Learning Framework Implementation
Written by: Allen Davidson, Assistant Superintendent Employee Services
Happy New Year! In the world of K-12 education there is the unique opportunity to celebrate the ‘New Year’ two times a year. Firstly, there is the New School Year in late August or early September where those of us who have chosen to make classrooms our workplace set goals for the success of each of our students and our own professional learning. These ‘resolutions’ while challenging and complex, are essential in our efforts to support and help our students find their passions, develop confidence, pursue their curiosities, and deepen their understanding of the world. Secondly, we get the opportunity to celebrate the calendar ‘New Year’ on January 1st where we look back and take stock of the year passed and look forward to plans for the future and year ahead.
As I look back and take stock of the year behind in Foothills School Division there are so many things to be grateful for, including the approximately 8000 remarkable students who attend our schools. Their unique gifts and abilities are truly incredible and we thank the supportive families across our Division for their partnership in learning with their children. I am also grateful for the myriad and endless list of contributions our staff make to ensure student success in our classrooms and beyond. Our maintenance staff, transportation staff, central office staff, support staff, and teaching staff all make such impactful contributions. I was fortunate to meet with two former students over the break and could see the results of this collective impact on their current success in the world.
An accomplishment from 2018 I am most excited about in terms of improving our future impact on student learning is the development of the Framework for Learning that was completed this past year after a lengthy consultative process with all stakeholders. This is an incredibly significant and important lighthouse document for our staff in our ongoing collective learning endeavors with our students and school communities moving forward. (Fullan & Quinn, 2016) highlight the evidence-based case for sustained student success in jurisdictions where ‘explicit-models’ are developed around effective pedagogy to support the implementation of jurisdiction and school goals and outcomes.
Our staff in Foothills School Division have high expectations for students, bring a deep sense of commitment to ensuring each student is successful intellectually, socially and emotionally, and have conviction that every learner can achieve optimum learning. To ensure such success requires a combination of professional judgement about what each student needs and a professional body of knowledge about evidenced based practices that are most effective for student learning. Teachers increasingly understand that their professional judgement and beliefs about optimum learning are most effectively reinforced by a pedagogical approach that includes practices/strategies that actually produce the most significant impact on improving learning (Hattie, 2009). The commitments conveyed in the Framework for Learning act as both window and mirror of such evidence based practices for our professional staff as they strive to ensure their learning environments include the sophisticated combination of practices required for relevant, rigorous, and engaged student learning.
Our Framework for Learning continues to assist in establishing a common language (Fullan & Quinn, 2016) essential for teachers and support staff to engage in ongoing collaborative teams and conversations around ensuring each student achieves their optimum learning potential. In 2018 Alberta Education published the updated Teaching Quality Standard which identifies six competencies teachers are required to meet to hold and maintain an Alberta teaching certificate. The language and expectations of this newly updated standard, set to come into force in September 2019, is reflected explicitly in the language and commitments of the Framework for Learning and will support our staff in their evolving and comprehensive understanding of impactful instruction while ensuring their individual innovation and professional creativity thrive in our classrooms. Kenneth Leithwood (2013) highlights the significance of having a clear Provincial Ministry of Education articulation around best practices in combination with a common district ‘instructional guidance system’ as a key characteristic evident in strong school jurisdictions. To be sure, the Framework for Learning communicates instructional guidance for our staff around the philosophical foundations and big ideas for effective instruction including design, engagement, assessment, competencies, and assessment that foster a culture of belonging within a continuum of supports.
Aligned with the Division’s beliefs and goals the Framework for Learning describes what an environment that is designed to ensure optimum learning includes. We expect it to be at the center of staff collaboration to improve student achievement and for it to support our teachers, school administrators, and support staff with an anchor for their professional learning and quality practice. When teachers have a common conceptual approach to teaching and learning the professional learning communities among staff are more effective (Robinson, 2011). So, as we take stock of 2018 we thank all stakeholders in Foothills School Division for their contributions to this key anchor document.
- Fullan, M. & Quinn, J. (2016). Coherence: The right drivers in action for schools, districts, and systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
- Robinson, V. (2011). Student-centered leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Leithwood, K. (2013). Strong Districts and Their Leadership: A Paper Commissioned by The Council of Ontario Directors of Education and The Institute for Education Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.ontariodirectors.ca/downloads/Strong%20Districts-2.pdf
- Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge