In Collaboration: Curriculum development a partnership between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Education

March 1, 2017
   

Mark Yurick

Paul Lamoureux  

Curriculum development a partnership between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Education

These are exciting times for K–12 education in Alberta. On June 15, 2016, Education Minister David Eggen announced the development of K–12 provincial curriculum (programs of study) to ensure that all students are provided with an education that enriches their lives and prepares them for future careers in a diversified economy. Programs of study are being developed in language arts (English, Français and French), mathematics, social studies, sciences, arts and wellness education, in both English and French. The scope of this work is unprecedented and is only possible through collaboration and trust.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Education are pleased to engage in a formal partnership as we collectively undertake this important work. It has been recognized that the involvement of the profession is essential to the development and implementation of provincial programs of study and as such on Sept. 30, 2016, Dr. Gordon Thomas, executive secretary of the ATA and Dr. Curtis Clarke, deputy minister of Alberta Education, signed a memorandum of understanding that formalized a partnership between the Association and Alberta Education as the work of curriculum development moves forward. 

This partnership is based on mutually agreed goals pursued through a shared understanding and mutual respect. Our dynamic and collaborative partnership is co-leading the development and implementation of new K–12 programs of study, which set out what students are to know and be able to do in each subject and grade. It is recognized that the minister of education has the legislated responsibility to authorize and support the implementation of programs of study in Alberta and that programs of study allow teachers to exercise their professional judgement in fulfilling their duties related to providing instruction, encouraging and fostering learning, and evaluating students. This includes the professional responsibility and flexibility to determine the instructional approach or how the provincial programs of study are brought to life in the classroom.

Provincial programs of study will continue to be developed by subjects and by grade levels. There will be fewer but more focused learning outcomes and they will have a common design approach (including learning outcomes) across subject areas, which will facilitate more effective teacher planning and the creation of learning opportunities that meet the specific needs of students and local communities. Provincial programs of study will continue to demonstrate that it is important for students to “know things,” but of equal importance will be for students to use and apply what they know.

The Guiding Framework for the Design and Development of Future Kindergarten to Grade 12 Provincial Curriculum (Programs of Study) (2016) will be used as a foundational document to the process. The framework sets the common student-centred direction, principles and standards, architecture and design for the development of all new K–12 programs of study. It builds on the strengths of current programs of study, review of research, consultations with key stakeholders, policy (e.g. inclusion) and government of Alberta commitments (e.g., supporting First Nations, Métis and Inuit student learning), and the work of curriculum prototyping.

Curriculum development will also actively include consideration of the role and structure of student assessment as it pertains to learning outcomes in future programs of study. Important to note is the critical role each individual teacher’s classroom assessment practices will play.

As previously mentioned, this collaborative partnership between the Association and Alberta Education also includes co-leading the implementation of future programs of study. Timelines for provincial implementation, once programs of study development is complete, have yet to be determined. However, to ensure effective implementation, effective, coordinated supports need to be in place. The implementation of future programs of study will be an ongoing process rather than an event, and will continually build capacity in the field. In addition to the ministry and the Association, other key education stakeholders, including professional development providers and preservice post-secondary institutions, will be engaged to strengthen capacity and understanding of future programs of study.

The Association and Alberta Education look forward to continuing to work closely together to develop provincial programs of study in order to better serve students and ultimately all Albertans. Included in this edition is information about curriculum working groups and engagement opportunities for Albertans and teachers.


Dr. Mark Yurick is the coordinator of the Professional Development program area of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Paul Lamoureux is executive director of operations and curriculum implementation supports at Alberta Education.

Curriculum Working Groups

Alberta teachers and Alberta Education have a long tradition of working together. This includes developing world-class provincial kindergarten to Grade 12 (K–12) programs of study.

As part of the Association’s partnership with Alberta Education for the development of provincial programs of study, we collaborated to create and launch curriculum design working groups in October 2016. Working groups were established following a call for nominations that was issued by Alberta Education in July 2016. More than 700 nominations were received from across the province and just over 300 were selected based on pre-established criteria, such as representation of Alberta’s geographic and demographic diversity and related expertise.

Working groups are comprised of teachers and post-secondary educators who have expertise within subjects and across grades, as well as Alberta Education staff. Working groups include representation from francophone and First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. They also include representatives from the departments of education of both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, as these territories use Alberta’s programs of study. Some working groups also include non-profit organizations and Government of Alberta ministry partners that design and deliver multi-grade or multi-subject programming based on current K–12 programs of study.

Working groups are mandated to develop draft provincial programs of study for Alberta Education’s consideration. This includes the development of draft subject introductions, scope and sequences, as well as learning outcomes.

The working group members will work with Alberta Education staff, in partnership with the Association, in developing draft K–12 programs of study in accordance with The Guiding Framework for the Design and Development of Kindergarten to Grade 12 Provincial Curriculum (Programs of Study) (2016). Working groups will consider current curriculum, research, what other high-performing national and international education systems are doing, and prior work with education stakeholders, such as curriculum prototyping, to help develop new provincial curriculum.

This work, to be completed by 2022, is supported by a new online development tool, the Curriculum Development and Management Application (CDMA). Once completed, this new technology will make it possible for teachers to connect and interact from all corners of the province, allowing for greater professional collaboration and sharing of resources that will support student learning.

Engagement Opportunities For Provincial Curriculum Development

In partnership with the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta Education is developing provincial curriculum (programs of study) simultaneously, in English and French. Development of provincial programs of study requires meaningful input from Albertans throughout the process. Engaging with Albertans ensures that programs of study reflect society’s values and what is needed for students to be prepared for their future. It goes without saying that teacher involvement is essential throughout this process. Who better than the curriculum implementers in the classroom to help lead development of provincial programs of study?

We are collaboratively developing engagement approaches to ensure that Albertans and education stakeholders are engaged in meaningful ways. Opportunities to provide input include online surveys, face-to-face discussions, written submissions, as well as focus groups between 2016 and 2022 for all six subject areas. What follows is an overview of activities since this past summer as well as upcoming opportunities to be involved.

May — June 2016
Alberta Education hosted conversations with education partners and other Government of Alberta ministries to seek advice and support for a guiding framework as the basis for developing future programs of study and to involve them in plans for the development of provincial programs of study.

June 2016
On June 15, Minister of Education David Eggen announced that provincial programs of study development in six subject areas is proceeding over the next six years.

September 2016
On Sept. 30, 2016, the Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Education signed a memorandum of understanding that formalized a partnership between the Association and Alberta Education to co-lead the development and implementation of future K–12 provincial programs of study.

October 2016
On Oct. 3, 2016, Association president Mark Ramsankar and Education Minister David Eggen launched the curriculum working groups. This signaled the beginning of provincial programs of study development work, including the development of draft subject introductions and draft scope and sequences.

October — November 2016
Albertans were encouraged to have their say and to take the online provincial curriculum survey between Oct. 18 and Nov. 18, 2016. More than 32,000 Albertans completed part A of the survey (feedback about the general direction of curriculum development) and more than 25,000 Albertans completed part B (feedback on specific subjects and grade levels). During this time, the Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia hosted face-to-face engagement sessions across the province. Approximately 3,500 Albertans met to discuss survey topics in preparation for filling in the survey. Survey results are being analyzed and a summary of what Albertans said will be available on the Alberta Education website in the spring of 2017.

January 2017
An additional opportunity for Albertans to provide input into provincial programs of study development took place on Jan. 12 and 13, 2017. We are pleased to share that 39 non-profit organizations applied to Alberta Education and made 15 minute presentations to one or more of the curriculum working groups.

Spring 2017
The next opportunity for Albertans, including teachers, is to provide feedback on the draft subject introductions and draft scope and sequences in each K–12 subject through a validation process that is targeted for spring 2017. Albertans will be able to engage in one or more of the following opportunities:

  • Complete an online provincial validation survey
  • Attend face-to-face engagement sessions hosted by the Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia in each region of the province
  • Organize and host their own session(s) for their group (e.g., group of teachers or school council) to complete the survey

Additionally, validation focus groups comprised of teachers, post-secondary professors and education partners will be established to provide feedback on draft subject introductions and draft scope and sequences.

Fall 2017
Curriculum working groups will begin drafting K–12 learning outcomes in the six subject areas, with a focus on K–4.

Spring 2018
Validation of draft K–4 learning outcomes using the aforementioned approaches

Fall 2018 and onward
The cycle of developing learning outcomes and validating continues through to December 2022, when development of the six K–12 subject areas is targeted for completion.

Additional information about curriculum development and engagement opportunities can be accessed at https://education.alberta.ca/curriculum-development/. Alberta Education’s website will continue to be updated when information becomes available on the opportunities for Albertans to provide feedback.

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