Tuesday, March 1, 2011

High School Flexibility Project

The high school flexibility project is an Alberta Education initiative designed to removed the 25 hours of face to face time required per course credit and allow high schools more flexibility in their course delivery. Peace Wapiti Academy is part of this project and invited me to sit on a day of discussions.

My involvement with the Flex plan at PWA is to help teachers get more of their course digitalized and up into Moodle.  Students then have access to their work anytime and anyplace.  PWA is working on the anypace portion with their iPlan block and a number of other initiatives, Josie and Debbie are the experts.

For the day groups were divided into subject areas, Math and PE, Science, Social and English, Admin and finally CTS.  I joined the CTS group.  Schools from Spruce Grove, Lethbridge Catholic, Calgary Catholic, Apsen View and Grande Prairie Public were present.  We started the day sharing what flex looks like in each school, and it looks different in each school.  Some alternate days, 60 min blocks followed by 90 minutes blocks, others have PLT (Personal Learning Time) twice a month where students choose where they need to work and still others have mandatory cohort groups with flexible scheduling.  Schools ran quarters to allow students 5 entry points a year for a course, including summer school, and others ran full year courses of PE, CALM and CTS.  Lunch hours became extensions of learning time as e-learning centers are established in schools.  Many schools have shortened the number of minutes in each block and added an extra block to the day.  This extra block allows students to explore classes that they would not normally have time for.  One school is exploring having a class scheduled from 4-6 pm, as they were having trouble getting students to school early in the morning but students were always hanging around after school.  For every school it came down to giving more opportunities for students to direct and manage their own learning.

There have been and continue to be challenges.  Helping students to self direct learning has been difficult.  If you require attendance, is it flexible?  One school uses a pyramid model where by certain grades trigger more guidance.  It you have 85% in Math, you get choice, 70% you have a guidance councillor, 50% and you must go to the Math block.  Another challenge was technology, sometimes getting technology to recognize this more flexible structure, of students coming and going, has been problematic.  Finally our group discussed how do you support teachers in this journey, since many teachers teach they way they were taught, this change has been revolutionary.  Time for teachers to observe one another, share best practices and work collaboratively seemed to be the models that have been yielding the best results.

CTS by the curriculum module structure, employs flexible entry and assessment points already, so this was not something new to this group.  Many CTS modules are self directed and paced, so the flexibility project lends itself to this subject area.  They are not tied to grade 12 diplomas exams or minimum hours. I think this tweet sums it up

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