September 1997

New Curriculum Raises Questions for Our Profession

Curriculum is always under review. The teaching profession must develop a systematic way to implement changes in requirements and subject matter.

Registrar's Report


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By Margaret Wilson

The Ministry of Education and Training’s work to develop the new elementary curriculum in language and mathematics was nearly complete when the College officially took over responsibility for teacher certification and standards of teaching practice in late May.

However, the Minister’s announcement raised a number of issues about the College’s role in ensuring that our members have access to appropriate professional learning to implement either new curriculum or new policies.

You will find a copy of Donna Marie Kennedy’s letter to the Minister about the curriculum announcement in the Blue Pages and her comments on our meeting with Mr. Snobelen in her report.

Not a cookbook

The new curriculum is not a cookbook full of specific directions. All the methodology has been left to teachers. In many areas, it will still be up to teachers and boards to decide what our students should learn, and when.

Above all, it will be up to individual teachers as they implement this new policy to learn what in these documents works for their students and what might need to be revised. Helping to reflect this experience in classrooms back to the ministry will be an important part of the College’s future consultations on the implementation of this and future curriculum changes.

The new Grades 1 to 8 curriculum raises a whole range of questions for the Ontario College of Teachers.

When we look at the growing complexities of the material teachers are being asked to teach, we have to ask if it’s reasonable to expect a single teacher to have the depth of knowledge it takes to help children learn in every subject area.

If a Grade 8 teacher is to do an excellent job of teaching the application of a key concept of geometry like the Pythagorean theorem – formerly a secondary requirement – what level of mathematics study should that teacher have completed? And what level of science, English or history will he or she need for other curriculum requirements?

Are teams an answer?

How does an individual teacher meet the curriculum expectations in all subject areas? Should we take another look at the concept of team or subject cluster teaching? What are the implications of this approach for appropriate curriculum integration?

Studies show that team or subject cluster teaching tends to make teachers rethink many of the basic questions about curriculum and method and helps focus curriculum delivery on learner needs.

But experience has also shown that good teamwork is notoriously difficult to achieve or sustain, so this will not be an easy question for the profession to answer.

More changes to come

There’s no question we need to develop a systematic way of responding to changes in the curriculum, because curriculum is always under review. We will shortly be seeing new requirements in social studies and science for elementary students. Then the new Grades 9 to 12 – which will have to mesh smoothly with 1 to 8 – will mean dozens of curriculum documents will have to be reassessed.

Our expertise as teachers is based on a mastery of the language and techniques of explanation, as well as on the knowledge of subjects. No matter how much the curriculum requirements change, teachers in this province – provided we have access to high-quality professional learning and reasonable teaching materials and equipment – will continue to do an excellent job for our students.