers are trying to make changes to their assessment practices, there has to be a shift in their mindset. This allowed me to be flexible in how I structure my units, and it changed how I communicate student learning. Everything revolves around the curricular competencies now and not on the content in the textbook. My students document their learning journey through digital portfolios. When they go online to check their progress, they don’t see a traditional gradebook with tests and quizzes. I track evidence of their learning using a competency-based gradebook with curricular competencies as categories. Now the topic of conversation in class is how do I develop my competencies, not how do to I make up on this test. Surrey Teacher
Instructional strategies are carefully crafted by teachers to enrich learning experiences for all students. Effective instructional strategies are anchored by curriculum design and formative assessment practices that provide students with choice, voice and ownership of their learning. The teacher has a strategic role as the instructional architect, designing learning experiences that reflect and address student needs, passions and curiosities. Learning thrives when teachers design instructional strategies that acknowledge the social nature of learning and make learning visible, open and transparent. By keeping learners at the center, teachers set the conditions for students to take responsibility for their learning and engage in the learning process in deep and meaningful ways.
This year I have really focused on instructional strategies that help students become independent, strategic learners. These strategies then become learning strategies for the students. For example, I do a lot of “Think Alouds” where I “Question an Author”. I’m trying to show my students that when we question an author we can uncover, discover, understand and make meaning. This has been one of the best ways for me to help students understand more deeply. Surrey Teacher