PSD70 Learning Coach Program

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High Expectations From Future Employers = A New Focus On Cross Curricular Competencies

Most recently my teen-aged daughter got her first part time job.   Although this is an entry level position (her very first step into the world of work), I was amazed at how complicated the whole process was.  Two things stood out to me as she navigated her way through the application and interview process.  Firstly, I was surprised at the depth of knowledge, skills and attitudes that she was expected to possess in order to be considered for her position.  Secondly, I was amazed at the process itself, which was highly digital and time consuming.  She literally had to answer hundreds of behavioural questions that would reflect her ability to problem solve, make quick decisions, work collaboratively, be flexible, learn in a fast  paced environment, manage her time and so on.  This was a far cry from the application and interview process that I went through in my youth when I applied for my first job many years ago.

As with many of my children’s experiences, I tend to view them through my “teacher’s eyes” and this new development in my daughter’s life was no different.   Looking over her shoulder as she navigated her way through the digital process of completing her applications, uploading her resume and working through the behavioral questionnaires, many questions came to mind:

  • What skills and attitudes are missing in my daughter’s development? 
  • Are the areas where my daughter needs to improve her development of work knowledge, attitude and skill reflective of those in other youth? 
  • How do we as a school system effectively prepare our students for their future employment? 
  • How can I use my daughter’s experiences to help me as a Learning Coach to support teachers in moving their practice forward, so that they are supporting students to effectively prepare for their future? 

My daughter is what I would consider a 21st Century Learner and her most recent experience into the world of work is confirmation for me that there is most definitely a shift happening in what employers are expecting, even from their most junior employees.  This is also reflective of the transformation that is happening in Education today.  With the most recent changes brought about by the Ministerial Order, we are moving away from a content focused curriculum, to focus being placed on using the content to teach the Cross Curricular Competencies.    The 10 Cross Curricular Competencies focus on supporting Alberta’s students in becoming engaged thinkers, ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit.  They are an “interrelated set of attitudes, skills and knowledge that students will be able to draw upon and apply to a particular context for successful learning and living.”  The Competencies include:

  • Know how to learn
  • Think critically
  • Identify and solve complex problems
  • Manage information
  • Innovate
  • Create opportunities
  • Apply multiple literacies
  • Demonstrate good communication skills
  • Demonstrate global and cultural understanding
  • Identify and apply career and life skills

When I think back to the behavioral questionnaires that my daughter had to answer in order to even be considered for an interview, it is obvious to me that she had to draw upon her own development of the attitudes, knowledge and skills that closely relate to the competencies in the Ministerial Order.  These employers wanted to know:

  • If she did know how to learn
  • If she was able to manage information in a fast paced, sometimes stressful environment
  • If she could work as part of a team and communicate effectively, not only in a digital format, but in person as well, and so on.

When I view the Cross Curricular Competencies in light of my daughter’s work experiences and her future career expectations, I honestly believe that we are on the right track as we shift towards a competency focused approach to teaching and learning.  In light of this, I have many more questions that I ask myself as a Learning Coach:

  • How do I support this shift? 
  • How do I support teachers in not only deepening their understanding of the Cross Curricular Competencies, but in shifting their focus from teaching content, to using the content to teach the competencies? 
  • How do I support teachers in designing authentic and engaging competency focused experiences in order to ensure optimal learning? 

Right now I feel like I have many more questions than answers and many of these questions are complex and will keep me busy for a while; but I am excited to work through this process collaboratively with my not only my Learning Coach Cohort, but my teaching colleagues as well.  I am also glad to have my daughter’s experiences as a lens to look through when working through this process.

Critical Thinking and Inclusion

As our Critical Thinking Lead Teacher for two years, it makes sense that much of the co-planning and co-teaching that I am invited to do centers around just that.  I expected this, and welcomed it!  But I have noticed one significant difference this year:  teachers aren’t asking for help with critical thinking because they feel like they should, or because it’s the “newest trend”…they want it because of the statements behind PSD’s Commitment to Inclusion.  Classes are becoming increasingly diverse and the inclusive environment can, at times, be daunting.  Teachers are looking for help to help their students and many are coming to the conclusion that critical thinking tools and challenges are an effective way to do this.  YAY!!!

Does it Improve Environments?

A middle years teacher and I have been working together a lot to create a social studies program that will promote a classroom of critical thinkers.  Reflecting with the teacher, it has become clear that the environment that has been created through the critical thinking model has led to greater risk-taking and enhanced communication skills for many of the students sometimes unwilling to participate fully.  Students are aware that as long as they can follow the criteria and give reasons for their response, their answers are valid.

Does it Focus on Independence?

The word criteria floats around our school, but it’s when the students are really assessing themselves and their classmates, using that criteria, that it really shows their understanding of the word.  Early years classes have criteria for everything from walking down the hallway and asking powerful questions during show and share, to respectful listening.  Nothing creates independence like students creating their own criteria and assessing themselves using it.

Does it promote ALL Students being Special?

Students in one of our early years classes regularly participate in a critical thinking learning station.  I can honestly say that my discussions with one of the lower-academic groups, have been some of the most insightful and exciting.  In reflecting with the teacher about this, we felt many of the activities and assessments that are traditionally used are not always intended to highlight the habits of mind shown by these students (open-mindedness, intellectual courage, inquiring mind).

Does it use a Strength-Based Model of Thinking?

One of our early years students has been demonstrating quite high-level skills in many areas.  In conversations with his teacher, it was decided that he would benefit from some differentiated instruction and enrichment projects.  These often take the form of a critical challenge.  After each project, he presents to the class (modeling new skills and “tools”) and the teacher and/or I present a critical challenge for the rest of the class based on the student’s project.

Does it maintain High Expectations for All?

An early years teacher and I have been working on a social studies unit heavily based on technology and critical thinking.  There’s a great deal of differentiation regarding how students can learn the material, acquire the skills (tools) and demonstrate what they know and what they can do.  It was set up this way intentionally so that all students have the opportunity (and responsibility) to perform to the best of their abilities.  I think it will.

I’d love to hear your critical thinking success stories!

Twyla Badry


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