June 13, 2017

Multi-level and Multi-subject Math & Science? Yup.

I am writing this blog post during a visit to Colleen Glover’s classroom with a team of teachers and consultants from the ETSB, NFSB, PROCEDE, and the RECIT. (this post was originally written on June 9, 2017)

Colleen is a Math and Science teacher at the Nova Career Centre of the New Frontiers School Board. Her classrooms are always multi-level and sometimes multi-subject as well.

With our new programs and the shift towards the use of learning situations for the development of competencies, teachers are questioning just how they are going to manage this when they teach multi-level and multi-subject groups using an individualized approach.

Well, Colleen manages her groups in a way that is not only possible but positively supports the philosophy of our new programs.

So, we organized a visit to her classroom so that teachers from the ETSB could see how she manages her individualized classes.

What a rich experience! I was inspired by watching the class unfold and seeing how Colleen organizes student learning within the context of different courses – including labs! Her individualized classroom is truly a community of learners. Students support each other in their learning. A group of students in one science course were creating solutions for a small group in another science course for their lab activity.

I particularly liked the celebration wall, where Colleen showcases copies of the acceptance letters her students receive from CEGEPs and universities!

The result of this day will be a video to share with the rest of the province because teachers have been asking for these kinds of resources so they can take a peek into the classrooms of their peers as we transition into teaching with our new programs.

While you are waiting for the video – I invite you to listen to the latest podcast, which is a conversation that took place after the visit, about the unique student/teacher relationship in Adult Education.

We are not alone and when we realize this, anything is possible!

Thank you, Colleen, for inviting us into your classroom!

May 26, 2016

Learning at a Distance (or up close!): thoughts inspired by #REFAD2016

I am in Ottawa at the annual conference on distance education offered by REFAD. One of the opening comments was that distance education is just one of the tools we have to reach our learners and to help frame their learning. I like that the conference started off in this vein. It flows well with my own beliefs in tools – that they are just tools in service of our real work: student learning.

The task then is how best to design learning situations that take place at a distance (or up close!) to reach the needs of our learners in ways that make sense.

The answer seems to lie in relationship and intention.

These are the same themes Avi and I explored with online tutors in adult education a few weeks ago.

CORAL (Complementary Online Resources for Adult Learners) is an online tutoring service offered to adult learners from LEARN Quebec. CORAL’s Barbara and Cheryl asked us to accompany their tutors in some professional development on tutoring at a distance.

At REFAD, presenters from CEGEP á Distance (CAD) told us their story of online tutoring. They talked about the centrality of feedback for success and for fighting dropout rates and absenteeism in distance learning.

What I found especially interesting is that their tutors are all CEGEP teachers, which is a similar situation as our CORAL tutors who are all teachers within Quebec’s English sector Adult Ed system. What the CAD is doing, is providing their tutors with explicit professional development in how to provide effective, intentional feedback as the backbone of their practice.

Roselyne Boyer from Université de Laval spoke about the biggest task in online learning being to manage the human element within all of the technology and in face of the distance. That is, in fact, her vision, as shown in this image from her presentation.


It is really from this point that Avi and I framed our Professional Development with the tutors at CORAL. Our main message was that no matter where we are teaching, the student-teacher relationship frames the work.

Rather than focusing on the technology behind online learning, if we focus on student learning we can then find the tools that make the most sense for everyone within that context.

To return to what I wrote earlier – while the teacher student relationship frames the work, there is also that other human factor that is often missing from the context of the work: the social context.

P., a high school student from Ontario took both online and face to face courses at his school and he shared his experiences with us at REFAD2016. While he did well in his online courses, he preferred his face to face courses because of his friends in the room. I have a feeling that a perfect online course (if that can possibly exist…) will exist somewhere in between the online and the face to face.

So. Flexibility, differentiation, and a recognition of the human element (it is sacred) need to be key factors of learning at a distance. Not very different from learning in presence, is it?

**Featured image: Don’t waste your time or money on ROT! Wellcome Library, London, on Flickr. Shared via CC. BY. ND. NC

March 24, 2016

A note on turnkey teacher resources…

Lately I have been involved in conversations about teaching and learning in many venues – from program implementation across the province to changing teacher practice in the classroom.

A similar thread weaves itself through all of these conversations – the (expressed) need for ‘clé en main’ resources for teachers.

Do you know why it is so hard to find ‘clé en main’ (turnkey) resources for the courses that we teach? Because they don’t exist. Nowhere else in the world is there another course exactly like the one you are teaching… Right. Now.

teacher + students + content = course

The content may stay the same for a period of time but the rest of the equation is made up of variables. And when just one of those variables shifts…the course is ultimately changed.

As written in this article (by I do not know who, an author who goes by the nickname Love Teach):

Nothing about teaching is one-size fits all

It is a lovely alchemic mixture distilled through …yeah, you were wondering when I’d mention it… relationship.

Our new programs in adult education (which are extensions of the competency-based reform in the youth sector) place the focus on student-centered and community-based learning – both of which are hinged on relationship.

We know that our students and communities change all the time.

Yet, a lot of time and energy is spent on either trying to create turnkey, one size fits all resources or in seeking them out.

One of my recent conversations was with Emilie, a history teacher at Nova Career Centre who was talking about why she organizes her classroom into learning stations.

Another was with Daniel, a math and science teacher at St Laurent Adult Centre who talked about how he records and shares his content with his students as well as how he wants to move towards learning stations in his classroom.

And yet another was with a group of four teachers: Natasha and Jonathan from Place Cartier Adult Centre, and Lethisha and Troy from Pearson Adult and Career Centre who got together to talk about formative assessment.

Again, there was a common thread in these conversations … but it was of a different shade, a different count. Each of these teachers said, when trying something new in the classroom, it was important to start small, to experiment, and to find out what works best for you and your students.

This thread seems much stronger to me than the one about creating turnkey resources.

(One definition of turnkey is jailer…)

(Keys generally only work for one lock and we usually use them to keep others out.)

(image: Key to… by pi di on flickr, licensed CC BY SA 2.0)