October 24, 2014

Planning for Inquiry-based Physical Education

As a Phys Ed teaching team, we had a unique opportunity at the beginning of last year to reflect on our physical education program as a whole and to ask ourselves whether our approach was providing students with the best ability to develop deep understanding of a variety of curricular outcomes. We wanted to share some of the outcomes of a full year invested in this process, along with some of our continually evolving understandings. 

"Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand" has been a perfect starting point from which to extend our conversations around what types of learning opportunities we were providing for students. Historically, our teaching in physical education has been didactic and demonstrative with rare opportunities in which students were collaboratively invested in their learning beyond attempting to follow a set of instructions. Our shift toward a more inquiry-based approach to developing physically literacy focused on encouraging students to invest in seeking information through questioning, rather than just merely waiting for it to be "delivered". From the teacher's perspective, this involved carefully designing a context and framework for specific units that might draw student questions out, and help focus thinking.
Traditional physical education focuses on the development of competence in the hopes that increased confidence will result. It often fails however, to account for the vastly differing competencies of students in various sports or activities. An inquiry based approach meets students where they are at. Increased competence and confidence inevitably result. 

June 26, 2014

Beyond the destination: A reflection on Outdoor Education

My favourite moment was every moment. The quiet is beautiful... 
When I was a kid, I used to see faces in everything. It’s been nice to find them again.
Grade 9 OE Student

Things I realized I forget to notice in the city: mountains, clouds and the way their shadows move across the peaks, baby trees, the sound of running water, the flight of birds. Awesome moments: getting to know people better, getting to know myself, diving into the glacial water, crossing streams, cooking by the creek, seeing the landscape at 7am.
Grade 8 OE Student

January 26, 2014

Make Math Memorable (A response)

I've had the opportunity to engage in further conversation about math education with Dr. Robert Craigen, Assoc. Math Professor and co-founder of WISE Math. My response to Dr. Craigen's most recent comment wouldn't fit in comments so I've included it, along with the initial response, here.

January 21, 2014

Monkeys or Mathematicians (Math is More Than Memorization)

Pedagogy trumps curriculum every time.
The recent parent-driven push for a “return to basics” shift in math curriculum in Alberta is not unexpected. Our post-industrial society remains regrettably focused on relaying and assessing content over process. The deeply embedded desire to quantify student thinking for the sake of a neat, uni-dimensional continuum that claims to represent student potential results in the inevitable association of learning with factual and procedural recall. Quite simply, we've designed schools to train and measure our children. We group them by age, divide their days into standardized units and test them at regular intervals in order to compare them to their peers. Memorization is easy to measure in math so we convince ourselves we’re holding kids accountable by measuring their recall. This also allows us to rank and sort students effectively without actually engaging them in conversation, something PISA has effectively mastered. However, making a judgement about the quality of an entire math curriculum based on data snapshots from a moment in time is not only irresponsible it's ridiculous. Advocating that because memorization scores have dropped, an entire curriculum should re-focus on memory work is incredibly shortsighted. We've already been there. It wasn't awesome.