09/07/2015 05:34 EDT | Updated 09/07/2016 05:12 EDT

Questions Parents Should Ask With New B.C. Curriculum

As a mother of two high-school aged kids and an educational consultant, I see first-hand the struggles that students and parents face. With the new changes to the curriculum I see the potential for these challenges to increase exponentially.

The new B.C. curriculum is being released for the 2015/2016 school year for kindergarten through Grade 9. Trying to make sense of what it means in practical terms is challenging, at best.

The promise of an educational system that will better prepare students for the 21st century is appealing. However, how this is going to be delivered in schools and what the impact to students is going to be, is concerning.

As a mother of two high-school aged kids and an educational consultant, I see first-hand the struggles that students and parents face. With the new changes to the curriculum I see the potential for these challenges to increase exponentially.

Students will be asked to set their own learning plan, and then to self-evaluate on their progress. In theory, goal setting and allowing students to determine what they want to focus their learning on -- based on their strengths, interests and aspirations -- is promising. But my concern is whether teachers will be able to deliver this in the classroom while they still have to meet set learning objectives within each subject area and grade.

In order for this new way of teaching to be effective, teachers will need to spend one on one time with each student to help them set their learning goals and then monitor their individual progress. Again in theory, this sounds great, but my concern is how it translates for students.

Teachers will now play a much more impactful role in ensuring students are focusing their learning in the right direction and that they are challenging themselves enough. What happens if a student does not get adequate guidance and support from a teacher on how to set appropriate goals that are not too easy, but challenging enough to keep them engaged? The potential for students to fall between the cracks of the system becomes even greater.

The greatest concern lies with students that are at the intermediate and secondary level. To date, their education has been driven from the top down, with very little choice or autonomy given. Now they will be asked to decide what they want to focus their learning on and what they feel they need to improve on.

The concern is that these students will focus on results as opposed to learning. In other words, a student will base his learning objective on what they know they can do well and will little effort, as opposed to where they can challenge themselves and have the greatest opportunity for learning.

In a perfect scenario, the teacher would know the student well enough to see through this and would then be able guide the student accordingly. However, we do not live in a perfect world and teachers, especially at the high school level, work with large numbers of students and it would be unrealistic to think they could provide this type of individualized attention.

Unfortunately, what this means is that the onus falls on the parents more than ever before. Parents will need to be aware and actively engaged in their child's learning and goal setting. They will need to know what the learning plan for their child is and will also need to inform themselves on how the teacher will be communicating their child's progress.

Parents should be prepared to ask teachers the following questions:

1) Are my child's learning objectives challenging them enough?

2) My child indicated they want to focus more on _____ (ex: creative writing) but my concern is that they need to improve...(ex: essay writing). What will be the plan for improving their ____ (ex: essay writing)

3) How will my child know if they have reached their goal and what will be the progression from that?

4) How will my child's progress be monitored and reported?

5) What incremental checks will you my child have to ensure to ensure they are on track with their learning objectives, and how will these be communicated with me?

6) How will my child's results be evaluated?

Then of course there is the question of no longer using grades to report on student progress.

Although, in theory I believe this is a step in the right direction for promoting a more holistic learning environment, I worry about what this means for students as they transition from high school to post-secondary.

Students may be less prepared for a more rigorous system. That is why effective goal setting and choosing learning objectives that challenge the student is so paramount to their long term success. If students are allowed to choose the "easy way," they will not gain the skills they need to persevere through difficult courses in post-secondary.

The concern is not if the new curriculum is effective or not, the main concern is will all teachers be able to deliver it. As parents we will need to be vigilant and involved more than ever before to ensure our kids are not slipping through the system.

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