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2017 BCTF Curriculum Change and Implementation Survey

Curriculum Implementation

Curriculum implementation is an ongoing process. This set of questions asked teachers to reflect on the process of curriculum implementation within their classroom(s) and school(s) over the past (2016–17) school year.

Implementation in classrooms and schools

The 2016–17 school year was the first year of implementation for the K–9 curriculum, while the 10–12 curriculum remains in draft form. All education partners recognize that, even if the K–9 curriculum was mandated for the 2016–17 school year, the process of curriculum implementation takes time and should be an “ongoing process built around reflective practice supported by all learning partners” (BCTF et al., n.d.). This includes reflection on how teachers navigate curriculum change while upholding their right to use their professional judgement in relation to their pedagogical practice and decisions.

Overall, slightly less than half of teachers say that they used the redesigned curriculum to a large or very large extent in their classrooms. This number increases to just over half for teachers who only teach K–9. The perception among teachers is that their colleagues have used the curriculum to a lesser extent than themselves.

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A curriculum that “seems to create dichotomy due to philosophical differences.”

Perceptions of support

Teachers are divided as to what extent they feel supportive of the redesigned curriculum, with a significant percentage reporting negative or mixed feelings.

For teachers of K-9 only: 55% say they are supportive or fully supportive of the redesigned curriculum.

 

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Teacher comments illustrate a stark divide between those who support and those who are critical of the direction of curriculum change.

Teachers explain their support in terms of an alignment of their personal “philosophy of education” with the curriculum, perceiving that the curriculum is based on “best practice” or “sound educational philosophy,”  and  appreciating  approaches  such as  “flexibility”  and “student-centered learning.”

“For educators who already had a professional practice in line with the methods/philosophies of the new curriculum, the change was not dramatic or stressful. Rather, it has been a relief to have official backing/support.”

At the same time, almost all supportive comments were qualified by a recognition of multiple challenges to implementation. These include: a lack of instructional materials, inadequate time for learning and collaboration, the need for professional development opportunities, lack  of  access  to  technology,  unclear  and  or  misaligned  direction on assessment and reporting, and a rushed and frustrating implementation process.

“I am 100% on board with the new curriculum. I am finding it very time consuming and difficult to get up-to-date resources, and often have to spend a lot of additional time searching for current resources.”

“First off, I completely support this new curriculum change. It was overdue. Next, unless there is a radical turnaround in the way that this is being rolled out, very little will actually change in the next few years.”

“I believe the time given for curriculum implementation has been completely inadequate, more time must be given so that teachers can collaboratively work on the changes. Also, the lack of information to answer teachers question around why the curriculum changes were made in the first place. There is good research behind the changes but as this information has not been shared most teachers do not know what it is.”

“I like the redesigned curriculum but feel like we need to determine how we are going to be reporting before we can fully understand it and fully implement it. It is contradictory to be teaching the new curriculum and reporting the old way. It is very frustrating that this has yet to be sorted out. Until then, I don’t think anyone in our district can begin to really implement the redesigned curriculum.”

“As a new teacher, I enjoy the new curriculum in that I am able to more freely choose how I want the students learning experience to proceed, however the lack of provided materials or examples is very challenging. This increases prep time, frustration and creates a lack of confidence as a new teacher.”

“In general, I am in favour of the new curriculum BUT not the implementation process and time frame.”

Teachers who are not supportive of the redesigned curriculum expressed strong anger, frustration, and stress. Broadly there were three major reasons given for their lack of support: (1) disagreeing with, or not knowing, the purpose of the change, (2) feeling that research does not support the changes, and (3) perceiving that the change has resulted in a less academically rigorous curriculum.

“It has created a lot of extra work for the teachers, and I don’t see the benefits of the new curriculum.”

“I believe the current changes are nothing more than political posturing and experimenting.”

“Primary teachers have been doing many of the things that are in the new curriculum. I find it is just new words and has increased our time on deciphering what it all means.”

“There has been so much made of change change change rather than what improves students’ ability to deal with life (and education) after school. All these changes seem to do is justify people’s salaries who do not directly teach kids.”

“The change is too aggressive and not supported by most of the current peer reviewed educational research.”

“I feel like this is the ’Year 2000’ all over again.12 There is a lack of emphasis on basics and too much on ’extras’. It was implemented too quickly and with no support with either guidelines, materials, or any real planning time.”

“I am concerned over a loss of ‘common knowledge’.”

“I am very concerned about the move away from the direct teaching of core literacy and numeracy skills in the early grades—as well as on the effort to remove letter grades from reports. We’ve tried this before (in the Year 2000 Initiative) and it failed badly. I believe that many at-risk kids will be negatively impacted by a lot of these changes.”

Teachers perceive the level of support for the redesigned curriculum to be highest among school administrators and the school district. Teachers expressed the most uncertainty in relation to parents’ views on the redesigned curriculum.

“[T]here are many [parents] who are supportive, some who are not supportive, and many who are just unaware of the curriculum.”

“Not enough parent education has been done.”

“Parents really don’t seem to understand. All familiarity is gone and that leaves them feeling uncertain.”

Since 2013, curriculum implementation has taken place in challenging circumstances, such as the underfunding of public education, job action in 2014, and the 2002 stripping of key teaching and learning conditions. Although there was a historic Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2016 in favor of teachers’ ability to negotiate key teaching and learning conditions, and a change in government in 2017, these circumstances can continue to negatively impact curriculum change.

“The past 15 years of underfunding have made all of us very cynical and frankly, overworked. Having a curriculum change at the end of these long 15 years has been difficult as we are all very TIRED. More support was needed immediately and the school districts were out of money. It was an insult to teachers to be given a new curriculum that was a one-page description online without a good reason to change the curriculum. We were all horrified.”

Instructional materials

Teachers currently access instructional materials from a range of sources, most often using their own materials or materials found through Google or other search engines.

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On average, teachers feel that 43% of their instructional materials have changed. There is an urgent need for materials for implementation.

“My biggest challenge is that if you want me to teach it, there should be resources available. I already put so much time in planning, reporting, and getting the class ready each day, I do not have time to search for resources.”

“I feel many teachers are spending hours searching for information on the internet. After finding some material it has to be adapted for students as most of the materials I have found are too difficult for my students. We have not received money to purchase materials.”

On average teachers rate their access to necessary instructional materials as a 4 on scale of 0 to 10. The lack of accessible, fully funded resources impacts on working and learning conditions.

“I just want to note that I spent hundreds of hours developing content and instructional materials this year. I work part time and spent most of my days off working on school materials.”

“Teachers are burnt out because we had to do it all ourselves. Which means some teachers still use the old curriculum.”

“Please look at this list [of where teachers access resources] and ask yourself how big this job has become. I love curriculum development, but am overwhelmed by trying to integrate what I’m guessing I’m supposed to do with the needs in my classroom.”

Assessment and reporting

A large majority of teachers feel that there have not been clear or helpful guidelines in relation to student assessment (71%), student self- assessment of the core competencies (74%) or student reporting (76%).

Teacher’s frustration in this area was evident, with many comments related to (1) increased workload, (2) the lack of user-friendly technical tools and support, and (3) the need for clear reporting and assessment guidelines aligned with the redesigned curriculum.

“We have a choice between two different reporting tools, both of which are an incredible amount of work. Neither option is a reasonable amount of work.”

“I find current reporting practices in our district and province to be highly restrictive. I am interested in trying Fresh Grade, for example, but have limited access to the technology needed. Also, our district says if we do Fresh Grade we still have to do three normal written report cards. I consider that altogether too much work!”

“In our district we must use the expected reporting tool and are allowed to use additional ones too. Double the work!”

“MyEdBC’s gradebook is cumbersome and not intuitive.”

“Reporting procedures have not caught up with the curriculum changes.”

“It seems like there has been a great deal of information provided about how assessment ’should’ look within the new curriculum but I don’t feel that our current methods for reporting support this new vision…No one has ever given any concrete examples of how to make these changes a reality.”

“There is a lot of confusion surrounding assessment. Why don’t we have a strong assessment policy design for the new curriculum? It should have been ready before the implementation. It is really difficult to assess new curriculum with old goals.”

There are also multiple questions related to the new literacy and numeracy assessments, graduation requirements, and the impact curriculum change will have on admission to post–secondary institutions.

“The literacy assessment that is replacing the provincial exam for English 12 is causing huge anxiety for teachers. How are we supposed to prepare the students when we haven’t even seen the exam?”

“There is still a lot of vagueness when it comes to the curriculum changes and graduation requirements, so it’s challenging to commit fully.”

“There also seems to be a lack of information about [how] new assessment methods may be received and used by the Universities when it comes to admissions.”

“The lack of clarity in terms of post-secondary application and graduation assessment is unsettling for students, parents and teachers.”

Physical and health education

One curricular area that has been combined is physical and health education. Health-related components of the curriculum that were formerly contained in Health & Career Education K–8, Health & Career Education 8/9, and Planning 10 were merged into what was previously known as Physical Education. The decision to restructure the curriculum in this manner was made by the Ministry of Education prior to Provincial Curriculum Development Teams being involved. This restructuring has reframed the context of health-related content. It also means that, especially at the secondary school level, hundreds of teachers around the province have now inherited topics that they do not have previous training or experience with (including sexual health, for which there has been chronically few professional learning supports available in most school districts).

Of the teachers that currently teach physical education and/or careers, a majority (70%) feel ready and prepared to teach health-related topics. However, a quarter (25%) of these teachers disagree or strongly disagree that they are ready and prepared to teach health-related topics.

“I have taught Planning 10 in the past and so feel comfortable with the topics but MANY teachers are feeling completely unnerved and unprepared to teach the new health-related topics.”

Furthermore, approximately half of these teachers (49%) say they do not have sufficient access to materials on health-related topics, and three out of five (62%) say they do not have sufficient access to in- service training.

“Access to instructional materials is due to personal research/ accessing online resources, not resources available to implement the new curriculum by government.”

“No materials or resources in French for French immersion.”

“Teachers have not been provided in a timely manner the materials needed, the time to explore them, and the time to collaborate with colleagues in this regard. With schedules overflowing, it is challenging to take on so much change so quickly.”

Learning conditions

Teachers also feel that classroom learning conditions are impacting on their ability to successfully implement the redesigned curriculum.

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Impacts include increased workload as teachers make ongoing pedagogical decisions to meet the needs of all students.

“Classroom composition dramatically effects workload!”

“I feel my class composition and the limited support for behavior has a significant impact on my ability to teach any curriculum.”

“Teachers also need much more support in designing classroom materials for such diverse sets of learners in our classrooms and how to successfully manage the wide range of needs of our students.”

There is also concern that the redesigned curriculum may not meet the needs of specific groups of students.

“Curriculum isn’t designed for struggling students, or students with special needs.”

“I feel like it is just a way of getting around providing support and services to those who have high needs, as everyone is supposed to be individualized.”


12 The “Year 2000” refers to an attempt, in the late 1980s, to make a systematic change in the structure, curriculum, and teaching practice in BC schools. The "Year 2000" program was cancelled after three years, with only the primary program implemented, following substantial challenges to implementation and support for the process. During those three years, a total of $482 million was spent implementing the program. However, as a series of BCTF reports entitled Teaching in the 1990s illustrate, there were critical tensions between different approaches to teaching practice, as well as how those approaches aligned with the reality of elementary and secondary school structures. See: bctf.ca/publications/ResearchReports. aspx?id=5552.

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