New curriculum for Langley students will focus on collaborative learning

Elimination of graded report cards a stumbling block for trustee Megan Dykeman

Langley School District is putting its own touches on B.C.’s new curriculum, which is being rolled out for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 over the next couple years.

It will focus on individualized, student-driven learning in collaborative settings, as opposed to structured classrooms.

At the Langley board of education’s first meeting of the school year, on Sept. 29, assistant superintendent Gordon Stewart was excited about the new curriculum and how it will be implemented in Langley.

“The new curriculum does much better at engaging students,” said Stewart, who has been a principal at several Langley schools.

“Right-brained learners haven’t been ignored in the school system, but they have been marginalized.”

B.C.’s new curriculum is designed to allow right-brained thinkers to excel.

The argument for changing how teachers teach and how curriculum is delivered is based on the province’s belief that schools need to graduate students who are ready for the new global economy.

“Don’t worry, we aren’t going to ignore the left-brained learners,” said Stewart.

“But our children have to be prepared for the global economy so they can focus on sets of skills that will help them be successful.”

He said the future belongs to creators, inventors, entrepreneurs, big-picture thinkers and people who can work collaboratively in business markets all over the world.

Gone will be students sitting in rows of desks, with a teacher lecturing from the front of the room.

Memorization tests will become part of the past as  will textbook learning,  all of it to be replaced by research-driven schoolwork.

“We aren’t abandoning literacy and numeracy, but we are supporting a deeper learning,” he said. Students will still write provincial exams but how those tests will be delivered and graded may be different.

There will be a higher level of social responsibility incorporated in lessons. Aboriginal culture will be a focus as well.

Where the controversy lies is in the possible elimination of report cards and percentage-based grades and GPAs.

“You can’t do report cards under the new curriculum. It won’t capture work done by students.”

But Stewart said the province hasn’t yet detailed how that will look for secondary students who want to go into university.

In Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, the school district has done away with report cards for elementary-aged students, instead going with a student/teacher/parent participation model in which they set goals for the year.

Not all trustees were as enthusiastic about the new curriculum as Stewart.

Trustee Megan Dykeman is worried B.C. Grade 12 students will be at a disadvantage if they want to go to university out of province or country.

“I don’t think handing in a report with four smiley faces on it will translate well for students wanting to get into university in other countries,” quipped Dykeman.

But Stewart argued that the portfolio model of graduation is becoming the norm globally, and percentage-based grading is not a true reflection of a student’s skills.

Trustee Shelly Colburn worried that to be successful, the new curriculum requires parent participation.

“There aren’t always parents in the picture. Then what for those students?” she asked.

Stewart said those students are in the system right now under the former curriculum so they already have supports in place.

The province has allotted time this year to train teachers to deliver the new curriculum.