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Curriculum circle highlights lack of teacher input

June 15, 2021 Kate Toogood, ATA News Staff


Mark Swanson,    

New feedback from teachers on the draft K–6 curriculum has provided further evidence that it is not ready for Alberta’s elementary schools. The feedback, provided by grade level and subject matter experts, demonstrates that the draft curriculum was not written by Alberta’s K–6 classroom teachers, said Mark Swanson, chair of the feedback session and the ATA’s co-ordinator of Professional Development.

“We knew the draft curriculum featured incorrect terminology, inconsistent learning expectations and in some cases, completely inappropriate content,” Swanson said. “But now we know just how flawed it is.”

The feedback was gathered May 31 during a virtual curriculum circle organized by the Alberta Teachers’ Association. The event enabled dozens of elementary teachers, including those with Indigenous and francophone perspectives, to provide expert response to the curriculum draft released by Alberta Education on March 29. The Association hosted the event as another phase of its ongoing, in-depth assessment and evaluation of the draft curriculum.

“It was critical for us to hear directly from classroom teachers since they have key expertise with curriculum matters and understand deeply how children learn,” Swanson said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to really dig into the draft curriculum documents and provide robust feedback, and they did not disappoint.”

The circle featured opening remarks from ATA president Jason Schilling as well as a presentation from University of Lethbridge education professor Richelle Marynowski, who focused on the current research and best practices in the development and delivery of elementary education. The remainder of the day included three 90-minute sessions during which participants were broken into groups based on their expertise and asked open-ended questions about curriculum content and delivery.

An example of criticism that came forward related to the physical education curriculum, which asks elementary students to count calories and compare their bodies to those of their classmates.

“How is this appropriate for young learners? Not only does this counter everything we know about how to teach about health and nutrition, it’s potentially harmful to young people,” Swanson said.

Feedback gathered at the circle will be combined with commentary from the Association’s specialist councils and findings from a survey of more than 5,400 teachers and presented in a report to Provincial Executive Council. “By providing clear and actionable advice, we’re demonstrating where the draft curriculum will fail students and why it must be rewritten,” Swanson said. “The minister has asked for feedback, and we hope she will listen to what these classroom experts have to say.”

The Association is urging the provincial government to place a moratorium on the piloting and implementation of the draft curriculum so that a full review and rewrite that includes classroom teachers can occur. ❚

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