Recently there has been a lot of criticism about the math curriculum in Alberta. Personally I think a lot of the confusion stems from a lack of understanding of difference between curriculum and resources.
What is Curriculum?
Curriculum is the mandated programs of study for each subject area. The program of study usually includes the philosophy behind the program and the learning outcomes the student is expected to achieve. Many homeschooling families use the Alberta Programs of Study. Some follow them directly. Others use them as a benchmark for progress.
For “aligned” homeschool families and regular schools, the Education Minister tells us that, “mastery of number facts can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and teachers use their professional judgement to choose appropriate pedagogical approaches to help students meet program expectations.”
Here for example is the program of study or curriculum for MATH – http://education.alberta.ca/media/645594/kto9math.pdf
Here is a sample outcome for grade 5 – NUMBER strand:
Apply mental mathematics strategies and number properties, such as:
- skip counting from a known fact
- using doubling or halving
- using patterns in the 9s facts
- using repeated doubling or halving
to determine, with fluency, answers for basic multiplication facts to 81 and related division facts.
As you can see, this excerpt from the curriculum does not tell teachers or homeschool parents how to teach the outcome. It tells what to teach NOT how!
Pedagogy – What is it?
Each teacher has an individual pedagogy or style. They also have a toolbox filled with other formalized styles. One such pedagogy is inquiry- based learning. As the Education Minster stated, there is nothing in the curriculum that restricts a teacher (or homeschool parent) from using whatever strategies or teaching style gets the job done.
How is the New Curriculum Different?
Unlike the old curriculum . . . the new one will be:
- Student-focused – Curriculum remains responsive and relevant for students and enables flexibility for teachers, as designers of learning opportunities, to meet the diverse needs of students.
(The old one did not take into account students unique gifts or challenges. It assumed everyone was the SAME!)
- Focus on Competencies – Curriculum enables meaningful connections within and among subject areas through a focus on competencies. Subjects/disciplines will continue to be taught and will be the vehicles through which literacy, numeracy and competencies are developed over time.
(Content changes all the time and there is no way a curriculum can keep up. As an example, the last time the current science curriculum was seriously updated was in 1996! No one can argue that things have not changed since then!)
- Opportunities for Local Decision Making and Greater Depth of Study – Programs of study with fewer learning outcomes enable greater flexibility at the local level.
(Yahoo! We can personalize the new curriculum to reflect our learners thus making it meaningful and relevant to their lives!)
- Balance Among Formative and Summative Assessment – A range of assessments focus on the development of student learning outcomes, cross-curricular competencies, and literacy and numeracy.
(The new assessments are being developed with kids in mind! They will give teachers and parents a picture of the student’s strengths and weakness at the beginning of the year. This way the student can get the assistance they need to be successful instead of finding out at the end of the year that they didn’t get key concepts! Many homeschooling parents will utilize them to refine their educational plans.)
- Digitally based – The design of curriculum within a collaborative digital application enables curriculum to be improved continuously and supports learning with flexible timing and pacing through a range of learning environments.
(This is the future! I personally still love books but understand that if we are going to teach current information, then digital books that can be updated easily as science discovers new things, is the only way that makes sense economically.)
- Collaborative and Co-development Models – Co-creation of curriculum with partners and stakeholders taps into local expertise to design and develop curriculum.
(Yes. Instead of Alberta Education “GIVING IT TO US”, Albertans are actively engaged in creating the new curriculum so that it is relevant to our needs!)
- Synchronous Development – An integrated approach to developing programs of study, assessments, and learning and teaching resources supports a common approach that encourages interdisciplinary learning and enables curriculum to be available in English and in French at the same time.
(This is a huge job that the average person cannot possibly comprehend. It is ambitious, it is bold . . . it is what we expect of our world-class education system!)