Over the past two years, we have been collecting data to best formulate what our school stakeholders believe should be the plans moving forward. Staff were provided formal and informal opportunities (directly and indirectly) through meetings and anonymous surveys to provide feedback identifying areas for school growth. Student voice was a very important part of this process. We have had Student focus groups, grade 12 exit surveys (sent to our most recent graduates a few months after graduation) and at a Professional Development Day, we held a "World Cafe," where we invited over 50 students to participate in our professional learning by being a part of many open-ended discussions about teaching, learning and our school. Both the surveys and the World Cafe revealed some areas that will serve as a focus for our school improvement. Since the Framework for Enhancing Student Learning (FESL) will emphasize “school-wide” areas, some of these other areas for growth will become the focus of smaller groups or departments within our school.
We will be shifting the focus of our Framework. Though our focus on Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting will continue to be present, moving forward in this has changed slightly. As a result, we are moving two areas that we had listed as "other areas" within our Framework in as a more primary focus. These two areas are the formation, implementation, and development of our Career Education Program as well as our work to support the more overt implementation of Core Competence instruction and assessment
Why are we focusing on Career Education (beyond the fact that we have to)?
Career Education focuses on the development of the whole individual, supporting students in their life journey as they identify and explore personal interests, passions and competencies, striving to develop into educated and successful citizens. The Career Education curriculum helps guide students to effectively navigate and manage this life journey as they make their way through elementary school, high school and beyond, as they look toward their future goals and career aspirations. Career Education provides the opportunity for students to engage in self-discovery and exploration that they can apply to personally meaningful experiential learning in volunteer and work experience opportunities.
How will our students benefit?
There is some flexibility in the delivery of the Career Education curriculum, and, at McRoberts, we have been deliberate in the process of designing what we feel is the best delivery model for our students and staff. We understand that our students will benefit most in an environment where our entire community engages in this program. In addition, we know that support and mentoring from a number of sources will also help our staff to best support our learners. As a result, one foundational aspect of the McRoberts Career Education model is the creation of LET (Life Education) Time. Each McRoberts student has been placed in a multi-grade LET Group, that meets eight times during the school year for a one hour LET session. LET Time provides the time for invaluable conversation and interaction between students in grades 8 through 12, and allows the opportunity for older students to mentor and help guide the younger learners in their LET Group. LET Time also allows for grade specific assemblies, such as our recent Grade 11 LET Time assembly that provided an opportunity for a team of our staff to inform these students about the Capstone project that they will be creating in their Grade 12 year as part of Career Life Connections. We are also coordinating a Volunteer Fair for our Grade 9 and 10 students on our November LET Day to help link these students to many potential volunteer opportunities in our local community. Although the Career Education program is still in its early stages of implementation, with the completion of only a few of our LET Days, we are already beginning to see the benefit of designing our program to specifically align to our school context and our learners. In addition to the LET Days, Career Education curricular competencies are also being taught and assessed in each of the subject areas, where teachers have embedded some of the curricular competencies and the assessment of these competencies into the learning that is already occurring.
Prior to our first LET Day, our Career Education Team led MyBlueprint training sessions for grade 8-10 students so that they could learn how to set up their account, as well as learn to begin navigating through this online program that supports the Career Education program.
Our Career Education Team requests and receives feedback from staff after each LET Day to help us make improvements to future LET Time sessions.
We have coordinated meetings with our Grade 11 and 12 Mentors to help empower them to be our leaders in the LET Groups by reviewing essential skills for supporting younger learners. In addition, these mentors have provided verbal feedback and recommendations during these meetings that has helped guide the design of our LET Days.
The Grade 12 Mentors took the lead in our first Grade 12 LET Day assembly, where they lead discussions with all grade 12 students to help prepare them to support their younger LET Group members on future LET Days.
On each LET Day we gain feedback from students via exit slips with questions related to the curriculum from that day.
Our Career Education Team followed up with all grade 8-10 students who did not complete their LET Day 1 assignments prior to our second LET Day. This follow-up allowed us to help these students catch up on the missing work, to confirm that they understood the material that had been covered and to confirm that they had accessed their MyBlueprint account and had uploaded their work into their online portfolio.
Why are we focusing on Core Competencies? Specifically, how will our students benefit?
The Core Competencies are intellectual, social, emotional and personal proficiencies that are essential to help develop the whole student. The Core Competencies are strategies, skills and attitudes that encourage and develop citizens who are life-long learners.
By focusing on communication students learn how to interact and make connections. They learn how to process existing information, discover new ideas, and share information. They learn how to negotiate ideas and how to use a variety of media to communicate in different contexts. Students practice collaboration with others; they learn how to be open to different perspectives, how to be inclusive, and ultimately how to come together with others to achieve their goals. Good communication skills will be important to every aspect of our students’ lives as they move on to post-secondary education and the workforce.
The focus on thinking encompasses creative, critical and reflective thinking. Students will learn how to gather and interpret information. They will learn to determine what information is relevant, where there is bias, and how to come up with their own conclusions. Students will learn to be open-minded, resourceful and flexible while at the same time being critical. They will understand and know how to deal with real-world issues that they will face. They will have the skills to use their knowledge to create solutions to real-world problems.
Personal & Social
The final cluster of Core Competencies relates to personal awareness and responsibility, positive personal and cultural identity and social awareness and responsibility. These attributes focus around self-understanding, self-respect, self-regulation, acting with integrity and interacting with others in a way that is respectful, caring and inclusive. These are essential skills to ensure our students grow up with a sense of social responsibility and belonging, and directly impact their emotional health and well-being.
Overall the Core Competencies are skills that students use both inside and outside of the classroom, and by developing these attributes we are helping students develop and become more responsible for their own growth and learning. Students learn how to communicate, how to self-regulate, how to think creatively and critically, how to collaborate and how to persevere when faced with adversity. These are skills that are essential to helping our students grow into well-rounded citizens with the skills needed to be successful in the face of an ever-changing world, and empower our students to meet academic, personal and social challenges.
While some teachers choose to be explicit in their teaching of the CC, all teachers are developing the core competencies within the structure of their curriculum and teaching strategies.
We have a working group of teachers who have met to discuss Core Competencies at the school and through district initiatives. A student committee has also met to discuss the student perspective on how Core Competencies are developed in the school. In the words of one student, “Core Competencies are a better reflection of students’ overall capabilities and strengths than course marks.”
Currently our Student Council students are working on a video around Personal Awareness and Responsibility.
Our Grade 8 Mentors will also be working with our Grade 8s around Core Competencies around reporting time, with reflections to go out with our first report cards in December.