How do we foster transformative teaching and learning within existing traditional structures?
While curriculum changes are leading us towards significant change, the reality is that many schools and districts are still constrained by traditional structures that could pose significant barriers to meaningful growth.
Traditional structures can encompass everything from the concrete, (the physical spaces of our school community) to the less tangilble (closed mindsets).
Let me begin with one example of the concrete...
While the physical space of a school community does not necessarily impede transformational teaching and learning, it can pose a significant challenge. Traditionally designed as a collection of "little boxes", how do we encourage and support teachers and students to move beyond the walls of their classrooms to engage in collaborative learning experiences?
As part of the West Coast Regional Exchange, facilitated by Stephen Hurley and Max Cooke from the Canadian Education Association (CEA), I had the opportunity once again to marvel at the beauty of our venue Norma Rose Point, a school which was designed for teacher collaboration. Although principal Rosa Fazio is quick to point out that it is more about the mindset than the physical space, I couldn't help but think about the impact that teaching and learning in such a space might have on the hearts and minds of the members of that school community. This thinking was extended through a conversation with the head teacher of an alternate program. He shared his struggle to convince "his kids" that they were valued within a physical space that was aging and run down...
Yes, transformative teaching and learning can and should happen within traditional and sometimes less than ideal physical spaces, but I don't believe that we can discount the impact, both positive and negative, that those spaces can have on staff and students. Not an insurmountable barrier, but something to be considered.
Other traditional structures might include elements such as timetables, staffing and budget constraints and ministry guidelines.
Should a bell schedule really signal the end of learning?
With the integration of a new curriculum in BC, we have an amazing opportunity to continue to transform learning for our students. But it's not enough to simply squeeze a new curriculum into our existing traditional structures. I would suggest that if teaching and learning does not begin to look significantly different in BC schools, then we will have failed our students.
We now know better and so we need to do better.
There are no easy answers. But we must continue to have these conversations. What are the non-negotiables within our districts and school communities- those elements which we are unable to change? And what are the elements that we are able to address and transform to facilitate the types of learning experiences that we know are best for our students?
As Stephen Hurley reminded members of the CEA west coast regional exchange, "an issue is where an opportunity and a challenge meet." So, rather than viewing existing traditional structures as insurmountable barriers to transformational teaching and learning, we can instead view these as opportunities for innovative and creative solutions. I look forward to continuing this conversation, both with my colleagues in BC, across Canada, and globally.