Shifting from Learning Outcomes to Competencies

With week two of the school year already upon us, it is that time of the year that we invite parents to our schools and classrooms so that we can share our expectations, our communication plan and an idea of what the year’s learning may look like. We hope that all of our parents will show up, but are happy if 60 – 70% of our parents come and sometimes have a strategy for reaching out to those that didn’t come.

This is how Open Houses have looked for many, many years. If we believe, as I know many of you do, that the fundamental structures of school and delivery of learning must change, how do we begin to change ever our simplest structures such as Open Houses? What can we do during Open Houses as a staff, a district, a public school system to communicate the changing nature of public education? Can we articulate to parents why we are looking forward to transitioning curriculum from hundreds (if not thousands) of ‘Learning Outcomes’ into five key cross curricular competencies? How do we succinctly communicate how all the important components of the school system: maintenance, transportation, support staff, special education, trustees contribute to a well functioning public school system? I don’t propose to have any specific ideas but I do know what happens when a group of passionate folks apply “group think” to a challenge.

Speaking of the power of “group”, I hope to begin a ‘Dialogue’ over the next few weeks on the cross curricular competencies that our province intends to use as the guiding framework for the new K – 9 DRAFT curriculum which should be released in the next few weeks (you can keep checking HERE.) The Transforming Curriculum and Assessment report from the Ministry is a MUST READ for BC educators and I would urge you to take a look (click HERE.)

How is a competency different from a learning outcome? I know that many of you will be far more articulate in both your understanding and ability to communicate this distinction, but I will help to get the conversation started. As a parent, I know that I value ‘competencies’ in my own children. Their ability to independently problem solve, to apply the distinction between empathy and sympathy, to communicate in a variety of appropriate ways are competencies that I have seen evolve in both of them. Learning outcomes on the other hand are educator defined chunks of subject specific learning and I wonder how many of our parents have a good understanding of these. The problem in my mind has been that we have continued to add learning outcomes without adequate annual “weeding.” You only have to ask a librarian what happens if we continue to add books without ever cleaning up, and in many respects this is what has contributed to a curriculum that is a mile long and a inch deep. Navigating the many, many outcomes that make up a single subject / grade is a daunting task for even our most seasoned educators.

Many of us that have had a chance to be introduced to the new curriculum framework (a single page for any grade curriculum subject) and I for one see this as a significant and promising piece of work. The five cross curricular competencies that will form the framework for the new curriculum are:

  • Communication
  • Critical Thinkingcritical-thinking
  • Creative Thinking and Innovation
  • Personal Responsibility and Well Being
  • Social Responsability

When we see this list, in my opinion we can respond in one of two ways. We either shrug this off as more government rhetoric (“I’ll believe it when I see it”) or a desire to delve deeper into each of the competencies. It is essential that teachers have a good understanding of each of these competencies in relation to the particular stage of child development that they teach at.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to go into a little greater detail into each of these competencies. I am hoping that you will share with me your ideas, observations, lessons, assessments, etc. that relate to any or all of these competencies. While ‘WE’ (I continue to hope that you will join me in One91 to dialogue) have this discussion, I am hopeful that the Ministry will release their curriculum drafts. Here is the email that I received from them the other day when I inquired about the curriculum:

“The curriculum drafts are coming soon, we have a couple of web developers working on getting them ready to go, we are hopeful that they’ll be up in the next week or two. The links [you] pointed to are things from the current curriculum, so that isn’t related to the new curriculum drafts.”

I will begin by looking at Critical Thinking next week and hope that you can either reply to the blog or email me your examples of how you specifically plan and assess for critical thinking in your classroom. How would you define critical thinking to parents and why it relates to a successful learner? As always, I look forward to the conversation.

This week’s video ask’s teachers what they hope for from the first few days…HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THIS QUESTION!


Remind 101

On another quick note, many of you have contacted me (including my wife) that you are using Remind 101 (click HERE), the one-way texting tool for teachers to communicate with parents. I helped my wife set up (very easy) her grade 6 / 7 blended classroom into two distinct classes and as of her Open House on Tuesday, she had just about 50% of parents signed up. Please let me know if you are using this and what type of response you are getting from parents.

Sublime LearningSmartboard Strategies

Just a reminder to all SD 91 teachers that we have another year of access to the Sublime Learning website (click HERE) that contains a variety of suggested lessons and resources for the Smartboard. You should be able to login using your district email address ( with the password: SD91user. You can reset your password once you are onto the site.

If you have forgotten a password that you set last year, you can use your email address and click ‘Forgot Password’ to have your password reset.

If you are unable to access this site, please email me.

Have a great week!

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