Living Change: Three Conditions to Foster a Teacher-led Process
"What knowledge is of most worth?" (Pinar, 2015, p.32).
The key question at the heart of any moment of curriculum change is deceptively simple: “what knowledge is of most worth?” (Pinar, 2015, p. 32). This question is fundamentally about the aims of public education. Its answer depends on a multitude
of factors such as how knowledge is conceptualized, what the role of the school is seen to be, and who is seen to decide these issues.
Even as curriculum change attempts to answer this question (to be designed and implemented), it is crucial to recognize that curriculum is
always a site of ongoing tension, debate, and contestation. Furthermore, teachers are already engaging this question in their daily practice. Consider, for example, current debates as to what content should or should not be included
in the curriculum. Is it about “skills,” “competencies,” or “big ideas”? What grade level should certain content be taught at? What is the “core” knowledge within a discipline?
While it is easy to get hung-up on these questions, what is urgently needed is a shift from whether teachers are (“correctly”) implementing the curriculum, to whether the curriculum is providing space for the multiple knowledges, experiences,
and needs that make up teaching and learning in BC. Drawing on the results of the
BCTF Curriculum Change and Implementation Survey, we propose three key curricular conditions to foster a teacher-led process.
Curricular condition 1: Time and space for curriculum as an ongoing conversation
The direction of curriculum change will be determined by how teachers are invited into the conversation. Asking for “buy-in,” for example, demands that teachers fit their pedagogical practice and decisions into a set curricular model, whether or not that
model resonates with their own philosophies of education, teaching experience, or the needs of students in their classrooms. This can, as seen in the comments left by participants in this survey, lead to frustration, anger, and resistance.
Engaging curriculum as an ongoing conversation, in contrast, would invite teachers to work together to discuss and debate questions such as:
- How do you answer the question “what knowledge is of most worth”? Where do you find your answer reflected in the curriculum? How do you work with parts of the curriculum that you feel are in conflict with your answer?
- What are the points of convergence and potential tension between the curriculum and your pedagogical practice and decisions? How do you engage these to best meet the needs of diverse students in your classroom and school community?
Curricular condition 2: Educational systems and structures that support curricular demands
Teaching and learning conditions are curricular conditions. In other words, they will fundamentally determine the direction that curriculum change takes.
Teacher perspectives in this survey point to the importance of:
- Well-resourced schools and classrooms that meet the demands of the curriculum (e.g. flexible learning spaces, accessible and reliable technology, adequate instructional materials, and supports).
- Reasonable class size and composition, and explicit attention to the impact of the diversity of student needs on curriculum implementation.
- Adequate staffing and support to meet the needs of all students and teachers.
- Fully funded, equitable, and accessible technological infrastructure, devices and support for all students and schools.
- Clear and reasonable assessment and reporting systems that are aligned with curriculum.
- Respect for teacher’s autonomy to make professional judgements in relation to curriculum as to what works best for them and their students.
- Explicit attention to how the structure of schooling for both K–9 and 10–12 (e.g. timetables, graduation requirements) shape the direction of curriculum change.
Curricular condition 3: A flexible, adaptable, and fully-resourced implementation process
Curriculum change is a process, and the results from this survey illustrate that teachers are at different points in this process. There needs to be a clearly differentiated curriculum implementation plan that addresses communication for different groups,
school cultures, and teachers at different points in the process of implementation. There also needs to be a clear delineation between curriculum change and other changes.
While it is the mandate of the Ministry of Education to set the provincial curriculum, it is teachers who determine appropriate pedagogical approaches, using their professional judgement to meet the needs of all students in their classroom.
A curriculum implementation plan should include:
- A clear system for development and distribution of instructional materials. These are fully funded resources in French and English that are accessible in a range of formats (e.g. online, print, consumable) and reflect the importance of all curricular
- Ongoing individual and collaborative time for curriculum planning and resource development (including digital resources).
- Support for the infusion of Aboriginal content and ways of knowing as an ongoing journey for teachers. This includes localized curriculum and in-service and professional development activities.
- Accurate, up-to-date, and inclusive in-service and teaching resources to support the move of health-related content into physical and health education.
- A well-thought out and planned strategy for inclusion and equity across all curricular areas and grades.