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2010-11 Prairie Waters - International Mindedness

Potential for Improved Student Learning

There is a need for choice in Rocky View Schools for an international perspective of learning and teaching.  We propose that this begin at Prairie Waters Elementary School; a school that has a population of 530 students, 33% of which are English Language Learners who come from 21 different countries.  These demographics place new demands on schools, particularly pertaining to curriculum delivery, appreciation of cultural diversity, facilitation of student mobility, and fostering of 21st century learning skills.  Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind, (2005) states that we are moving into the Conceptual Age where students will need to know how to find information and then use skills of synthesis, communication, validation, and collaboration, all for the ultimate aim of problem solving.

Our mission is to provide a curriculum framework for international primary education. We believe that concept-driven planning with a focus on international mindedness will enhance Rocky View Schools’ portrait of a 21st century learner.  The cultural diversity of the Chestermere community makes a focus on pluralism and internationalism at Prairie Waters Elementary School a logical and ideal prototype that could ultimately be extended throughout the community. As the diversity of Rocky View Schools’ grows, a need exists for curriculum planning that incorporates not only the principles of Understanding by Design but also planning that builds connections and understandings between international borders.  Such a planning and instruction prototype has potential benefits across the school district, ultimately providing our students maximum opportunity for participation in a global society.

Our vision, beginning with students in the primary years, and building seamless transitions to middle and high school, working in collaboration as a community of learners, would help address early goal-setting vis-à-vis high school completion.  Experiences in the early years lay the foundations for the future of all learning.  It is our responsibility as educators to recognize and maximize this crucial stage of learning.

The framework of planning based on internationalism complements Rocky View Schools’ Three Year Plan.  Unit creation will focus on developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people.  Six trans-disciplinary themes will provide a constructivist approach that ensures that RVS goals are integrated and authentic:

●        Who we are                                                                

●        Where we are in place and time

●        How we express ourselves

●        How the world works

●        How we organize ourselves

●        Sharing the planet

Planning and instruction will help learners construct meaning through:

1.       The written curriculum: the identification of a framework of what’s worth knowing. (Which asks the question, “What do we want to learn?”)

2.       The taught curriculum: the theory and application of good classroom practice. (Which asks the question, “How best will we learn?”)

3.       The assessed curriculum: the theory and application of effective assessment. (Which asks the question, “How will we know what we have learned?”)

Lines of Inquiry that facilitate concept-driven curriculum, which is essential in the creation of the thinking classroom, will form the basis of teacher and student planning.


Mindtools

In order for such an ambitious overhaul of student learning to occur, students need access to tools and need to participate in tasks that assess and evaluate their knowledge, understanding, application, and transfer of learner outcomes.  They also need multiple means of expression and presentation to ensure flexible engagement.  This requires a heavy investment of accessible technology to allow for as instant availability as possible to provide portals to the world to fulfill the global demands of an international education.  Classroom demands such as flexible pod arrangements, access to a variety of delivery formats and media, and the necessity to help students build relationships, where students are separated by time and space, calls for higher standards of technology, with this proposal supporting a minimum scale of one computer to every four students on a full-time basis. 

 

Professional Learning and Communication Plan

In addition to school-to-school collaboration as described above, this project entails significant in-school collaboration as well.  In the initial phase of this project, each piloting teacher will receive training specific to a concept-driven international education and will visit out-of-District schools to garner samples of excellence that can be synthesized into a new model of excellence. Individual teacher PDLC funding will be invested in and Teacher Professional Growth Plans will be constructed in support of this project. Teachers will receive additional training in the use of emerging technologies.

 

Piloting teachers are committed to sharing their knowledge and understanding with all stakeholders in the division including parents, staff, students and the Education Centre Leadership Team. Parents and staff will be informed of the aim of an international education through a series of sessions.  Students will be trained in metacognitive processes so that they are engaged in the umbrella concepts as well as be able to reflect on their own portrait as 21st century learners. 

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