Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion achieves suc­cess with stu­dent en­gage­ment ini­tia­tive

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Matthew Lieben­berg mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

The ef­forts of the Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion to cre­ate en­gag­ing learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments for high school stu­dents have been suc­cess­ful dur­ing the past school year. Su­per­in­ten­dent of Learn­ing Bob Vavra pre­sented the 21st cen­tury stu­dent en­gage­ment sta­tus re­port dur­ing a reg­u­lar Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion board meet­ing on May 11, which took place via video con­fer­ence.

The Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion cre­ated the stu­dent en­gage­ment plan three years ago as part of the grad­u­a­tion plan.

“It was put in place mainly be­cause our re­sults showed and pro­vin­cial re­sults with our schools sur­vey showed that stu­dent en­gage­ment, es­pe­cially the mid­dle years and high school level, re­ally drops off,” he told the meet­ing.

“So we put in a plan three years ago to im­prove stu­dent en­gage­ment at the high school level.”

Although the fo­cus of the ini­tia­tive is on Grade 10-12 stu­dents, the con­fig­u­ra­tion of some schools also re­sults in the in­clu­sion of a few Grade 9 stu­dents dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan. The en­gage­ment plan in­cludes pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment ses­sions on col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture for teach­ers, stu­dent-cen­tred learn­ing, and stu­dent sur­veys to de­ter­mine fo­cus ar­eas for fu­ture en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.

The school di­vi­sion cre­ated an en­gage­ment frame­work to guide the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan. The two main com­po­nents of this frame­work are col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture and stu­dent­cen­tred learn­ing.

Col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture has three sub­com­po­nents, which are au­then­tic re­la­tion­ships, stu­dents as part­ners, and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment. The three sub­com­po­nents for stu­dent­cen­tred learn­ing are plan­ning for deeper learn­ing, re­spond­ing to di­verse learn­ers, and as­sess­ment for learn­ing.

“Over the past three years we’ve done pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment in all of those six ar­eas, and what we re­ally found is we have to do a lit­tle bit more work in the as­sess­ment realm,” he said. “So that was a key fo­cus for us this year and that will be a fo­cus for us mov­ing for­ward.”

Var­i­ous pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties for teach­ers took place dur­ing the 2019-20 school year to as­sist them with their class­room ef­forts to in­crease stu­dent en­gage­ment. The school di­vi­sion ap­pointed two en­gage­ment coaches to pro­vide sup­port to teach­ers.

This year they coached about 55 per cent of Grade 10-12 teach­ers as part of a two-year plan, and the re­main­ing 45 per cent of teach­ers will re­ceive coach­ing dur­ing the next school year. “These coaches go out and work with the teach­ers and guide them in work­ing with as­sess­ment specifical­ly this year, but the en­gage­ment model as a whole and do­ing a good job of con­nect­ing with kids,” Vavra said.

The coaches took videos of teach­ers while they were teach­ing and af­ter­wards the record­ings were eval­u­ated.

“Then they guided the teach­ers in cre­at­ing plans to make their work more en­gag­ing, and the teach­ers came up with those plans,” he said. “The coaches were there just to sup­port them, and that worked re­ally well, and it cre­ated a very tight net­work with those teach­ers.”

This pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tion be­tween teach­ers and the en­gage­ment coaches had ad­di­tional ben­e­fits since the start of the COVID-19 pan­demic, which re­sulted in the sus­pen­sion of classes and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a plan for sup­ple­men­tal learn­ing at home.

“It worked re­ally well go­ing into our COVID sit­u­a­tion, where those teach­ers re­lied very heav­ily on the coaches to help them with the dis­tance learn­ing pieces that that we put into place so they could sup­port learn­ing from home,” he said.

The stu­dent en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the 2019-20 school year in­cluded pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties with high school ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“We gave them the tools to sup­port the teach­ers in their schools in work­ing not only with the coaches, but if they were in a school that didn’t have coach­ing, then they would fill that void,” he said.

The cre­ation of an en­gage­ment com­mit­tee was a ma­jor part of the work done dur­ing the 2019-20 school year to im­ple­ment the stu­dent en­gage­ment plan. The mem­bers of the com­mit­tee in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from prin­ci­pal and teacher school teams, cen­tral of­fice staff and tech­nol­ogy sup­port staff.

The com­mit­tee had four meet­ings to re­view pro­vin­cial, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional re­search on stu­dent en­gage­ment. Com­mit­tee mem­bers par­tic­i­pated in re­search trips to col­lect ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion. There was a trip to five schools in Regina to re­view Tin­ker Tubs, an ac­tiv­ity for younger learn­ers to en­cour­age learn­ing and en­gage­ment. Three teach­ers at­tended robotics and cod­ing train­ing pro­vided by SaskCode.

The in­for­ma­tion ob­tained from these re­search trips will be use­ful in the cre­ation of plans for the ex­pan­sion of stu­dent en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in the Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion over the next two years. The Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion board had set a goal for the stu­dent en­gage­ment ini­tia­tive that re­quires 80 per cent of stu­dents to meet or ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions in Chi­nook course sur­veys by June 2020. The COVID-19 pan­demic will not make it pos­si­ble to do a sur­vey of stu­dent en­gage­ment in June, but the re­sults from the most re­cent sur­vey at the end of the first se­mes­ter in­di­cated that this board goal has been achieved.

The over­all re­sults from the re­sponses to seven dif­fer­ent ques­tions in­di­cates that 80 per cent of stu­dents were meet­ing or ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions at the end of the first se­mes­ter. Vavra there­fore felt the board goal would have been ex­ceeded if the pan­demic did not cause the dis­rup­tion of reg­u­lar learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Although we didn’t get to as­sess or to ask some of the ques­tions in June this year, the re­search from the past three years would have shown that we usu­ally have about a two to seven per cent growth from first se­mes­ter to sec­ond se­mes­ter,” he noted. “If you look at that, we would have been any­where from 82 to 87 per cent. So it’s dis­ap­point­ing that we didn’t get to that end goal, but our kids are at where we said they would be right now. So that’s ex­cit­ing.”

The stu­dent en­gage­ment ini­tia­tive will con­tinue dur­ing the next school year. The re­main­ing 45 per cent of high school teach­ers will re­ceive coach­ing from the two en­gage­ment coaches in 2020-21. The school di­vi­sion is also plan­ning to ex­pand this ini­tia­tive to the prekinder­garten to Grade 9 lev­els.

“We’re go­ing to do some mod­ules that they can do from home or at school, it doesn’t mat­ter, on the col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture piece,” he said. “So get­ting to know their kids, pro­vid­ing that safe en­vi­ron­ment, which could fit nicely into some of the things we’re deal­ing with now.”

Work con­tinue to strengthen prac­tices for as­sess­ments on the Grade 10-12 lev­els. A new as­pect dur­ing the 202021 school year will be the launch of pi­lot projects in six to 10 schools us­ing rel­e­vant hands-on re­sources to pro­mote stu­dent en­gage­ment in lit­er­acy and math.

“We’ll have en­gage­ment kits there that kids can use and con­nect to the cur­ricu­lum,” he said. “We don’t want just fun ac­tiv­i­ties. We want ac­tiv­i­ties to en­gage kids, but get them to a deeper learn­ing.”

The work done next year through the pi­lot projects will be a prepa­ra­tion for a roll-out to the en­tire di­vi­sion in the fall of 2021, which will be aligned with the new pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion plan.

BOB VAVRA

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