Ontario’s Updated Health & Physical Education Curriculum – Is it too explicit?

o-SEX-ED-FRONT-570Ontario just released their improved and updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum as discussed in this CBC article for the first time since 1998. The biggest reason that this new updated curriculum needs to be implemented all over Canada is because of the increase of technology not only in schools, but within the teenage and youth in Canada. The truth of the matter is that with the increase of technology and children having access to technology at younger and younger ages, the harsh reality is that they do need to know about sex at a younger age.

There are students who have had cellphones for the majority of their lives, therefore have immediate access to the Internet. I guarantee that all teenagers have experienced some kind of cyber bullying in their lives. They also have access to cameras and apps such as “Snapchat” which was created so that people could send risqué photos to others and have it immediately deleted after a set number of seconds. Children need to know the dangers of technology and how to use it properly and appropriately.

Sexual health is more complex than its ever been. The article states: “Issues like gender identity, like lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans sexualities, sexual activity amongst young people — these are all hard conversations for all teachers to have”. There are hard conversations you need to have with your students in order to create an inclusive environment for all students. There are sexual relationships between different genders and not only that; there are a lot more birth control methods that have been created since 1998.

Something that I wonder about reading this article is the reaction of parents. Regardless of whether or not parents are pleased with their children learning about sexual related issues, are schools still allowed to go forward with it? If they were backed up with a new curriculum that is put together by the government, then I would argue that regardless of parent reactions, those teachers are still expected to teach it. A quote I really agree with from the CBC article sums the issue up very well, “I have this absolute conviction that the vast majority, if not all, parents would like their children to grow up to be sexually healthy adults”. We aren’t teaching these things to students to promote sex, we are teaching these things to ensure that every student has the knowledge of how to be safe and healthy when it does come to sexual relationships. The Huffington Post published a really informational article that breaks down and summarized exactly what each grade will learn in regards to the new curriculum. It is very helpful to understand exactly what will be taught and when.

From my own experience in high school, I had maybe two lessons learning about sex and sexual health. One was in grade 6, when a nurse came into our class and separated the boys from the girls and we each had a talk about puberty. A few years later, maybe in grade 9 or 10, we had one health class devoted to sex-ed, which consisted of our teacher putting a video on. I don’t even remember what the video was about, and we had no further discussion. However, I do remember that some students were excused from the class because our teachers sent home a letter to our parents explaining what we would be learning about and required a guardian’s signature in order to participate in the class. I would be curious to know whether or not that is still a practice in regards to the new curriculum.

Another question I wondered while reading this was how this curriculum would fit into the Catholic schools that teach the idea of saving sexual relationships until marriage. The CBC article says the following about that topic: “With the Institute of Catholic Education, which works on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, on board with the curriculum, and Education Minister Liz Sandals standing firm, the new program is here to stay — even in the face of rallies hosted by distressed parents and ardent opponents”.

These students are apart of the “iGeneration” that have constant access to the internet and technology therefore our schools and curriculum must ensure that we are equipping students with the appropriate knowledge instead of brushing the awkward topics under the rug.

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Assessment Guiding Instruction & Presenting Evidence of Learning

Making Classroom Assessment Work – Chapters 7 & 8

When students come up with their own forms of assessment, it helps direct them into what they need to be doing. This also makes it easier for teachers because instead of telling your students what they need to do for you, it makes it more of a team effort in regards to what is important to every specific student and their needs or wants.

When we were trying to create a rubric in class on Thursday night as a group, I found it really challenging to create a rubric for something I didn’t necessarily know what the end result is supposed to be. I understand that we are supposed to be coming up with the rubric therefore we are essentially creating the project, however in my mind I am so set in my way of reading a rubric and having it already set out for me about what the end result needs to look like, therefore I am not used to having choice. I honestly didn’t know last night what I wanted in the rubric because I was so focused on what it was supposed to look like to Rhonda.

On page 66, Davies discusses the idea about adding ideas to class lists and rubrics as their skills increase. I think this is a great idea because creating a rubric can be very challenging or overwhelming when first starting out, so after looking at it a few times it could be beneficial to add things once students have a more clear understanding about what they actually want on the rubric. Giving the list or rubric to students after they create it will help them see and remember what they wanted in the project.

I also really liked Davies suggestion about after giving the students the rubric they created, as a check in during the project or assignment, have them highlight each word or phrase that was true or completed in their project at that point. (Davies, 67) This is a good way of quickly assessing your students to see what point they are at in the project.

This is also a way of accomplishing more differentiation in your classroom. Davies suggests on page 67 that most students should work towards all of the criteria, however a student with an IEP, they maybe could choose one out of the four areas of criteria to focus on instead of all. Then throughout the year, perhaps they can increase the focus areas depending on their progress.

Davies starts off chapter 8 by discussing how important it is to let your students know they have succeeded by their evidence of learning. This motivates them to keep trying and know they are on the right track. Having evidence of learning is so important because it is a visual trail of their learning. It can be really easy to involve your students in this process as well because if you just get your students to sign and date something then they can put it in their folder or bin and sort it at a later date. Perhaps once a month you can take a class to just organize their work so it doesn’t become so overwhelming at the end of the term. This will help disorganized students if you take time to do it together and it will also be more likely to be in one place if you keep it in the classroom instead of expecting them to carry it around with them.

In the end, it depends on your students and their learning needs to determine what type of evidence of learning they need to be creating over time. This is a great way of providing evidence of learning. If you are continually putting together a portfolio, if a parent ever wants to see what their child is working on currently, you always have something to pull out and show and explain what is going on.

Assessment in the Classroom: No Zero Policy

Assessment is something that has been a hot topic in most of my education classes lately. Obviously assessment is such an important part of any type of education, however, is there only one specific set way of assessing? How do we know is valuable to assess, and how to do it in a reliable way?

There is the heated debate about the no zero policy. I am not 100% sure about how I feel about this issue because I have never taught my own class before; therefore my views about marking and assessment are not totally concrete. I believe that if a student does no work, then they should not receive a grade for it. I do not think that they should necessarily receive a zero on that particular assessment, however I think giving them the grade of “incomplete” is fair. I have a hard time understanding the notion of giving a student a minimum of 30%, who did not put any effort and did not complete an assignment at all, when another student did try and did not meet the rubric and only met 46% of the criteria.

I believe that school is not only a place where students should be learning new content and increasing their knowledge about various subjects, I also think it’s a place of creating life long leaners and therefore, teaching life skills. I don’t believe that giving a minimum mark to someone who put zero effort in and has no intentions of completing the assignment, is teaching them good life skills. Students need to realize that time management is a crucial life skill that needs to be learned early in life. If a student doesn’t respect due dates, then will they respect the dates and times for jobs in the future? If they have learned through their entire schooling that they can get marks for something they didn’t complete, it will create unreliable adults.

In a perfect world, (or my perfect world, at least) there would be no marks. Does there need to be a grade attached to pieces of work that students create in the classroom? I would rather give really specific feedback explaining what my students excel at and what they need to continue to work at. I find it really hard to define a 73% graded essay and then what makes a 75%. What is the 2% that makes it different/better?

I realize that this notion is really unrealistic as everything in our world revolves around grades. Our own faculty of education revolves around maintain a certain average in our classes in order to be allowed to stay in the program. I have a hard time with this approach because I understand that being able to maintain a certain grade is essential in ensuring that we are being good learners, however a question I have wondered often is does a certain grade reflect what type of teacher I will be? Furthermore, if I am able to maintain a grade above 70% (in my major area which is English), does that mean I will be a good teacher? Is it fair to say that people who don’t maintain that average won’t be good teacher, and need to go back and retake those subject area classes? This is something that is near and dear to my heart, because I don’t believe that a student who received 68.5% in their major area should have to have their degree set back a year in order to pull that average up. I struggle with this area of my education because even though my major is English and that is the subject I need to stay above 70% in, once I receive my degree and am a licensed teacher, there is no guarantee that I will be teaching English. I can be teaching any subject area, in any grade level. Therefore, I am not completely sure that maintaining a certain average in a specific area is a valuable reflection of teaching abilities.

Instead, I believe that real world experience is what we would be judged on because that is the best way of gaining knowledge. It my opinion, I see lots of fellow students who are absolutely great at learning. They get great grades and can complete every assignment more than satisfactory, and can create fantastic lesson plans on paper. However, I wonder what will happen when these people are challenged with learners who are different from them and they find that things don’t go as planned? I will end this post with posing this question – does a great student equal a great teacher?

Collecting Evidence of Learning and Involving Students in Classroom Assessment

Making Classroom Assessment Work – Chapters 5 & 6

Without a doubt, there is more than one type of learner. Davies begins chapter 5 by discussing that along with ensuring your students are learning in different ways through differentiation in your classroom, there must also be different types of evidence collected to show their learning that in different ways. Davies suggests, “Teachers need to make sure they plan to gather evidence from a variety of sources, and that they gather evidence over time.” (Davies, 45) Reading that immediately made me think about the portfolio process we are creating in our English class this semester. We are collecting evidence of our learning and participation through a portfolio that we will eventually put together at the end of the semester. I think this is a great way to showcase the learning that happened throughout the semester. It also is a good way to show participation in the classroom, such as feedback for peers worksheets or note taking during presentations. This is also a good way of showing your students growth, such as with drafts and rough copies of assignments to showcase how far they have come. I feel like a portfolio or something like this will be really easy to incorporate in an English classroom because there should be a lot of opportunity for creating pieces of learning through a lot of reflections and pieces of writing for the students to show.

The chapter moves on to triangulation (Lincoln and Guba 1984) process, which is something I would find very useful when trying to decide what sources of evidence would be considered reliable and valid especially as a new teacher with little experience. If I am unsure about what evidence I need for particular lessons, I would ask a respected colleague or someone I feed comfortable with whom I know has experience see what their opinion is about whether a particular piece of evidence is valuable or not.

Prior to teaching a lesson and after understanding the type of learners that you have in your classroom, you should try to create a plan in regards to collecting evidence. We as teachers need to make sure we are accounting for all learners to learn and also for all learners to show their evidence that they actually are progressing in their learning. Having lots of evidence backs you up as a teacher, especially when parent/teacher interviews come around. Personally, I feel like I would want to see various different types of examples of how my child is doing so I hope as a teacher I will have more than enough to show parents. Having lots of evidence backs you up because if their child is struggling with something then you have more than just one example of what they are struggling with. “You must have enough evidence to be able to identify patterns and trends in student learning”. (Davies, 51) This shows the parents what their child is excelling at and what they also need to work at. This also shows the parent that you as a teacher are actively involved in their child’s learning and are trying to help them be successful. It shows that you care about their child just as much as they do and are willing to help support their needs. I also believe that it is very important to always focus on the positives. No one wants to hear what their child is not doing well at, so always make sure you have lots of evidence of successful learning as well.

Something I thought about when reading this chapter was a lot about parent involvement, which is probably one of the most important reasons to have a lot of evidence to show (besides for you, as the teacher). If I was unsure of what type of evidence that they would most want to see, a possibility I had thought about was maybe sending an email or letter home at the beginning of the year (sort of like an introductory letter) and including the parents in the process. I would ask them what sort of learning they would like to see from their children, perhaps gives examples of how I will be assessing their children and ask which ones they value the most. This could also possibly be a way to see what the student need to work on, because a parent could have a perspective that you don’t have yet.

Ensuring that my students’ parents are involved with their learning, I would also try to involve the student not only in their learning, but also in their assessment. Davies explains why this notion is so important in chapter 6, “When students are involved in the classroom assessment process, they become more engaged in learning”. (Davies, 55)

This allows students to share their ideas and have their voice heard. This is beneficial for you as the teacher in more than one way; for example when involving students you get to learn more about your students and their knowledge and understand what is important to them. Because this engages your students by creating a feeling of ownership, it also helps the teacher identify what the next steps will be in their teaching.

As Davies has discussed in previous chapters, she reiterates her points that students need to be given very specific and descriptive feedback and need examples to see and touch in order to see what success may look like.

On page 59 Davies talks about letting students evaluate their peers because it models how to give constructive feedback. However, I thought this could possibly be problematic. Personally, when I was in school I would have preferred to keep my work private and felt more comfortable if only the teacher saw what I was writing or doing. It could be problematic because not every student may take it seriously, or actually put the amount of effort in to give specific feedback. I also think that since it is peers giving peers the feedback, students may be more sensitive from feedback from peers just because it may feel more personal. Davies also suggests this idea because it would also cut down time spent marking and grading, but personally I would have to have a lot of trust in my students for me to let them peer evaluate because I would feel like I would have to go over the assignment or project over again to ensure the students were marked fairly and appropriately. Perhaps if the students’ work was made to be anonymous this could be more successful.

Lastly, Davies suggests setting goals with students because it is linked to more motivation. I think this would be a great idea for certain students because many would feel motivated by it, but others may view this activity as just another chore, or school requirement. Setting personal goals with students who need the motivation may be more valuable to do privately because when they do succeed it would feel as if more of a personal accomplishment.

These are all great ideas that Davies talks about, but I must admit I do feel quite overwhelmed. “The ideas themselves are simple, but the implementing of them in today’s busy classrooms will take some time”. (Davies, 61) It seems as if there are so many aspects to creating a successful classroom with successful students, and I hope I will be able to implement the correct tools to ensure this happens. I am sure it will take a lot of mistakes in order to figure out what works for my students and also what works for me.