Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A standardized contract for personalized learning?

I am perplexed at why Trustees, BCPSEA, and Government all oppose local bargaining at exactly the same time they are proposing personalized learning. It is a contradictory position, and makes me wonder if either position is genuine.

Surely, if the Ministry wants significant change in schools, and if the Ministry wants to work with teachers (not against them), and if the Ministry wants, as they have said, for change to be implemented at the District level, then local bargaining is the ideal framework for enabling those changes. Local bargaining would allow each District to work with their local teachers' associations on changes that make sense for their communities and their schools. Local bargaining and local decisions are the best avenue for increased variety in education.

Take one little example, such as Middle Schools. Negotiations of middle school contract language, from 2006 forward, was done District by District, not provincially. This made sense. Not all districts have middle schools, and each District has implemented middle schools differently. The local contract negotiations enabled local solutions to local school configurations.

Surely personalized learning will look different in different places. So why would we negotiate provincially for changes that need to be local?

I am skeptical of the claims of personalized learning. Real personalized learning takes time, attention, and money. The government is offering none of these.


  1. I do not understand why a move to more personalized student learning requires stripping teachers' collective agreements -- unless "personalized learning" is just a ruse. Your thoughts?

  2. Well, it depends how you defined "personalized learning". If it means more time with students to meet their individual needs, more time to offer alternative curricula, more options via more course selections, greater flexibility in what is taught....this would need smaller classes, more course offerings (which also means smaller classes), more preparation time for teachers, and less standardized testing. This is my definition of personalized learning, and it doesn't require any changes except increasing funding, lowering class sizes and providing more preparation time for teachers. But it does not match what the gov't is describing.

    But if you look at what the gov't is proposing, it is "24/7" education, tailored to each students with a personalized learning plan, co-written with parents, and then self-directed by the student with the teacher as a guide on the side. That means stripping sections of the collective agreement around hours of work, professional autonomy (how we teach) and probably significantly more use of mandated technology (again, how we teach). The gov't is proposing standardized report cards across BC, more standardized testing but with "performance assessment", and less curriculum. Much of the implementation plans seem to be about technology.