Embracing the New BC Curriculum’s Focus on Personalized and Student-Centred Learning

Embracing the New BC Curriculum’s Focus on Personalized and Student-Centred Learning

March 9, 2017
By Gail Robinson, Department Head, English, Crofton House Senior School

According to Dr. Bruce Bearisto, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Education at Simon Fraser University, the most important innovation the new BC curriculum offers is its focus on personalization. An aspect of student-centred learning, personalized learning strives to address each student’s needs, preferences, strengths, interests, and aspirations as part of a movement designed to promote greater student accountability and engagement in the classroom. Bearisto maintains that student-centred learning will have a profound impact on British Columbia’s schools for years to come.

The English Department at Crofton House School consists of a dedicated team of passionate and experienced teachers who are actively involved in the challenging process of aligning our curriculum with the Ministry’s new guidelines. This year, we are implementing our new English 8 and 9 courses, while we re-design our English 10 to 12 courses in preparation for the 2018-2019 academic year.  Throughout this process, we have made a concerted effort to protect the academic rigour of our program, while striving to adapt new and promising approaches to teaching and learning. As we near the midway point of the current academic year, I am particularly impressed by the impact that our implementation of personalized learning strategies has had on our English 8 and 9 students.  

Since September, our English 8 teachers have participated in regular meetings to review our course planning and to share stories about what is happening in our classrooms. Without exception, I have walked away from all of these meetings feeling inspired by my colleagues and by the stories that we share.

During the first reporting period, for example, our English 8 students completed a unit that used carefully selected poems and short stories to explore the beauty and the power of nature. As an extension of this work, students considered the First Peoples Principle of Learning that states, “Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.” They researched ancestors, who had overcome personal challenges, and they wrote short stories from their ancestor’s points of view. Reflecting on this experience, one of my students observed that “Working on this project made me realize that determination runs through my family. A lot of my ancestors never stopped until they did something great.” Another student wrote:

"Although now I live in a safe country where there is little discrimination, I know that my ancestors had to work very hard to make a better life for themselves and their families….  I know as a Caucasian person I will rarely be discriminated against, but I think about the fact that I have even a little bit of African, Chinese and Spanish blood and this motivates me to campaign for equal rights and that no one should be discriminated against for the way they look. Especially, the way my family was discriminated against in South Africa."

Using personalized learning strategies in English 8 and 9, it is our expectation that our students will be able to participate in our English 10, 11 and 12 courses with a clearer sense of who they are and where they come from.
Another personalized learning opportunity that we have initiated this year, which has impacted our curriculum from English 8 to 12, is the implementation of Crofton Reads.  As English teachers, we know the importance of reading as a means of developing stronger thinking and writing skills so we have decided to demonstrate our commitment to this principle by dedicating 30 minutes of each cycle to reading. Throughout the year, students will be expected to select books to read that are aligned with their own interests, as long as the books that they choose to read possess literary merit. They will also be required to share their reading experiences with their peers by giving book talks twice a year.
Moving forward, the English Department intends to build on these successes by extending our use of student-centred learning strategies to include discussion-based approaches to teaching and learning in our senior courses.