Part 1: Analysis of Context

1. What do we know about our learners?

Bothwell draws students from a diverse collection of residence, from large suburban homes, townhouse developments, and acreages to the farms and the Katzie lands on Barnston Island to the northeast.

Bothwell Elementary is a K to 7 school located in the Fraser Heights area of Surrey, BC, Canada.  Bothwell opened in 1998 as the area east of Fraser Heights was developed into a bustling neighbourhood of large family homes.  The area is temporary home to parents of international students, and Bothwell’s catchment extends to the northeast corner of Surrey, to Barnston Island, where Katzie families live on the Barnston Island Indian Reserve No. 3, along its south shore, and farming families make their living.  Bothwell’s students come from diverse cultural backgrounds. 

 This wide range of cultures and backgrounds provides the school with a rich multicultural composition.  These children receive ELL instruction from our Learner Support Teacher.  Bothwell’s Learner Support Program consists of individual and group support, with targeted interventions for children with dyslexia, and a multi-station Fast ForWord program.

One of the unique qualities of a small school is its appeal to families who are seeking opportunities for their children to learn in a smaller group setting.  Some of these children may have special learning needs requiring special program adaptations or modifications.  Our Learner Support Team, and non-enrolling support teachers, Child Care Worker, and Counselor support our students’ diverse learning needs.

Bothwell’s population has remained near 200 for the past few years, and is showing a gradual increase, with the advent of construction of new residences in recent years, as acreages are being rezoned for higher density development. Many of our students are accustomed to a busy outdoors lifestyle, and enjoy the use of the area’s parks and trails adjacent to the school property and close to the Fraser River.  Students in the school are involved in many extra-curricular lessons, having developed skills to express themselves through music, dance and drama or through sport.  The students enjoy participating in our annual talent showcase to entertain the school community.

Over the past three years, there have been changes to administration and office staff, and the introduction of new staff members in many classrooms.  These staffing movements provide opportunity to existing staff to discuss the history of its programs, valued practices, and focus on developing a shared vision for Bothwell with its students and parents.  Bothwell organized Table Talks, to include its stakeholders – staff, parents, students – in discussions about the school’s goals.

The parents at Bothwell show their support of their children in a variety of ways.  Parent volunteers help in the classrooms by driving on field trips, reading to the children in class, or supervising small groups within the class during special class projects or events.  During school-wide events, parents volunteer to supervise safe movement between checkpoints for our school runs, prepare snack food for distribution, and help to prepare and serve our Pancake Breakfast with Santa each December.  Parents with little English are happy to volunteer their time to showcase their culture during multicultural events, and parents from our Katzie First Nation come to share stories, drumming, and song with the children and staff.  These connections are important to the Bothwell community.

The staff at Bothwell enjoys participating in numerous activities and events to make the Bothwell learning experience stand out for children.   Oral communication has been enhanced through the evening Ted Talk event in 2017, and Speech Fest in 2016. 

 

Reading strategies are shared with parents through demonstrations on Fresh Grade and have been the focus of a family Reading Strategies event.

Many staff members volunteer to provide the students opportunity to join sports and experience healthy fitness activities.  The staff is also keen to provide instruction using 21st century instructional technology.  To that end, they attend afternoon or evening in-service sessions, learn from experts in the field, and integrate new technology as a tool for learning within the classroom.  

The advent of BC’s curriculum design shift over the past few years results in a focus, by staff and students, on an exciting personalization of learning for each student.  For some of our learners, this poses a challenge, as they are asked to develop new skills.  This is also a shift for their parents, as feedback on learning looks different.

2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?

 We have a collaborative culture at Bothwell, as evidenced through the many multi-class projects and events, ongoing staff collaboration and student preference for group and paired learning activities.   However, we understand our students require support to become more reflective about their learning.  Students identify their learning needs effectively through the use of carefully worded criteria.

Over the past two years, we have developed a clear set of criteria for students and staff around social responsibility, and behavior guidelines for conduct that produces a safe and caring learning environment for all.  We understand that a safe and secure child is able to concentrate on learning.  At the same time, relationship is key to learning, and fostering a climate of connection and care is key to our work with the students.

“…the way to children’s minds has always been through their hearts.”  Gordon Neufeld

Our staff teaches the children to reflect on their emotional state through the language of Zones of Regulation and provides a structure for re-focusing and being ready to learn.  Our older students are given meaningful roles as student leaders, as leadership is an important part of their learning journey.  Staff explored a broad student leadership model in 2015-2016.  This includes students from grade 4 through 7, and provides opportunities to participate in leadership under the mentorship of one of 4 staff members.  Student leaders lead assemblies, make announcements to classes, and serve as mentors to younger students, helping to model positive conflict resolution through the WITS program.  Student Spirit leaders organize theme days to boost school spirit. 

Introduction of the WITS Program in Autumn of 2015

The school has introduced effective problem-solving strategies for the students to employ as they deal with others on the playground, in class, or in the community through the WITS Program.  This program was provided through “Rock Solid Foundation” in Victoria, and involves the use of four clear responses to conflict with others, a wrap-around approach that involves community resource people (ie RCMP, guide leader, teachers, parents) and lessons through a collection of picture books.

The school has introduced effective problem-solving strategies for the students to employ as they deal with others on the playground, in class, or in the community through the WITS Program.  This program was provided through “Rock Solid Foundation” in Victoria, and involves the use of four clear responses to conflict with others, a wrap-around approach that involves community resource people (ie RCMP, guide leader, teachers, parents) and lessons through a collection of picture books.

We have seen an improved sense of calm and connectedness between our students as they interact with each other and staff, work on collaborative projects, and respond to conflict.  The children are more able to remain focused on discussing possible strategies to apply to resolve conflict, rather then remaining upset with the problem.  This shows growth in a personal habit of reflection as children successfully analyze a problem.

Staff is working to share Explicit Learning Intentions, charting the learning goals for their students, and setting the criteria for success together with their classes.  Through the implementation of the district’s report framework – Communicating Student Learning, staff has explored ways to create a clear and complete picture of each child as they document learning.

As we look at the changing needs of our students and implement the BC Curriculum, we have identified a need to foster within students and staff a habit of reflection and self-analysis in academic learning, in much the same way we did for their social/emotional learning.  Where our students face challenges, we believe the application of the same principals –

-fostering a climate of connection and care

-reflecting on one’s work/output through a set of criteria

-applying what we have learned to try alternate solutions.

In 2016, the staff attended an in-service to explore the use of innovative Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies projects.  Bothwell scheduled opportunities for staff to collaborate with each other to provide STEM learning with the students, and a series of inquiry-based projects took place.  Thus, pushing our students to re-imagine possible solutions, engaged their critical thought processes, and take ownership of their learning.  We are pleased to see the growth of a different mindset in our students – they are less likely to be ‘done’ with their projects, as they begin to view the process of learning as never-ending.

The process of taking ownership of learning has been energizing for students.  As the education system has been redesigned to provide children the best preparation to thrive in the changing global landscape, schools have been finding ways to facilitate these changes for a smooth transition.  How can we best share the changes with parents, with its emphasis on core foundational skills – communication, creative/critical thinking, positive personal and cultural identity, and social responsibility.  Our First Nations students are benefiting from the Aboriginal perspectives and content being integrated into all subjects.

In 2014, one third of our classroom teachers began to use FreshGrade as a tool to document student learning.   Two of the teachers had developed enough expertise in the use of this assessment tool to communicate student learning with parents in this way by the final term in 2015.  In the 2016-2017 school year, communication of Student Learning follows one of two formats in the Surrey School District.  Bothwell staff are committed to providing assessment feedback that creates a clear picture of what the students are learning, describes their skills and next goals, and focuses attention to the individual learning accomplishments and needs of each student.

Part 2: Focus and Planning

3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?

-How can we provide assessment in a way that communicates student learning gains and goals, and helps parents to understand their child’s learning profile clearly?

-What information and support might parents need to help to understand the BC curriculum transformation?

-How will the addition of inquiry-based learning impact our student’s connection and commitment to academic learning at Bothwell?

4. What professional learning do we need?

Staff plans to implement one of two assessment-reporting tools available in the Surrey School District.  Many staff anticipate the on-line portfolio, FreshGrade, will provide an innovative ‘real time’ feedback for parents and students that will serve to provide ongoing assessment for learning and will produce great information for parents who must work during the school day, and therefore are less able to visit during learning time. A few staff will use the paper template to report learning gains and goals at the end of each of the three terms. 

Staff will organize collaborative sessions with each other as a group and with outside district teachers to learn from those experienced with on-line tool, Fresh Grade.  District will provide the updated paper template, CSL, for teachers who prefer that report tool.

Parents also require information about the curriculum changes and how we are assessing learning moving forward.

5. What is our plan?

⇒Continue to collaborate with each other as staff who are adopting the new assessment tools for the first time become accustomed to them.
         •Schedule collaborative sessions, key questions, after school to introduce getting started on Fresh Grade
         •Schedule meeting with staff to review new version of CSL paper template
⇒Organize a parent evening to provide, through teacher leadership, information about the new assessment tools and focus of ministry curriculum.
         •Early October 2016
 ⇒Bring in district teachers to share their implementation of student self-assessment on FreshGrade,
         •how they supported quality assessment practice, and
         •how they monitor wise student use of the on-line tool at every grade level.
⇒Design criteria for student self-assessment and train older “big buddy” students to help younger students record their self-assessments and/or upload self-assessment to Fresh Grade.  Goal: each student will provide self-assessment feedback for the social and emotional competency
 

Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate

6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)

We will feel our plan has made a difference when we see students integrating self-assessment naturally, as a regular part of their learning cycle.  As we develop assessment matrixes that are helpful to the students in this work, and receive candid self-assessment from the students that reveal a thoughtful reflection of their learning process/ experience, it is likely they will share additional revelations about the concepts, as well as their personal learning discoveries.

As we move forward, we expect the students’ self-assessments to take on a confidence that comes with experience and ownership.  As that happens, the parent feedback will transform as well.

7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?

Further work is needed to realize our goal of student self-assessement – students will assess their progress with more of the core competencies.

Inviting parent feedback requires additional support and exemplars, as this is a new expectation we have of our parents.  Additional workshops in the classroom or school wide may be helpful.

As we gather information about our students’ academic progress, staff will apply what we have learned this year to make gains.  Involving students in inquiry-based learning, and providing a framework to support thoughtfully worded self-assessment that becomes a part of each child’s formal record of learning – these are two empowering shifts in the way children experience learning in the classroom.  We plan to continue with ongoing collaborative discussions about learning, setting learning targets, and reflecting on gains as we adjust those learning goals, and we must include staff, learners, and parents in these to have lasting effect on our school’s success.