School Name: Lake City Secondary – WL Campus
School District: SD#27 Cariboo-Chilcotin
Inquiry Team Members: Marilee Andres: firstname.lastname@example.org, Melinda MacKinnon: email@example.com, Jeannette Gobolos: firstname.lastname@example.org, John Harding: email@example.com, Andrew Riegl: firstname.lastname@example.org, Michael Cebuliak: email@example.com, Lisa Hamel: firstname.lastname@example.org, Craig Munroe: email@example.com, Gail Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jacqui Ferguson: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Not applicable
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Flexible learning, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Social and emotional learning, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Will our efforts to build more meaningful staff-student relationships contribute to improved student attendance and ultimately performance?
Scanning: For the scanning phase, we conducted a couple of surveys to start. We surveyed the staff about what they were seeing with the students and what they felt should be a priority for our year. Then I pulled four of the student-related questions and sent out surveys to 7 random classes of very diverse learners, to ask what they felt about their learning experience. There were definitely some similarities. For example, the students ranked the question “Can you name 2 adults in the school who believe you will be successful” as a very high level of concern for them, as did the teachers.
Focus: After the scanning, discussions with admin and the PLC coordinator lead to determining that the questions under the heading “Sense of Belonging” seemed to fall most within the concerns of both our students and our staff. This foundational block seemed to be missing and was of high concern to both our students and our staff. The students often did not feel they were operating in an environment that fostered their learning, and the staff were questioning the school culture and environment as creating a sense of belonging for themselves or their students.
Hunch: Based on scanning and post discussions, our hunch is that our school has been through significant changes this year, and is continuing to grow from the initial change of becoming a 10-12 campus of the high school. Teachers have thrown themselves in to surviving the changes, and as a staff we have struggled to come together in a positive way to foster positive change. We sense that teachers often feel that they are just getting their heads around new curriculum, new principals and new superintendents… and then things change again.
New Professional Learning: This year we attempted to run two simultaneous PLC groups. The first one was to be focused on developing respectful relationships and connections in the building — between administration, teachers, support staff and students. As such, we attempted to seek out strategies, articles, and resources that will help to foster and develop healthy and positive relationships at all levels in a school. The second group was focused on the classroom environment and ensuring that all learners are successful. For this inquiry, the group found resources, successful models, and strategies that will help to foster an environment that allows for the success of all our diverse learners. One key resource was the Facebook group created by Shannon Schinkel, called “Beyond report cards”, which allowed for a reframing of what evaluation of the core competencies would look like.
Taking Action: As we began, our team did some individual preliminary research and investigations into what has worked in other areas and other schools in both BC and elsewhere. Also, teachers were given a list of items to try on their own to improve school culture — things such as: Greet students at the door, make a positive phone call home, talk to the students about how they were feeling, etc. These suggestions were drawn on through group conversations.
Checking: Respectful Relationships Inquiry: A few actions were taken through staff meetings to help teachers address positive actions they could be taking. At one meeting, they were given a list of actions that they could take to their own practice; for example, greeting students at the door, phoning home with a positive comment, and speaking to the students about what their feelings are. Teachers were able to notice positive things in the school when they felt reaffirmed and positive, themselves. Also during a staff meeting, teachers were given cards with positive comments gathered from the leadership students. All teachers brightened and felt affirmed in their sense of belonging. After that they were asked to reflect on what we see in students and what truly makes a great student. One teacher said, “Students whom we often view as our “top” students, are often not necessarily our top academic achievers, but rather, those who are all-around positive citizens. We need to acknowledge that these individuals really model the behaviours that contribute to positive culture.” Another teacher commented, “I went with greeting students at the classroom door each block. I enjoy having reminders of best practice in staff meetings, and I found it helped affirm some of the things I was doing and gave me ideas of other things I could look into.” In general, through discussions at staff meetings and having staff reflect on actions they were taking, there was a feeling that the climate of the school, and their classroom, had become more positive and that had increased their attendance and their own sense of belonging in the building. Another teacher took on the suggestion of getting to know a couple of specific students who were maybe looking to be drifting — they commented that they ended up making their own personal goal of getting to know 5 students identified in some way as being disconnected. By the end of semester one, these students were actively seeking this teacher out to check in on themselves.
Learning Environment Inquiry: Within the classroom, several teachers noticed changes in student mindset when learners were afforded more ownership over their work and ways to demonstrate learning. For example, in one classroom, the teacher redesigned several assignments to allow students some freedom in how to show they had learned the intended outcomes. After each assignment students were asked to reflect on how the flexibility had changed their perspective of their knowledge on the topic, on the teacher, and on the class in general. Students were reluctant to acknowledge any change after the first assignment; however, they did notice that they were less stressed knowing they had flexibility over how to present their knowledge. The second assignment afforded more flexibility as rubrics were introduced, and students created one for self-assessment. Student reflections on this assignment were much more detailed; students felt they were better equipped to achieve a higher mark, which made their engagement in the topic and the lessons greater. During COVID online learning, they have gained even more control over their own work and assignments, and many of the learners who often seemed to struggle in our classrooms have stepped up and are more engaged than ever.
Reflections/Advice: Throughout the process, teachers were continually asked to reflect on the positive aspects of the school, their classroom, the students, and the adults in the building, including themselves. When asked how they felt this had gone, many said that it helped to reframe their thoughts and that they actually started to look for the positive things, people, and actions that would occur during the day. At first they did this because they were asked to, but then they started to do this on their own. One teacher reported that it really helped them to remember to model positive behaviour in the classroom, and to speak to them about what they were seeing in the school and any changes of positivity they were noticing — not keeping the learning hidden from them. Due to COVID, the group was unable to meet after March 2020. Through email communications though, the platform, style, and learning environments have all become more flexible, more personalized, and have been significantly adapted. Because of these changes, it seems that student engagement in many of our harder to reach learners has increased dramatically, due to attempts to reach students and keep them connected to their school and teacher while online. More assignments are being tailored to allow for diversity in showing learning outcomes, so that students who all have ranging capabilities at home, are still able to succeed in this new school reality. Moving forward, it would be interesting to see whether adapting a hybrid model of what we were doing and what we are doing now, would continue to increase student success, engagement, and connections within the classes. It would be worth collecting student reflections about what supported their learning and engagement during the Spring, and what did not. Hopefully, we can learn from students and apply this to future planning/lesson design.