The Deeper Learning Plan
It all began with a question: what should our students be learning? It was refined into action research what are the skills, knowledge, disposition and values that are required to live a whole-some and productive life? It turned into the “Our Kid Project”, in which groups of HSD students, teachers, principals, trustees, parents, and community members met together to articulate those learning goals as clearly as possible. And it turned into the “A” of our divisional learning plan’s “ABC’s” – all students will learn the skills, knowledge, dispositions and values required for a wholesome and productive life.
After clarifying our learning goals, we were presented with another question: are our students spending their time engaged in learning activities that will lead to them realizing these goals? Or, put another way, are we spending our time, efforts and resources on the educational activities that we believe are most important?
For example, participants in each of the groups that participated in “Our Kid” workshops stressed the need for our students to be critical thinkers, curious, problem-solvers, collaborators, creators and communicators – are there ways we could get even better at helping our kids develop these skills? Participants stressed that our students need to become caring, com- passionate, respectful and inclusive – what can we do as educators to better help our students develop these characteristics? They also stressed the need for our students to learn requisite knowledge with excellence; to be highly literate and numerate, to master the essential understandings of their various subject areas. From this inquiry, the concept of an HSD deeper learning plan was born.
Beginning last winter, HSD engaged a team from IBM Educational Consulting to help formulate an action plan for deeper learning. They met with and surveyed groups of HSD teachers, learning coaches, principals and superintendents and presented a variety of recommendations for consideration. A deeper learning team of teachers, learning coaches, principals and superintendents was formed, and began developing an HSD Deeper Learning Plan.
The resulting plan should provide a learning focus for HSD over the next five years. It should help us align how we purchase and support technology in schools, how we provide professional learning opportunities for educators and how we spend our time in our schools and classrooms. It should help us with the typically difficult transition of “good to great” – how does a very good school division like Hanover become even better at engaging and educating our kids.
The Deeper Learning Team has kept the challenge of creating a rich deeper learning experience for students as the focus of their work. How can we ensure that students learn the essential knowledge and understandings required in the various academic disciplines, and then develop the skills to apply that knowledge in meaningful and creative ways? How can we help students to develop values essential to democratic democracy? How can we help them to develop the habits and dispositions that lead to success? How can we provide authentic learning opportunities that keep students engaged, motivated and interested in their learning? These have been some of the essential questions they have explored.
The HSD Deeper Learning plan will begin with an initial focus on inquiry learning as a pedagogical approach. While inquiry is certainly not new, the next few years should see inquiry learning occur much more extensively in schools throughout the division. Professional learning opportunities for teachers will be developed over the next several few school years and divisional and school learning teams will be formed during the upcoming year. The first few schools have already proposed pilot projects of how they would like to develop inquiry learning in their classrooms, and the first of those have already begun their projects.
Deeper Learning in HSD has coincided with two great developments. First, this past August we were very excited to hire Darren Kuropatwa as our first Director of Learning. Darren is a world-class educator and has taken on the leadership of our Deeper Learning Team. Second, the former CST team has been reorganized into the new HSD Professional Learning Team and their roles have transformed from that of curriculum consultants to that of learning coaches. Darren is serving as the “Principal” of this new team, helping them to build their capacity as educational leaders. Together, Darren and the Learning Coaches will be working in all HSD schools helping all of us as we build our capacity for teaching and learning. Further information about the HSD Deeper Learning plan will be communicated throughout the school year.
Rick Ardies, Assistant Superintendent
Hanover School Division