By Melissa Campeau
Photo : Ontario College of Teachers
Once guidelines are set, universities, colleges and business institutes apply their own structure, filter and expertise in shaping the actual AQs. Although courses adhere to the guidelines and must be accredited by the College, each provider has its own way of doing things, and each brings something unique to the finished product.
At Six Nations Polytechnic in Ohsweken, Ont., for example, the process goes something like this: Internally, the course development team discusses which AQs they’d like to offer. Then, they consider teachers in the community who might be best suited to lead them. Once a teacher and an AQ have been paired, the work begins in earnest. “We share the guideline with the leaders, they ask us a lot of questions, and they go out and form their committees,” says Sara General, a development officer at Six Nations Polytechnic.
The school is the only First Nations educational institution to provide AQs focused on incorporating First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives and language into teaching.
“Our intent in doing these AQs is to bring an indigenous lens to the learning experience for the teachers, so we’re very conscious of making sure that’s infused throughout,” says Rebecca Jamieson, OCT, president and CEO of Six Nations Polytechnic. “For each AQ, we’ve had a circle of teachers working on the courses with us, since they would be the ones to implement the course. We make sure people from the classroom are involved — or even leading — from the very beginning.”
The College also works with Six Nations Polytechnic, as it does with other providers, to answer questions and provide support and guidance along the way. Conversations with the College during the process help the provider strike the right balance. “I know in our very first effort we had to get some advice from the College because we might have had a bit too much of an indigenous approach and didn’t articulate the learning outcomes as clearly as the College would like to have seen,” say Jamieson. “That was a learning process for us and we appreciate that. We now have a more systematic approach to AQ course development, no matter what the discipline is.”
A rigorous, systematic approach is used by many AQ providers, including Brock University in St. Catharines — home to 67 AQ courses. Randy Hill, OCT, curriculum co-ordinator for the Centre for Continuing Teacher Education oversees the development of courses and says the majority of the centre’s course developers and instructors are former Ontario teachers or practising teachers, many from nearby boards. They work to create courses that are both practical and evidence/inquiry based, designed to better engage learners.
Hill says real-life examples and authentic situations are a critical piece of all their courses. “In our Special Education courses, for example, teachers learn how to develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) based on realistic case studies, with the focus on elementary and secondary students in Ontario,” he says. “Teachers are able to understand the school team process and apply their new learning in IEP development for their students.”
The centre also regularly partners with a number of Ontario school boards to enlist their help in ensuring courses are developed that will best suit their needs. “For instance, over the last two years we have been working with the District School Board of Niagara and the Niagara Catholic District School Board, providing courses in elementary mathematics,” says Hill. In response to teachers’ needs, the course delivery has a balance of face-to-face classes and online discussion forums. Teachers come to classes and then go back to their own classrooms and apply what they have learned. “Through the online piece within the courses, teacher participants are able to discuss, share, learn and reflect,” says Hill. “As a result, we understand that there is ongoing growth in the classroom instruction of mathematics and student achievement.”
Once a provider has finished developing and writing the AQ course, they submit it to the College for review.
“We’ve had a fresh look at how things were done,” says Roch Gallien, OCT, director of Standards of Practice and Accreditation at the College.
“Whatever you do in an AQ ... the ultimate goal is student success.”
“Formerly, one team would do all the engaging of community and come up with very rich guidelines,” says Gallien. “Then, when a course was submitted by a provider for review, a different team would go back and reread and try to accredit that information.”
Now, the same team will handle both phases of the development. “It’s a way to streamline things, and it makes sense. Each team will be aware of specifics and nuances and better able to help answer a provider’s questions because they’re closer to the material.” He adds, “This will ensure the courses really reflect the richness of the conversation and understand the spirit of guidelines.”
Accreditation is a thorough and deliberate process, and that’s as it should be, says Jacqueline Boulianne, OCT, senior management co-ordinator with the Centre franco-ontarien de ressources pédagogiques (CFORP)in Ottawa. “It’s a rigorous program to become accredited,” says Boulianne. “Excellence in these AQs enhances the profession.” At CFORP, Boulianne has been involved in the development of a Supervisory Officer’s Qualification AQ. “At this level, the course is intended for people who are part of the management team and have the responsibility of implementing the curriculum and ministerial policies for the schools,” she adds. “Those policies translate to student success. So whatever you do in an AQ, even in a course involving supervisory issues, the ultimate goal is student success.”