Officials, teachers and students are getting ready for another year of school, with doors opening on Sept. 2nd.
Students and parents should be aware of a few changes in programs and curriculum focus for this year, including a new type of testing process that replaces provincial achievement tests.
This new format of student evaluation is known as SLAs for Student Learning Assessments. A major change is that these will be administered at the beginning of the year instead of at the end. This change rolls out for both the Catholic School Division as well as the Public School Division.
“The PATs were a summative test, which gave a snapshot of what the student learned during the year. These new tests will be administered at the beginning of the year and will allow the teacher, student and parent to asses areas to work on, opportunities and things like that,” said Kent Dixon, manager of communications for the STAR Catholic Division in Central Alberta.
“It’s a very logical approach because you’re looking at knowledge at the beginning of the year, instead of looking back at what was learned and asking what could have been learned. It’s a big process to roll that out.”
This approach was implemented by Alberta Education and will affect schools across the province. As well, schools have begun a shift that focuses more on competency learning rather than fact-based learning.
Competencies such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, digital literacy, innovation, life-long learning and social responsibilities are becoming the focus of learning, rather than fact recollection.
The focus is on student understanding and application of concepts.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to maximize – one of the big things inspiring education is about is working with the student with their own learning style, at their own pace. We’re looking for opportunities to switch to a more student-focused approached rather than content based learning,” explained Dixon.
From Kindergarten to Grade 12, studies are being shifted to evaluate student learning more frequently, and teachers are being encouraged to develop strategies that flow from one area of study to the next.
For example, a science class may use a variety of techniques to develop a concept, from multimedia videos, to hands-on experiments, to small group projects where students get creative together to find solutions and develop ideas.
Teachers will be learning alongside students this year as new curriculum developments continue to be handed down through Alberta Education.
“I often refer to starting school as starting a new life chapter and a new chapter in learning journey. Whether a student is moving a grade level, or switching schools, or starting school each year is full of excitement and opportunity,” said Dixon.
“That’s not just for students, it’s for staff as well. They’re looking forward to helping older students or new students. It’s an exciting time of year for teachers and administrators and we’re really looking forward to it.”