Professors weigh in on curriculum

·3 min read

Schools in Alberta are teaching a new curriculum in classrooms this year with K-3 seeing an implementation in English and Math, and K-6 seeing new Physical Education and Wellness in their studies.

This new curriculum is being rolled out by the Alberta government under the UCP leadership.

“The process of developing the curriculum has been problematic and certainly contentious. Recognizing that the curriculum that’s being implemented isn’t one that many teachers have a high level of trust in. What I’m saying is, I’m not sure teachers feel they have been adequately consulted with, and are not confident with what they are being asked to do, towards the best interest of their students,” said Amy von Heyking, associate professor of the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge. “Teachers have had preparation; they have been working with the materials available to them. But it is a much shorter timeline than we have had for previous programs. We have never tried to implement more than one subject area at a time. Typically, there are several years of piloting and feedback, then optional implementation with opportunity for professional learning. And that hasn’t happened. It’s been a very tight timeline.”

Heyking also notes the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic adds to the stress, with impacts to students over the last couple of years disrupting schooling, saying for most teachers the anxiety about what is being expected of them adds to the burden.

“The status of implementing the curriculum has been pretty quick. It’s been developed by the current government in a fairly short period of time, with a fairy short period for implementation,” said Sandy Bankos with the facility of education at the U of L. “Speaking to the mathematics curriculum, it’s structured differently than previous curriculum. Teachers have to be able to look at what the structure is and be able to read and interpret that in order to plan appropriate activities for students. When something looks different, is set up differently, it takes time to figure out exactly how to work with it. Curriculum tends to come out first, and resources to support it often come out after. When first implementing, teachers are trying to use the resources they currently have in order to best teach a new curriculum. But the resources that would match this curriculum haven’t been created yet. Which provides a bit of a challenge for teachers.”

“This government made the choice to marginalize professional teachers, the faculties of education in this province, and hired consultants to create these drafts,” said Heyking.

“There has been some modification because of feedback, but piloting was done by a few teachers in a limited classroom context. What has to happen, is that information needs to go back to the ministry about what teachers are finding, and noting places where there is not a good match with what their students need.”

Both Heyking and Bankos note though the new curriculum may have issues with how it is being implemented, students are still in the care of the best educators.

“Alberta teachers are excellent, they tend to rise to a challenge, because they care about their students. They want to do the best job they can so that their students can be successful with learning,” said Bankos.

“Teachers and the work they are doing with the curriculum directly, will go back to Alberta Education. Hopefully they will be open to what the data indicates. Teachers are doing assessments with students in grades one, two, and three, to understand the levels of students early in the school year and at the end, to help indicate any potential problems,” said Heyking.

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald