What questions do teachers ask to design learning for the future? What questions should we ask? How can parents join us at the Table of Learning?

We are re-designing school in many ways and yet the shifts in education can feel like a hall of mirrors, disorienting and repetitive or inconsequential at worst.

Parents and teachers, we can each play integral roles in the process in the re-design process. Teachers are the primary designers, with parents personalizing, encouraging, and reflecting with students regularly.

It is important we all define where we are going together.

Questions about What to Teach

What should our focus be?

Learn Forward knows there are five most important journeys of a child: faith, worthiness, selfhood, belonging, and changemaking.

But, what do we actually teach in the classroom in support of these journeys? What is the signature pedagogy?

There are new lists emerging about what is most important to teach. At this point, the content (or big body of knowledge) is taking a backseat to the competencies (the aptitudes and capacities of an adaptable, lifelong learner).

Here is one list of the competencies to teach, from an award-winning teacher and administrator Ms McKnight from our Province:

As you can see, based on our new Core Competencies in British Columbia, we are focused on teaching thinking processes, communication skills, and personal and social responsibility. This is the core. Of course, a shift to “core competencies” isn’t at the expense of teaching rich curricular content, it is just a shift in what is most important.

As parents, teachers, and administrators, what can we practically do in schools to help make that shift?

  • We focus less on the standard set of skills or knowledge required to master each grade level.
  • We cultivate a growth mindset at every turn.
  • And, we design learning experiences that are authentic or real-life.
  • Then, we ground those experiences in inquiry.
  • We support teachers when they take risks.
  • During the whole process, we encourage creativity, collaboration, and communication by modelling.
  • Finally, we reflect with students regularly.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Questions about How to Teach

How can we effectively design learning experiences?

Currently, as a school team, we are designing learning together. Our process begins with an awareness of what to teach and becomes practical when we start creating learning experiences. Whether we are working on financial literacies, design thinking, or persuasive writing, we always want to make those experiences authentic and real-world. So, students design models for kindness, pay rent for their desks, design light sculptures in their study of electricity, or debate school rules with persuasive writing.

Then, we draft our cross-curricular unit of study into a template modified from the creators of Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. We focus on the essential questions that will ground the learning for the entire unit of study. Additionally, we consider where we want the students to end and plan how we will assess the learning.

All of these units are then shared and teachers offer each other feedback. We refine the essential questions to create powerful inquiries because we know students will own their own learning more if we phrase everything as a question. We discuss pacing, assessment, and resources while trusting the process.

Once the experience begins, students become part of the design team in an active learning and experiential way. They define criteria for learning, engage in empowering activities, and reflect on the process. When students are part of the learning journey, they take ownership in new ways.

We iterate, iterate, iterate. Each unit, term, and year, we discuss how to improve our designs, be more effective at making learning visible, and empowering student learning more effectively. We are curious about how to personalize expectations while holding everyone to his or her highest standard.

Questions about How to Make it Safe

How can our schools be safe enough to encourage the re-design?

The whole designing learning process requires enough safety to take risks. After formal coaching processes with seven teachers this month, I am hoping we can entertain this question again. I want teachers to feel safe. Risk-taking will happen when we create enough support, time, and flexibility within the system for teachers to be creative and generative.

I want to ask powerful questions to encourage teachers and propel us forward.

What questions are you asking?¬† “How might we…?”

For the sake of the children,