Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
- Semiahmoo Secondary is a vibrant learning community located in South Surrey, BC. Built in 1940, Semiahmoo was a hub of learning for industrial education, sciences, and music. As enrolment rapidly grew in South Surrey, Semiahmoo merged with White Rock Junior in 1989 at the reconstructed current site of Semiahmoo Secondary.
- Today, Semiahmoo Secondary maintains rigorous and exceptional academic, culinary, fine arts, technology education, special education, athletic and music programs.
- Semiahmoo has been a World International Baccalaureate (IB) School since 1980, offering the IB Diploma Program. In December 2015, Semiahmoo celebrated the 35th Anniversary as an IB School, one of the oldest in British Columbia.
- Since 2004, Semiahmoo has been home to the Hockey Skills Canada Academy. This program is open to students in grades 8-10.
- Semiahmoo students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and schooling experiences
- 49% of students primary language spoken at home is not English; 12% are serviced as English Language Learners (ELL); 12% are Ministry Designated with social/emotional, physical/health and/or learning needs; 7% are District International Students; 1.7% are of First Nations descent; 13% of students are IB students; 22% of students are in the music program
Together with high academic rigor, extraordinary choice programs, and a growing international and multicultural student population, Semiahmoo is a thriving school community with an equally talented and committed teaching and support staff.
The Semiahmoo staff has been working collaboratively on the redesigned curriculum through redesigned course outlines, using learning maps for assessment and focusing on curricular and core competencies for students understanding of big ideas.
SCANNING (What do we, as staff and community, know about our students – their successes and challenges?
- Students feel Semiahmoo is a safe and welcoming learning community. They feel respected by their peers regardless of any differences and feel they are treated fairly by staff.
- There continues to be a high level of achievement across all subjects and grades. Results in all Provincial Examinable courses are above district and provincial (including independent schools) scores. Numeracy and Literacy continue to be a strong focus across all curricular areas.
- Students feel they are engaged in their learning and are expected to do well. They have opportunities to work together on projects and feel they can work on things of personal interest to them in their classes.
- Students have the opportunity to participate in clubs, the intramural program, and extra-curricular activities.
- Semiahmoo families place a high value on education and look to the school community to provide opportunities for students to be successful.
- Semiahmoo students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and schooling experiences
- Students feel proud to be a Semiahmoo Totem.
- Students at Semiahmoo work with passion and determination, within each of the program and subject areas. The IB students are as engaged and involved in their success as are the students in the BASES program.
- Students at Semiahmoo are involved in many activities that exemplify the Core Competencies, however, they may not recognize them as proficiencies being developed through their activities at school.
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
There is amazing learning happening in our community. With this learning comes complexity…complexity in instruction, assessment, background knowledge, rigour, communication, technology, engagement, learning outcomes, achievement, grading, differentiation, mental health, social and emotional well being, etc.
There are also increased pressures and demands from cultural and curricular transformations. Semiahmoo Secondary is continually seeking innovative ways to bridge cultural divides, embrace and adapt to change in our population and in our practice, and understand the needs of all learners. We recognize that our learners have changed from years past and that the challenges they will face in society have changed also. We also acknowledge that students have always had different learning needs, and that the diverse needs of our students today determine the path that we will follow.
This year, there has been a continued emphasis on the skills and competencies described in the Curriculum Transformation document. Our staff has been actively engaged in understanding and implementing the redesigned curriculum through inquiry based projects and personalized instruction. As a staff, we have used the reworking of our course outlines as a launch into our understanding of the new curriculum and the shift from knowing to doing and understanding. This year, the staff has begun a number of collaborative inquiries into the use of Learning maps to foster good assessment practice. We have also begun to look into the use of digital tools to communicate student learning. This exploration has brought with it many challenges in our beliefs and caused us to question some of our traditions and practices.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
HOW DO WE KNOW?
Historically, there has been an effort to hold on to the traditions of the past to preserve a culture that was successful and strong. Semiahmoo community has come to know that our traditions and culture are evolving as our learners bring with them their personal cultures and traditions. Our new learners provide us with a fresh perspective, and a vantage point for change. We are also propelled towards innovation with the shift in focus to big ideas and core competencies. Our staff is on the cusp of being ready to embrace a new way of teaching and learning.
Some of the data we use to support our beliefs in the strengths and needs of our students includes:
- EN 12 and Com 12 exam results from Ministry of Education
- IB external examinations and internal assessment
- Composition reports for each grade, and services provided for student learners
- Counselling and YCW reports of increasing mental health concerns
- Composition reports from ELL and International departments
- Our student voice data, and student self assessments in Core Competencies
- Teacher qualitative data
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
The recently published Reporting Order for British Columbia references a student self assessment in Grades 8 and 9 with respect to the Core Competencies. For the past two years, our school has worked towards fostering a positive personal and cultural identity, supported by a sense of self-worth and self-awareness. This has been established through our work embracing our diverse multi-cultural environment and reconnecting with our Aboriginal heritage and building understanding of the Truth and Reconciliation agreement. Students who identify positively with who they are and their place in the world are set to take on the challenges of a global society. Our school mission dictates that we prepare students for this challenge.
We acknowledge the importance of engaging students through personalized experiences and interests. We know that the multicultural demographic of our school demands that we honour and embrace different ways of thinking and knowing. We acknowledge that Semiahmoo has not nurtured the connection to our Aboriginal community and we seek to rebuild that connection in an effort to understand more through our community and heritage. We recognize the vision as set out in the Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement, and seek to find ways to support our Aboriginal learners and build understanding.
As we move our school community toward curriculum transformation and implementation of the core competencies, we hold as an ideal an environment that fosters communication, thinking (critical and creative) and personal and social awareness. Many of our practices encourage this set of skills, however, we endeavour to be more intentional in our use of meta-cognitive practices with our students and in the development of positive habits of mind. We seek to align our practices with the First Peoples Principles of Learning, in particular, that learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential and relational. We align our school vision with the District Priority Practices of curriculum design, quality assessment, instructional strategies and social and emotional learning. We endeavour to do this by embedding formative assessment practice and instructional strategies such as establishing learning intentions, giving descriptive feedback and allowing for student self assessment.
OUR STUDENT VOICE
We invited our students to share with us how they felt about Semiahmoo as a positive learning environment and as a partner and contributor to their success. We also asked them to tell us what was interfering with their success and how we might move forward to remove those obstacles.
This year, we chose to use a Survey Monkey with the students, so that they could have quick access to the questions and ease of response.
The students were asked to comment on the qualities that made a positive learning experience, either relationship or structural. The students responded to four specific questions related to their learning:
- What would you say is the #1 important factor contributing to your success at Semi?
- What is the #1 factor to success of all students?
- What are the things at Semi that are interfering with your success?
- How can you be involved in the process of creating a positive learning environment?
What would you say is the #1 important factor contributing to your success at Semi?
Overwhelmingly, students attribute their success to the relationships and the people at Semiahmoo. They also expressed a desire to be more involved in their own learning and to be given the freedom to pursue their passions while at school.
We need freedom to innovate… We have so many resources to learn but we are never given the ability to apply it…If Semi provided resources to let these students actually get their ideas out to the world not only would Semiahmoo become better, but the world too. To summarize, give us programs to help us work on our own projects… in class we should have more freedom in the way we work…The best classes I’ve had, had teachers that created discussion and got us thinking…More projects in which we have some option in what we focus on would be a plus…The best way to summarize all these answers is: Stop underestimating us. We can change the world, if you let us. (Student – Grade 11)
COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES (How will we communicate our inquiry and our results to the school community?)
As a school, we have increased our connection to parents through the use of social media. Currently, we communicate to parents and students through the SemiTime APP, our Twitter account (@semisecondary), Instagram and our website.
The Administration regularly reports to the PAC the implementation schedule of the new curriculum, and the inquiry process that the staff has undergone to support their new learning. There is strong communication and collaboration between administration and the PAC executive. The administration presented early this year to parents on the new curriculum, changes in assessment practice and communicating student learning, and transforming curriculum.
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
SCHOOL WIDE FOCUS AND INQUIRY QUESTION
By being intentional in our use of the Core Competency language, will our students increase their understanding in how they solve problems, address issues and make decisions?
What does it mean to be intentional?
- Use the core competency language on a regular basis
- Include the core competency language in daily planning
- Identify to students which core competencies are being utilized through daily activities.
What is the vocabulary of the Core Competencies?
- Communication: impart and exchange information, experiences and ideas.
- Thinking: subject-specific concepts and content, transform into new understanding, habits of mind, metacognitive awareness.
- Creative thinking: generation of new ideas and concepts.
- Critical thinking: making judgments based on reasoning, consider options, analyze using specific criteria, draw conclusions, make judgments.
- Personal and social: students’ identity in the world, individuals, community and society.
- Positive personal and cultural identity: awareness, understanding, and appreciation of all the facets that contribute to a healthy sense of oneself.
- Personal awareness and responsibility: skills, strategies, and dispositions that help students to stay healthy and active, set goals, monitor progress, regulate emotions, respect their own rights and the rights of others, manage stress, and persevere in difficult situations.
- Social responsibility: consider the interdependence of people with each other and the natural environment; to contribute positively to one’s family, community, society, and the environment; to resolve problems peacefully; to empathize with others and appreciate their perspectives; and to create and maintain healthy relationships.
4. What professional learning do we need?
NEW PROFESSIONAL LEARNING
Members of the Semiahmoo staff have been participating in the following professional development opportunities consistent with our school-wide inquiry question and our engagement with the redesigned curriculum:
- August 31st, 2016 – Summer Pro D, all staff: Rethinking Letter Grades – Assessment
- Sept. 28th, 2016 – Admin Day – Curriculum Redesign, Aboriginal Blanket Activity (TRC)
- Nov. 4th, 2016 – Curriculum Transformation Day, District Dept. collaboration
- Nov. 8th, 2016 – Dept. Head Series, Transforming Curriculum
- Feb.16th, 2017 – Dept. Head Series, Core Competencies
- May 29th, 2017 – Non-Instructional Day
- Ongoing 2016 -2017 – Redesigned curriculum and Core Competencies as a standing item at each Dept. Head and Staff meeting
5. What is our plan?
Taking Action: (What will we do differently?)
1. The terms Communication, (Creative and Critical) Thinking and Personal and Social responsibility will be used on a regular basis during school wide assemblies and in school publications (newsletters, etc.)
2. The three core competencies will be a focus at staff meetings and dept. head meetings. The emphasis will be on greater understanding of the ways they manifest themselves in our daily activities and lessons. The encouragement will be to include the three competencies in regular planning and conversation with students.
3. Teachers will be asked to use the terminology of the three core competencies in their daily conversations with students and in their planning. By referencing the vocabulary and attributes of the Core Competencies on a regular basis, students will become familiar with the strategies and skills they can access in their daily lives to enhance these competencies.
How will we know that we are making a difference? (Evidence)
The purpose of our inquiry is to determine if students will be able to identify areas of learning involving the core competencies and if they will be able to determine if there has been personal growth in these areas. In order to check if we have made a difference, we will need to ask the students to speak to their own learning and self-assess their growth in the three competencies.
1. A student focus group was held during the February 17th Pro D, to determine if students are able to identify the core competencies in their daily learning. Students were asked to determine if they can identify personal growth in the three competencies. The students were invited to discuss the implementation of the core competencies and how they feel the competencies are being addressed in their courses and in the school culture. Their comments were collated and presented to the staff at a staff meeting for discussion.
2. Grade 8 and 9 students will be asked to self-reflect and self-assess the core competencies at the end of the school year.
3. Students will be able to describe their learning and reflect on their progress in the Core Competencies using the language of the redesigned curriculum using the self- assessment required as part of the final report to parents.
4. Teachers will be able to identify how the core competencies are embedded in their instructional and assessment practices, using their course outlines and assessment learning maps.
CONNECTION TO THE DISTRICT PRIORITY PRACTICES, VISION AND CORE COMPETENCIES
Transforming Curriculum: Core Competencies
The school wide focus on using the Core Competencies as a foundation for our learning is in direct alignment with the District Priority Practices.
The use of Core Competency language in Communication and Thinking (Critical and Creative) speak directly to the new literacies for students in our school. The ability to identify the thinking skills required in the 21st century is an essential piece of the learner profile for our students. Our plan to use a common language of metacognition and actively develop good habits of mind will enable students to personally access the new literacies as they move beyond school to post secondary and work.
Our inquiry into honouring diverse traditions and culture of learning, and the new focus on creating connection with our Aboriginal community and sharing Aboriginal understanding with our students has a direct connection to the Positive Personal and Cultural Identity Competency.
Profile #5 – I can identify how my life experiences have contributed to who I am:
- I recognize the continuous and evolving nature of my identity.
- I understand that my learning is continuous and my concept of self and identity will continue to evolve. I can describe how aspects of my life experiences, family history, background, and where I live (or have lived) have influenced my values and choices. I can identify how my strengths can help me meet challenges, and I can understand that I will continue to develop new skills, abilities and strengths. I can identify how my challenges can be opportunities for growth. I can identify my potential as a leader in the communities I belong to.
In the Curriculum Transformation document, we understand that positive personal and cultural identity are supported by a sense of self-worth and self-awareness. Students who identify positively with who they are and their place in the world are set to take on the challenges of a global society.
The three facets of this competency (relationships and cultural contexts, personal values and choice, and personal strengths and abilities) are integrated in the practices of inquiry and innovation.
District Vision and Priority Practice
- We align our school vision with the District vision of honouring diverse cultures and traditions through learning.
- Our departments align their inquiry questions with District practices in assessment, universal learning design, and social and emotional learning.
- Our departmental and school-wide professional learning is focussed around these practices.
- We endeavour to acknowledge and honour each students individual strengths and abilities and the cultural context that they bring to their learning.
- We endeavour to acknowledge our strong traditions and culture of learning and aim to build on those strengths through focussed inquiry and innovation.
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
Much of the current direction from the BC Ministry of Education and Curriculum Transformation supports Inquiry as a process that individual teachers, departments and schools can use to create ownership of educational practice that systematically improves learning and engagement in schools through ongoing reflective process. As a school, we have focussed on the intentional use of Core Competency language and the integration of core competency skill building in our daily planning. In addition, each department has been reflecting on their inquiry questions on an ongoing basis to determine how we know that the inquiry focus is making a difference for our students and their learning.
A number of measures have been used in research to determine if students are engaged in their learning. Historically, measures have focussed on behaviors such as attendance and quantitative data such as achievement and graduation rates. More recently, researchers are looking at qualitative data focussed on engagement in learning. For example, engagement can be measured by the extent to which students identify with and value schooling outcomes, have a sense of belonging at school, participate in academic and non academic activities, strive to meet formal requirements of schooling and make serious personal investment in learning.
– Alberta Ministry of Education Webpage, 2014
In keeping with the research that qualitative data can determine the level of success that a school is engaging its learners, we provided a number of opportunities to our students to reflect, self-assess and provide feedback to administration. On Feb. 16th, we invited a focus group of students to engage in four x four interview activity answering 4 key questions.