Exploring the foundational elements of teaching within renewed curricula to be main focus of workshops

February 17, 2020

Linda Aspen-Baxter and Lindsay Shaw are not only colleagues as associate directors with Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Professional Learning (formerly the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit), they also share a deep passion for all things curriculum-related.

Approximately a year ago, they began discussing the idea of supporting teachers in terms of taking a deep dive into understanding and connecting to the front and back matter of renewed curricula.

Working in conjunction with 12 members of the Provincial Facilitator Community, they have developed a series of five workshops called the Foundations of Teaching that will begin rolling out in March and continue throughout the remainder of the current school year. Two more workshops are conceptualized and will be developed for the fall.

According to both, when the renewed curricula was introduced online, access to outcomes and indicators became more direct and provided teachers with limited opportunities to engage with the front and back matter of those curricula.

“When teachers understand the context of renewed curricula, they are able to see the interconnectedness of outcomes and indicators within and between subject areas. In addition to understanding content, a deep understanding will support teachers in fostering a learning environment that actualizes the stance of curricula,” they both noted.

Shaw indicated the content of the Foundations of Teaching series reflects the contracted professional learning requests received from school divisions. She noted that the importance of this work not only stems from STF Professional Learning and the Provincial Facilitator Community, but is recognized as a need from throughout the province.

“Lindsay and I have talked about this a lot and being able to work together with our provincial facilitator colleagues to develop the key elements for these workshops has been energizing,” Aspen-Baxter said.

Shaw noted that aside from sharing a strong interest and background in research and curriculum, they both come from a rural education background that grounded them in the importance of getting to know their students.

“By engaging with students to support their advocacy and ownership in learning, strong connections with the students are formed; therefore, changing the way teachers teach.”

The two indicated that the intent of the series is to achieve a balance between developing a deep understanding of renewed curricula and being practical for tomorrow’s classrooms.

“This intent will provide opportunities to reflect on their own teaching practices and consider their impact on student learning,” Shaw offered.

She added that it is also practical, suggesting that the content being presented can be replicated in the classroom tomorrow.

Aspen-Baxter and Shaw cited the invaluable contribution of Provincial Facilitator Community members in the initial planning stages as they explored their connections to curriculum and how it needed to be grounded in current practice.

Stressing that these professional learning opportunities can be beneficial and applicable for all educators from Grades 1 through 12, Shaw noted that “whether you’re teaching Grade 1 or Chemistry 30 students, there are foundational elements that live in all teaching and are outlined in the front and back matter of renewed curricula."

“This series provides an opportunity to acknowledge and support teachers as professionals,” Aspen-Baxter stated.

Shaw added that there are benefits to be derived across the spectrum whether an educator is just starting out or is an experienced classroom teacher.

“Being able to develop a deeper understanding of curriculum can be a real benefit in teachers’ professional lives and how they approach teaching,” she underscored.

For more information about the Foundations of Teaching series, you can refer to the Events Calendar. The spring sessions are as follows: Actualizing the Intent and Stance of Curricula (March 16), Planning for Instruction and Assessment (March 23), Supporting Student Ownership Through Assessment and Feedback (April 23), Cultivating a Supportive Learning Community (April 30) and Embodying an Inquiry Stance to Foster Student Ownership and Engagement (May 19).