Monday, September 24, 2012

grad requirements dialogue

I have been invited to participate in a discussion about changes to high school graduation requirements in BC. Maybe some of you who arrive here are doing this, too? While I don't pretend to represent anyone but my own quirky self, I am open to carrying other people's ideas and suggestions with me into the Oct. 11 meeting. Feel free to email me (gthielmann at, tweet, or leave a comment below if you'd like to add input. I'll also check to see if the Ministry of Education is taking written submissions on this topic beyond the BCEd Plan form at (yes, they are... see comment from "spacely" below).  Ministry presentation on grad requirements dialogue:

Here's the session intro and discussion questions:

"You are invited to join (students, parents, educators, employers, post secondary partners, civic leaders and others) in a conversation that will help inform the development of future graduation requirements.

The Ministry of Education is seeking input from around the Province to develop recommendations for new graduation requirements. This session is one of many being held this Fall.

There will be facilitated group discussions focused on getting feedback to five key questions: 

Question #1:
What do you think are the core or essential things all students should know, understand and be able to do by the time they leave secondary school?

Question #2:
Beyond the core, how could pathways for choice or exploration be provided?

Question #3:
Research is underway with a focus on the following five cross-curricular competencies:
a) Communication

b) Critical Thinking
c) Creative Thinking and Innovation
d) Personal Responsibility and Well Being
e)  Social Responsibility

How do you think students could demonstrate these competencies?

Question #4:
How could student learning be communicated to:
a) Students 
b) Parents/Guardians 
c) Post secondary Institutions/Employers

Question #5:
How would you design an awards program to recognize student success in a personalized learning environment?

We look forward to having you join this dialogue and helping to inform the development of future graduation requirements."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Language and Landscape Project

A few months ago, I broached the subject of a "Middle Earth" course at

While I have an educational and teaching background in both English and Geography, it did not occur to me until recently that an interesting combination of these two disciplines would be possible. I think the milieu for curricular experiments has opened up (or come around again), and with support for "project exploration" from students, teachers, and administration, I'd like to offer a course next year at my school (D.P. Todd) that blends BC's English 11 and Geography 12 and takes place in two blocks during one semester.  The course will address all corresponding PLOs and a "hook" to the course will involve literary and geographical examples drawn from Tolkien's Middle Earth, albeit as a point of departure rather than a destination.

A special dimension to this course offering is the blended learning delivery model.  One of the two blocks for which the students sign up will look much like a traditional classroom with expectations for regular attendance, direct instruction from the teacher, and so on.  The second block will be "flipped" -- this is project-based learning time, tutorial, independent work, seminar and small group sessions for the teacher and students.  In designing a course this way I am attempting to respond, interpret, and interrogate the BCEd Plan and "personalized learning" in a way that makes sense to me, our students, and our school.  At a practical level, it allows students create some personal designs around their own learning without losing the guidance offered from a well-planned program of study and a committed teacher they interact with daily.

I would like to involve others with some of the early planning and feedback, as this course offering will affect the 2013-2014 teaching timetable for our school and will not look the same as a regular course. I would like to see the work my students and I do as part of the continuum of language, literacy, and communication goals that are common within the English and Social Studies department at my school.

The course will be a "program" in the sense of how our "Socials 90 program" at D.P. Todd combines two courses and requires some special commitments. This project is tentatively titled Language & Landscape 11. As a new offering, it may simply be a double-registration in English 11 and Geography 12, although we are open to this being a pilot program and containing a unique stand-alone Gr. 12 credit (board-authorized). Sorting this out is part of the "project exploration" to ensure access, quality, and funding consistent with other courses and programs.

For more detailed information, please follow the project as it develops at I've attempted to anticipate and address a range of inquiries that are likely to be on the minds of stakeholders in a project like this.

If you are interested, please let me know what you think in person, by email, twitter, or a comment below, preferably some time in the next month. I covet your feedback and opportunities to collaborate on this project. Specifically, I would appreciate links and suggestions for blended delivery, crossovers lesson topics between English/Language Arts and Geography/Environmental education, and PBL ideas that make sense in the tradition of Middle Earth studies and both academic disciplines. I've got my own ideas on to make a go of this, but I also know that others would like to contribute. General comments, warnings, laughs, and questions are welcome too!