School Name: Island Connect Ed K-12
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members: Justin Mark: firstname.lastname@example.org, Kim Darybshire: email@example.com, Mela Vallentgoed: firstname.lastname@example.org, Moriah Colby: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Mathematics / Numeracy
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning, Social and emotional learning, STEM / STEAM, Transitions, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus was to enhance the transition experience and engagement, as students transferred to our 8/9 distance education program in response to COVID-19.
Scanning: We used the four key questions at the start of our inquiry to notice how students were feeling in the distance education program. We noticed that the learners that were confident and comfortable with their learning felt connected, but that many students felt disconnected from staff and their learning. The most important aspects that our team noticed in our scan was that 70% of our students were not engaged, or only moderately engaged, in their learning journey and required social/emotional/inclusive teaching practices to succeed. We remembered First Peoples Principles of Learning during our scan, by reminding ourselves that each student will be at a different place in their learning journey and to acknowledge that everyone’s learning “requires patience and time”.
Focus: We focused on engagement and re-creating the platform for non-starter learners. We selected this area because it was crucial for students to become active in their learning and to feel like they had a “fresh start” regardless of any perceived failure from the spring of 2020 to the fall of 2020. We were hoping that by changing the approach to course work, focusing on one cross-curricular subject at a time, would enable students to engage in their learning and to find success. We increased our success rate from approximately 30% to 80%.
Hunch: Our hunch was that the previous learning system was not inclusive or easily accessible for many learners. We suspected that many students felt overwhelmed by not being in a classroom in conjunction to the requirement of their learning being self-monitored. We also had a hunch that many of the students did not feel connected to 2 adults in the school, which made it complicated for the students to know where to turn to for help.
New Professional Learning: We explored new professional development in the following areas: UDL, Inclusion, Indigenous Pedagogy, Assessment Practices, Distance Education, and Distance Education for Diverse Learners. Specifically, we focused on working with the Inclusion and Assessment leaders from our district who helped to engage our staff in professional development discussions and opportunities. We also worked closely with local Indigenous community members to enhance the relationship between our staff and the Indigenous students/community.
Taking Action: Our actions focused on changing the platform that students used to access their curriculum. We created learning cohorts, which made it easy for students to recognize who their teacher was. The cohorts also made it easier for the teachers to stay connected to their students. After the creation of the cohorts and new cross-curricular classes (Humanities and STEM), students had one quarter to focus on one of the two new classes, followed by a transition to the next class in the last quarter. This allowed students to focus and to have more interaction and support with their teachers during the targeted time. We also engaged outreach/SST support by having continuous conversations and support options for families and students. We also created a cross-curricular Genius Project for students who continued to struggle, to help create a transitional learning option that engaged students in an inquiry-based learning opportunity. Finally, we partnered with local Knowledge Keepers and Elders to run a 3-4 week cultural immersion program, increasing connections and relationships.
Checking: To summarize the difference we made, we would suggest that we feel successful in our inquiry and that our actions were well used and helped with engagement. Our success rate increased from approximately 30% to 80% with many students feeling that they had achieved something and felt success in their learning journey. We would like to continue the cohort approach into the next school year, because it helps students and staff feel more connected. We will be continuing with the option of the cross-curricular Genius Project to have more options available to students who are in critical need of support and transitional learning. Students that had not been engaged in their learning answered the 4 questions with more confidence after our actions, and reflected upon their learning in a more positive framework. We are just beginning this shift in our 8/9 program and we are excited to continue this spiral!
Reflections/Advice: This inquiry taught us that it is important to meet the learner where they are. We also reflected on the process of practicing UDL and inclusion in a distance education setting, and the many complications that arise from this scenario. It was important for us to build authentic connections to our students to enable clear communication and multiple layers of support to families and learners. We are planning to continue this inquiry by continuing with a cohort approach to our program, changing the learning management system to allow for more inclusive practices, using better assessment strategies to foster a tiered intervention structure, and continuing to work with First Nations community to engage ALL learners – not just some. We encourage our colleagues to be courageous in their endeavours and to not be afraid to recreate the system – especially if the system is not reaching all students. By creating as many cross-curricular opportunities as possible, it opens the door for students to find success in a more comprehensive understanding.