From KSA’s to ASK’s: Shifting Teaching in Alberta

I attended a workshop today in my district from SAPDC (Southern Alberta Professional Development Consortia… which, I might add, should be using the term LEARNING and not DEVELOPMENT – but that’s another story. Ha!).  The workshop was just over two hours and was a focused and targeted session on Inspiring Education and Curriculum Redesign in Alberta.  I have to say, when people say that “change is coming” I am not sure they realize just how much and how fast this change is going to happen.

Here is a graphic that appeared in the presentation. It is an approximate timeline for the transitioning of curriculum during the redesign process.

What I want to point out on this timeline is the location of the Inspiring Education document.  Way down at the bottom…. 2009, where the start of the timeline begins.  We are currently in 2013, and about to change the calendar into 2014.  What I was so surprised by in the workshop was the amount of people in the room with the view of “this will take 10 years to happen”, “it won’t work in high school” or “how am I supposed to do that?”.  Well, my response to those individuals would be we have already started, it will work and you have to shift your thinking.  With the creation of the Ministerial Order in May of 2013, teachers should be ALREADY thinking in shifts and alternate paradigms to education and student learning.  As one of my course instructors has said, “its like saying you didnt see the change in the speed limit when the cop pulls you over.” The excuse of “I didn’t know” is not holding water anymore and I believe that teachers are going to need to shift now rather than later to avoid burn out.

So where does the shift begin?  To me, is starts with the ASK’s.

In Alberta, the curriculum guides contain knowledge, skills and attributes (KSA’s) for student learning and progress.  These are the tidbits of information, skills and attitudes that teachers in the province are to be teaching the students.  And, as you can see in the acronym, the knowledge portion comes first and is most often emphasized.  This is the course content; what we want our students to learn in science class.  It is what we are comfortable teaching because it is a tangible, easily assessed, checklist-driven approach to teaching.  The government wants me to teach this, so I will teach it.

Inspiring Education, in my opinion, turns that approach on its head.

Teachers will be asked to emphasize the attitudes and skill development of students WHILE delivering course content.  This is very apparent in the Inspiring Education document but even more so in the Ministerial Order.  Both documents call for students to be engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit.  The Ministerial Order directly says that “competencies are interrelated sets of attitudes, skills and knowledge that are drawn upon and applied to a particular context for successful learning and living, are developed over time and through a set of related learner outcomes.”  Many first questions that arose yesterday stemmed from the idea of assessment, and how are teachers supposed to assess attitudes and skills.  I know that follows the model of backward design (and its a good model, which I will get back to!) but at the moment I am stuck on what this looks like for my students.  To me, I need to make a shift immediately towards determining the attitudes and skills that are in my current curriculum that my students need to learn, while also addressing the course content.  I believe that if I begin t think in this way, and challenge myself and my students, to examine the right attitudes and skills needed to learn, grow and collaborate, then when the “official release” of the new curriculum redesign takes place, I will hopefully be well on my way to preparing my students for this shift.  I am not sure how much I can change at this point – I am still working on that.  But I do know that I need to change as of May 2013 and that waiting until the change is “at my doorstep” is no longer an option.

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