What do you think are the benefits and challenges to offering students more flexible learning opportunities?

Summary to date:
Here’s a summary of what you’ve said so far. Click on the links beside each theme to read supporting examples.

  1. A greater role for parents (1, 2, 3)
  2. Increased student motivation and ownership over their learning (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  3. Accommodation of different learning styles (1, 2)
  4. Practical skill development and a greater connection with the community (1, 2, 3)
  5. More flexibility around schedules (the “when” of learning) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  6. Students don’t have the maturity or foresight to make good choices about what to learn (1, 2, 3)
  7. If given too much choice, kids will pick the easiest route (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  8. Concerns about inadequate curriculum coverage and de-emphasis of basic skills (1, 2, 3)
  9. Concerns about assessment (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  10. Overreliance on technology (1, 2, 3, 4)
  11. More work for already burdened educators (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  12. Worsening of existing inequalities (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  13. Overcoming teacher resistance and/or lack of understanding (1, 2)

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to contribute to this topic.

570 Responses to “ Benefits and challenges of flexible learning ”

  • Regardless of what the ‘educational plan’ is, if there is inadequate support (ie. properly allocated funding and staffing) it will fail, just like our current system. As a member of the local PAC, I see chronic underfunding, overwhelmed staff and fewer options and alternatives for students. I fully support and see huge benefits in more flexible learning opportunities. The Challenge? Developing a realistic ‘management plan’ based on common sense through which ANY ‘educational plan’ can be adequately funded and staffed so that is can succeed.

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    • Dianne says:

      I am a strong supporter of offering choice and I believe the education system needs some change. However, this “new system” needs to be properly funded and supported. Government needs to start with properly funding what we have and building toward the change.We have technology inequality between schools, lack of support for struggling students, lack of training for students and staff. Over crowding in some areas and lack of opportunities in others. You cannot have “learning empowered by technology” when you have 3 kids fighting for access to the same piece of technology. Start with the basics, create an equal playing field, make all the pieces available to everyone.

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    • Hear hear!

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  • Lindy says:

    There are so many obvious benefits to offering choices to all students. I am strongly supportive of offering choice to each and every student enrolled in our public system. This means students with gifts and talents to those students who have profound intellectual challenges. To me choice means ensuring that each student; no matter their academic capabilities is guided in the choices of the learning that they explore. Some students will require a great deal of support and others will require less. I see a challenge in how the Ministry and individual schools will take the antiquated special education system(which is so dependent on determining what is wrong with the student in order to get financial support) and translate it into the new vision we have for learning. Special education teachers are the epitomy of flexibility and developing choice so the real question for challenges becomes how to assure regular classroom teachers that they can successfully teach all students no matter the learning challenge through offering choices and activities that ensure cognitive access to materials of interest to the students with the appropriate supports. This will not be easy to do but I think it is manageable however financial support must accompany these changes.

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  • Mark Stoakes says:

    Limited – unless the school system is prepared to change significantly. I would suggest that BC MoE have a serious look at Sir Ken Robinsons view on education. He emphasizes the need to foster creativity and also questions the current hierarchy of subjects with math and English viewed as the “senior” subjects and the creative subjects (largely arts) as secondary. There is little point in giving children more choice if the choices they make are not valued both in the school system and by the post- secondary system that has to absorb them later. This is important – our school (& post-secondary) system needs to be generating creative thinkers if we are to compete. We should not think we can be educational leaders by following a system designed during the industrial revolution.

    We do need to give children more options that are accessible to all. The Vancouver Trek program is an excellent example of giving children an alternative to the drudgery of high school – although in reality it is only accessible to west side children. Programs that lock children out – such as mini- schools should be closed. Children mature at widely differing ages so to offer specialty programs that are only available to those ready at, say grade 8, discriminate against those who mature later. Programs that allow those with talents in specific fields are probably worth exploring more. For example Eric Hamber challenge program allows with a talent in one subject (let’s say English) to take that at a higher level while carrying on with math with their peers. This could easily be expanded to dance, art, music and other subjects.

    There is also little point in giving choice if we don’t give real resources to support the choice. Why would a child choose science when the resources for hands on experimentation verge on the pathetic? Without the support of lab assistants how can science teachers be expected to offer interesting, hands-on experiments from grade 8 and up?

    We should also not mistake choice with a lack of hard work and high expectation. Choosing, say ‘ceramics’, should not be perceived as the easy option to math or French. This will not happen until the school system fundamentally changes the view on how subjects are valued – with English & math currently being perceived as the senior subjects. Why are ‘ceramics’ or machining not provincially examinable subjects? Because they are perceived as being of less value and the ‘easy’ option, but they are more creative and so in many senses have more value than ploughing through quadratic equations!

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Sir Ken is someone whose thinking is indeed influencing our transformation vision. Please check the It’s Happening Globally section on this page for a link to one of his influential talks. There are many other great resources on this page that you might also be interested in.

      Thank you as well for your other comments. You’ve raised some important points that have been echoed by others.

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    • Milo says:

      You make some good points Mark. We are moving in the right direction in getting rid of Provincial Exams – those antiquated ways of “measuring” progress. (And sorting students). I agree that we are consistently valuing the wrong things in education. In my days as a high school counsellor, I frequently had students electing to take the sciences despite no interest in them as a field because they were “better.” Parents and even teachers also encouraged such nonsensical thinking. I’ve heard from many foreign educated individuals that our Mathematics curriculum covers ground in high school that they didn’t meet until their university education -as they were preparing to become engineers and such.

      I’m excited about the possiblities of self-directed and individualized learning. Teachers need to be ready to be facilitators of learning vs. the repositories of all knowledge. It is still shocking how many teachers teach to a mythical middle ground in their rooms.

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  • BC’s Education Plan states that it will give educators, students, and families more choice on ‘where’ their learning will take place, and that “Almost certainly, more learning will take place outside of the school setting.”

    I agree that students should spend more time in their community–interacting with different people and leraning about its resources.

    Q: where will the extra support and funding come from for these outdoor experiences, when it seems that Education Assistants and other support are continually being cut?
    Furthermore, how can we ensure that children in schools across the province will receive equal opportunity for learning that is outside of the school setting?

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    • Lara says:

      From what I understand “outside school” setting does not mean outdoors, but rather not in school. This could mean distance education from a student’s home, which isolates them from society and leaves them unattended and without adult interaction. It also creates hardship for parents. I am suspicious of this part of the plan, while at the same time hoping it actually means that students will still be in direct/face-to-face contact with teachers who have the flexibility to take them outside and into the community on a far more frequent basis than currently exists. Of course, you need money to pull that off in terms of transportation and a higher teacher to student ratio. Where is the funding for that?

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    • C. Welch says:

      There won’t be any more money. Period. Any programs that require extra funding will only succeed if the number of teachers and support staff are cut – and this, I think, is the real agenda behind distance education. On the other hand, in my 8 years as a distance ed. teacher, I came to the conclusion that, if done right, DE isn’t really that much cheaper that regular schooling. I worry about the chaos that will occur before the Ministry realizes that.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Our Ministry’s position is that distance learning and classroom learning are false distinctions that should become more fluid over time. Students present varied learning needs and styles that cannot be addressed by a single approach for everyone. Our own review of the limited research available supports your observations about the operating costs for effective programs. Distance education will also always require the experienced guiding hand of a professional teacher.

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      • Stephanie says:

        C. Welsh can you tell us more about how a DE class works where you are? And how it is that DE isn’t really cheaper if done right?
        Putting initial costs for ‘supplies’ asside, doesn’t a DE class have the ability to reach more students?
        I have only a small experience with it, but I am interested in what it can, does and could look like in the future.
        I have often wondered why it is that a few students from the highschool with less enrollment, therefore less choices, can’t just Skype or Elluminate into a classroom at the school 40 minutes down the road, and attend that way. Is that a form of DE that is happening now?

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        • C. Welch says:

          Hi Stephanie,

          The distance ed. school I’m referring to is a separate entity that doesn’t have real-time classes. It’s an asynchronous school where students work on their own at their own pace (at least until they face the end of their 12 month funding). In this kind of school, students can normally contact a teacher via Skype, Elluminate, phone or email, but it’s all one-on-one. And this is a key point. One-on-one is great for the student, but it’s incredibly inefficient. Multiply that one-on-one by 200 (or more in some DE schools), and you can see that something is going to have to give. In my experience it’s the assessment. Usually teachers don’t have time for authentic assessment, esp.in the humanities; a quick read-through and a mark is about all they can afford. So, if you want it “done right”, you really need a much lower student-teacher ratio.

          There are related problems. Assessment is challenging because an assignment might not be seen for 2 months; as a teacher, I’ll say, “Ok, what was this one about?” There is no economy of scale when you mark one particular assignment. Also, teachers need quiet offices to directly talk with students; one of the reasons I’m back in the regular classroom is that they wanted the DE teachers in my old school to move into a cheaper, but noisier, cubicle farm. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again!

          The technological infrastructure is also more expensive than people realize. And it requires multiple tech people to maintain it.

          I could go on, but I need to go to work! Perhaps I’ll add more tonight.

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  • Eric says:

    Changes in the real world occur frequently. It is more important to teach students how to learn than to teach them to memorize and learn by rote

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      You might be interested in the conversation we had recently on 21st century competencies. The wrap-up of it, plus a couple examples of the conversation can be found here.

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  • Thomas says:

    I believe that more students will be engaged because they can learn at their own pace and in their own way. They will take more personal responsibility because they will have more choice.

    I also believe that the quality of teaching will improve because teachers will be working with more students who are invested in their own achievement.

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  • Steve says:

    First of all, my comments are not politically motivated. Benefits: I am fortunate to be able to use a large number of “mediums” in presenting my material to students (primarily grades 11 & 12 Psychology). I have been given flexibility in classroom layout allowing me to use a number of different configurations within the same classroom. The space allows students opportunity to sit in the “micro” climate of their choice. My courses utilize a complete array of assignment options that allow students to mix and match their opportunities. I have been able to incorporate a wide variety of information sources from text and handouts, to DVDs, movies, internet etc. in a fairly quick paced format that …? “sort of assaults their intellect”. All my young people have the options for re-writes in order to cover missed or “messed up” materials.
    Challenges: Numbers and diversity of the “crowd” in the classroom. The “plethora” of learning challenges that present themselves in a classroom these days is growing. The class is no longer a class but a large gathering of young individuals who are intellectually “spread all over the map”. I would have to say that I fully support the position that Sir Ken Robinson represents.

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  • Kim Morton says:

    Smarter kids especially need to be challenged. A one size fits all model tends to focus on the lower end leaving the brightest bored out of their minds.

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  • Mrs. S. says:

    Students with no life experience in the work force have no idea what skills they will need in the future. I think the flexible choice of study should be limited to older students and be part of the classes held in the afternoon core subjects like mathematics and English should be taught with more rigour in the morning when students learn better). It is good for high school students to explore many areas of interest so they can make a better choice of post secondary education and career.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Our vision is that flexibility and choice will be introduced to students in stages that are best suited to their developmental level and life experiences. This will be a gradual process.

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  • It depends on how Personalized Learning evolves in the Districts really. Clearly the kids would benefit when they have challenges that make the traditional system unproductive. If done properly,it could help reduce stress on an already taxed system by allowing parents and families to get involved. Will help increase communication between teachers and families and that can only benefit everybody.

    Drawbacks could be the expense. I think care needs to be taken to provide the right program for kids requiring something out of the norm. As personalized learning may involve more parent/teacher communication, this could be time consuming for teachers.

    Look forward to seeing how Personalized Learning presents the the Districts and how much variance there’ll be to policies.

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  • Tanya says:

    By offering students more flexible learning opportunities, we encourage students to develop an intrinsic motivation to learn (a growth mind-set) because they develop a choice of how they want to learn. Students become more accountable for their learning because they feel that they are more actively involved in their education. Teachers can create more individualized learning opportunities for students based on a student’s strengths and challenges. Flexibility also allows students to be more successful in different areas because they have more choice of what they want to learn and how to be better prepared for post secondary institutions that recognize student success from a wider range of academics and trades. Students can be better prepared for their future if they are exposed to flexibility throughout their education because it gives them a variety of strategies to think for themselves, hold themselves accountable for their choices and make decisions that are best for them to become successful.

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  • The major challenges that I see as a teacher to offering students more flexibility in their learning opportunities are the biases I see among colleagues and administrators who refuse to jump into the 21st century world of technological advancements. Technology can enrich and enhance the students’ learning experiences, and the biases I encounter within the system stem from fear and lack of knowledge of the use and potential uses of technological devices inside or outside of the classroom. There is a widening gap between the ease with which students have adapted to technology in their daily lives and the lack of familiarity with technology by more established teachers and administrators(I use technology extensively in my courses-I am a minority in my department).

    Some of the benefits of increasing the use technology include: increased flexibility of course delivery(special student groups-some learning disabilities are greatly aided by tech, classroom/home delivery options,accommodating work schedules,global liaising),enriched course content to aid understanding / learning (graphic imaging in the sciences, for example),rapid access to information on mobile devices,time management and study skills’ management on LMS.

    With the aid of technology, students could also gain more valuable and lasting experiences outside of classroom learning and use some of their family and community experiences as integral and/or as credentials for their K-12 education.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      You’ve raised some important points here, Janet. Accepting and incorporating digital technologies into teaching and learning is a significant culture change for many educators. We must respect that some are resistant to this change but also model for them the numerous benefits that will ensue.

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      • Mark Stoakes says:

        We have to beware of the technology bandwagon. Certainly we can’t ignore it. But technology is hugely expensive and changes faster than schools will ever have the ability to keep-up. Schools that offered laptops to their students less than 5 years ago would now be wishing they all had wireless connections, or iPads or voice commands Like the i4s phone, or apps that allow gps and the teaching of geography in innovative ways. We need to be aware technology does NOT teach or encourage creativity. We need to be teaching children creativity and how to adapt. Children spend 12 years in school. That’s the ‘i’ revolution at least twice over. Is the BC MoE prepared to invest in that rapidily changing when they don’t currently fund basic IT services in schools. And of course that also means funding for training of teachers so they can themselves keep-up.

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        • Lara says:

          I agree with your comments Mark, and would like to add that not all families can afford the technology to keep their children connected at home. I think it is a misuse of taxpayer dollars to keep schools in the latest technology. As you say, they are already far behind anyway. Parents in the high tech world of Silicon Valley send their students to schools that do not use computers or tvs because they believe we are over exposing children to this technology. I think they are onto something. If those that make it have reservations, perhaps we should too.

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          • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

            The Silicon Valley example is something we’ve discussed on this forum before. Here’s a link to that conversation in case you missed it.

            http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-1/comment-page-1/#comment-333

            This is indeed an important conversation with many arguments to made both for and against tech integration in the primary and intermediate years. Please let me remind everyone, though, that this conversation is somewhat off topic for Question 7. Make sure your comments address what the question is asking, that is: What do you think are the benefits and challenges to offering students more flexible learning opportunities? If you can work the pros and cons of tech integration into your response, great, if not, it’s probably off the mark for Question 7.

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        • Steve says:

          Agree Mark, In the past two years I have had to scrounge up a couple of extra computers for my classroom (this is in spite of a pretty supportive admin) in order to have them avail to students without access to their own machines. This (o by the way) means that my classroom has to be open before classes, during breaks/lunches, and afterschool in order to facilitate them. (my choice of course)

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  • Beth says:

    Benefits:

    In addition to learning the content presented to students, they will learn how to learn and to truly love learning. This will carry them into adulthood and inspire future generations of children.

    In addition to learning the material that we, as adults, believe is important for children to learn, they will learn that what they think and feel is important in the world and will learn to respect themselves. They will learn that their opinion matters as does the opinion and preferences of their peers.

    By respecting children and giving them choices and flexibility in their learning we show children respect and confidence in them that they matter. This will help equip children to make better decisions regarding drugs, sex, violence and gangs

    Challenges:
    Restructuring the system so that only positive, motivated and skilled teachers are in the classroom providing direct instruction to students. Providing significant in-classroom support to teachers who are motivated to work with students in this way but are struggling with how to do that; so that the students in those classrooms are not impacted negatively. The cost of severance packages to those teachers and administrators who aren’t interested in working with students in this way or, after repeated assistance from skilled teachers, are found to be unable to work within this system

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  • Lrobell says:

    I will start with the fact that I am energized and excited about BC’s Education Plan. These are my thoughts on personalized learning section of this plan, including some benefits and challenges (or questions) that I see.

    Personalized learning for every student will hopefully be a huge benefit rather than a challenge. I can see that some students will flourish in this type of learning environment, but I also see that it will fail others. If students follow their own interests with regards to what they are learning then the plan should succeed in making learning both more interesting and engaging. Hopefully students will be more confident as we celebrate our differences rather than frown upon them. Having fewer learning outcomes will make it easier for teachers to meet more of their students needs. With more choice students will hopefully become passionate individuals who will create and inform change as they follow their creative paths. Hopefully in the long run these individuals will become successful happier individuals.

    As for the Challenges, well I had more questions regarding personalized learning. I am sure from these questions, more will arise… these are just my immediate thoughts. How are we to meet all these individual learning plans as teachers? I am only one person, how in a classroom environment do I effectively meet the needs of all students following their own paths? What grades or levels or ages do we start to implement these individual learning plans? How do the outcomes (PLO or RLO’s) change? What is important and what is not with regard to outcomes? Are they not set to be a base, which students can all learn the basics from and then decide what interests us? Where does all the funding come from to ensure teachers are prepared and ready to teach to this plan?

    Wow, well BC’s Education plan seems amazingly inspirational. I hope that together we can some how pull it all off. I see many benefits but also many challenges to this wonderfully ambitious plan. It seems that it will require a lot of money, time, effort, hard work, determination, sweat, perseverance, dedication and love from those people that work in our profession. I hope that in the time it takes to get all of our educators on board with the change we do not lose sight of the little people who we are planning for.

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  • As a retired administrator, I am always interested in the notion of flexibility. I believe all learners can learn given the right circumstances,programs and teachers/teaching environment. In the past, flexibility has often been governed by dollars, or lack of available dollars to create programs that are not necessarily mainstream.I still see that as a major obstacle but believe if the will is there we should be able to create learning environments to suit all learners.
    I do agree that care should be taken on how and when choices are offered. The whole notion is complicated but exciting as I believe our present system does not maximise learning for some of our student body.

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  • Angela says:

    Two challenges come to mind:
    1. Flexibility works in communities that can support flexible learning opportunities. I wonder if my children, who are interested in areas outside what is prevalent in my rural community, would be able to take advantage of this “flexibility” to the extent I imagine some people envision.

    2. I wonder if giving children choice so early on does not afford them the opportunity to discover an interest area they might discover through selection of courses, building relationships with teachers who are passionate about their areas of expertise, or being ” required” to take something. I wonder if choice will shut my child down – choice is risky and, without effective support within the school and, arguably, at home, flexibility might create a whole lot of social-emotional challenges.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Angela, we see flexibility and choice as things that are introduced gradually as students progress through their K-12 years. In the early grades there will be much more emphasis on the basics and setting a good foundation in the core subjects. Once this is established more customization will be introduced in the later grades. The shift will be subtle and age and situation-appropriate.

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      • Lee Anne says:

        Oh that sounds so ‘wonderful’ on paper Mike. Reality here! are you suggesting that education will become an online experience for all children?
        It sounds as if the program will be very general, put ‘out there’ and oh oh we made amistake lets ‘tweek it’ will happen later. This is so typical of changes that have happened in the past. The wonderful idea is not well thought out put it is presented as the way education is supposed to be taught without any reality check being done.
        I agree with Angela. This whole program sounds wonderful and might work in the larger centres but what about the schools in outlining areas that don’t have the resources? will all schools be provided with all the materials necessary to run a ‘shop’ program and a foods program and a video production program and calculus classes and any other ‘singleton course’ at a small school? be realistic here. NOT everything can be taught on line, nor can ‘learing issues’ be diagnosed on line. Are you suggesting that , what the children who need help; want a particular program should travel/stay with relatives in a larger centre in order to achieve success?
        Please,can we get beyond the rhetoric!

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    • Janet says:

      I like the idea of more flexible learning opportunities…but I don’t think this issue is so black and white. It is a good point about too much choice at a young age might be overwhelming and a child may shut down. It may also limit possibilities for learning new things they may not otherwise choose for themselves. I agree that choice of curriculum would at best need to be gradual and based on age and per student. In high school, this may be the most effective time to do this. I remember being in high school and going to a school which provided greater choices of subjects, ones that I wanted to take…I knew what I wanted to study and my grades improved because I was motivated to study subjects I was interested in. I did not do well in subjects which taxed me. I was not very good at that them because I was not interested in the subject,…later in life I had the maturity to go back and study some of these things and I did well. I did not see the importance of learning some of the things which adults thought were important, at that time, like the history of my own country….now I love to learn about these things. But in school I was so taxed, because I was not accepted for my attitude and I was scarred by the disapproval of some teachers and my parents. If I had been given the okay and approval about my choices then I think I would have had more confidence in myself after high school.
      Unfortunately, school can be a place where children still learn they are not good enough or dumb, even if they are very intelligent because they may not want to or be able to fit into the mold or not get good grades. This is really sad and I think this if anything needs to change the most. There is a great loss to society by trying to teach a cannon which an ‘expert’ deems to be important and who may be completely out of touch with what is really going on in children’s heads and what needs to be learned to benefit them the most. We need to get our heads out of the sand. It might be what they want to learn that will enable them to be able to feel confident in themselves. Also, our children need to learn how to learn really so that when they leave school they can continue to learn on their own, to succeed, as well as be able to learn from their mistakes,(to not mean merely failure).

      Also I think some children do very well with choosing for themselves, while others might need and or prefer more guidance and choice made for them. It would always depend on the child…some children, like those with special needs, will need more intervention. Always though, I believe all children need to be given choices, no matter what their abilities, so that children learn how to choose and learn from the consequences and I think children need to feel a sense of some control over their own lives.

      There are many fine things to learn which could be of benefit to children but are not being taught because they are not on the curriculum. I don’t see the point of many of the things being taught especially if children are so bored that they turn off from learning. I see that happening in the classroom everyday. I would say that most children are not really that engaged in the curriculum as it is….at the moment I am not sure we are doing our kids what is best for them curriculum wise and/or in the way it is being taught.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        What types of changes do you feel we could make to ensure that all learners have what they need within the system? You mention that there are many things to learn that are not being taught. Can you share your thoughts on this? The benefits of giving choice to young people and allowing them to learn from them, is an important one at all ages and continues to be important to adults as well. Teaching them to learn well is also very important and a great point, particularly as they move through the school system and get less help with the way they learn.

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        • Janet says:

          I have to think about that. Also maybe we need ask them? What would happen if we did? We would probably get a variety of answers. The aspiring visual artist would want to study art…there are many things to learn in that subject area and there can be crossover learning in other areas. For example a musical student might be willing to learn to write if they can write about their favourite musicians.

          Here is a very interesting and inspiring video, of an innovative school, High Tech High In California and educator, Larry Rosenstock. This was sent to us by the principal of my child’s school recently. Larry Rosenstock will be speaking in my child’s school this month. Check it out:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rv_rmJYorE&feature=share&fb_source=message

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          • Janet says:

            I am no expert, but I will ask Mr. Rosenstock questions regarding flexibility and choice.

            Rosenstock feels that “it is not asking a 15 year old to mis-predict what they will be doing as an adult, because they don’t know.” I agree there, students often will not know what they want to do as adults and why should they? I am an advocate of allowing more choice and self determination as a way to facilitate learning. To learn how to learn. A child motivated by a subject they are engaged and inspired to learn is a sponge. For example, a child can and will learn a second language quickly if you go to that country and the child wants to make friends.

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      • Lee Anne says:

        Well put Janet!
        The ‘choice’ is key to learning. Choice takes mega bucks!
        There is a sense that ‘those on high’ don’t have a clue as to the realities facing our children. They, ‘those on high’, think in terms of what looks good, is most cost effective.
        Kids are bored/turned off because they are not interested in what is being ‘served up’ at their local high school.
        A variety of reasons, all stemming from when they are younger and carried over to high school where the expectation is that all will graduate with university entrance.
        You are correct, some children do well choosing for themselves, they are the lucky ones who have known since they were young exactly what they wanted to do.
        Perhaps the government should drop the ‘flexibility’ mantra and take on the ‘choice’ option.
        Some of us take more time to discover our’passions’and need to be offered a variety of choices that help us to decided where we want to ‘go in life’.
        BUT all of this means that a full slate of courses has to be offered at all schools and that costs money. It is okay in larger centres because you can have ‘charter’/satellite schools but in the smaller areas… this is going to be a challenge.

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  • Liz says:

    - Excessive administration.
    – Underfunding.

    What is working to create flexibilty? Integration of special-needs students! Flexibility means opening your mind to differences so you can solve problems. Flexiblity means respecting different points of view. This is the core of special education programming! Special education = flexibility training for educational staff = wider acceptance and even encouraging differing learning environments.

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  • Penny Barner says:

    As an administrator in a Montessori school, I see flexible learning opportunities all the time in the classroom. The Montessori philosophy is all about “follow the child” and individualized learning and has been for over 100 years. Why reinvent the wheel? The models are out there for the Ministry to see. In my mind, with teachers trained in Montessori and a flexible curriculum, there are many for benefits than challenges.

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    • Peter Harvey says:

      My two girls went to Montessori for a couple of years and then we switched them to Waldorf. Of course there are public schools, and home schooling etc. They all seem to have their place. I notice that the public schools are trying to adopt some of the methods and principles from alternatives like Waldorf. I think the Province should do a better job of supporting these choices – both within the public system and via the alternative schools. This support should first and foremost be increased financial support. I also like the charter school concept adopted in California. Parents know what they like and what is good for their kids – give us choice.

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      • Lee Anne says:

        Interesting idea Peter. Do you get the same sense that I do. The public school system is loosing children to ‘other options’ and is now trying to figure out a way to get the numbers up by trying desperatly to find a new ‘term of reference’/label for education.
        CHOICE! what a wonderful idea.

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  • Wanda Chalk says:

    Very careful consideration should be given to grouping students by ability rather than age. I am concerned that those children who are perceived to be slow learners will feel early on in life that they just don’t measure up if some of their peers are advanced to higher ability classes. We all know that scholastic achievment does not necessarily make someone utlimately successful in life. Also, children have different ways of learning so moving those who “get” the way as certain subject is being taught does not make them “smarter” than those who can learn the same thing just differently. Perhaps keeping children together by age and allowing learning at a different pace or by a different method would work. Would need creativity on behalf of the teacher but they should be supplied with different teaching techniques.

    I am also a fan of split classes if achieved “by design” as opposed to make the numbers work. There is school in Manitoba that works this way and I can see it working well. It allows the older kids to help the younger ones – best way to really learn something is to teach someone else. In fact the younger kids are encouraged to seek help from the older students before asking the teacher. The children have the same teacher for two years in a row and thus alternate between being the younger and the older in the class. This also allows a range of teaching options – “smart” younger ones can learn the older curriculum and older children who need more time to progress can work on the curriculum of the younger group if necessary.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      You are describing a Montessori environment! :) Children learning at their own pace, teachers using varying techniques for different students, older students being mentors and helping to teach the younger students in multi-age classrooms, students having teachers for more than one year — all available in Montessori schools around the country already!

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    • Kevin says:

      I certainly agree with the idea of split classes working well. I do wonder if we are all talking about the same thing when we say grouping by abilities. What do you mean? Are you talking about groupings of similar age around ability or just simply by perceived ability? In other words a grade 7 student with a learning disability in writing, working with 6 year olds who write at the same level? I would assume not . If you mean grouping around certain skills at appropriate times that certainly makes a lot of sense.

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    • Lee Anne says:

      While I agree, split classes do work in some situations. Not all students achieve in such situations.

      I am a firm believer in putting an emphasis on funding at the elementary level to help diagnose and ‘deal with’ ( for want of a better phrase) learing ‘differences’/issues. If a issue is diagnosed at primary level there are programs to assits the student to get to grade level. The longer an ‘issue’ is left undiagnosed the harder to overcome; the more loss of self esteem and the less sucess.

      Split classes are a great way of dealing with an undiagnosed issue and they are a wonderful way of ‘dealing’with children who are not quite at grade level but lets not kid ourselves. The children in 5/6 classes are very well aware that they ‘aren’t as smart’ as the children in a 6/7 split. I don’t care how you present it.

      High school is important for helping children train for their future but elementary school is the time when their ‘pattern’ of learning is set for life.

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    • Wanda Chalk said, “I am also a fan of split classes if achieved “by design” as opposed to make the numbers work” and other commenters have written their support split classes as well.

      First of all, it has been my experience that split-grade classes are implemented for economic reasons (as you said, “to make the numbers work”), not pedagogical reasons. For example, if school district administrators give a K-7 elementary school a budget of, say, 6 full-time teachers then the school MUST combine classes because they don’t have enough teachers to do otherwise. If economics forces us to do that then so be it, but let’s at least be clear that the reason we are doing so is for economic reasons, not pedagogical reasons.

      Second of all, let’s acknowledge a basic economics fundamental regarding split-grade classes. A teacher responsible for one grade-level has less learning outcomes, less IRPs, less associated complexity and less associated planning than if they are responsible for 2 or more grade-levels. A teacher has a miniscule and finite amount of time they can spend preparing their lessons (this point alone deserves separate treatment). Using the available prep time, an average teacher should be able to prepare acceptable lessons for a target grade-level. If the same teacher is then required to teach a multigrade-level class using the same prep time then it should be obvious that the quality of instruction is going to be less. We don’t magically get more by implementing split-grade classes; we are simply making due with less teachers by making compromises to quality.

      Yes, split-grade classes may have some benefits for some students, some of the time; and there may be strategies teachers can use to maximize their effectiveness and efficiency if they are required to teach a split-grade class, but let’s be honest with ourselves; whenever we require teachers to achieve more outcomes (as in multi-grade classes) teachers will either need more resources (prep-time, pro-d, experience, etc) or the quality of instruction will go down.

      There is no free lunch and a mature and sustainable education system will acknowledge that reality.

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  • Lee Anne says:

    There has been a great deal of talk about whose definition of ‘flexiblity’ would be used; what the heck is the definition of flexiblity and how on earth do you implement ‘it’- whatever the chosen definition.
    There has been much debate on the values/benifits of learning outcomes; core programing; etc.

    I agree that the devil is in the details. They system is broken, it broke in the 1980’s when the government of the day insisted that all children must go to university. ( period) After that came the slow decay of a system that, admitidly was broken at the time. What resulted was years of trying to redifine what they system should be; what it meant etc. Programs were re written with great speed and little accuracy/caring for the outcomes. ‘old’ ideas were given new names and reintroduced only to be revamped three years later.

    The ‘thing’ is, as I see it, we all agree the system needs to be changed but PLEASE lets not do it in haste; lets stop the ‘bashing’ of all sides and remember that in the middle of all this is a young mind that thirsts for knowledge. This little mind comes into Elementary school with a great love of all things and a curiosity that is not limited by conventions and ‘rules’. YES some children need help learing to read;to do maths and that does need to be addressed when they are young. The money, the time, the resources MUST go into the system at the beginning( primary school, elementary level). Help the children learn to read; become confident learners/thinkers; help them to unlock the mysteries of math and sciences;have SMALL class sizes; encourage them to ASK questions and by the time they do get to high school they will be reading and willing to enter this new ‘reality’.

    At the high school level there needs to be an understanding that all children WILL NOT want to go to university. Some want to be mechanics; plumbers; drywallers; bus drivers; waitresses and waiters etc and these children deserve the best education we can give them, not a system that tells them they MUST have university entrance courses. Some want to be doctors; lawyers; teachers; accountants; engineers etc and they to deserve the best education we can offer them.

    The key is, as I see it, to put choices back into the schools. If ‘charter schools’ are the way to go the do it. Open school boundaries to allow children to go to the school that meets their needs and desires. By the time a child reaches grade 10 they do know in their heart of hearts what they want to do. Sometimes we parents have a hard time hearing what they are saying because we are so worried that our child might not ‘measure up’ to the neighbours.

    I don’t know any employer who cares to hoots whether or not you were on the honor roll. They want to know if you are passionate about what you are doing; if you can think outside the box;are you competent and trustworthy.

    As a society we have stressed the money that can be/should be made and we wonder why the children leave school and expect instant millionaire status without putting in any effort.

    Wake up! the system is broken, the fix isn’t going to happen overnight( my definition is that overnight these days = the term of a government) and it isn’t going to happen by throwing around complex undefined terminology that baffles people with the brilliance of the writing and dazzles them with the BS.

    IF this is going to happen, if the government is serious, accept that change takes TIME! We all need to stop the blame game and focus on the task at hand. How do we best meet then learning desires of our sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters in a way that teaches them that not everyone wins; that sometimes failure is the best, if not harshest, teacher and that above all else what matters is that you ‘don’t settle’ for less than your best.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      You make some very valid points in your post and we are definately committed to listening the people’s voices here. This is not something that will be done quickly or without thought and assistance from the citizens of BC (through this blog), experts in the field and Ministry personnel. Having a forum like this available to the public is a good indication that this government wants to hear what people say. We are listening and the BC Education Plan will be built with the information gathered from this forum as a top priority in building the details of the Plan.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      SO many good points in this comment! Fitting the education to meet the needs of the students is key…and going slowly to make the necessary changes is a must. We don’t need another quick fix that is undermined before it’s even been implemented!

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  • Stephanie says:

    Age is a good place to start. I would have to say assesment needs to come into play the first day they are attending any kind of school, be it preschool or public school. That assessment should look for learning style. Not ability at that point! In large schools they could be placed with teachers that teach to meet their learning style. In smaller schools the teachers could be prepared to group the children and teach them the way they learn. Not expect them to learn the way they teach.
    The montosori methods should be embraced at public school. Students are placed by their abilities and needs.
    Most teachers are constantly assessing students, why not place the student according to their needs. Let them move from the 3rd grade class to the 4th for math if that is where they excell. And then back to the third grade classroom for other studies that they are at that level.
    Does that help? There are many ways to have children with their peers, but they all involve some type of assessment.
    I am a big fan of TRIBES.
    Teaching the whole child, and you need to know that child to teach them. The first week of school is not for instruction it is for getting to know the class and it members needs. Then the teacher knows who to teach them, who likes what and who would work together well or not. knowing and connecting with the students, I feel, is key to success for all.

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  • Grandma says:

    Benefits: very few; lots of paperwork
    Challenges: many

    Flexibility sounds nice, but is a lofty plan fraught with problems, as Jaime notes. Too many students graduate without basic skills now, so more flexibility will not produce better results.

    I am sorry, but math skills are best taught the old-fashioned way with drills, memorizing timetables and homework. The personal interest “flexible” system for developing writing skills has been a fail also, as many gen X and Y adults can not write and have to be re-trained at work or in university.

    It is not necessary to teach creativity, as most children were born with this ability, and it can be nurtured at home and within a standard curriculum. Critical thinking is important and children should be allowed to have different views from their teachers. They should not be failed if they write an good essay that does not agree with the teacher’s views on the environment or gay community.

    The BC curriculum has many learning objectives that are fluffy and specious and also “politically correct” propaganda. Get back to the 3 “r” s, as they are still needed for the 21st C., as they were for the 20th. Most parents do not want the schools to teach morals and sex ed, as that is our job as parents. We actually do not want you to teach much on teamwork or world community causes.

    It is very important to have standardized testing, as this is the way real life measures graduated students. In the work place, people are tested and incompetent people are fired.

    As a learning disability specialist, I know well that some children should enter school a year later than their peers to give them a chance to mature. Fall-born children with poor visual-motor skills should not enter grade one at age 5/6. In later years (grades 9 up), children who are lazy should be failed.

    In my grade 2 class, we had canaries, robins and bluebirds, so that was a useful way for the teacher to give the gifted canaries harder work, while helping the bluebirds. We already knew by age 7 that not everyone learns at the same speed, so pretending that everyone is “equal” fails at age 5, when kids learn this by themselves (ask the 5-year-olds). That is about as much flexibility that teachers like Jaime can handle. Personal Learning Plans are going to be a massive fail, as t6eachers will have to spend more time assessing and reporting rather than teaching.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      I understand your position, but I think if you checked out the Montessori philosophy you would find a method of education that would fit the bill for all children in BC. It provides a much more satisfying experience for students and teachers alike, not to mention preparing the children for the real world. You might be especially interested in the math curriculum, which starts in preschool with the basics of geometry and algebra! :)

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    • Stephanie says:

      The three Rs are still taught, I don’t think anyone feels they need to go away. But do they really need to be happening right up to grade 11 and 12? perhaps not!
      Students in BC can fail after grade 8, unfortunately they get shoved up to that point with or without the skills they need. Then it is a bit to late for those lazy kids, or smart kids who figured out they didn’t need to do the work to move up a grade, to catch up or keep up.
      Yes assessment is the real world. it needs to happen.
      May I suggest you read Geoff Johnsons article in the TC. I have always liked the way he looks at schools.
      http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/Individual+approach+learning+change/5914154/story.html

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      • Lara says:

        Geoff writes:
        But it can be, and has been, done. A “teacher adviser” system will become critically important so that every student has one teacher, one guide and mentor who is assigned to keep track of everything the students in his/her daily adviser group are doing. “Geoff, I see from your unit testing log results that you are way ahead with your English course but seem to be avoiding Math, so time for some catch-up by Friday.”

        OK, but will teachers be so busy with keeping track of this that they dont’ have to time to actually teach or instruct? I fear that a teacher will be given even more students to monitor, leaving them little time to mentor, instruct and help students. The students I teach every day are so used to being told what to do, that there are right answers to everything, that to ask them to plan their own program and find the resources to pull it off, let alone know when they have mastered a topic, is a bit of a reach. I love the idea of choice balanced with learning basic skills like the three Rs and critical thinking (are we really prepared to teach this, to have students question everything?). I just want to make sure I am given the freedom and support to make this an authentic learning experience for the youth of today in the context of community. Personalized learning plans need to keep community building in mind, otherwise we will keep building the “bubble” mindset of everyone for themselves which currently dominates society and schools.

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  • T Palmer says:

    Offering any more options requires funding, it’s time for the BC government to discontinue all funding to private institutions whether they are scholastic or religious. We have separation of state and religion and this should be followed in our funding as well. This will increase the amount available for our public school system, and enable us to increase the options available for the students. We should also be looking at the european style of apprenticing students, so that when they graduate they have a viable trade, these jobs are already starting to be filled by imported trades people and we still have high unemployment among our younger generation.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      As the administrator of a non-profit Montessori school, we very much appreciate our 50% funding from the provincial government. Our families, most of whom are not wealthy but truly believe in the philosophy, pay the balance of the cost to educate their children, which is slightly over 50%. If we did not receive government funding, we would have to close down the school. The BC government would then have to pay 100% of the cost to educate these children. In addition, we do not draw on the public purse for capital costs (buildings, playgrounds, etc). We are not the only non-profit, private school that would have to close if funding was discontinued, meaning that there were be many more thousands of students to be educated at 100% of the cost, plus capital costs to be spent on buildings, materials, books, playgrounds, etc. In my view, this will not add to the funds available for the public school system, but would reduce them.

      As taxpayers, parents in private schools support the public system 100%. It doesn’t seem unfair that 50% of those tax dollars be directed toward the education of their children in the school of their choice.

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  • Jo says:

    There are benefits for those students who are highly motivated – they can excel quickly and remain engaged (not bored with having to “wait” for their fellow students to catch up).

    However, I’m not sure the stats on how many of that type of learner exists. I live in the Mill Bay area and have 2 teens at Frances Kelsey – it is a flexible (self paced) high school, and we have no other high school options in our area other than to send the kids to Duncan.

    Our kids, their wide circle of friends, and lots of other parents we know are fed up with this self-paced system b/c it doesn’t have classroom instruction options. One single mom we know has sent their son to live w/his dad in Victoria so that their son can get back on track in a high school that has regular classrooms and realistic expectations of assignment/test completion.

    It would be awesome to have both options in that one school (or please build us another, with teachers who hold classes!) We have gone to parent-teacher meetings where the teacher has told us that there is no “timeline” for any assignments to be completed, and no timeline for graduation. The kids know that too. If you were a teen again….think back to if you had a choice to do school work or just hang with your friends in the caffeteria and not have anyone on your case about it…what would motivate you?

    So despite our greatest efforts our son is now about a year behind some of his other friends who have managed/struggled to stay on time – he is not going to graduate this year as he should be. We now pay for tutors instead, and have him in some online courses that we can sit with him at home on the computer and assist his learning in the evenings – we also on a regular basis let him stay home – he can zip through more work at home than at the school where many kids just spend time socializing.

    Flexible options are nice, but in the Mill Bay area all we have is flexible….most of the kids we know would do better at structured.

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    • Bev says:

      The situation in my school district is a bit different. We have one high school out of five that is also self paced. While it seems like a great idea because, if you are motivated, you can get ahead of the normal pace and graduate early. The big problem is as you stated. A lot of the students are not ready for a non-classroom situation and do not function well in the flexible timeline atmosphere. It was so bad for grade 8’s not finishing courses by the end of June each year that after a couple of years they actually had to change the program somewhat and give the grade 8’s more structure. I’ve had 2 relatives go to that school because they were in that catchment area – both students got behind and then had to transfer out to a “traditional” high school. Right now, the “flexible” high school is running at about 60% of capacity while other high schools in our district are at 88% and one is running at 159% capacity. I can’t say if the low capacity rating is due to parents not wanting their kids in that type of system or if there are other reasons for it, but when I saw the figures it stuck out in my mind – particularly as that will be my daughter’s catchment high school when she is old enough.

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      • Kevin says:

        An excellent concrete example Bev. I think one of the key pieces of flexibility is how we can better structure our elementary schools to help students be successful in high school or whatever they take on later in life. The same basic thinking skills like goal setting and reflecting are needed in our citizens regardless of their post elementary school path. What kinds of things would you like to see “built into” your kids in say the K-7 range? For my kids I want them by grade 7 to have strong core abilities (literacy and numeracy) and strong critical skills coupled with the ability to self-reflect. This will be of utmost importance regardless of their career choices.

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        • Bev says:

          Kevin, I’m not sure if we’re getting a bit off topic here, but since you ask….

          In elementary school I’d like to see an emphasis on core skills. In math, I’d like to have the kids go back to really learning the times tables rather than “just understanding the concept”. If that means rote memorization for some kids or learning songs or rhymes for other kids that’s fine. Also, teach kids to count money. I was astounded to see 2 grade 7 students not be able to figure out how to give back the correct change at a bake sale when a customer gave them a toonie to pay for a $0.75 purchase. Also, a similar emphasis on reading, writing, and spelling. No matter what century we’re in, we’ll need to know how to do this.

          I’d like parents to teach children about personal responsibility and have it reinforced in the school setting. i.e. if you’re supposed to do something and you don’t, then there are appropriate consequences. I’d like to see the younger children learn how to find information – not just in text books, but also from other books, the internet, interviews, etc. I’d like to see children be able to ask questions and be able to form their own opinions as is appropriate for their age and not just accept everything “because so and so told me that”.

          I’d like the children to learn how to use the planners that we parents are asked to buy. Have them learn about how to break down a project and allocate time for it, how to set goals and devise ways to reach those goals.

          I’d like teachers to keep “portfolios” of what are children are doing and show them to us when we come in for meetings. Also, have examples of what is expected of the children at those meetings so we can see if our child is doing poorly, doing average, or doing great.

          I’d also like to see some instruction on internet/computer use. I know, this should be coming from the parents, but let’s face it, kids often know more about computers than the parents do. I’d like to see emphasis on computer safety and teaching the children not to believe everything that they read on the internet as being the gospel truth.

          Lastly, I think it’s really important for there to be a way of assessing the children on a regular basis and reporting that to the parents. Not only for WHAT the child is learning but also HOW the child is learning. Does he or she seem to learn best by reading or perhaps by doing a hands-on project? Are there learning difficulties or perhaps is the child “gifted” (for lack of a better word)? I think this really needs to be done when the children are young so that difficulties can be addressed early.

          I don’t want much do I? Personally I think a lot of these things are already being done in classrooms, but as a parent, I don’t always hear about it. So maybe there’s a communication factor involved too.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      In my mind, flexibility should not mean a free for all! It sounds as though Frances Kelsey needs to review their philosophy!

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  • T. Tomson says:

    I see both benefits and challenges in offering more flexible learning to our students. By being more flexible we will allow for broader learning opportunities that will engage our students individually. Students will be better able to balance their strengths and areas of individual need with teacher support; however I also see some challenges in flexible learning if it becomes too flexible. We may find that some students are slipping through the cracks; this could be for many reasons such as the student who needs a strongly structured classroom to be successful in his or her education. I believe that for flexible education opportunities to be successful for all students that there will need to be options and accountability for our students in various ways. The way our educational system is setup now does not fit for every student and neither will a fully flexible educational system, we need to have a balance that will incorporate the various learning styles and abilities of each of our students allowing them all to be individually successful. Classroom sizes are also a concern, if classrooms continue to be the size that they are and each student is on a flexible educational plan there may be less time for teachers to spend one-on-one time with students, however if classroom sizes were smaller then this could be an advantage to our students as they will then have more opportunities for learning on their personal path.

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  • It is so very difficult to make comments on “flexible learning opportunities” when people hold various ideas about what that means. The comments submitted have several interpretations. In addition flexibility discussed in isolation of other factors – class size, funding, grade level, and resources is dangerous.

    So, flexible learning opportunities – appropriate choice options at each developmental level. In our education system lets help children to develop the skills to make good choices – we can not assume that all children will come to school with this ability or develop it “naturally”. We, as teachers, can provide opportunities for students to choose the topic, or the method of instruction, or the way they want to demonstrate their learning. It is not always possible to provide all three options. In addition, at the younger grades we first have to teach/model/introduce students to the various ways of showing their learning. Sometimes the flexibility is as simple as allowing a student to work on the floor or at a table, or the choice between two reading assignments.
    Flexible learning opportunities should not be about “Do you want to go to school today?” or “Do you want to learn how to add?” We need to be clear about these things.
    Thank you Jill and Pat – I enjoyed reading your posts.

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  • C. Welch says:

    I think those who are excited about the possibilities of more choice and flexibility in education need to think about the consequences.

    For example, at the secondary level (let’s say Grades 10 to 12), can we imagine individualized learning without an “open campus”? Almost every proposal I read seems to require an institution where students arrive and leave at different times, and where they may not come at all. In this kind of situation, “attendance” becomes a meaningless term. As a secondary teacher, I would personally welcome an open campus, but it comes at a cost. Schools will no longer be responsible for student safety in the same way they are now. How could they be? With students here, there and everywhere, how could a school possibly track all of its students like it does now? And, if I’m right about an open campus, are parents and the surrounding community willing to accept the responsibility for the safety of hundreds of 15 and 16 year-olds? It’s easy to decry the “factory” model of schooling, but at least a factory has the capacity to track and therefore take on the responsibility for its employees.

    Here’s another question: If learning is to be truly personalized, and become largely one-on-one, what will happen to the students who are not conversing with teacher-mentors but are still in the building? More specifically, who will supervise them? If the kids hang out like they do at lunch time, the noise will make any meaningful dialogue or work impossible inside the classrooms. So supervision costs will likely rise significantly.
    I also think we’re going to have to accept much lower completion rates. If more of the responsibility is placed on students, we will have to accept that many will NOT meet the challenge. The belief that we can offer educational autonomy to adolescents and expect excellent completion rates at the same time is, in a word, naïve. I don’t know a single secondary teacher who thinks otherwise. The distributed learning world certainly provides evidence of this problem, particularly as the degree of student autonomy (and asynchronous leaning) increases. Again, on a personal level, I don’t think lower completion rates are a bad thing, as I believe that failure – however it’s measured – is an invaluable tool that teaches lessons that may not be otherwise teachable. But is the community prepared to accept lower completion numbers? Will the education apparatchiks, who think the only good thing is a thing measured, survive the shock? ;-)

    If you’re willing to treat adolescents as adults, and face the consequences, then I say, “Have ‘atter!” But don’t think there won’t be serious challenges in the world of “21st century learning”.

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  • mom says:

    more more more……we make it so flexible that they NEVER need to ADJUST their learning! Seems whenever a student doesn’t WANT to try, work or learn – EVERYONE is jumping to the pump for that LAZY kid! WHY can it work for the the majority of kids? hmmmm…maybe because they actually try and work at it – or they have parents that are present and participating in LIFE! Will the REAL WORLD (whatever that is these days) KEEP on being so flexible for this ‘Y should I?’ generation? The BEST way to HELP these kids learn NOW – is to HELP them learn how to adjust themselves to the requirements at hand! Otherwise they are in for Rude awakening. We are getting TOO FAR away from REAL interaction, continuity, and social skills! How flexible do we want to be? Flex everyone into solitary computer screens and working on a variety of ‘flexible’ curriculum? There needs to be some requirements and MORE MEASUREMENT of students AND teachers AND overall Education!!!

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  • I worry that students will not be graduating was a rounded individual. If they forced to make a choice early in their life, will they be locked into that choice further down the line? Will that choice have less pay and fewer benefits? If this only being done to save taxpayer dollars and get the kids out of school before Grade 12? Will the kids be able to do just as well on their exams if they are working full time and studying? What does “flexible” look like?

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      All good questions, Naomi. One of the main drivers behind the BC Education Plan and this conversation we’re having is a recognition that the world is far different for students today than it was for all of us when we went to school. We need to make changes to our education system to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world. Part of that change will involve more flexibility and choice, so that begs the question of how we enable and support those things and how we reconcile that versus a system that has relied heavily on a more standardized approach for a long time. There are lots of issues and questions for us to address and we all need to commit ourselves to making an effort to do so.

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      • C. Welch says:

        Hi Mike,

        Naomi’s question – and one that remains unanswered – is a critical one: What exactly does “flexible” look like? Unfortunately, the Ministry is not providing any concrete examples.

        I know what you’re going to say: “We need to have a conversation before we can provide examples.” The problem with this is that everyone on the BCEdplan forum seems to be providing a different model or example! As a result, most of the forum discussions seem to have a scattered, unreal, pie-in-the-sky quality to them. This is not a criticism, but a recognition of reality; without common reference points, what else can we do?

        So, could the BCEdplan moderators provide at least a few concrete examples of changes that might actually happen? With these in hand, we might have more fruitful discussions based on actual proposals.

        This lack of specifics also sheds light on why so many secondary teachers (literally every one that I’ve talked to) are so resistant to the Ministry’s enthusiasms. The gov’t wants changes to our contract FIRST, and then changes to the system AFTERWARD. In other words, the gov’t is seems to be saying, “We don’t really know what we want yet (or won’t tell you), but we need radical contract changes beforehand. Trust us to implement systemic changes after the contract is changed.” Well, it doesn’t take a BCTF rep. to tell you that this is a deal for chumps.

        Details must come first, and not in the hazy future, if you want your agenda shared by others.

        One final comment. You say the following: there is “a recognition that the world is far different for students today than it was for all of us when we went to school. We need to make changes to our education system to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world.” Again, this seems like a string of Rousseauian slogans tied together without a lot of specifics. What exactly ARE these differences that are so crucial? What challenges exist now that didn’t 30 years ago? Try as I might, I don’t see anything more on this website beyond vague generalities.

        So let us get more specific, and let us aim for more meaningful – and realistic – dialogue.

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        • Moderator Rebekah says:

          We do have some great examples of what is happening globally and locally (in BC) on our It’s Happening page. The very words flexibility and choice indicate that we are not looking for one cookie-cutter new way of doing things but instead are looking at a variety of new tools and options to allow students to customize their learning experience to best suit their needs and the needs of our society as a whole. If you have additional examples of great teaching tools/techniques or learning methodologies, please share them!

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          • C. Welch says:

            Hi Rebekah,

            I appreciate the link you posted about BC school initiatives, and the specific examples certainly are interesting. Of course, since they’re already happening, it’s not clear why the system as a whole needs to change if the current system already supports these innovations.

            And speaking of the system, I’m more interested in macro organizational changes – changes to the system, in other words. Assuming we actually do need significant changes, how will entire schools be organized and administered, for example? What sort of the things is the Ministry thinking of changing at its own end?

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            • Moderator Chrysstena says:

              There are schools in the province that currently offer more choice and flexibility than other schools, but not all learners have the opportunity to attend these schools. The idea behind the BC Education Plan is to recognize what is working well within our schools and what isn’t and to try and provide all learners with more flexibility and choice. The plan is a framework and will continue to be developed as we collect and analyze information from this website. Experts from the field, as well as Ministry personnel will be looking at all aspects of the education system, including organizational change, as the details of the plan are formed.

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          • Janet Steffenhagen’s December 29th front page article in the Vancouver Sun is an invitation to each of us to participate in the education change being considered by the BC Ministry of Education.  Most helpful was the link to this government forum and the thoughtful commentary found here. I was particularly interested also in links to education resources in other provinces and countries, especially Finland. Our polar neighbour of 5.5 million people not only excels at our favourite sport, hockey, they also lead internationally in educational outcomes in the OECD PISA rankings as many readers have learned. A recently published book (English language, by Teachers Press, Columbia University, USA ) titled Finnish Lessons, by Finn Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, gives excellent insight into Finland’s education transformation and the reasons behind its success in education, a success that even surprised many Finns. (My local library was able to order a copy of this book. I wish it were available as an eBook as I heard the initial printing has since sold out). The Finnish experience is one that we cannot afford to ignore. Interestingly, similar initiatives in education are taking place in Alberta, Korea and Japan as noted in this book. Dr. Sahlberg has getting a lot of press since publication of the book. Here is an example from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/from-finland-an-intriguing-school-reform-model.html?_r=1&hpw
            Readers might find his blog of interest: http://www.pasisahlberg.com/blog/?p=32
            But check out your local library for a copy of the book and perhaps a link can be placed on the BCED site. It is a long journey and as one commenter noted, it takes time, but we owe it to our children.

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        • You said, “This lack of specifics also sheds light on why so many secondary teachers (literally every one that I’ve talked to) are so resistant to the Ministry’s enthusiasms. The gov’t wants changes to our contract FIRST, and then changes to the system AFTERWARD…Details must come first, and not in the hazy future, if you want your agenda shared by others…”

          While experience has taught me to share your skepticism, I don’t completely agree with one of your points.

          The purpose of consultation is to gather input so that more informed and hopefully better decisions can be made by decision-makers. It seems to me that in order for consultation to be authentic, decisions cannot be made until AFTER the consultation has been completed and considered.

          So I think that the details of the BC Education Plan need to be determined AFTER public consultation has been completed and AFTER the associated public input has been duly considered; the data collected should inform the decisions that will be made.

          If anything, I suspect that the BC Education Plan was TOO detailed before the government started publicly consulting education professionals, students and the public. But I am willing to trust that the BC Education Plan as it has been communicated so far is just a framework intended to help organize and focus a comprehensive public consultation process. I am also willing to trust that the consultation will be authentic, meaning that critical decisions will not be made until AFTER public consultation has been completed and public input has been duly considered by decision-makers.

          If the government had first spelled out a specific and detailed plan for education reform and then attempted to engage in authentic consultation with the “stakeholders” then everyone would rightfully roll their eyes and say, “What’s the point of providing input when the decisions have already been made?”

          I consider this website to be an opportunity to provide input to the government BEFORE the decisions are made. If, after public consultation is completed, the government should happen to make bad decisions despite contrary advice and comments from education professionals, students and the public (via this website and any other efforts at public consultation) then at least the government will not be able to claim ignorance of the advice and comments they received. So this website is a chance to have our say, and we can use it to leverage improvements to our education system over time.

          I suggest that we all speak up and contribute constructive comments and suggestions regarding education reform in BC, then let’s see what the government decides to do with our input.

          It should be clear to all that there is ample skepticism about the BC Education Plan and related processes, however it remains to be seen how the government will choose to proceed once public consultations have been completed.

          Hopefully, the government will consider all the public input then make good decisions that will help improve the education system in BC.

          If they don’t, then we can always vote for alternative representation during the next election.

          And if necessary, the comments and suggestions recorded on this website may help us do that ;-)

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          • Moderator Chrysstena says:

            You are absolutely right in saying that this site is here for public consultation prior to making any firm decisions about the BC Education Plan. We want to hear the voices of as many people in this province as we can and collect analyze the data surrounding the collective voices of the people of BC. The framework for the plan is where we begin. We want to provide all of the citizens of the Province the opportunity to contribute to this site and share your views on what you feel is working and what isn’t, and what you feel needs to be changed in order to create a education that every learner can be successful in. Please share this site with everyone you know and encourage them to comment and please continue to stay in the conversation as questions change in the coming weeks and months.

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          • C. Welch says:

            Hi Richard,

            While I agree that an open consultation period should normally precede policy making, I also know that BCPSEA is asking for a large number of contract concessions in the name of “21st century learning”. Since these negotiations are occurring now, and systemic changes may take many years to implement, teachers are being asked to trust the government: grant us concessions now, and we promise to implement systemic innovation at some later date!

            Like I’ve said before, you don’t need to be a BCTF executive member to realize what a potentially bad deal this is for teachers.

            As a result, if the Ministry is serious about building trust, then it needs more up-front specifics about its organizational commitments (like I’ve mentioned above). Otherwise, the cynics will look good, and 21st century learning – and this website – will just seem like a smokescreen for good ‘ol union busting. I sure hope the cynics are incorrect.

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            • C. Welch said, “…I also know that BCPSEA is asking for a large number of contract concessions in the name of “21st century learning”…”

              Clearly the BC Education Plan is currently a work-in-progress with few details decided yet, so it is premature for the government to be demanding contract concessions at the negotiating table regarding the BC Education Plan.

              It seems to me that the cart may be getting before the horse. There will not be a successful contract without clarity and understanding on both sides.

              However, I see no problem with teacher union negotiators continuing to negotiate with the government (and refusing to sign off on unspecified or unclarified items) while individual professional educators continue to brainstorm and otherwise collaborate regarding the direction and details of the BC Education Plan.

              If the BC Education Plan did not incorporate the suggestions and advice of the majority of education professionals in BC, what kind of plan would it be? We need every professional educator in BC to speak up and share when they have something constructive to offer.

              And we need a centralized and permanent venue for such collaboration but I have commented on that already elsewhere on this website.

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  • Tina says:

    I just wanted to clarify the ‘Daily Quote’ (that I wrote).
    “Teaching students the ability to be flexible and make choices should be at the heart of a strong curriculum. In the constantly changing world in which students will be working and living, these two abilities will give them the edge in life.”
    I am a strong believer in helping students develop the skills to be flexible and make choices. This is NOT the same as providing flexible learning opportunities.
    I am more than a little concerned about ‘more flexible learning opportunities’. I think the idea of flexible learning opportunities is at best a great idea, at worst, a learning design fraught with several flaws.

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  • Jason McMain says:

    Please, dont’ get trapped into thinking that the majority of learning will take place online, this domain is still only really a reality for a small portion of our population. 21 century teaching has to be mroe than just computer enabled learning!

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  • Pat Dooley says:

    I believe that flexibility is closely linked to the capacity to engage students. Without engagement, meaninful learning will not occur. I agree with many of Bruce’s comments and would elaborate a bit: Flexibility can be thought of in a few different ways :
    a) choice about what is learned
    b) choice about how learning outcomes are met
    c) choice about how one’s learning is represented.

    The principles of universal design can be a great guide to educators, students and others in thinking about student engagement and flexibility, especially in terms of (c) above.

    I do believe that one of the strengths of the B.C. public system is that we have a “core”curriculum and I would suggest that that concept needs to be maintained, BUT that greater emphasis needs to be placed on how that core can be learned. There are two many learning outcomes and many of them are too minute. Moving to more global and fewer outcomes is a step in the right direction. In addition, I would suggest that there be less emphasis on “the disciplines” and more emphasis on identifying key learning outcomes in various areas of development, such as those identified in The B.C. Primary Program.

    Enabling student to pursue areas of passion and interest while meeting learning outcomes is a key aspect of flexibility in relation to both (a) and (b). We have come a long way from the days of the basal reader but likely not far enough: Textbooks can become the curriculum and be such a detriment to flexibility. Major professional development and planning needs to go into finding ways to enable students to have a key voice in what and how they learn.

    Beyond the curriculum, greater flexibility is also needed in terms of how time is spent ESPECIALLY as students move closer to graduation. When we think about students who leave Grade 12 to pursue post-secondary education, we realize that many programs involve 15 hours of classes, with the expectation that students will manage the rest of their time. We need to question structures at the secondary level which continue to see students expected to be at school from 8:30 – 3:00ish every day and the degree to which those structures hinder the development of independence and resilience. There are examples of programs which offer more flexibility in terms of time that others can learn from and which may become more systemic.

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    • I agree with your comments, especially the textbook as the curriculum comment. Almost by definition text books seem to take all the passion out of any topic.

      I think we could add choice of pace as well. In the current model most classrooms force all learners to march through the course at the same pace when some learners need half the time and some need double.

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      • Christina says:

        I do agree that textbooks, if used incorrectly, can take ‘all the passion out of any topic’. Yes, I’m sure there are some teachers out there who use textbooks as the solitary vehicle to deliver content to their class. However, textbooks, when used in conjunction with a variety of other learning experiences such as group discussions, the internet, reading books other than text books, etc., can be a valuable tool in creating an underlying foundation of knowledge. It goes back to the type of teacher one is…the sage on a stage or the guide on the side.
        Ultimately, some students will learn best from textbooks, some from group discussions, some when they take learning into their own hands and search.
        As a teacher who is relatively new to the teaching profession (I received my teaching certificate 5 years ago and have been teaching for 4 years) I try to incorporate as many different learning styles into how I teach the content.

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      • Christina says:

        As for the ‘pace’ of what is taught…I have a fairly typical class. I have a split grade class (grade 1/2) and 23 students.
        I have three students who are on three different modified programs. Modified program means the students are working on their own learning outcomes because they are unable to complete the grade level work.
        I have an additional 3 students who are on three different adapted programs. An adapted program means these students are working at the same grade level, but are unable to complete the same amount of work as the rest of the class.
        I have 4 students in my class who are English as a Second Language learners.
        In addition, I have one student who is working a grade 5 level.
        How much more flexible can I be? I still have 12 other students who deserve to have the best of me that I can give them.
        I love what I do. I can’t wait to begin each and every day.
        I can’t speak for every other teacher out there, but I am under the impression that most if not all teachers do alter the pace of what is taught to meet the needs of their students.
        When the government speaks of a more flexible education plan, I cannot help but be worried…how much more flexible can I be?

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        • Kevin says:

          Pretty sure what the “government” is after is supporting teachers like you who have this individual view of their students. I find this view prevalent in primary grades and diminishing quickly after that. Thank you for setting this example.

          P.S. How do you assess your varied students?

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  • Jill Spearn says:

    I believe the benefits are that students can pursue areas of interest and passion while meeting the expectations of the Learning Outcomes at grade level. I think that there should be more flexibility in timelines, especially, so that students can achieve success within a reasonable time frame. Grade levels are a problem because the age ranges from oldest (Jan. born) to the very youngest (Dec.) and age versus academic ability is a huge challege. Kids should be levelled in a totally different way. The system is antiquated, albeit moving forward due to the hard work of teachers and some administrators who have a vision. Challenges are the reporting system, get rid of letter grades and percentages especially in grades 4-7 and then gradually up to grade 12. They mean very little in a criterion based grading system. It’s like apples and oranges, really. You need to bring together innovative teachers, who are current and have round table discussions. We need to let an awful lot go while retaining the aspects that are critical to learning.
    I really think that most parents don’t have the time or the desire to be a 3rd party to their kids education. Realistically, I’d estimate 10% of the population wants to be engaged but otherwise I expect the professionals to be making the calls on the students programs and learning overall, along with the student themselves. Conferencing time needs to be a huge part of the plan. Pods of learners needs to be achieved at the secondary level, especially. Tons of elementary kids need so much teacher direction, they are young and I see the system best meeting their needs by providing the structure and guidance they really require, in order that they learn, and learn how to learn. Get rid of timetables and structured time slots, way out dated. I just raised 2 academically successful daughters and you should really be engaging the youth and ask them what they need in today’s world. Thanks for the opportunity to engage.

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  • Sherry says:

    It is challenging to identify “benefits and challenges” of offering “flexible learning opportunities” when the intent and meaning of that phrase is unknown. The obvious benefit is that all individuals are more likely to learn when they are motivated, have the prerequisite skills for what they are being taught and are reinforced for their efforts.

    The challenges are wrapped up in the rest of the discussion. What will be the structure of “school”? What will be the required curriculum and desired outcomes for all students (i.e. literacy and becoming a contributing citizen)? How will the unique strengths and weaknesses of each learner be identified such that the appropriate “flexible opportunity” is chosen that will lead to progress or desired outcome?

    Previous posts have made important observations including that “flexibility” would need to start at the government level, involve multiple ministries working together to provide for a range of student needs and abilities.

    It may also require reconsideration of “public” education (as we know it) as being the primary source of education. It would also require flexible access to schooling which could involve a voucher system, more funding for independent schools or legislation supporting charter schools.

    Next, it will require flexible class size and composition criteria so teachers and principals could also select opportunities that fit their knowledge, skills and values.

    As technology is changing rapidly and the future is as yet undiscovered, “flexibility” will require significant multiple choices for all aspects of education not simply “flexible opportunity to learn”.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      This blog and the comments that come in will provide us the opportunity to take all thoughts and comments into consideration, and work with teachers and experts from the field, Ministry staff and other Ministries, to determine what will work best as we look at changing the way Education is in BC. I agree that the intent and meaning does appear to be an unknown, and in some ways it is. The Plan is a blueprint and we recognize that it will require change and flexibility by everyone, even after implementation.

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  • Jaime says:

    When I hear the idea of flexibility in the classroom, my initial reaction is that it’s a wonderful idea. Why not challenge the bright child and work at a slower pace for the struggling student.

    The reality is that teachers are already doing this every single day in the best ways that they can. In one grade 4/5 classroom of 25 students (which is quite low compared to the average class size of 28), I have some students that are reading and writing at the 6th grade level on some assignments while the student right next to them can barely print their name. If I did not have flexible programming, both these students would fail.

    Unfortunately, I am only one person. I cannot sit beside 25 students and individually execute 25 separate programs for them. In order for more “flexible programs” for students, we need either more teachers/educational assistants/resources teachers in the classroom, or the class sizes would have to have drastically reduced.

    I adore each and every one of my students, want them to succeed in every way possible and I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that is happening. But every day is a struggle. If there is going to be a drastic change in the educational programing, there need to be drastic change in the way we support the classroom.

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    • Stephanie says:

      I agree with much of what you have said Jaime. I beleive it is more about the composition of that class. Yes better resources and support for the teacher will help. But that does not mean to me, just more adults in the room.
      The big question for me is why do you have a student in your class that has not recieved adequite support? (I know it happens all of the time) Why is a child pushed forward ‘with their peers’ and not given the support to really be learning and particpating with their peers?
      That student should not be sitting next to the high achieving child all day. I am not a fan of pull out programs, but if they are done well, students with overwhelming needs, (that you could not possibly address in your class with out the appropriate support) need that support so that they can succeed. That student is very unlikely to finish school . . . I feel the system needs to be able to place the child that is falling behind with their true peers, those that are learning at a simlar rate. Just as the gifted child should not be made to sit thru stuff that is not interesting or challenging to them.

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      • Christina says:

        Stephanie, I love your question “why do you have a student in your class that has not received adequate support?”
        Sadly, Jaime’s class is not unique. I would imagine that the student Jaime spoke of has a learning or cognitive difference that makes it very difficult if not impossible to work at grade level. Does this mean that he or she should not be able to be in a class with his or her peers?
        I am not saying that integration v.s. pull out is the best method. Nor am I saying that pushing students ahead with their age level peers is better than keeping students back. However, I cannot imagine being that student and being held back year after year. I think the decision to keep students with their age peers was made in the hope to allow those students to develop strong social connections, which could mean the difference between a drop-out age of 14 and finishing high school.

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        • Stephanie says:

          Hi Christina,
          As I stated, I am aware that the student far behind grade level, in a class with their age group, is not an uncommon occurance.
          I suggest their age group is not nessasarily their peers. I feel that failure is not a productive option, but when you can not read like the other students or do math like the rest of them, when you strugle to keep up and find in the end you just can’t (for what ever reason) you are not with your peers! you are stuck with a bunch of students that are NOT your peers, just the same age.
          If we are to continue the idea of keeping kids with their others born in the same year, we need to support them with what they need to “feel” they are peers with the other students. Hanging in a classroom with 25 – 30 other students, that can do what you can’t is not helping anyone, expecially the student. Oh I forgot, it is much easier for those that track the numbers and do enrollment. :( But not the student!

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          • Moderator Rebekah says:

            This is an interesting thread. If we stopped clustering children into groups by age, how should/would we group them? Is there a better way to define a child’s “peer” group?

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  • Pat Glover says:

    i have watched a flexible program occur here in the Cowichan Valley. It does not need the needs of the students, especially late bloomers male children. It generally leaves them at a late age incomplete. It also does not hold the teachers accountable to meet these students needs. it easier for them to blame the student. All students are not A students but all students deserve an education. The public school system should not be allowed to cherry pick their students and a good teacher should be able to reach and support all levels of students.

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  • Jack Showers says:

    Benefits – Some students will be more interested and motivated.

    Challenges – Managing all the different things going on, accountability, and sense of community (which some like to call a “factory”).

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  • Tina says:

    I think offering students more flexible learning opportunities is a fantastic idea. With the changing world in which we live, the ability to adapt and change ones approach to fit their current situation is most advantageous. However, how to teach students to become more flexible is the question.

    Teachers are highly trained individuals who have spent at least 5 years of their lives paying for and attending school. Most teachers work 8 hours or more a day to try and meet the needs of all learners in their class. Sadly, most teachers are overworked and under recognized in all that they do. The best thing the government and the teachers’ employer can do is provide more assistance in the classrooms: on the front lines of children’s education. No amount of technology or fancy gadgets can make up for the need of one on one meaningful interaction that highly trained teachers, educational assistants, and other professionally trained people can offer who work in the public school system. Providing more trained professionals is the best way to offer flexible learning opportunities for all students.

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    • Stephanie says:

      Tina, I agree, so many teachers are very highly trained and continue to train and learn new ways of engaging students. But there are many who have not done any meaningful upgrading of their education for many years.
      I think you missed the mark on who needs to be more flexible. I have found the students are very flexible it is usually the adults in the building that are set in their ways and have a hard time changing their habits.
      You sound like a teacher that takes advantage of quality training regularly. I feel one of the problems with flexibility, is that many teachers were never given the tools to deal with the diversity in their classrooms.
      PRO D needs to move away from scrapbooking and papermache making and focus on giving teachers and EAs the tools they need to help all students succeed.
      Bravo on technology not being the key! It is about personal relationships, that last at least a year and sometimes longer.

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      • Ann-Marie says:

        I’m not sure where you got the idea that ProD is scrapbooking and paper mache, but I think your comment is uninformed. Conferences and workshops these days are certainly geared toward helping teachers to improve student success. In fact, they’re dynamic and motivating, delving into new, innovative practices that address how to meet the diverse needs of students. Perhaps you’d be interested in attending a conference to see for yourself before you start criticizing them and implying that teachers are not informed enough to do their job successfully. I agree with your final comment about how personal relationships, and not computers, are the key to a good education. As Tina says, the education system needs to offer more support for teachers, so that they will have the opportunity to develop those personal relationships, helping individual students to reach their potential. It certainly cannot be done by plugging students into technology, where the media manages their attitudes nor by stuffing more students in each classroom! One wonders how this new Education Plan came about and why teachers were not involved in the design.

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    • mom says:

      hahahahaha – is this for real? Tina feels bad for the POOR teachers who “spent at least 5 years of their lives paying and attending school” and she also feels BAD that POOR teachers – well she says “MOST” have to struggle through an 8 hour day (I would like to point out that a majority of this 8 hours – they have NO CUSTOMERS!)TINA? What exactly do you think that the REST OF US – NON WHINNY TEACHERS have done to educate and better ourselves? AND I wish I ONLY had to work 8 hours a day and I would LOVE LOVE LOBE to have summer and all those other time off slots! HOW can this many people be soooo out of touch with REALITY! Are teachers and their far-out supporters living in another world?

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Please remember that this is a forum for constructive and civil conversation. It’s ok here to voice your displeasure but we ask that you do it in a polite and non-abusive manner. This one is pushing the boundaries.

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        • Kevin says:

          Well done Mike…I’m glad you let this one through (but with a warning). I understand though solidly disagree with “mom” and I think it is important that we BC educators remember that there are definitely dark corners even in a proven excellent system like we have. In my 20ish years as a BC educators I have occasionally seen some real dank stuff mixed in with the good and the great. “Mom”, unfortunately appears to have experienced mostly the former which is utterly unfortunate.

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      • Devon says:

        This is the exact problem with this problem – disrespect for teachers. I have 9 years of university I get to work at 6am stay until the custodian kicks me out and spend thousands of dollars a year on my classroom because the schools don’t provide funding. I am broke, in my thirties and still can’t afford a mortgage on teachers salary. I get attacked, sworn at and spit at at work and recognize I could get severely injured while teaching. Whiny you call us? Our work conditions are deplorable? Why do you get to judge us? We don’t come to your job and judge you? People like you do not support the system, if people like you stopped blaming teachers maybe something would change. We are the ones who do the work you’re only making it worse. Summers off? Are you kidding me? Yeah where I get to serve and wait tables to make a living. Yeah it’s a real dream. You’ve got to be kidding me. Guess what, I also have to pay for the majority of my own medical and dental. When you start to observe school systems in other countries, I’ve found it’s where the teachers are most respected that the system is actually working.

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  • rich chapman says:

    Schools work well for the majority.
    What about the minority?
    What about a kid who’s anxiety hits the roof going through the school door?
    What about a kid who can’t sit still?
    What about a kid who doesn’t speak english or french at home?
    What about a kid who’s not fed in the morning?

    Some real integration between Ministries needs to occur so that the minority doesn’t turn into the majority.

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  • MorethanaMOM says:

    more more more……we make it so flexible that they NEVER need to ADJUST their learning! Seems whenever a student doesn’t WANT to try, work or learn – EVERYONE is jumping to the pump for that LAZY kid! WHY can it work for the the majority of kids? hmmmm…maybe because they actually try and work at it – or they have parents that are present and participating in LIFE! Will the REAL WORLD (whatever that is these days) KEEP on being so flexible for this ‘Y should I?’ generation? The BEST way to HELP these kids learn NOW – is to HELP them learn how to adjust themselves to the requirements! Otherwise they are in for Rude awakening. Unless of course they go into education and believe that they can continue to FLEX the employer into more money and BULLY the parents and students into their own stand alone fantasy inflexible world!

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    • mom says:

      -4 VOTES? OUCH! let me guess – ALL from teachers? awwwwwwwww – how’d I guess……
      I will NEVER understand what makes teachers want to ‘go and PAY FOR school for soooo long’ then complain about it for the rest of their ‘professional’ lives! Teachers think THEY are the ONLY ONES that have PAID for schooling and need MORE money! WOW!! talk about out of touch! And these are the mentors for our children? GEE after reading some of these whines from teachers – Maybe computers would be better suited as flexible POSITIVE replacements!

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  • Bev says:

    I think one would need to define flexible learning opportunities more fully before one can give benefits or challenges. If you are referring to students having more choices of subject matter, then a benefit would be that students may find an area of interest that appeals to them and thus they apply themselves better and “learn” more. The challenges would be developing the course material, finding qualified teachers, and having appropriate classroom/facilities in which to teach the course. I am thinking here more of non-academic type courses like what we used to call industrial ed, chef training, etc.

    If you are referring to students being able to take courses in a variety of formats; i.e. at school, online, through correspondence, or taking some courses at one institution and other courses at another institution, then a possible benefit to this type of flexibility is that students aren’t restricted to only the courses that are offered at one institution. They may be able to have a greater choice of courses this way so that they could pursue areas of interest. Students might also be able to use this type of flexibility in order to create a schedule that works with their time commitments. The problems I could see with this is that many students do not yet have the discipline to work through course material on a timely basis for online/correspondence type courses and the logistics of getting students from one institution to another during a typical school day.

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  • Wendy Jessen says:

    One thought I have is that “less is more”. If we educate them well in the classics, math and science. If our students learn facts and are taught in a Socratic manner from source documents and books, then they can find their own flexible learning opportunities. There are many many opportunities, if our students are educated well then they can take hold of those opportunities.

    In this day of an aging tax base and continued financial stress in our educational institution, why not do more by doing less, but doing it very well. Let our students take initiative in taking advantage of what is available “out there”. If they have a solid education then they will have wings to fly. At present we have a lot of fluff and feathers but our students are dumbed down and many fall through the cracks.

    Perhaps a trades /Practical education should be possible for those bright but non academic type students. This may be possible with an interconnectedness with community colleges.

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  • Sandra says:

    While reading about the new Education Plan, I noticed how often the word ‘flexible’ was used. Flexibility in learning opportunities could definitely provide students with unique formats in which to challenge their learning outcomes. As an early childhood eduator, this plan seems similar to what is referred to as ‘emergent curriculum’ in my professional field. However I am working with a teacher to student ratio of 1 to 8 so it is usually possible to be flexible and follow each child’s emerging interests then apply them into real learning opportunities. I am concerned as to how this could be possible within a classroom setting of 1 teacher with 29 students.

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Thank you, Sandra, for raising both a benefit and a challenge. Teacher-student ratio has been mentioned before in this forum. What other ways are there to think about the structure of the system? What could change in order to allow the benefits to be realized? Go to Question #9 to share ideas!

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  • The devil is in the fine print. On the one hand, you can have: “Yes, you’re free to study according to your own weird, but first we’re going to crush your spirit by ‘schoolifying’ it.” On the other hand, there’s: “Whatever. Results don’t matter.”

    The “school” version of homeschool is being done in various incarnations — and this site mentions a few — but it requires a lot of flexibility on the teacher/ministry side. When at its best, and this is my opinion, it also requires parental involvement and encouragement. This can be very difficult for many parents, because not only does it ask for more of their already limited time, but it challenges the accepted idea that education is best left in the hand of “professionals”.

    For those parents who do have the time and commitment for their kids’ learning, more financial support for the homeschooling option will free up space in the public system. This has the benefit of offloading the most individualized/unique learners from the plates of professional teachers, thus freeing them to give more individual attention to students who are still more comfortable with “factory learning”.

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    • Stephanie says:

      Jonathan, Factory leaning need so go. Why would we think that children will learn equally in batches according to the year they are born?
      Learning is about partnerships. Parents are educators, we teach our children every day with everything we do.
      Teachers, professionals, teach my children facts and their views on the world. I teach them manners and make sure they are fed and rested.
      We need to work together to create the best adults we can.

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  • Donna says:

    As a teacher at the primary level I am wondering how this might look in the classroom. Many of our students come to us with limited English skills and need to be taught the basics. Within the framework of teaching we continually offer our students choice, but this is difficult when children are young and don’t neccesarily have the skills needed to make a good choice. I am continually funding my classroom with supplies from my own paycheck as I get very little money for anything extra. I can’t imagine having to fund for everyone’s personal choice. If you are going to implement such a different model, it is going to need to be funded in order for it to have success.

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  • Stephanie says:

    Benifits – keep students engaged at the level they are capable to work at and they will stay in school, learn and thrive.
    Challenges – Teachers being able to address the diverse leaning needs. They will need to be trained in identifying learning styles and the needs of every student. That could be challenge for anyone without the appropriate training.

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  • Andy Walters says:

    This is an ambiguous question.

    If flexibility means that students get to choose what they learn then it is a bad idea, because they don’t know enough to make that decision.

    If you mean more selection of courses, then maybe, but I believe in moving toward standardized testing so that learning and teaching can be evaluated, and corrected when it is deficient. More selection makes standardized testing much more difficult.

    One of the main goals of education is to enable kids to become financially successful, buy a house, support their families and enjoy life. The people who know best what education is needed for this to happen are the employers. I think more input from the employers in society would make the curriculum more effective.

    You can’t go very wrong teaching math and english

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    • Math and English are important and perhaps standardized methods of evaluating reading levels etc would be useful, there are a number of tests that exist already such as the CAT or the Accuplacer, but I think that there are many other courses/areas of study that are of interest to learners and of value to employees. I think that learners need to be allowed choice and are capable of intelligent choice. I don’t think that any of us can pretend to know what skills employers will require in 5, 10, or 15 years from now.

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  • Gordon says:

    Learning is an expression of who we are as a society and as an individual. We are imbued with certain beliefs, values, perspectives and experiences that drive our learning. The benefits to offering students more flexible learning opportunities is better motivation to be engaged in your learning. Daniel Pink (2009)in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” summarizes the three essential elements of motivation: autonomy, the desire to direct your life; mastery, the urge to get better at something that matters to you; and purpose, a desire to contribute to something larger than self. Learning opportunities that match such intrinsic motivation will likely encourage more students to stick with education and find it meaningful. The challenge is that our system is based upon a factory model of carrot and stick thinking that is antithetical to most intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is honored more often in the breach than the system can accommodate. After literacy and thinking skills are well established in elementary school, student learning would need to be more project driven to accommodate intrinsic needs. Certain big idea ends may be articulated in the curriculum, but the means to those ends need to be more freed up to give students the scope to pursue interests and become an expert in something.

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  • You can’t argue against flexibility, but there should also be structure and support.

    Some things benefit society and should be mandated whether or not the individual chooses them so there should continue to be a required core curriculum. The challenge, as with so many things, is to strike a suitable balance between required and optional. Although it is often contested, this balance exists now and should be sustained. If the required core is to change that should be because the public good is better served by the change rather than because individuals resent any constraint on their free choice. The curriculum should not be a market place. Thus, I believe flexibility should mean a broader array of optional courses and enrichment opportunities, not a diminished core.

    Flexibility might, however, not mean either optional courses or units but rather choice in ways of learning. That is, flexibility might be increased by more vigourous pursuit of a “universal design for learning” (http://cast.org/udl/index.html). Personally, I think this is a far more powerful way to increase student engagement (and thus achievement) than choice of content. Technology might be an invaluable aid in this quest but changes also have to occur in lesson design and assessment to create UDL.

    Whatever flexible learning options are offered (content or learning modes), they will be more accessible to some than others due to their context or capabilities. Equity requires some form of support for those who need it in order to benefit from the flexibility that is available rather than just leaving students to their own resources, which would increase rather than decrease the learning gap between those with different socio-economic resources or innate learning abilities. In some cases flexibility may reduce the need for support since students will choose areas of interest to them, but in some cases students may be unable to exercise the flexibility they desire because they need support. Flexibility should be extended to all who desire it, not just those who are most capable of it.

    Well conceived and implemented flexibility will increase student engagement and that should lead to increased achievement in both academic learning (3Rs) and personal development (7Cs) but we won’t know if that is happening unless we develop some method of assessing the full range of intended learning. It would also be useful to monitor student engagement itself rather than only the achievement that results since increased engagement may be a more reliable indicator of enriched and deepened learning than our current (very limited) array of outcome measures.

    Of course, all this has to occur in a manner that it possible and sustainable by teachers and by the system itself. This practical constraint will limit flexibility until individual and system capacity to provide it is strengthened through a combination of professional learning, policy changes, attitude changes and (in some cases) increased access to appropriate technology. There seems to be a lot of concern about the restructuring part of this but the reculturing part (which includes students and parents as well as educators) is probably the more complex and challenging.

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    • I agree with a lot of what Bruce suggests but I disagree with his comments about keeping all the elements in the core curriculum. I think that there are too many PLOs and to many courses required for graduation. I think that currently we are a mile wide and an inch deep and that to increase the engagement learners need the time to be able to dig deeper.

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      • My comment was intended to refer to courses. I agree that the number of PLOs needs to be reduced in order to enable deeper engagement with less content. I would also note that the Ministry has been engaged in this exercise for the past decade and that the current IRPs have been significantly reduced, with greater emphasis on the overarching themes and less on specific PLOs. That’s not to say that more can’t be done or that in courses with a provincial exams there is not not still some bloat, but this problem has been recognized and much has already been done.

        The question that remains is,”What is the legal status of a PLO?” Are teachers legally obligated to “teach” every PLO, and what would that mean in practice? The definition of an educational program in the School Act is “an organized set of learning activities that, in the opinion of the board, in the case of learning activities provided by the board … is designed to enable learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.” To me that sounds like PLOs are illustrative more than mandatory and that the common belief that they one must “cover” them all is wrong. What would happen if a teacher or a school or a district decided to hit all the themes in an IRP but skip some specific PLOs in the interests of greater depth? Would they be sued? (One parent did actually try that in North Van in relation to Grade 9 Social Studies some years ago I believe and lost because of the aforementioned definition of an educational program.) I think teachers have more latitude here than in commonly believed.

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        • Nicholas says:

          The “Required Areas of Study in an Education Program Guide Order” states that boards must offer “an educational program that meets all the learning outcomes set out in the applicable educational program guide” in various subjects depending on the grade level. That doesn’t make the PLOs sound very optional.

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  • -->
    1. The benefit of more flexible learning is that students could take the time they need to learn at the type of courses best suited to their individual giftings and needs. The challenge would be keeping track of all of the various paths being taken and keeping students on task.

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    2. Regardless of what the ‘educational plan’ is, if there is inadequate support (ie. properly allocated funding and staffing) it will fail, just like our current system. As a member of the local PAC, I see chronic underfunding, overwhelmed staff and fewer options and alternatives for students. I fully support and see huge benefits in more flexible learning opportunities. The Challenge? Developing a realistic ‘management plan’ based on common sense through which ANY ‘educational plan’ can be adequately funded and staffed so that is can succeed.

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      • Dianne says:

        I am a strong supporter of offering choice and I believe the education system needs some change. However, this “new system” needs to be properly funded and supported. Government needs to start with properly funding what we have and building toward the change.We have technology inequality between schools, lack of support for struggling students, lack of training for students and staff. Over crowding in some areas and lack of opportunities in others. You cannot have “learning empowered by technology” when you have 3 kids fighting for access to the same piece of technology. Start with the basics, create an equal playing field, make all the pieces available to everyone.

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      • Hear hear!

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    3. Lindy says:

      There are so many obvious benefits to offering choices to all students. I am strongly supportive of offering choice to each and every student enrolled in our public system. This means students with gifts and talents to those students who have profound intellectual challenges. To me choice means ensuring that each student; no matter their academic capabilities is guided in the choices of the learning that they explore. Some students will require a great deal of support and others will require less. I see a challenge in how the Ministry and individual schools will take the antiquated special education system(which is so dependent on determining what is wrong with the student in order to get financial support) and translate it into the new vision we have for learning. Special education teachers are the epitomy of flexibility and developing choice so the real question for challenges becomes how to assure regular classroom teachers that they can successfully teach all students no matter the learning challenge through offering choices and activities that ensure cognitive access to materials of interest to the students with the appropriate supports. This will not be easy to do but I think it is manageable however financial support must accompany these changes.

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    4. Mark Stoakes says:

      Limited – unless the school system is prepared to change significantly. I would suggest that BC MoE have a serious look at Sir Ken Robinsons view on education. He emphasizes the need to foster creativity and also questions the current hierarchy of subjects with math and English viewed as the “senior” subjects and the creative subjects (largely arts) as secondary. There is little point in giving children more choice if the choices they make are not valued both in the school system and by the post- secondary system that has to absorb them later. This is important – our school (& post-secondary) system needs to be generating creative thinkers if we are to compete. We should not think we can be educational leaders by following a system designed during the industrial revolution.

      We do need to give children more options that are accessible to all. The Vancouver Trek program is an excellent example of giving children an alternative to the drudgery of high school – although in reality it is only accessible to west side children. Programs that lock children out – such as mini- schools should be closed. Children mature at widely differing ages so to offer specialty programs that are only available to those ready at, say grade 8, discriminate against those who mature later. Programs that allow those with talents in specific fields are probably worth exploring more. For example Eric Hamber challenge program allows with a talent in one subject (let’s say English) to take that at a higher level while carrying on with math with their peers. This could easily be expanded to dance, art, music and other subjects.

      There is also little point in giving choice if we don’t give real resources to support the choice. Why would a child choose science when the resources for hands on experimentation verge on the pathetic? Without the support of lab assistants how can science teachers be expected to offer interesting, hands-on experiments from grade 8 and up?

      We should also not mistake choice with a lack of hard work and high expectation. Choosing, say ‘ceramics’, should not be perceived as the easy option to math or French. This will not happen until the school system fundamentally changes the view on how subjects are valued – with English & math currently being perceived as the senior subjects. Why are ‘ceramics’ or machining not provincially examinable subjects? Because they are perceived as being of less value and the ‘easy’ option, but they are more creative and so in many senses have more value than ploughing through quadratic equations!

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Sir Ken is someone whose thinking is indeed influencing our transformation vision. Please check the It’s Happening Globally section on this page for a link to one of his influential talks. There are many other great resources on this page that you might also be interested in.

        Thank you as well for your other comments. You’ve raised some important points that have been echoed by others.

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      • Milo says:

        You make some good points Mark. We are moving in the right direction in getting rid of Provincial Exams – those antiquated ways of “measuring” progress. (And sorting students). I agree that we are consistently valuing the wrong things in education. In my days as a high school counsellor, I frequently had students electing to take the sciences despite no interest in them as a field because they were “better.” Parents and even teachers also encouraged such nonsensical thinking. I’ve heard from many foreign educated individuals that our Mathematics curriculum covers ground in high school that they didn’t meet until their university education -as they were preparing to become engineers and such.

        I’m excited about the possiblities of self-directed and individualized learning. Teachers need to be ready to be facilitators of learning vs. the repositories of all knowledge. It is still shocking how many teachers teach to a mythical middle ground in their rooms.

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    5. BC’s Education Plan states that it will give educators, students, and families more choice on ‘where’ their learning will take place, and that “Almost certainly, more learning will take place outside of the school setting.”

      I agree that students should spend more time in their community–interacting with different people and leraning about its resources.

      Q: where will the extra support and funding come from for these outdoor experiences, when it seems that Education Assistants and other support are continually being cut?
      Furthermore, how can we ensure that children in schools across the province will receive equal opportunity for learning that is outside of the school setting?

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      • Lara says:

        From what I understand “outside school” setting does not mean outdoors, but rather not in school. This could mean distance education from a student’s home, which isolates them from society and leaves them unattended and without adult interaction. It also creates hardship for parents. I am suspicious of this part of the plan, while at the same time hoping it actually means that students will still be in direct/face-to-face contact with teachers who have the flexibility to take them outside and into the community on a far more frequent basis than currently exists. Of course, you need money to pull that off in terms of transportation and a higher teacher to student ratio. Where is the funding for that?

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      • C. Welch says:

        There won’t be any more money. Period. Any programs that require extra funding will only succeed if the number of teachers and support staff are cut – and this, I think, is the real agenda behind distance education. On the other hand, in my 8 years as a distance ed. teacher, I came to the conclusion that, if done right, DE isn’t really that much cheaper that regular schooling. I worry about the chaos that will occur before the Ministry realizes that.

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          Our Ministry’s position is that distance learning and classroom learning are false distinctions that should become more fluid over time. Students present varied learning needs and styles that cannot be addressed by a single approach for everyone. Our own review of the limited research available supports your observations about the operating costs for effective programs. Distance education will also always require the experienced guiding hand of a professional teacher.

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        • Stephanie says:

          C. Welsh can you tell us more about how a DE class works where you are? And how it is that DE isn’t really cheaper if done right?
          Putting initial costs for ‘supplies’ asside, doesn’t a DE class have the ability to reach more students?
          I have only a small experience with it, but I am interested in what it can, does and could look like in the future.
          I have often wondered why it is that a few students from the highschool with less enrollment, therefore less choices, can’t just Skype or Elluminate into a classroom at the school 40 minutes down the road, and attend that way. Is that a form of DE that is happening now?

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          • C. Welch says:

            Hi Stephanie,

            The distance ed. school I’m referring to is a separate entity that doesn’t have real-time classes. It’s an asynchronous school where students work on their own at their own pace (at least until they face the end of their 12 month funding). In this kind of school, students can normally contact a teacher via Skype, Elluminate, phone or email, but it’s all one-on-one. And this is a key point. One-on-one is great for the student, but it’s incredibly inefficient. Multiply that one-on-one by 200 (or more in some DE schools), and you can see that something is going to have to give. In my experience it’s the assessment. Usually teachers don’t have time for authentic assessment, esp.in the humanities; a quick read-through and a mark is about all they can afford. So, if you want it “done right”, you really need a much lower student-teacher ratio.

            There are related problems. Assessment is challenging because an assignment might not be seen for 2 months; as a teacher, I’ll say, “Ok, what was this one about?” There is no economy of scale when you mark one particular assignment. Also, teachers need quiet offices to directly talk with students; one of the reasons I’m back in the regular classroom is that they wanted the DE teachers in my old school to move into a cheaper, but noisier, cubicle farm. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again!

            The technological infrastructure is also more expensive than people realize. And it requires multiple tech people to maintain it.

            I could go on, but I need to go to work! Perhaps I’ll add more tonight.

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    6. Eric says:

      Changes in the real world occur frequently. It is more important to teach students how to learn than to teach them to memorize and learn by rote

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        You might be interested in the conversation we had recently on 21st century competencies. The wrap-up of it, plus a couple examples of the conversation can be found here.

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    7. Thomas says:

      I believe that more students will be engaged because they can learn at their own pace and in their own way. They will take more personal responsibility because they will have more choice.

      I also believe that the quality of teaching will improve because teachers will be working with more students who are invested in their own achievement.

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    8. Steve says:

      First of all, my comments are not politically motivated. Benefits: I am fortunate to be able to use a large number of “mediums” in presenting my material to students (primarily grades 11 & 12 Psychology). I have been given flexibility in classroom layout allowing me to use a number of different configurations within the same classroom. The space allows students opportunity to sit in the “micro” climate of their choice. My courses utilize a complete array of assignment options that allow students to mix and match their opportunities. I have been able to incorporate a wide variety of information sources from text and handouts, to DVDs, movies, internet etc. in a fairly quick paced format that …? “sort of assaults their intellect”. All my young people have the options for re-writes in order to cover missed or “messed up” materials.
      Challenges: Numbers and diversity of the “crowd” in the classroom. The “plethora” of learning challenges that present themselves in a classroom these days is growing. The class is no longer a class but a large gathering of young individuals who are intellectually “spread all over the map”. I would have to say that I fully support the position that Sir Ken Robinson represents.

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    9. Kim Morton says:

      Smarter kids especially need to be challenged. A one size fits all model tends to focus on the lower end leaving the brightest bored out of their minds.

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    10. Mrs. S. says:

      Students with no life experience in the work force have no idea what skills they will need in the future. I think the flexible choice of study should be limited to older students and be part of the classes held in the afternoon core subjects like mathematics and English should be taught with more rigour in the morning when students learn better). It is good for high school students to explore many areas of interest so they can make a better choice of post secondary education and career.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Our vision is that flexibility and choice will be introduced to students in stages that are best suited to their developmental level and life experiences. This will be a gradual process.

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    11. It depends on how Personalized Learning evolves in the Districts really. Clearly the kids would benefit when they have challenges that make the traditional system unproductive. If done properly,it could help reduce stress on an already taxed system by allowing parents and families to get involved. Will help increase communication between teachers and families and that can only benefit everybody.

      Drawbacks could be the expense. I think care needs to be taken to provide the right program for kids requiring something out of the norm. As personalized learning may involve more parent/teacher communication, this could be time consuming for teachers.

      Look forward to seeing how Personalized Learning presents the the Districts and how much variance there’ll be to policies.

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    12. Tanya says:

      By offering students more flexible learning opportunities, we encourage students to develop an intrinsic motivation to learn (a growth mind-set) because they develop a choice of how they want to learn. Students become more accountable for their learning because they feel that they are more actively involved in their education. Teachers can create more individualized learning opportunities for students based on a student’s strengths and challenges. Flexibility also allows students to be more successful in different areas because they have more choice of what they want to learn and how to be better prepared for post secondary institutions that recognize student success from a wider range of academics and trades. Students can be better prepared for their future if they are exposed to flexibility throughout their education because it gives them a variety of strategies to think for themselves, hold themselves accountable for their choices and make decisions that are best for them to become successful.

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    13. The major challenges that I see as a teacher to offering students more flexibility in their learning opportunities are the biases I see among colleagues and administrators who refuse to jump into the 21st century world of technological advancements. Technology can enrich and enhance the students’ learning experiences, and the biases I encounter within the system stem from fear and lack of knowledge of the use and potential uses of technological devices inside or outside of the classroom. There is a widening gap between the ease with which students have adapted to technology in their daily lives and the lack of familiarity with technology by more established teachers and administrators(I use technology extensively in my courses-I am a minority in my department).

      Some of the benefits of increasing the use technology include: increased flexibility of course delivery(special student groups-some learning disabilities are greatly aided by tech, classroom/home delivery options,accommodating work schedules,global liaising),enriched course content to aid understanding / learning (graphic imaging in the sciences, for example),rapid access to information on mobile devices,time management and study skills’ management on LMS.

      With the aid of technology, students could also gain more valuable and lasting experiences outside of classroom learning and use some of their family and community experiences as integral and/or as credentials for their K-12 education.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        You’ve raised some important points here, Janet. Accepting and incorporating digital technologies into teaching and learning is a significant culture change for many educators. We must respect that some are resistant to this change but also model for them the numerous benefits that will ensue.

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        • Mark Stoakes says:

          We have to beware of the technology bandwagon. Certainly we can’t ignore it. But technology is hugely expensive and changes faster than schools will ever have the ability to keep-up. Schools that offered laptops to their students less than 5 years ago would now be wishing they all had wireless connections, or iPads or voice commands Like the i4s phone, or apps that allow gps and the teaching of geography in innovative ways. We need to be aware technology does NOT teach or encourage creativity. We need to be teaching children creativity and how to adapt. Children spend 12 years in school. That’s the ‘i’ revolution at least twice over. Is the BC MoE prepared to invest in that rapidily changing when they don’t currently fund basic IT services in schools. And of course that also means funding for training of teachers so they can themselves keep-up.

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          • Lara says:

            I agree with your comments Mark, and would like to add that not all families can afford the technology to keep their children connected at home. I think it is a misuse of taxpayer dollars to keep schools in the latest technology. As you say, they are already far behind anyway. Parents in the high tech world of Silicon Valley send their students to schools that do not use computers or tvs because they believe we are over exposing children to this technology. I think they are onto something. If those that make it have reservations, perhaps we should too.

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            • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

              The Silicon Valley example is something we’ve discussed on this forum before. Here’s a link to that conversation in case you missed it.

              http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-1/comment-page-1/#comment-333

              This is indeed an important conversation with many arguments to made both for and against tech integration in the primary and intermediate years. Please let me remind everyone, though, that this conversation is somewhat off topic for Question 7. Make sure your comments address what the question is asking, that is: What do you think are the benefits and challenges to offering students more flexible learning opportunities? If you can work the pros and cons of tech integration into your response, great, if not, it’s probably off the mark for Question 7.

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          • Steve says:

            Agree Mark, In the past two years I have had to scrounge up a couple of extra computers for my classroom (this is in spite of a pretty supportive admin) in order to have them avail to students without access to their own machines. This (o by the way) means that my classroom has to be open before classes, during breaks/lunches, and afterschool in order to facilitate them. (my choice of course)

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    14. Beth says:

      Benefits:

      In addition to learning the content presented to students, they will learn how to learn and to truly love learning. This will carry them into adulthood and inspire future generations of children.

      In addition to learning the material that we, as adults, believe is important for children to learn, they will learn that what they think and feel is important in the world and will learn to respect themselves. They will learn that their opinion matters as does the opinion and preferences of their peers.

      By respecting children and giving them choices and flexibility in their learning we show children respect and confidence in them that they matter. This will help equip children to make better decisions regarding drugs, sex, violence and gangs

      Challenges:
      Restructuring the system so that only positive, motivated and skilled teachers are in the classroom providing direct instruction to students. Providing significant in-classroom support to teachers who are motivated to work with students in this way but are struggling with how to do that; so that the students in those classrooms are not impacted negatively. The cost of severance packages to those teachers and administrators who aren’t interested in working with students in this way or, after repeated assistance from skilled teachers, are found to be unable to work within this system

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    15. Lrobell says:

      I will start with the fact that I am energized and excited about BC’s Education Plan. These are my thoughts on personalized learning section of this plan, including some benefits and challenges (or questions) that I see.

      Personalized learning for every student will hopefully be a huge benefit rather than a challenge. I can see that some students will flourish in this type of learning environment, but I also see that it will fail others. If students follow their own interests with regards to what they are learning then the plan should succeed in making learning both more interesting and engaging. Hopefully students will be more confident as we celebrate our differences rather than frown upon them. Having fewer learning outcomes will make it easier for teachers to meet more of their students needs. With more choice students will hopefully become passionate individuals who will create and inform change as they follow their creative paths. Hopefully in the long run these individuals will become successful happier individuals.

      As for the Challenges, well I had more questions regarding personalized learning. I am sure from these questions, more will arise… these are just my immediate thoughts. How are we to meet all these individual learning plans as teachers? I am only one person, how in a classroom environment do I effectively meet the needs of all students following their own paths? What grades or levels or ages do we start to implement these individual learning plans? How do the outcomes (PLO or RLO’s) change? What is important and what is not with regard to outcomes? Are they not set to be a base, which students can all learn the basics from and then decide what interests us? Where does all the funding come from to ensure teachers are prepared and ready to teach to this plan?

      Wow, well BC’s Education plan seems amazingly inspirational. I hope that together we can some how pull it all off. I see many benefits but also many challenges to this wonderfully ambitious plan. It seems that it will require a lot of money, time, effort, hard work, determination, sweat, perseverance, dedication and love from those people that work in our profession. I hope that in the time it takes to get all of our educators on board with the change we do not lose sight of the little people who we are planning for.

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    16. As a retired administrator, I am always interested in the notion of flexibility. I believe all learners can learn given the right circumstances,programs and teachers/teaching environment. In the past, flexibility has often been governed by dollars, or lack of available dollars to create programs that are not necessarily mainstream.I still see that as a major obstacle but believe if the will is there we should be able to create learning environments to suit all learners.
      I do agree that care should be taken on how and when choices are offered. The whole notion is complicated but exciting as I believe our present system does not maximise learning for some of our student body.

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    17. Angela says:

      Two challenges come to mind:
      1. Flexibility works in communities that can support flexible learning opportunities. I wonder if my children, who are interested in areas outside what is prevalent in my rural community, would be able to take advantage of this “flexibility” to the extent I imagine some people envision.

      2. I wonder if giving children choice so early on does not afford them the opportunity to discover an interest area they might discover through selection of courses, building relationships with teachers who are passionate about their areas of expertise, or being ” required” to take something. I wonder if choice will shut my child down – choice is risky and, without effective support within the school and, arguably, at home, flexibility might create a whole lot of social-emotional challenges.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Angela, we see flexibility and choice as things that are introduced gradually as students progress through their K-12 years. In the early grades there will be much more emphasis on the basics and setting a good foundation in the core subjects. Once this is established more customization will be introduced in the later grades. The shift will be subtle and age and situation-appropriate.

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        • Lee Anne says:

          Oh that sounds so ‘wonderful’ on paper Mike. Reality here! are you suggesting that education will become an online experience for all children?
          It sounds as if the program will be very general, put ‘out there’ and oh oh we made amistake lets ‘tweek it’ will happen later. This is so typical of changes that have happened in the past. The wonderful idea is not well thought out put it is presented as the way education is supposed to be taught without any reality check being done.
          I agree with Angela. This whole program sounds wonderful and might work in the larger centres but what about the schools in outlining areas that don’t have the resources? will all schools be provided with all the materials necessary to run a ‘shop’ program and a foods program and a video production program and calculus classes and any other ‘singleton course’ at a small school? be realistic here. NOT everything can be taught on line, nor can ‘learing issues’ be diagnosed on line. Are you suggesting that , what the children who need help; want a particular program should travel/stay with relatives in a larger centre in order to achieve success?
          Please,can we get beyond the rhetoric!

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      • Janet says:

        I like the idea of more flexible learning opportunities…but I don’t think this issue is so black and white. It is a good point about too much choice at a young age might be overwhelming and a child may shut down. It may also limit possibilities for learning new things they may not otherwise choose for themselves. I agree that choice of curriculum would at best need to be gradual and based on age and per student. In high school, this may be the most effective time to do this. I remember being in high school and going to a school which provided greater choices of subjects, ones that I wanted to take…I knew what I wanted to study and my grades improved because I was motivated to study subjects I was interested in. I did not do well in subjects which taxed me. I was not very good at that them because I was not interested in the subject,…later in life I had the maturity to go back and study some of these things and I did well. I did not see the importance of learning some of the things which adults thought were important, at that time, like the history of my own country….now I love to learn about these things. But in school I was so taxed, because I was not accepted for my attitude and I was scarred by the disapproval of some teachers and my parents. If I had been given the okay and approval about my choices then I think I would have had more confidence in myself after high school.
        Unfortunately, school can be a place where children still learn they are not good enough or dumb, even if they are very intelligent because they may not want to or be able to fit into the mold or not get good grades. This is really sad and I think this if anything needs to change the most. There is a great loss to society by trying to teach a cannon which an ‘expert’ deems to be important and who may be completely out of touch with what is really going on in children’s heads and what needs to be learned to benefit them the most. We need to get our heads out of the sand. It might be what they want to learn that will enable them to be able to feel confident in themselves. Also, our children need to learn how to learn really so that when they leave school they can continue to learn on their own, to succeed, as well as be able to learn from their mistakes,(to not mean merely failure).

        Also I think some children do very well with choosing for themselves, while others might need and or prefer more guidance and choice made for them. It would always depend on the child…some children, like those with special needs, will need more intervention. Always though, I believe all children need to be given choices, no matter what their abilities, so that children learn how to choose and learn from the consequences and I think children need to feel a sense of some control over their own lives.

        There are many fine things to learn which could be of benefit to children but are not being taught because they are not on the curriculum. I don’t see the point of many of the things being taught especially if children are so bored that they turn off from learning. I see that happening in the classroom everyday. I would say that most children are not really that engaged in the curriculum as it is….at the moment I am not sure we are doing our kids what is best for them curriculum wise and/or in the way it is being taught.

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        • Moderator Chrysstena says:

          What types of changes do you feel we could make to ensure that all learners have what they need within the system? You mention that there are many things to learn that are not being taught. Can you share your thoughts on this? The benefits of giving choice to young people and allowing them to learn from them, is an important one at all ages and continues to be important to adults as well. Teaching them to learn well is also very important and a great point, particularly as they move through the school system and get less help with the way they learn.

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          • Janet says:

            I have to think about that. Also maybe we need ask them? What would happen if we did? We would probably get a variety of answers. The aspiring visual artist would want to study art…there are many things to learn in that subject area and there can be crossover learning in other areas. For example a musical student might be willing to learn to write if they can write about their favourite musicians.

            Here is a very interesting and inspiring video, of an innovative school, High Tech High In California and educator, Larry Rosenstock. This was sent to us by the principal of my child’s school recently. Larry Rosenstock will be speaking in my child’s school this month. Check it out:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rv_rmJYorE&feature=share&fb_source=message

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            • Janet says:

              I am no expert, but I will ask Mr. Rosenstock questions regarding flexibility and choice.

              Rosenstock feels that “it is not asking a 15 year old to mis-predict what they will be doing as an adult, because they don’t know.” I agree there, students often will not know what they want to do as adults and why should they? I am an advocate of allowing more choice and self determination as a way to facilitate learning. To learn how to learn. A child motivated by a subject they are engaged and inspired to learn is a sponge. For example, a child can and will learn a second language quickly if you go to that country and the child wants to make friends.

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        • Lee Anne says:

          Well put Janet!
          The ‘choice’ is key to learning. Choice takes mega bucks!
          There is a sense that ‘those on high’ don’t have a clue as to the realities facing our children. They, ‘those on high’, think in terms of what looks good, is most cost effective.
          Kids are bored/turned off because they are not interested in what is being ‘served up’ at their local high school.
          A variety of reasons, all stemming from when they are younger and carried over to high school where the expectation is that all will graduate with university entrance.
          You are correct, some children do well choosing for themselves, they are the lucky ones who have known since they were young exactly what they wanted to do.
          Perhaps the government should drop the ‘flexibility’ mantra and take on the ‘choice’ option.
          Some of us take more time to discover our’passions’and need to be offered a variety of choices that help us to decided where we want to ‘go in life’.
          BUT all of this means that a full slate of courses has to be offered at all schools and that costs money. It is okay in larger centres because you can have ‘charter’/satellite schools but in the smaller areas… this is going to be a challenge.

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    18. Liz says:

      - Excessive administration.
      – Underfunding.

      What is working to create flexibilty? Integration of special-needs students! Flexibility means opening your mind to differences so you can solve problems. Flexiblity means respecting different points of view. This is the core of special education programming! Special education = flexibility training for educational staff = wider acceptance and even encouraging differing learning environments.

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    19. Penny Barner says:

      As an administrator in a Montessori school, I see flexible learning opportunities all the time in the classroom. The Montessori philosophy is all about “follow the child” and individualized learning and has been for over 100 years. Why reinvent the wheel? The models are out there for the Ministry to see. In my mind, with teachers trained in Montessori and a flexible curriculum, there are many for benefits than challenges.

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      • Peter Harvey says:

        My two girls went to Montessori for a couple of years and then we switched them to Waldorf. Of course there are public schools, and home schooling etc. They all seem to have their place. I notice that the public schools are trying to adopt some of the methods and principles from alternatives like Waldorf. I think the Province should do a better job of supporting these choices – both within the public system and via the alternative schools. This support should first and foremost be increased financial support. I also like the charter school concept adopted in California. Parents know what they like and what is good for their kids – give us choice.

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        • Lee Anne says:

          Interesting idea Peter. Do you get the same sense that I do. The public school system is loosing children to ‘other options’ and is now trying to figure out a way to get the numbers up by trying desperatly to find a new ‘term of reference’/label for education.
          CHOICE! what a wonderful idea.

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    20. Wanda Chalk says:

      Very careful consideration should be given to grouping students by ability rather than age. I am concerned that those children who are perceived to be slow learners will feel early on in life that they just don’t measure up if some of their peers are advanced to higher ability classes. We all know that scholastic achievment does not necessarily make someone utlimately successful in life. Also, children have different ways of learning so moving those who “get” the way as certain subject is being taught does not make them “smarter” than those who can learn the same thing just differently. Perhaps keeping children together by age and allowing learning at a different pace or by a different method would work. Would need creativity on behalf of the teacher but they should be supplied with different teaching techniques.

      I am also a fan of split classes if achieved “by design” as opposed to make the numbers work. There is school in Manitoba that works this way and I can see it working well. It allows the older kids to help the younger ones – best way to really learn something is to teach someone else. In fact the younger kids are encouraged to seek help from the older students before asking the teacher. The children have the same teacher for two years in a row and thus alternate between being the younger and the older in the class. This also allows a range of teaching options – “smart” younger ones can learn the older curriculum and older children who need more time to progress can work on the curriculum of the younger group if necessary.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        You are describing a Montessori environment! :) Children learning at their own pace, teachers using varying techniques for different students, older students being mentors and helping to teach the younger students in multi-age classrooms, students having teachers for more than one year — all available in Montessori schools around the country already!

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      • Kevin says:

        I certainly agree with the idea of split classes working well. I do wonder if we are all talking about the same thing when we say grouping by abilities. What do you mean? Are you talking about groupings of similar age around ability or just simply by perceived ability? In other words a grade 7 student with a learning disability in writing, working with 6 year olds who write at the same level? I would assume not . If you mean grouping around certain skills at appropriate times that certainly makes a lot of sense.

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      • Lee Anne says:

        While I agree, split classes do work in some situations. Not all students achieve in such situations.

        I am a firm believer in putting an emphasis on funding at the elementary level to help diagnose and ‘deal with’ ( for want of a better phrase) learing ‘differences’/issues. If a issue is diagnosed at primary level there are programs to assits the student to get to grade level. The longer an ‘issue’ is left undiagnosed the harder to overcome; the more loss of self esteem and the less sucess.

        Split classes are a great way of dealing with an undiagnosed issue and they are a wonderful way of ‘dealing’with children who are not quite at grade level but lets not kid ourselves. The children in 5/6 classes are very well aware that they ‘aren’t as smart’ as the children in a 6/7 split. I don’t care how you present it.

        High school is important for helping children train for their future but elementary school is the time when their ‘pattern’ of learning is set for life.

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      • Wanda Chalk said, “I am also a fan of split classes if achieved “by design” as opposed to make the numbers work” and other commenters have written their support split classes as well.

        First of all, it has been my experience that split-grade classes are implemented for economic reasons (as you said, “to make the numbers work”), not pedagogical reasons. For example, if school district administrators give a K-7 elementary school a budget of, say, 6 full-time teachers then the school MUST combine classes because they don’t have enough teachers to do otherwise. If economics forces us to do that then so be it, but let’s at least be clear that the reason we are doing so is for economic reasons, not pedagogical reasons.

        Second of all, let’s acknowledge a basic economics fundamental regarding split-grade classes. A teacher responsible for one grade-level has less learning outcomes, less IRPs, less associated complexity and less associated planning than if they are responsible for 2 or more grade-levels. A teacher has a miniscule and finite amount of time they can spend preparing their lessons (this point alone deserves separate treatment). Using the available prep time, an average teacher should be able to prepare acceptable lessons for a target grade-level. If the same teacher is then required to teach a multigrade-level class using the same prep time then it should be obvious that the quality of instruction is going to be less. We don’t magically get more by implementing split-grade classes; we are simply making due with less teachers by making compromises to quality.

        Yes, split-grade classes may have some benefits for some students, some of the time; and there may be strategies teachers can use to maximize their effectiveness and efficiency if they are required to teach a split-grade class, but let’s be honest with ourselves; whenever we require teachers to achieve more outcomes (as in multi-grade classes) teachers will either need more resources (prep-time, pro-d, experience, etc) or the quality of instruction will go down.

        There is no free lunch and a mature and sustainable education system will acknowledge that reality.

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    21. Lee Anne says:

      There has been a great deal of talk about whose definition of ‘flexiblity’ would be used; what the heck is the definition of flexiblity and how on earth do you implement ‘it’- whatever the chosen definition.
      There has been much debate on the values/benifits of learning outcomes; core programing; etc.

      I agree that the devil is in the details. They system is broken, it broke in the 1980’s when the government of the day insisted that all children must go to university. ( period) After that came the slow decay of a system that, admitidly was broken at the time. What resulted was years of trying to redifine what they system should be; what it meant etc. Programs were re written with great speed and little accuracy/caring for the outcomes. ‘old’ ideas were given new names and reintroduced only to be revamped three years later.

      The ‘thing’ is, as I see it, we all agree the system needs to be changed but PLEASE lets not do it in haste; lets stop the ‘bashing’ of all sides and remember that in the middle of all this is a young mind that thirsts for knowledge. This little mind comes into Elementary school with a great love of all things and a curiosity that is not limited by conventions and ‘rules’. YES some children need help learing to read;to do maths and that does need to be addressed when they are young. The money, the time, the resources MUST go into the system at the beginning( primary school, elementary level). Help the children learn to read; become confident learners/thinkers; help them to unlock the mysteries of math and sciences;have SMALL class sizes; encourage them to ASK questions and by the time they do get to high school they will be reading and willing to enter this new ‘reality’.

      At the high school level there needs to be an understanding that all children WILL NOT want to go to university. Some want to be mechanics; plumbers; drywallers; bus drivers; waitresses and waiters etc and these children deserve the best education we can give them, not a system that tells them they MUST have university entrance courses. Some want to be doctors; lawyers; teachers; accountants; engineers etc and they to deserve the best education we can offer them.

      The key is, as I see it, to put choices back into the schools. If ‘charter schools’ are the way to go the do it. Open school boundaries to allow children to go to the school that meets their needs and desires. By the time a child reaches grade 10 they do know in their heart of hearts what they want to do. Sometimes we parents have a hard time hearing what they are saying because we are so worried that our child might not ‘measure up’ to the neighbours.

      I don’t know any employer who cares to hoots whether or not you were on the honor roll. They want to know if you are passionate about what you are doing; if you can think outside the box;are you competent and trustworthy.

      As a society we have stressed the money that can be/should be made and we wonder why the children leave school and expect instant millionaire status without putting in any effort.

      Wake up! the system is broken, the fix isn’t going to happen overnight( my definition is that overnight these days = the term of a government) and it isn’t going to happen by throwing around complex undefined terminology that baffles people with the brilliance of the writing and dazzles them with the BS.

      IF this is going to happen, if the government is serious, accept that change takes TIME! We all need to stop the blame game and focus on the task at hand. How do we best meet then learning desires of our sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters in a way that teaches them that not everyone wins; that sometimes failure is the best, if not harshest, teacher and that above all else what matters is that you ‘don’t settle’ for less than your best.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        You make some very valid points in your post and we are definately committed to listening the people’s voices here. This is not something that will be done quickly or without thought and assistance from the citizens of BC (through this blog), experts in the field and Ministry personnel. Having a forum like this available to the public is a good indication that this government wants to hear what people say. We are listening and the BC Education Plan will be built with the information gathered from this forum as a top priority in building the details of the Plan.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        SO many good points in this comment! Fitting the education to meet the needs of the students is key…and going slowly to make the necessary changes is a must. We don’t need another quick fix that is undermined before it’s even been implemented!

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    22. Stephanie says:

      Age is a good place to start. I would have to say assesment needs to come into play the first day they are attending any kind of school, be it preschool or public school. That assessment should look for learning style. Not ability at that point! In large schools they could be placed with teachers that teach to meet their learning style. In smaller schools the teachers could be prepared to group the children and teach them the way they learn. Not expect them to learn the way they teach.
      The montosori methods should be embraced at public school. Students are placed by their abilities and needs.
      Most teachers are constantly assessing students, why not place the student according to their needs. Let them move from the 3rd grade class to the 4th for math if that is where they excell. And then back to the third grade classroom for other studies that they are at that level.
      Does that help? There are many ways to have children with their peers, but they all involve some type of assessment.
      I am a big fan of TRIBES.
      Teaching the whole child, and you need to know that child to teach them. The first week of school is not for instruction it is for getting to know the class and it members needs. Then the teacher knows who to teach them, who likes what and who would work together well or not. knowing and connecting with the students, I feel, is key to success for all.

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    23. Grandma says:

      Benefits: very few; lots of paperwork
      Challenges: many

      Flexibility sounds nice, but is a lofty plan fraught with problems, as Jaime notes. Too many students graduate without basic skills now, so more flexibility will not produce better results.

      I am sorry, but math skills are best taught the old-fashioned way with drills, memorizing timetables and homework. The personal interest “flexible” system for developing writing skills has been a fail also, as many gen X and Y adults can not write and have to be re-trained at work or in university.

      It is not necessary to teach creativity, as most children were born with this ability, and it can be nurtured at home and within a standard curriculum. Critical thinking is important and children should be allowed to have different views from their teachers. They should not be failed if they write an good essay that does not agree with the teacher’s views on the environment or gay community.

      The BC curriculum has many learning objectives that are fluffy and specious and also “politically correct” propaganda. Get back to the 3 “r” s, as they are still needed for the 21st C., as they were for the 20th. Most parents do not want the schools to teach morals and sex ed, as that is our job as parents. We actually do not want you to teach much on teamwork or world community causes.

      It is very important to have standardized testing, as this is the way real life measures graduated students. In the work place, people are tested and incompetent people are fired.

      As a learning disability specialist, I know well that some children should enter school a year later than their peers to give them a chance to mature. Fall-born children with poor visual-motor skills should not enter grade one at age 5/6. In later years (grades 9 up), children who are lazy should be failed.

      In my grade 2 class, we had canaries, robins and bluebirds, so that was a useful way for the teacher to give the gifted canaries harder work, while helping the bluebirds. We already knew by age 7 that not everyone learns at the same speed, so pretending that everyone is “equal” fails at age 5, when kids learn this by themselves (ask the 5-year-olds). That is about as much flexibility that teachers like Jaime can handle. Personal Learning Plans are going to be a massive fail, as t6eachers will have to spend more time assessing and reporting rather than teaching.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        I understand your position, but I think if you checked out the Montessori philosophy you would find a method of education that would fit the bill for all children in BC. It provides a much more satisfying experience for students and teachers alike, not to mention preparing the children for the real world. You might be especially interested in the math curriculum, which starts in preschool with the basics of geometry and algebra! :)

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      • Stephanie says:

        The three Rs are still taught, I don’t think anyone feels they need to go away. But do they really need to be happening right up to grade 11 and 12? perhaps not!
        Students in BC can fail after grade 8, unfortunately they get shoved up to that point with or without the skills they need. Then it is a bit to late for those lazy kids, or smart kids who figured out they didn’t need to do the work to move up a grade, to catch up or keep up.
        Yes assessment is the real world. it needs to happen.
        May I suggest you read Geoff Johnsons article in the TC. I have always liked the way he looks at schools.
        http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/Individual+approach+learning+change/5914154/story.html

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        • Lara says:

          Geoff writes:
          But it can be, and has been, done. A “teacher adviser” system will become critically important so that every student has one teacher, one guide and mentor who is assigned to keep track of everything the students in his/her daily adviser group are doing. “Geoff, I see from your unit testing log results that you are way ahead with your English course but seem to be avoiding Math, so time for some catch-up by Friday.”

          OK, but will teachers be so busy with keeping track of this that they dont’ have to time to actually teach or instruct? I fear that a teacher will be given even more students to monitor, leaving them little time to mentor, instruct and help students. The students I teach every day are so used to being told what to do, that there are right answers to everything, that to ask them to plan their own program and find the resources to pull it off, let alone know when they have mastered a topic, is a bit of a reach. I love the idea of choice balanced with learning basic skills like the three Rs and critical thinking (are we really prepared to teach this, to have students question everything?). I just want to make sure I am given the freedom and support to make this an authentic learning experience for the youth of today in the context of community. Personalized learning plans need to keep community building in mind, otherwise we will keep building the “bubble” mindset of everyone for themselves which currently dominates society and schools.

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    24. T Palmer says:

      Offering any more options requires funding, it’s time for the BC government to discontinue all funding to private institutions whether they are scholastic or religious. We have separation of state and religion and this should be followed in our funding as well. This will increase the amount available for our public school system, and enable us to increase the options available for the students. We should also be looking at the european style of apprenticing students, so that when they graduate they have a viable trade, these jobs are already starting to be filled by imported trades people and we still have high unemployment among our younger generation.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        As the administrator of a non-profit Montessori school, we very much appreciate our 50% funding from the provincial government. Our families, most of whom are not wealthy but truly believe in the philosophy, pay the balance of the cost to educate their children, which is slightly over 50%. If we did not receive government funding, we would have to close down the school. The BC government would then have to pay 100% of the cost to educate these children. In addition, we do not draw on the public purse for capital costs (buildings, playgrounds, etc). We are not the only non-profit, private school that would have to close if funding was discontinued, meaning that there were be many more thousands of students to be educated at 100% of the cost, plus capital costs to be spent on buildings, materials, books, playgrounds, etc. In my view, this will not add to the funds available for the public school system, but would reduce them.

        As taxpayers, parents in private schools support the public system 100%. It doesn’t seem unfair that 50% of those tax dollars be directed toward the education of their children in the school of their choice.

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    25. Jo says:

      There are benefits for those students who are highly motivated – they can excel quickly and remain engaged (not bored with having to “wait” for their fellow students to catch up).

      However, I’m not sure the stats on how many of that type of learner exists. I live in the Mill Bay area and have 2 teens at Frances Kelsey – it is a flexible (self paced) high school, and we have no other high school options in our area other than to send the kids to Duncan.

      Our kids, their wide circle of friends, and lots of other parents we know are fed up with this self-paced system b/c it doesn’t have classroom instruction options. One single mom we know has sent their son to live w/his dad in Victoria so that their son can get back on track in a high school that has regular classrooms and realistic expectations of assignment/test completion.

      It would be awesome to have both options in that one school (or please build us another, with teachers who hold classes!) We have gone to parent-teacher meetings where the teacher has told us that there is no “timeline” for any assignments to be completed, and no timeline for graduation. The kids know that too. If you were a teen again….think back to if you had a choice to do school work or just hang with your friends in the caffeteria and not have anyone on your case about it…what would motivate you?

      So despite our greatest efforts our son is now about a year behind some of his other friends who have managed/struggled to stay on time – he is not going to graduate this year as he should be. We now pay for tutors instead, and have him in some online courses that we can sit with him at home on the computer and assist his learning in the evenings – we also on a regular basis let him stay home – he can zip through more work at home than at the school where many kids just spend time socializing.

      Flexible options are nice, but in the Mill Bay area all we have is flexible….most of the kids we know would do better at structured.

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      • Bev says:

        The situation in my school district is a bit different. We have one high school out of five that is also self paced. While it seems like a great idea because, if you are motivated, you can get ahead of the normal pace and graduate early. The big problem is as you stated. A lot of the students are not ready for a non-classroom situation and do not function well in the flexible timeline atmosphere. It was so bad for grade 8’s not finishing courses by the end of June each year that after a couple of years they actually had to change the program somewhat and give the grade 8’s more structure. I’ve had 2 relatives go to that school because they were in that catchment area – both students got behind and then had to transfer out to a “traditional” high school. Right now, the “flexible” high school is running at about 60% of capacity while other high schools in our district are at 88% and one is running at 159% capacity. I can’t say if the low capacity rating is due to parents not wanting their kids in that type of system or if there are other reasons for it, but when I saw the figures it stuck out in my mind – particularly as that will be my daughter’s catchment high school when she is old enough.

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        • Kevin says:

          An excellent concrete example Bev. I think one of the key pieces of flexibility is how we can better structure our elementary schools to help students be successful in high school or whatever they take on later in life. The same basic thinking skills like goal setting and reflecting are needed in our citizens regardless of their post elementary school path. What kinds of things would you like to see “built into” your kids in say the K-7 range? For my kids I want them by grade 7 to have strong core abilities (literacy and numeracy) and strong critical skills coupled with the ability to self-reflect. This will be of utmost importance regardless of their career choices.

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          • Bev says:

            Kevin, I’m not sure if we’re getting a bit off topic here, but since you ask….

            In elementary school I’d like to see an emphasis on core skills. In math, I’d like to have the kids go back to really learning the times tables rather than “just understanding the concept”. If that means rote memorization for some kids or learning songs or rhymes for other kids that’s fine. Also, teach kids to count money. I was astounded to see 2 grade 7 students not be able to figure out how to give back the correct change at a bake sale when a customer gave them a toonie to pay for a $0.75 purchase. Also, a similar emphasis on reading, writing, and spelling. No matter what century we’re in, we’ll need to know how to do this.

            I’d like parents to teach children about personal responsibility and have it reinforced in the school setting. i.e. if you’re supposed to do something and you don’t, then there are appropriate consequences. I’d like to see the younger children learn how to find information – not just in text books, but also from other books, the internet, interviews, etc. I’d like to see children be able to ask questions and be able to form their own opinions as is appropriate for their age and not just accept everything “because so and so told me that”.

            I’d like the children to learn how to use the planners that we parents are asked to buy. Have them learn about how to break down a project and allocate time for it, how to set goals and devise ways to reach those goals.

            I’d like teachers to keep “portfolios” of what are children are doing and show them to us when we come in for meetings. Also, have examples of what is expected of the children at those meetings so we can see if our child is doing poorly, doing average, or doing great.

            I’d also like to see some instruction on internet/computer use. I know, this should be coming from the parents, but let’s face it, kids often know more about computers than the parents do. I’d like to see emphasis on computer safety and teaching the children not to believe everything that they read on the internet as being the gospel truth.

            Lastly, I think it’s really important for there to be a way of assessing the children on a regular basis and reporting that to the parents. Not only for WHAT the child is learning but also HOW the child is learning. Does he or she seem to learn best by reading or perhaps by doing a hands-on project? Are there learning difficulties or perhaps is the child “gifted” (for lack of a better word)? I think this really needs to be done when the children are young so that difficulties can be addressed early.

            I don’t want much do I? Personally I think a lot of these things are already being done in classrooms, but as a parent, I don’t always hear about it. So maybe there’s a communication factor involved too.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        In my mind, flexibility should not mean a free for all! It sounds as though Frances Kelsey needs to review their philosophy!

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    26. T. Tomson says:

      I see both benefits and challenges in offering more flexible learning to our students. By being more flexible we will allow for broader learning opportunities that will engage our students individually. Students will be better able to balance their strengths and areas of individual need with teacher support; however I also see some challenges in flexible learning if it becomes too flexible. We may find that some students are slipping through the cracks; this could be for many reasons such as the student who needs a strongly structured classroom to be successful in his or her education. I believe that for flexible education opportunities to be successful for all students that there will need to be options and accountability for our students in various ways. The way our educational system is setup now does not fit for every student and neither will a fully flexible educational system, we need to have a balance that will incorporate the various learning styles and abilities of each of our students allowing them all to be individually successful. Classroom sizes are also a concern, if classrooms continue to be the size that they are and each student is on a flexible educational plan there may be less time for teachers to spend one-on-one time with students, however if classroom sizes were smaller then this could be an advantage to our students as they will then have more opportunities for learning on their personal path.

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    27. It is so very difficult to make comments on “flexible learning opportunities” when people hold various ideas about what that means. The comments submitted have several interpretations. In addition flexibility discussed in isolation of other factors – class size, funding, grade level, and resources is dangerous.

      So, flexible learning opportunities – appropriate choice options at each developmental level. In our education system lets help children to develop the skills to make good choices – we can not assume that all children will come to school with this ability or develop it “naturally”. We, as teachers, can provide opportunities for students to choose the topic, or the method of instruction, or the way they want to demonstrate their learning. It is not always possible to provide all three options. In addition, at the younger grades we first have to teach/model/introduce students to the various ways of showing their learning. Sometimes the flexibility is as simple as allowing a student to work on the floor or at a table, or the choice between two reading assignments.
      Flexible learning opportunities should not be about “Do you want to go to school today?” or “Do you want to learn how to add?” We need to be clear about these things.
      Thank you Jill and Pat – I enjoyed reading your posts.

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    28. C. Welch says:

      I think those who are excited about the possibilities of more choice and flexibility in education need to think about the consequences.

      For example, at the secondary level (let’s say Grades 10 to 12), can we imagine individualized learning without an “open campus”? Almost every proposal I read seems to require an institution where students arrive and leave at different times, and where they may not come at all. In this kind of situation, “attendance” becomes a meaningless term. As a secondary teacher, I would personally welcome an open campus, but it comes at a cost. Schools will no longer be responsible for student safety in the same way they are now. How could they be? With students here, there and everywhere, how could a school possibly track all of its students like it does now? And, if I’m right about an open campus, are parents and the surrounding community willing to accept the responsibility for the safety of hundreds of 15 and 16 year-olds? It’s easy to decry the “factory” model of schooling, but at least a factory has the capacity to track and therefore take on the responsibility for its employees.

      Here’s another question: If learning is to be truly personalized, and become largely one-on-one, what will happen to the students who are not conversing with teacher-mentors but are still in the building? More specifically, who will supervise them? If the kids hang out like they do at lunch time, the noise will make any meaningful dialogue or work impossible inside the classrooms. So supervision costs will likely rise significantly.
      I also think we’re going to have to accept much lower completion rates. If more of the responsibility is placed on students, we will have to accept that many will NOT meet the challenge. The belief that we can offer educational autonomy to adolescents and expect excellent completion rates at the same time is, in a word, naïve. I don’t know a single secondary teacher who thinks otherwise. The distributed learning world certainly provides evidence of this problem, particularly as the degree of student autonomy (and asynchronous leaning) increases. Again, on a personal level, I don’t think lower completion rates are a bad thing, as I believe that failure – however it’s measured – is an invaluable tool that teaches lessons that may not be otherwise teachable. But is the community prepared to accept lower completion numbers? Will the education apparatchiks, who think the only good thing is a thing measured, survive the shock? ;-)

      If you’re willing to treat adolescents as adults, and face the consequences, then I say, “Have ‘atter!” But don’t think there won’t be serious challenges in the world of “21st century learning”.

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    29. mom says:

      more more more……we make it so flexible that they NEVER need to ADJUST their learning! Seems whenever a student doesn’t WANT to try, work or learn – EVERYONE is jumping to the pump for that LAZY kid! WHY can it work for the the majority of kids? hmmmm…maybe because they actually try and work at it – or they have parents that are present and participating in LIFE! Will the REAL WORLD (whatever that is these days) KEEP on being so flexible for this ‘Y should I?’ generation? The BEST way to HELP these kids learn NOW – is to HELP them learn how to adjust themselves to the requirements at hand! Otherwise they are in for Rude awakening. We are getting TOO FAR away from REAL interaction, continuity, and social skills! How flexible do we want to be? Flex everyone into solitary computer screens and working on a variety of ‘flexible’ curriculum? There needs to be some requirements and MORE MEASUREMENT of students AND teachers AND overall Education!!!

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    30. I worry that students will not be graduating was a rounded individual. If they forced to make a choice early in their life, will they be locked into that choice further down the line? Will that choice have less pay and fewer benefits? If this only being done to save taxpayer dollars and get the kids out of school before Grade 12? Will the kids be able to do just as well on their exams if they are working full time and studying? What does “flexible” look like?

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        All good questions, Naomi. One of the main drivers behind the BC Education Plan and this conversation we’re having is a recognition that the world is far different for students today than it was for all of us when we went to school. We need to make changes to our education system to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world. Part of that change will involve more flexibility and choice, so that begs the question of how we enable and support those things and how we reconcile that versus a system that has relied heavily on a more standardized approach for a long time. There are lots of issues and questions for us to address and we all need to commit ourselves to making an effort to do so.

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        • C. Welch says:

          Hi Mike,

          Naomi’s question – and one that remains unanswered – is a critical one: What exactly does “flexible” look like? Unfortunately, the Ministry is not providing any concrete examples.

          I know what you’re going to say: “We need to have a conversation before we can provide examples.” The problem with this is that everyone on the BCEdplan forum seems to be providing a different model or example! As a result, most of the forum discussions seem to have a scattered, unreal, pie-in-the-sky quality to them. This is not a criticism, but a recognition of reality; without common reference points, what else can we do?

          So, could the BCEdplan moderators provide at least a few concrete examples of changes that might actually happen? With these in hand, we might have more fruitful discussions based on actual proposals.

          This lack of specifics also sheds light on why so many secondary teachers (literally every one that I’ve talked to) are so resistant to the Ministry’s enthusiasms. The gov’t wants changes to our contract FIRST, and then changes to the system AFTERWARD. In other words, the gov’t is seems to be saying, “We don’t really know what we want yet (or won’t tell you), but we need radical contract changes beforehand. Trust us to implement systemic changes after the contract is changed.” Well, it doesn’t take a BCTF rep. to tell you that this is a deal for chumps.

          Details must come first, and not in the hazy future, if you want your agenda shared by others.

          One final comment. You say the following: there is “a recognition that the world is far different for students today than it was for all of us when we went to school. We need to make changes to our education system to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world.” Again, this seems like a string of Rousseauian slogans tied together without a lot of specifics. What exactly ARE these differences that are so crucial? What challenges exist now that didn’t 30 years ago? Try as I might, I don’t see anything more on this website beyond vague generalities.

          So let us get more specific, and let us aim for more meaningful – and realistic – dialogue.

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          • Moderator Rebekah says:

            We do have some great examples of what is happening globally and locally (in BC) on our It’s Happening page. The very words flexibility and choice indicate that we are not looking for one cookie-cutter new way of doing things but instead are looking at a variety of new tools and options to allow students to customize their learning experience to best suit their needs and the needs of our society as a whole. If you have additional examples of great teaching tools/techniques or learning methodologies, please share them!

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            • C. Welch says:

              Hi Rebekah,

              I appreciate the link you posted about BC school initiatives, and the specific examples certainly are interesting. Of course, since they’re already happening, it’s not clear why the system as a whole needs to change if the current system already supports these innovations.

              And speaking of the system, I’m more interested in macro organizational changes – changes to the system, in other words. Assuming we actually do need significant changes, how will entire schools be organized and administered, for example? What sort of the things is the Ministry thinking of changing at its own end?

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              • Moderator Chrysstena says:

                There are schools in the province that currently offer more choice and flexibility than other schools, but not all learners have the opportunity to attend these schools. The idea behind the BC Education Plan is to recognize what is working well within our schools and what isn’t and to try and provide all learners with more flexibility and choice. The plan is a framework and will continue to be developed as we collect and analyze information from this website. Experts from the field, as well as Ministry personnel will be looking at all aspects of the education system, including organizational change, as the details of the plan are formed.

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            • Janet Steffenhagen’s December 29th front page article in the Vancouver Sun is an invitation to each of us to participate in the education change being considered by the BC Ministry of Education.  Most helpful was the link to this government forum and the thoughtful commentary found here. I was particularly interested also in links to education resources in other provinces and countries, especially Finland. Our polar neighbour of 5.5 million people not only excels at our favourite sport, hockey, they also lead internationally in educational outcomes in the OECD PISA rankings as many readers have learned. A recently published book (English language, by Teachers Press, Columbia University, USA ) titled Finnish Lessons, by Finn Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, gives excellent insight into Finland’s education transformation and the reasons behind its success in education, a success that even surprised many Finns. (My local library was able to order a copy of this book. I wish it were available as an eBook as I heard the initial printing has since sold out). The Finnish experience is one that we cannot afford to ignore. Interestingly, similar initiatives in education are taking place in Alberta, Korea and Japan as noted in this book. Dr. Sahlberg has getting a lot of press since publication of the book. Here is an example from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/from-finland-an-intriguing-school-reform-model.html?_r=1&hpw
              Readers might find his blog of interest: http://www.pasisahlberg.com/blog/?p=32
              But check out your local library for a copy of the book and perhaps a link can be placed on the BCED site. It is a long journey and as one commenter noted, it takes time, but we owe it to our children.

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          • You said, “This lack of specifics also sheds light on why so many secondary teachers (literally every one that I’ve talked to) are so resistant to the Ministry’s enthusiasms. The gov’t wants changes to our contract FIRST, and then changes to the system AFTERWARD…Details must come first, and not in the hazy future, if you want your agenda shared by others…”

            While experience has taught me to share your skepticism, I don’t completely agree with one of your points.

            The purpose of consultation is to gather input so that more informed and hopefully better decisions can be made by decision-makers. It seems to me that in order for consultation to be authentic, decisions cannot be made until AFTER the consultation has been completed and considered.

            So I think that the details of the BC Education Plan need to be determined AFTER public consultation has been completed and AFTER the associated public input has been duly considered; the data collected should inform the decisions that will be made.

            If anything, I suspect that the BC Education Plan was TOO detailed before the government started publicly consulting education professionals, students and the public. But I am willing to trust that the BC Education Plan as it has been communicated so far is just a framework intended to help organize and focus a comprehensive public consultation process. I am also willing to trust that the consultation will be authentic, meaning that critical decisions will not be made until AFTER public consultation has been completed and public input has been duly considered by decision-makers.

            If the government had first spelled out a specific and detailed plan for education reform and then attempted to engage in authentic consultation with the “stakeholders” then everyone would rightfully roll their eyes and say, “What’s the point of providing input when the decisions have already been made?”

            I consider this website to be an opportunity to provide input to the government BEFORE the decisions are made. If, after public consultation is completed, the government should happen to make bad decisions despite contrary advice and comments from education professionals, students and the public (via this website and any other efforts at public consultation) then at least the government will not be able to claim ignorance of the advice and comments they received. So this website is a chance to have our say, and we can use it to leverage improvements to our education system over time.

            I suggest that we all speak up and contribute constructive comments and suggestions regarding education reform in BC, then let’s see what the government decides to do with our input.

            It should be clear to all that there is ample skepticism about the BC Education Plan and related processes, however it remains to be seen how the government will choose to proceed once public consultations have been completed.

            Hopefully, the government will consider all the public input then make good decisions that will help improve the education system in BC.

            If they don’t, then we can always vote for alternative representation during the next election.

            And if necessary, the comments and suggestions recorded on this website may help us do that ;-)

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            • Moderator Chrysstena says:

              You are absolutely right in saying that this site is here for public consultation prior to making any firm decisions about the BC Education Plan. We want to hear the voices of as many people in this province as we can and collect analyze the data surrounding the collective voices of the people of BC. The framework for the plan is where we begin. We want to provide all of the citizens of the Province the opportunity to contribute to this site and share your views on what you feel is working and what isn’t, and what you feel needs to be changed in order to create a education that every learner can be successful in. Please share this site with everyone you know and encourage them to comment and please continue to stay in the conversation as questions change in the coming weeks and months.

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            • C. Welch says:

              Hi Richard,

              While I agree that an open consultation period should normally precede policy making, I also know that BCPSEA is asking for a large number of contract concessions in the name of “21st century learning”. Since these negotiations are occurring now, and systemic changes may take many years to implement, teachers are being asked to trust the government: grant us concessions now, and we promise to implement systemic innovation at some later date!

              Like I’ve said before, you don’t need to be a BCTF executive member to realize what a potentially bad deal this is for teachers.

              As a result, if the Ministry is serious about building trust, then it needs more up-front specifics about its organizational commitments (like I’ve mentioned above). Otherwise, the cynics will look good, and 21st century learning – and this website – will just seem like a smokescreen for good ‘ol union busting. I sure hope the cynics are incorrect.

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              • C. Welch said, “…I also know that BCPSEA is asking for a large number of contract concessions in the name of “21st century learning”…”

                Clearly the BC Education Plan is currently a work-in-progress with few details decided yet, so it is premature for the government to be demanding contract concessions at the negotiating table regarding the BC Education Plan.

                It seems to me that the cart may be getting before the horse. There will not be a successful contract without clarity and understanding on both sides.

                However, I see no problem with teacher union negotiators continuing to negotiate with the government (and refusing to sign off on unspecified or unclarified items) while individual professional educators continue to brainstorm and otherwise collaborate regarding the direction and details of the BC Education Plan.

                If the BC Education Plan did not incorporate the suggestions and advice of the majority of education professionals in BC, what kind of plan would it be? We need every professional educator in BC to speak up and share when they have something constructive to offer.

                And we need a centralized and permanent venue for such collaboration but I have commented on that already elsewhere on this website.

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    31. Tina says:

      I just wanted to clarify the ‘Daily Quote’ (that I wrote).
      “Teaching students the ability to be flexible and make choices should be at the heart of a strong curriculum. In the constantly changing world in which students will be working and living, these two abilities will give them the edge in life.”
      I am a strong believer in helping students develop the skills to be flexible and make choices. This is NOT the same as providing flexible learning opportunities.
      I am more than a little concerned about ‘more flexible learning opportunities’. I think the idea of flexible learning opportunities is at best a great idea, at worst, a learning design fraught with several flaws.

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    32. Jason McMain says:

      Please, dont’ get trapped into thinking that the majority of learning will take place online, this domain is still only really a reality for a small portion of our population. 21 century teaching has to be mroe than just computer enabled learning!

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    33. Pat Dooley says:

      I believe that flexibility is closely linked to the capacity to engage students. Without engagement, meaninful learning will not occur. I agree with many of Bruce’s comments and would elaborate a bit: Flexibility can be thought of in a few different ways :
      a) choice about what is learned
      b) choice about how learning outcomes are met
      c) choice about how one’s learning is represented.

      The principles of universal design can be a great guide to educators, students and others in thinking about student engagement and flexibility, especially in terms of (c) above.

      I do believe that one of the strengths of the B.C. public system is that we have a “core”curriculum and I would suggest that that concept needs to be maintained, BUT that greater emphasis needs to be placed on how that core can be learned. There are two many learning outcomes and many of them are too minute. Moving to more global and fewer outcomes is a step in the right direction. In addition, I would suggest that there be less emphasis on “the disciplines” and more emphasis on identifying key learning outcomes in various areas of development, such as those identified in The B.C. Primary Program.

      Enabling student to pursue areas of passion and interest while meeting learning outcomes is a key aspect of flexibility in relation to both (a) and (b). We have come a long way from the days of the basal reader but likely not far enough: Textbooks can become the curriculum and be such a detriment to flexibility. Major professional development and planning needs to go into finding ways to enable students to have a key voice in what and how they learn.

      Beyond the curriculum, greater flexibility is also needed in terms of how time is spent ESPECIALLY as students move closer to graduation. When we think about students who leave Grade 12 to pursue post-secondary education, we realize that many programs involve 15 hours of classes, with the expectation that students will manage the rest of their time. We need to question structures at the secondary level which continue to see students expected to be at school from 8:30 – 3:00ish every day and the degree to which those structures hinder the development of independence and resilience. There are examples of programs which offer more flexibility in terms of time that others can learn from and which may become more systemic.

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      • I agree with your comments, especially the textbook as the curriculum comment. Almost by definition text books seem to take all the passion out of any topic.

        I think we could add choice of pace as well. In the current model most classrooms force all learners to march through the course at the same pace when some learners need half the time and some need double.

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        • Christina says:

          I do agree that textbooks, if used incorrectly, can take ‘all the passion out of any topic’. Yes, I’m sure there are some teachers out there who use textbooks as the solitary vehicle to deliver content to their class. However, textbooks, when used in conjunction with a variety of other learning experiences such as group discussions, the internet, reading books other than text books, etc., can be a valuable tool in creating an underlying foundation of knowledge. It goes back to the type of teacher one is…the sage on a stage or the guide on the side.
          Ultimately, some students will learn best from textbooks, some from group discussions, some when they take learning into their own hands and search.
          As a teacher who is relatively new to the teaching profession (I received my teaching certificate 5 years ago and have been teaching for 4 years) I try to incorporate as many different learning styles into how I teach the content.

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        • Christina says:

          As for the ‘pace’ of what is taught…I have a fairly typical class. I have a split grade class (grade 1/2) and 23 students.
          I have three students who are on three different modified programs. Modified program means the students are working on their own learning outcomes because they are unable to complete the grade level work.
          I have an additional 3 students who are on three different adapted programs. An adapted program means these students are working at the same grade level, but are unable to complete the same amount of work as the rest of the class.
          I have 4 students in my class who are English as a Second Language learners.
          In addition, I have one student who is working a grade 5 level.
          How much more flexible can I be? I still have 12 other students who deserve to have the best of me that I can give them.
          I love what I do. I can’t wait to begin each and every day.
          I can’t speak for every other teacher out there, but I am under the impression that most if not all teachers do alter the pace of what is taught to meet the needs of their students.
          When the government speaks of a more flexible education plan, I cannot help but be worried…how much more flexible can I be?

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          • Kevin says:

            Pretty sure what the “government” is after is supporting teachers like you who have this individual view of their students. I find this view prevalent in primary grades and diminishing quickly after that. Thank you for setting this example.

            P.S. How do you assess your varied students?

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    34. Jill Spearn says:

      I believe the benefits are that students can pursue areas of interest and passion while meeting the expectations of the Learning Outcomes at grade level. I think that there should be more flexibility in timelines, especially, so that students can achieve success within a reasonable time frame. Grade levels are a problem because the age ranges from oldest (Jan. born) to the very youngest (Dec.) and age versus academic ability is a huge challege. Kids should be levelled in a totally different way. The system is antiquated, albeit moving forward due to the hard work of teachers and some administrators who have a vision. Challenges are the reporting system, get rid of letter grades and percentages especially in grades 4-7 and then gradually up to grade 12. They mean very little in a criterion based grading system. It’s like apples and oranges, really. You need to bring together innovative teachers, who are current and have round table discussions. We need to let an awful lot go while retaining the aspects that are critical to learning.
      I really think that most parents don’t have the time or the desire to be a 3rd party to their kids education. Realistically, I’d estimate 10% of the population wants to be engaged but otherwise I expect the professionals to be making the calls on the students programs and learning overall, along with the student themselves. Conferencing time needs to be a huge part of the plan. Pods of learners needs to be achieved at the secondary level, especially. Tons of elementary kids need so much teacher direction, they are young and I see the system best meeting their needs by providing the structure and guidance they really require, in order that they learn, and learn how to learn. Get rid of timetables and structured time slots, way out dated. I just raised 2 academically successful daughters and you should really be engaging the youth and ask them what they need in today’s world. Thanks for the opportunity to engage.

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    35. Sherry says:

      It is challenging to identify “benefits and challenges” of offering “flexible learning opportunities” when the intent and meaning of that phrase is unknown. The obvious benefit is that all individuals are more likely to learn when they are motivated, have the prerequisite skills for what they are being taught and are reinforced for their efforts.

      The challenges are wrapped up in the rest of the discussion. What will be the structure of “school”? What will be the required curriculum and desired outcomes for all students (i.e. literacy and becoming a contributing citizen)? How will the unique strengths and weaknesses of each learner be identified such that the appropriate “flexible opportunity” is chosen that will lead to progress or desired outcome?

      Previous posts have made important observations including that “flexibility” would need to start at the government level, involve multiple ministries working together to provide for a range of student needs and abilities.

      It may also require reconsideration of “public” education (as we know it) as being the primary source of education. It would also require flexible access to schooling which could involve a voucher system, more funding for independent schools or legislation supporting charter schools.

      Next, it will require flexible class size and composition criteria so teachers and principals could also select opportunities that fit their knowledge, skills and values.

      As technology is changing rapidly and the future is as yet undiscovered, “flexibility” will require significant multiple choices for all aspects of education not simply “flexible opportunity to learn”.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        This blog and the comments that come in will provide us the opportunity to take all thoughts and comments into consideration, and work with teachers and experts from the field, Ministry staff and other Ministries, to determine what will work best as we look at changing the way Education is in BC. I agree that the intent and meaning does appear to be an unknown, and in some ways it is. The Plan is a blueprint and we recognize that it will require change and flexibility by everyone, even after implementation.

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    36. Jaime says:

      When I hear the idea of flexibility in the classroom, my initial reaction is that it’s a wonderful idea. Why not challenge the bright child and work at a slower pace for the struggling student.

      The reality is that teachers are already doing this every single day in the best ways that they can. In one grade 4/5 classroom of 25 students (which is quite low compared to the average class size of 28), I have some students that are reading and writing at the 6th grade level on some assignments while the student right next to them can barely print their name. If I did not have flexible programming, both these students would fail.

      Unfortunately, I am only one person. I cannot sit beside 25 students and individually execute 25 separate programs for them. In order for more “flexible programs” for students, we need either more teachers/educational assistants/resources teachers in the classroom, or the class sizes would have to have drastically reduced.

      I adore each and every one of my students, want them to succeed in every way possible and I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that is happening. But every day is a struggle. If there is going to be a drastic change in the educational programing, there need to be drastic change in the way we support the classroom.

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      • Stephanie says:

        I agree with much of what you have said Jaime. I beleive it is more about the composition of that class. Yes better resources and support for the teacher will help. But that does not mean to me, just more adults in the room.
        The big question for me is why do you have a student in your class that has not recieved adequite support? (I know it happens all of the time) Why is a child pushed forward ‘with their peers’ and not given the support to really be learning and particpating with their peers?
        That student should not be sitting next to the high achieving child all day. I am not a fan of pull out programs, but if they are done well, students with overwhelming needs, (that you could not possibly address in your class with out the appropriate support) need that support so that they can succeed. That student is very unlikely to finish school . . . I feel the system needs to be able to place the child that is falling behind with their true peers, those that are learning at a simlar rate. Just as the gifted child should not be made to sit thru stuff that is not interesting or challenging to them.

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        • Christina says:

          Stephanie, I love your question “why do you have a student in your class that has not received adequate support?”
          Sadly, Jaime’s class is not unique. I would imagine that the student Jaime spoke of has a learning or cognitive difference that makes it very difficult if not impossible to work at grade level. Does this mean that he or she should not be able to be in a class with his or her peers?
          I am not saying that integration v.s. pull out is the best method. Nor am I saying that pushing students ahead with their age level peers is better than keeping students back. However, I cannot imagine being that student and being held back year after year. I think the decision to keep students with their age peers was made in the hope to allow those students to develop strong social connections, which could mean the difference between a drop-out age of 14 and finishing high school.

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          • Stephanie says:

            Hi Christina,
            As I stated, I am aware that the student far behind grade level, in a class with their age group, is not an uncommon occurance.
            I suggest their age group is not nessasarily their peers. I feel that failure is not a productive option, but when you can not read like the other students or do math like the rest of them, when you strugle to keep up and find in the end you just can’t (for what ever reason) you are not with your peers! you are stuck with a bunch of students that are NOT your peers, just the same age.
            If we are to continue the idea of keeping kids with their others born in the same year, we need to support them with what they need to “feel” they are peers with the other students. Hanging in a classroom with 25 – 30 other students, that can do what you can’t is not helping anyone, expecially the student. Oh I forgot, it is much easier for those that track the numbers and do enrollment. :( But not the student!

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            • Moderator Rebekah says:

              This is an interesting thread. If we stopped clustering children into groups by age, how should/would we group them? Is there a better way to define a child’s “peer” group?

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    37. Pat Glover says:

      i have watched a flexible program occur here in the Cowichan Valley. It does not need the needs of the students, especially late bloomers male children. It generally leaves them at a late age incomplete. It also does not hold the teachers accountable to meet these students needs. it easier for them to blame the student. All students are not A students but all students deserve an education. The public school system should not be allowed to cherry pick their students and a good teacher should be able to reach and support all levels of students.

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    38. Jack Showers says:

      Benefits – Some students will be more interested and motivated.

      Challenges – Managing all the different things going on, accountability, and sense of community (which some like to call a “factory”).

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    39. Tina says:

      I think offering students more flexible learning opportunities is a fantastic idea. With the changing world in which we live, the ability to adapt and change ones approach to fit their current situation is most advantageous. However, how to teach students to become more flexible is the question.

      Teachers are highly trained individuals who have spent at least 5 years of their lives paying for and attending school. Most teachers work 8 hours or more a day to try and meet the needs of all learners in their class. Sadly, most teachers are overworked and under recognized in all that they do. The best thing the government and the teachers’ employer can do is provide more assistance in the classrooms: on the front lines of children’s education. No amount of technology or fancy gadgets can make up for the need of one on one meaningful interaction that highly trained teachers, educational assistants, and other professionally trained people can offer who work in the public school system. Providing more trained professionals is the best way to offer flexible learning opportunities for all students.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Tina, I agree, so many teachers are very highly trained and continue to train and learn new ways of engaging students. But there are many who have not done any meaningful upgrading of their education for many years.
        I think you missed the mark on who needs to be more flexible. I have found the students are very flexible it is usually the adults in the building that are set in their ways and have a hard time changing their habits.
        You sound like a teacher that takes advantage of quality training regularly. I feel one of the problems with flexibility, is that many teachers were never given the tools to deal with the diversity in their classrooms.
        PRO D needs to move away from scrapbooking and papermache making and focus on giving teachers and EAs the tools they need to help all students succeed.
        Bravo on technology not being the key! It is about personal relationships, that last at least a year and sometimes longer.

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        • Ann-Marie says:

          I’m not sure where you got the idea that ProD is scrapbooking and paper mache, but I think your comment is uninformed. Conferences and workshops these days are certainly geared toward helping teachers to improve student success. In fact, they’re dynamic and motivating, delving into new, innovative practices that address how to meet the diverse needs of students. Perhaps you’d be interested in attending a conference to see for yourself before you start criticizing them and implying that teachers are not informed enough to do their job successfully. I agree with your final comment about how personal relationships, and not computers, are the key to a good education. As Tina says, the education system needs to offer more support for teachers, so that they will have the opportunity to develop those personal relationships, helping individual students to reach their potential. It certainly cannot be done by plugging students into technology, where the media manages their attitudes nor by stuffing more students in each classroom! One wonders how this new Education Plan came about and why teachers were not involved in the design.

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      • mom says:

        hahahahaha – is this for real? Tina feels bad for the POOR teachers who “spent at least 5 years of their lives paying and attending school” and she also feels BAD that POOR teachers – well she says “MOST” have to struggle through an 8 hour day (I would like to point out that a majority of this 8 hours – they have NO CUSTOMERS!)TINA? What exactly do you think that the REST OF US – NON WHINNY TEACHERS have done to educate and better ourselves? AND I wish I ONLY had to work 8 hours a day and I would LOVE LOVE LOBE to have summer and all those other time off slots! HOW can this many people be soooo out of touch with REALITY! Are teachers and their far-out supporters living in another world?

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          Please remember that this is a forum for constructive and civil conversation. It’s ok here to voice your displeasure but we ask that you do it in a polite and non-abusive manner. This one is pushing the boundaries.

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          • Kevin says:

            Well done Mike…I’m glad you let this one through (but with a warning). I understand though solidly disagree with “mom” and I think it is important that we BC educators remember that there are definitely dark corners even in a proven excellent system like we have. In my 20ish years as a BC educators I have occasionally seen some real dank stuff mixed in with the good and the great. “Mom”, unfortunately appears to have experienced mostly the former which is utterly unfortunate.

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        • Devon says:

          This is the exact problem with this problem – disrespect for teachers. I have 9 years of university I get to work at 6am stay until the custodian kicks me out and spend thousands of dollars a year on my classroom because the schools don’t provide funding. I am broke, in my thirties and still can’t afford a mortgage on teachers salary. I get attacked, sworn at and spit at at work and recognize I could get severely injured while teaching. Whiny you call us? Our work conditions are deplorable? Why do you get to judge us? We don’t come to your job and judge you? People like you do not support the system, if people like you stopped blaming teachers maybe something would change. We are the ones who do the work you’re only making it worse. Summers off? Are you kidding me? Yeah where I get to serve and wait tables to make a living. Yeah it’s a real dream. You’ve got to be kidding me. Guess what, I also have to pay for the majority of my own medical and dental. When you start to observe school systems in other countries, I’ve found it’s where the teachers are most respected that the system is actually working.

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    40. rich chapman says:

      Schools work well for the majority.
      What about the minority?
      What about a kid who’s anxiety hits the roof going through the school door?
      What about a kid who can’t sit still?
      What about a kid who doesn’t speak english or french at home?
      What about a kid who’s not fed in the morning?

      Some real integration between Ministries needs to occur so that the minority doesn’t turn into the majority.

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    41. MorethanaMOM says:

      more more more……we make it so flexible that they NEVER need to ADJUST their learning! Seems whenever a student doesn’t WANT to try, work or learn – EVERYONE is jumping to the pump for that LAZY kid! WHY can it work for the the majority of kids? hmmmm…maybe because they actually try and work at it – or they have parents that are present and participating in LIFE! Will the REAL WORLD (whatever that is these days) KEEP on being so flexible for this ‘Y should I?’ generation? The BEST way to HELP these kids learn NOW – is to HELP them learn how to adjust themselves to the requirements! Otherwise they are in for Rude awakening. Unless of course they go into education and believe that they can continue to FLEX the employer into more money and BULLY the parents and students into their own stand alone fantasy inflexible world!

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      • mom says:

        -4 VOTES? OUCH! let me guess – ALL from teachers? awwwwwwwww – how’d I guess……
        I will NEVER understand what makes teachers want to ‘go and PAY FOR school for soooo long’ then complain about it for the rest of their ‘professional’ lives! Teachers think THEY are the ONLY ONES that have PAID for schooling and need MORE money! WOW!! talk about out of touch! And these are the mentors for our children? GEE after reading some of these whines from teachers – Maybe computers would be better suited as flexible POSITIVE replacements!

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    42. Bev says:

      I think one would need to define flexible learning opportunities more fully before one can give benefits or challenges. If you are referring to students having more choices of subject matter, then a benefit would be that students may find an area of interest that appeals to them and thus they apply themselves better and “learn” more. The challenges would be developing the course material, finding qualified teachers, and having appropriate classroom/facilities in which to teach the course. I am thinking here more of non-academic type courses like what we used to call industrial ed, chef training, etc.

      If you are referring to students being able to take courses in a variety of formats; i.e. at school, online, through correspondence, or taking some courses at one institution and other courses at another institution, then a possible benefit to this type of flexibility is that students aren’t restricted to only the courses that are offered at one institution. They may be able to have a greater choice of courses this way so that they could pursue areas of interest. Students might also be able to use this type of flexibility in order to create a schedule that works with their time commitments. The problems I could see with this is that many students do not yet have the discipline to work through course material on a timely basis for online/correspondence type courses and the logistics of getting students from one institution to another during a typical school day.

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    43. Wendy Jessen says:

      One thought I have is that “less is more”. If we educate them well in the classics, math and science. If our students learn facts and are taught in a Socratic manner from source documents and books, then they can find their own flexible learning opportunities. There are many many opportunities, if our students are educated well then they can take hold of those opportunities.

      In this day of an aging tax base and continued financial stress in our educational institution, why not do more by doing less, but doing it very well. Let our students take initiative in taking advantage of what is available “out there”. If they have a solid education then they will have wings to fly. At present we have a lot of fluff and feathers but our students are dumbed down and many fall through the cracks.

      Perhaps a trades /Practical education should be possible for those bright but non academic type students. This may be possible with an interconnectedness with community colleges.

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    44. Sandra says:

      While reading about the new Education Plan, I noticed how often the word ‘flexible’ was used. Flexibility in learning opportunities could definitely provide students with unique formats in which to challenge their learning outcomes. As an early childhood eduator, this plan seems similar to what is referred to as ‘emergent curriculum’ in my professional field. However I am working with a teacher to student ratio of 1 to 8 so it is usually possible to be flexible and follow each child’s emerging interests then apply them into real learning opportunities. I am concerned as to how this could be possible within a classroom setting of 1 teacher with 29 students.

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      • Moderator Virginia says:

        Thank you, Sandra, for raising both a benefit and a challenge. Teacher-student ratio has been mentioned before in this forum. What other ways are there to think about the structure of the system? What could change in order to allow the benefits to be realized? Go to Question #9 to share ideas!

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    45. The devil is in the fine print. On the one hand, you can have: “Yes, you’re free to study according to your own weird, but first we’re going to crush your spirit by ‘schoolifying’ it.” On the other hand, there’s: “Whatever. Results don’t matter.”

      The “school” version of homeschool is being done in various incarnations — and this site mentions a few — but it requires a lot of flexibility on the teacher/ministry side. When at its best, and this is my opinion, it also requires parental involvement and encouragement. This can be very difficult for many parents, because not only does it ask for more of their already limited time, but it challenges the accepted idea that education is best left in the hand of “professionals”.

      For those parents who do have the time and commitment for their kids’ learning, more financial support for the homeschooling option will free up space in the public system. This has the benefit of offloading the most individualized/unique learners from the plates of professional teachers, thus freeing them to give more individual attention to students who are still more comfortable with “factory learning”.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Jonathan, Factory leaning need so go. Why would we think that children will learn equally in batches according to the year they are born?
        Learning is about partnerships. Parents are educators, we teach our children every day with everything we do.
        Teachers, professionals, teach my children facts and their views on the world. I teach them manners and make sure they are fed and rested.
        We need to work together to create the best adults we can.

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    46. Donna says:

      As a teacher at the primary level I am wondering how this might look in the classroom. Many of our students come to us with limited English skills and need to be taught the basics. Within the framework of teaching we continually offer our students choice, but this is difficult when children are young and don’t neccesarily have the skills needed to make a good choice. I am continually funding my classroom with supplies from my own paycheck as I get very little money for anything extra. I can’t imagine having to fund for everyone’s personal choice. If you are going to implement such a different model, it is going to need to be funded in order for it to have success.

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    47. Stephanie says:

      Benifits – keep students engaged at the level they are capable to work at and they will stay in school, learn and thrive.
      Challenges – Teachers being able to address the diverse leaning needs. They will need to be trained in identifying learning styles and the needs of every student. That could be challenge for anyone without the appropriate training.

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    48. Andy Walters says:

      This is an ambiguous question.

      If flexibility means that students get to choose what they learn then it is a bad idea, because they don’t know enough to make that decision.

      If you mean more selection of courses, then maybe, but I believe in moving toward standardized testing so that learning and teaching can be evaluated, and corrected when it is deficient. More selection makes standardized testing much more difficult.

      One of the main goals of education is to enable kids to become financially successful, buy a house, support their families and enjoy life. The people who know best what education is needed for this to happen are the employers. I think more input from the employers in society would make the curriculum more effective.

      You can’t go very wrong teaching math and english

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      • Math and English are important and perhaps standardized methods of evaluating reading levels etc would be useful, there are a number of tests that exist already such as the CAT or the Accuplacer, but I think that there are many other courses/areas of study that are of interest to learners and of value to employees. I think that learners need to be allowed choice and are capable of intelligent choice. I don’t think that any of us can pretend to know what skills employers will require in 5, 10, or 15 years from now.

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    49. Gordon says:

      Learning is an expression of who we are as a society and as an individual. We are imbued with certain beliefs, values, perspectives and experiences that drive our learning. The benefits to offering students more flexible learning opportunities is better motivation to be engaged in your learning. Daniel Pink (2009)in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” summarizes the three essential elements of motivation: autonomy, the desire to direct your life; mastery, the urge to get better at something that matters to you; and purpose, a desire to contribute to something larger than self. Learning opportunities that match such intrinsic motivation will likely encourage more students to stick with education and find it meaningful. The challenge is that our system is based upon a factory model of carrot and stick thinking that is antithetical to most intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is honored more often in the breach than the system can accommodate. After literacy and thinking skills are well established in elementary school, student learning would need to be more project driven to accommodate intrinsic needs. Certain big idea ends may be articulated in the curriculum, but the means to those ends need to be more freed up to give students the scope to pursue interests and become an expert in something.

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    50. You can’t argue against flexibility, but there should also be structure and support.

      Some things benefit society and should be mandated whether or not the individual chooses them so there should continue to be a required core curriculum. The challenge, as with so many things, is to strike a suitable balance between required and optional. Although it is often contested, this balance exists now and should be sustained. If the required core is to change that should be because the public good is better served by the change rather than because individuals resent any constraint on their free choice. The curriculum should not be a market place. Thus, I believe flexibility should mean a broader array of optional courses and enrichment opportunities, not a diminished core.

      Flexibility might, however, not mean either optional courses or units but rather choice in ways of learning. That is, flexibility might be increased by more vigourous pursuit of a “universal design for learning” (http://cast.org/udl/index.html). Personally, I think this is a far more powerful way to increase student engagement (and thus achievement) than choice of content. Technology might be an invaluable aid in this quest but changes also have to occur in lesson design and assessment to create UDL.

      Whatever flexible learning options are offered (content or learning modes), they will be more accessible to some than others due to their context or capabilities. Equity requires some form of support for those who need it in order to benefit from the flexibility that is available rather than just leaving students to their own resources, which would increase rather than decrease the learning gap between those with different socio-economic resources or innate learning abilities. In some cases flexibility may reduce the need for support since students will choose areas of interest to them, but in some cases students may be unable to exercise the flexibility they desire because they need support. Flexibility should be extended to all who desire it, not just those who are most capable of it.

      Well conceived and implemented flexibility will increase student engagement and that should lead to increased achievement in both academic learning (3Rs) and personal development (7Cs) but we won’t know if that is happening unless we develop some method of assessing the full range of intended learning. It would also be useful to monitor student engagement itself rather than only the achievement that results since increased engagement may be a more reliable indicator of enriched and deepened learning than our current (very limited) array of outcome measures.

      Of course, all this has to occur in a manner that it possible and sustainable by teachers and by the system itself. This practical constraint will limit flexibility until individual and system capacity to provide it is strengthened through a combination of professional learning, policy changes, attitude changes and (in some cases) increased access to appropriate technology. There seems to be a lot of concern about the restructuring part of this but the reculturing part (which includes students and parents as well as educators) is probably the more complex and challenging.

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      • I agree with a lot of what Bruce suggests but I disagree with his comments about keeping all the elements in the core curriculum. I think that there are too many PLOs and to many courses required for graduation. I think that currently we are a mile wide and an inch deep and that to increase the engagement learners need the time to be able to dig deeper.

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        • My comment was intended to refer to courses. I agree that the number of PLOs needs to be reduced in order to enable deeper engagement with less content. I would also note that the Ministry has been engaged in this exercise for the past decade and that the current IRPs have been significantly reduced, with greater emphasis on the overarching themes and less on specific PLOs. That’s not to say that more can’t be done or that in courses with a provincial exams there is not not still some bloat, but this problem has been recognized and much has already been done.

          The question that remains is,”What is the legal status of a PLO?” Are teachers legally obligated to “teach” every PLO, and what would that mean in practice? The definition of an educational program in the School Act is “an organized set of learning activities that, in the opinion of the board, in the case of learning activities provided by the board … is designed to enable learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.” To me that sounds like PLOs are illustrative more than mandatory and that the common belief that they one must “cover” them all is wrong. What would happen if a teacher or a school or a district decided to hit all the themes in an IRP but skip some specific PLOs in the interests of greater depth? Would they be sued? (One parent did actually try that in North Van in relation to Grade 9 Social Studies some years ago I believe and lost because of the aforementioned definition of an educational program.) I think teachers have more latitude here than in commonly believed.

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          • Nicholas says:

            The “Required Areas of Study in an Education Program Guide Order” states that boards must offer “an educational program that meets all the learning outcomes set out in the applicable educational program guide” in various subjects depending on the grade level. That doesn’t make the PLOs sound very optional.

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