This series of resources presents effective practices implemented by some of the 27 schools involved in the original High School Flexibility Enhancement Pilot Project (HSFEPP) as they explored ways to use flexibility to increase student engagement and achievement and to support quality teaching in their schools. This series represents a sampling of the effective practices being implemented in redesign schools across the province.
Learning for the 21st century requires that teachers do more than aim for the middle. It requires that teachers meet individual students’ needs, whatever they are. It also requires that students find a way to learn as individuals. How can teachers and their students make such a leap?
Mastery Learning & Task Design
At James Fowler High School in Calgary, Principal Keith Johnson says, “Our data was telling us that not all students were engaged in their learning environments.” This led to the introduction of Mastery Learning and Task Design.
How can a high school let its students have a controlled way to make choices and start taking responsibility for planning their learning opportunities? How can students responsibly explore learning opportunities beyond the set curriculum, perhaps in preparation for a college or university experience?
Flex Block for Course Completion
Principal Mike Centazzo speaks for the staff at Edwin Parr Composite High School in Athabasca: “We were well aware that some students can accomplish the necessary outcomes in courses at a faster rate than others, while some need additional time and assistance to cover the same material. We wanted to provide the opportunity for all kids to pursue their courses to best serve their individual needs.”
Students need choice and a greater say in their education,” says Courtney Lawrence of St. Joseph High School in Grande Prairie. “Students need to be able to pursue subjects of interest in more depth or receive additional help for those in which they struggle.”
Continuous Progress Courses
Some students at James Fowler High School were failing courses because they are unable to learn all the course material within the allotted time. To help these students achieve success, staff introduced Continuous Progress Courses.
We have created partnerships with post-secondary and service providers to break down the notion that school only occurs within the walls of the classroom,” says Keith Johnson, Principal of James Fowler High School. Collaborative Partnerships are built upon shared interests between the school, parents, businesses and the community. All high school students can benefit from Collaborative Partnerships that allow them to job shadow in the business sector or offer them the support of a career mentor.
Thirsk High School opened for students on September 3, 2013,” says Principal Chris Meaden. “The previous year, we hired 12 learning leaders and set up a high school redesign project. We hired the first teachers in March 2013 and are still hiring.
Personalized Learning Time & Seminar Time
Four years ago our dropout rate was 4.3 per cent; only 72.4 per cent of our students were completing high school in three years, and Rutherford Scholarships were won by less than 50 per cent of our students,” says Principal Darlene Marcinkevics of Spruce Grove Composite High School. “More and more students were disengaged.”
Ongoing Feedback can take a variety of forms: In peer feedback, a student is given feedback by other students, on his/her ideas and how he/she has written them. The students providing the feedback offer other perspectives to the student. The experience of hearing feedback from peers can be a powerful one.
Student Led Conferences
Students, parents and teachers from William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler are taking advantage of student-led conferences by using the opportunity to understand the benefits of self-direction and the value of students having a more active role in their own learning.
Pods for Learning
At James Fowler High School,” states Principal Keith Johnson, “student drop-out rates were high, and students were saying that high school did not always interest and motivate them. We wanted students to stay in their classes and programs, and we felt that building a community of learners would encourage motivation, personalization, success and retention.”
Teacher Advisory System
As in other pilot projects for high school flexibility enhancement, Mother Margaret Mary High School’s Flex Program is paired with a school-wide Teacher Advisory System. At the present time, each teacher advisor (TA) is responsible for 20 multi-grade (Grades 9-11) students for the four years of their time at the school. The TA and students meet every Thursday for 50 minutes.
Five years ago, when we started the High School Flexibility project,” says Norb Baharally of William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler, “we conducted a survey with our students and asked them if they had a significant relationship with a teacher in the school. Fifty-two percent indicated they were neutral or disagreed with this. We decided that personalization and building relationships would be a pillar upon which we would build our flexibility program.
Teacher Advisor Program
At James Fowler High School in Calgary, “We believe that students who have relationships with an adult in the building will improve student achievement and personal growth throughout their time at high school,” says Principal Keith Johnson.
Team Teaching and Collaboration
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Academy in Slave Lake is a small school, and teachers of speciality subjects were becoming isolated – this became apparent through the staff satisfaction surveys. Data gathered on this issue from the TELL Them FROM Me and the Accountability Pillar prompted the school to implement a formalized team teaching approach.
Teacher Collaborative Time
Four years ago, students at Spruce Grove Composite High School were increasingly disengaged. Teachers found that students either needed more time for mastery or they were forced to sit in classes, bored to tears. Teachers found that they themselves needed to improve and revise their practices, but even more fundamentally, that they needed to clarify and revise their ideas and images of what “student success” means. Teacher Collaborative Time is the result of an exploration of the meaning of student success undertaken by staff at Spruce Grove Composite High School.
Teacher Professional Planning Time
While teachers may attend professional development sessions and conferences, the reality is there is just not enough time to implement what is learned at a conference once teachers return to the school. Tammy Tchir, assistant principal of M.E. Lazerte High School in Edmonton, and her staff found that what was needed was regular, structured time for teachers to implement changes.