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International partnership to pursue equity in mathematics

April 7, 2015 J-C Couture, Associate Co-ordinator — Research

Association President Mark Ramsankar (left) commemorates the announcement of the NORCAN partnership with Boston College professor Dennis Shirley and Roar Grøttvik (right), a political advisor with the Union of Education Norway.

Association joins forces with Norway and Ontario

A network of schools committed to improving the teaching and learning of mathematics through a commitment to equity — this is the focus of the newly minted Norway-Canadian (NORCAN) partnership launched at an inaugural summit March 13 and 14 held in conjunction with the uLead conference in Banff. Bringing together school teams in Norway, Ontario and Alberta will offer opportunities through action research to examine questions such as what does it mean to be good at math, is there such a thing as natural ability in math or, for a student, what does it mean to ask for help?

What is unique about the partnership is the involvement of principals, teachers and students who will work side by side to engage in these and other questions. This approach, including the ­involvement of an international research team, is one initially developed in the Association’s partnership with Finnish schools and the Finnish ­ministry of education.

Over the past four years the Finland-Alberta partnership has provided important insights into school development and has contributed to the Association’s ability to offer meaningful input into educational reform, here in Alberta, in key areas such as curriculum and assessment.

“Likewise, the NORCAN schools that are committed to supporting all and that are learning from each other will provide the networks and leadership needed to improve teaching and learning across the board,” Ramsankar said.

Partners in the NORCAN project include the Union of Education Norway, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Referring to the Association’s growing presence in the international research community in areas such as technology, leadership and school improvement, Ramsankar outlined how the partners in the NORCAN initiative bring to the table proven research capacity and experience in educational development.

For example, the Union of Education Norway produces a number of publications, including Utdanning (Education), a professional trade union journal, Bedre Skole (Better School), a professional journal that explores the relationship between the profession and research, Første Steg (First Step), a journal focused on early childhood education and Yrke (Trade), a journal profiling vocational education.

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation is an active participant in the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program, an initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Education. The program provides funding to experienced teachers for professional development and leadership enhancement experiences and for sharing their learning with others.

As the three-year NORCAN partnership rolls out, school teams consisting of students, teachers and their principals will refine their shared school improvement questions and will work with the network to develop strategies for addressing their focus of inquiry. Two external researchers, Dennis ­Shirley from Boston College and Norwegian mathematics expert Mona Røsselanda, will provide facilitation and support in these processes. Throughout the partnership, documentation and sharing of the school initiatives will take place in annual summit meetings to be held in Norway and Canada.

In speaking at the launch of the ­NORCAN partnership, Ramsankar stressed the strategic importance “of the Association’s ongoing efforts to build its research capacity through international networks of forward-thinking jurisdictions that are as committed as we are to creating a great school for all students.”

“Furthermore” he added, “NORCAN will demonstrate once again, as did our very successful partnership with Finland, that it is by connecting networks of schools and learning from their work that real, meaningful educational change will take place, not from ­ministerial decrees or policy ­pronouncements.” ❚

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