I Got An “A”

Week 6 – EDUC471D100 – October 13, 2017

Yes… this course is about curriculum development and this week we discussed formative assessment and Assessment for Learning (AFL). As you can see, I tend to lean on the “practice” aspects of this course versus “theory.” That said, formative assessment is a key component to BC’s New Curriculum and I believe it’s future success. Formative assessment is helping students learn about their learning with immediate feedback. Formative feedback can come from the teacher, peers, or self. Deliberate practice depends on repetition but also immediate feedback with the intention to improve.

Differentiating between formative and summative feedback is difficult. Even practitioners are challenged by what is formative and summative assessment. In some circumstances, assessment that was summative can be formative, but it would have to be made into an opportunity of learning versus judgement. We had excellent in-class discussions trying to understand what formative assessment is and how it relates to curriculum (or it’s implementation). With BC’s New Curriculum, formative assessment is essential to help students to personalize learning, develop competencies, and differentiate learning.

I am passionate about assessment and how it influences student learning but also how curriculum is implemented. Although formative assessment was an integral part to the development of BC’s New Curriculum, those who continue to assess in ways that they did 10-15 years ago where learning equated to the accruing of marks and grades, the transformation of the BC’s Curriculum would be non-existent, misunderstood, or poorly implemented. This is scary considering that we as practitioners and students need to have a clear understanding of formative and summative assessment and how each affects student learning. Here are my responses to the journal questions:

Journal Reflection Questions – Formative Assessment

What is the difference between formative and summative assessment? Give examples.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT forms and informs learning… for the teacher and student. It helps the student get to the next stage of being. It is ongoing and immediate. There is no judgment and it’s not worth marks. In essence, it’s figuring out where the student is, where he/she needs to go, and how will he/she get there. The feedback should help the student understand what steps or strategies he/she needs to take to get better.

SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT indicates the end of the learning process. The conversation is one way and based on teacher judgement. Often it is indicated with a letter grade, percent, or score, but it can also be a comment like “good work” or “well done.” Summative assessment does not help the student get to the next stage of learning but rather tells them where they are and how they performed as student achievement.

How does formative assessment contribute to student achievement and life-long learning?

Because formative assessment is ongoing with the intent of helping student learn, but also helping the expert or teacher to determine how they will help the student learn… this feedback can only help students learn more about their learning and about what they are learning… student achievement can only improve with that mindset. Learning about your learning or METACOGNITION is key to lifelong learning. It helps the learner to be reflective but also vulnerable to receive feedback from others so that they can learn.

How does formative assessment connect with strength based learning and BC’s New Curriculum?

Formative assessment can help students understand their strengths because students would be more cognizant of their learning versus trying to get the right answer. Tests and other forms of summative assessments have a narrow view on what is worthwhile to assess and evaluate. Skills such as collaboration, creativity, or communication is difficult to assess, provide feedback on, or develop with a multiple choice test. Formative feedback (and possibly co-created rubrics) can help students hone their strengths and build confidence so that they can address other areas of their learning they may struggle with. This entails learning about one’s learning in the context of different curricular areas.


We have turned a corner in this course. After 6 weeks, we have achieved the notion of collective efficacy as a learning community, we established trust, and we are picking up momentum. Why do I say that? I have the utmost respect for early adopters. They set the stage for the rest of the class. The are the first to received feedback from the teacher… and EVERYONE IS WATCHING. That takes a lot of courage and I say kudos to those who created a baseline for our class activities. They were good before, but now they are getting better. Students are more willing to take risks. They are more creative and they have embraced the idea of personalized learning and choice.

Student agency was the theme for this week… and once again, I could not have planned it any better. I say that but truly, I had no idea. I create the framework for my students and my students are asked to run with it with various student led activities. This week’s class started with a warm-up activity of drawing. We were asked to draw or doodle two images. She concluded the activity with her why, which was doodling helps her think and learn. She supported her claims with research. I was so impressed because she mentioned this to me on Week 1 and I was not convinced. She made her point. The warm-up activity was followed up with the oral presentations of the assigned reading and student derived questions were posted on the board for small group discussions.

The class concludes with two more activities… The TBA Activity and Wild Card Activity. I put TBA before the Wild Card on my PowerPoint, but the TBA student spoke up and requested to be at the end of class as the “closing activity.” Wow. “Yes, of course.” We switched the order. The Wild Card Activity is a collaborative effort. The two students created two presentations and had to choose one for the class. It was up to them which one they would present. They opted to present on right-brain/left-brain preferences. We did an online assessment and discussed the benefits of tests like these. It was an interesting discussion, activity, and presentation because they spoke about “strength-based learning” and so did I during class. Again, I could not have planned it any better.

Finally, the class concludes with the TBA Activity. YES!!! We go outside again (see picture above). The weather was great and I love going outside to learn (Thank you EDUC454D100). We were subdivided into groups of 6. In a circle, we grabbed hands of a person across from us but not beside you. The objective was to untangle yourselves and form a circle. It took my group a bit of time and “out of the box” thinking, but we did it. As each group made a circle, you’d hear cheering. It was a very fun and engaging activity. Then the student started to explain his why for the activity and what he had intended us to learn. It was so eloquent and succinct. I was so wowed with what he had to say.

This is a team building activity that focussed on communication, problem solving, and leadership. I loved how he said that we were all leaders in the problem solving process but how we lead is different. He goes on to say that because we all made a circle, we are all winners. Yes, I like that. Did this student meet my expectations? Yes he did!!! He got HIGH-FIVE from me… then he said, “I got an A.” This was so appropriate with today’s discussions about assessment. I said to the class (over and over again), meet my expectations and you will get an “A” in this course. There are no surprises. My job is to provide you with the formative feedback you need to help you succeed. Your job is to ask questions, take risks, and learn from your mistakes. I think they got it. Woohoo.

Behaviour Management

To see the light through the trees… this is one of my favourite images. It reminds me that even though you may feel that you’re lost in the woods, you can see light. I wished I could feel that way today. I am feeling burdened. Not too long ago, I wrote a blog on Pouring Gasoline #IMMOOC and what lights our fire. I said it was my students. Whether it be my doctorate, trusteeship, or teaching… I am always striving for System Change.

Maybe I am kidding myself. I’d like to believe that we are “in the change” in BC schools, but maybe this change is slower than I imagined. Sometimes I think we are going backwards. Today I learned that assessment was used to threaten kids, punish kids, and shame kids. What the hell??? Is that the purpose of assessment, particularly summative assessment practices… “this is how I’m going to teach kids”… to conform and comply? It’s NOT a behaviour management tool!!! It’s meant to help kids, not hurt/scare them.

I am not about to point fingers or shame people for hurting, if not hindering, students from their fullest potential. I am left with the sinking feeling that we are not all out there for students and supporting their learning so that they can be the best person they can be. Sometimes I feel that we squash them into these little beings who are just doing their best to get by (and get out of schools). What a disservice to students. Assessment is suppose to help students learn and help them to learn about their learning. The subject area is only a tool to help students learn. I don’t think the “collective we” gets it.

In my EDUC471D100 class this term, it took about 6 weeks for students to understand, internalize, and trust my assessment structure. MEET EXPECTATIONS and you get an “A.” There are no secrets. Ask questions to get clarification or feedback on anything. Student agency is the key. It’s my job to give students immediate formative feedback. It’s the student’s job to receive the information and try again (or not… it’s a choice). The only time the student may not meet expectations (aka. a grade less than an “A”) is when he/she does not ask a question, is not sure, and hands in his/her final assignment without any formative feedback. The student is not hiding from me, but from him/herself.

This is the pot calling the kettle black… meaning, at one time, I too used assessment as a behaviour modification tool (more than 20 years ago). When you know better, do better. Grades or marks are not meant to create a Pavlov dog scenario in classrooms such that it is used as a currency to promote and incentivize student learning. When we do that, you see the underdevelopment of the other side of the coin… the self-motivated, confident, autonomous learner. I also know this scenario all too well such that taking any risk-taking becomes “too risky” thus resulting in cognitive paralysis (aka. nothing gets done).

Sadly, this is not a blog of inspiration. No “aha’s” were uncovered. I am simply ranting. How does one create system change? Once again, GASOLINE POURED onto my fire.

Pouring Gasoline #IMMOOC

Week 3 – IMMOOC – Chapters 4 & 5 – with Tara Martin

What caught my attention with Tara Martin’s interview was POURING GASOLINE on her fire. What a visual!!! I would say “add fuel to my fire” but never pouring gasoline. That’s intense. She must have incredible mentors and supporters that encourage her to be a edu-trailblazer. Tara Martin was referring to people who believed in her. When I think about this metaphor… it was MY STUDENTS who poured gasoline on my fire. Their stories, their experiences, their learning and learning potential confirmed and validated my purpose in education. I also realize that my students are my biggest fans and supporters. I am truly grateful for that. My mentors, on the other hand, STOKE MY FIRE. My mentors and supporters bring to my awareness my strengths, my purpose, my fire.

Other aspects of Tara’s interview that provoked me and sparked my attention was (1) be a knowledge contributor not just a consumer; (2) take the leap and be a trailblazer (i.e. blogging), and (3) the edu-world is HUGE and you are one piece in the puzzle… you cannot create system change alone but you can create conditions for change. These points resonate with me because I now feel like a contributor with my doctoral thesis, but really it was a mechanism that organized my thoughts and views connecting literature and practice. I love the idea that you have to take a risk and keep doing it to get better at it. That’s the learning process. Finally, I had always believed that “I” could change the system but it takes all of us in the system to create change… so FIND YOUR PLACE.


What was one thing that you used to do in education that you no longer do or believe in? Why the change?

Grading… the accumulation of grades or marks… policing student behaviour with grades. For years as a student and my early years as a high school teacher, I collected many “marks” or scores to track student achievement… well, student doing. What I’m writing about today reminds me about what Alice Keeler had talked about last episode. Looking  back, it was busy-work… policing… and artificial or false approach to “measure” student learning. It’s a lie. I remember a student asking me in the middle of my class if I liked students. Whoa. BOLD, yet I’m grateful that this Grade 8 student felt safe enough to ask. It was so true… “collecting grades” was soul sucking… and truth, it was my best guess.

My professional intuition and expertise was much more accurate. Then I went to a provincial inservice conference/workshop on UDL, but I ended up talking to a teacher/faculty associate on ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING. We stayed connected during that year and he sent me various resources on AFL. It’s not everyday that you have a colleague/stranger question your professional practice and then help guide you through to a new place of being. I played and practiced with my Math 8-12 classes on AFL, which in turn helped me to focus on my learning and quality of my instruction. Things started to line-up so nicely such that learning was meaningful for me and my students. You know it’s a good thing when students have to remind you of the importance of AFL.

BC’s New Curriculum emphasizes the importance of AFL and formative assessment to student learning. I could not agree more. Now as a sessional instructor at the university, I try to implement the ideals of BC’s New Curriculum into my fourth year education classes, which includes formative assessment, personalized learning, and competencies. The shift is/was amazing. I continue to learn and I am completely aligned with Tara Martin when she says you have to get out there and try something… make mistakes… learn from those mistakes… get better at what you do… and share your learning. This makes sense to me. Although we are not the student in the system, we are still learners. I love making learning fun and meaningful for students, as seen in the photo above, regardless of age or course. Formative assessment and AFL helped me to achieve this. I am very thankful.

#IMMOOC Season 3 – Episode 3 with Tara Martin @TaraMartinEDU

Another Math Educator #IMMOOC

Week 2 – #IMMOOC – Chapters 1-3 – with Alice Keeler

What I absolutely loved about this week’s YouTube segment with Alice Keeler was that she is a mathematics educator, she directly connects research to her practice, and she is going out of her way to share her message. I just love it… “grades are crappy feedback”… “there is no average time to learn”… and “homework is a waste of time.” Can it get any better that that? I am so inspired by what she had to say. She is a high school math teacher and she is talking about no homework, the importance of relationships, and her love for spreadsheets. COLLECT THE DATA. She is a person after my own heart.

Here are some more amazing points Alice Keeler hits home with that I would like to mention: (1) use Google…. technology gives students choice… share learning digitally… it’s 2017; (2) ask students what percent of their time at school is “busy-work”… ranges from 65% to 80% (3) grading does not improve learning… grading has a 30% differential when different teachers mark the same thing… it’s not accurate. Wowza. Here, here!!!

The YouTube with Alice Keeler is a must watch. The link is attached below. You can see her enthusiasm, passion, and conviction. I started following her on Twitter @AliceKeeler and her energy is just the same. Let’s focus on student learning that is research based.


If you were to start a school from scratch, what would it look like?

Well… I chose this question to reflect on because I don’t know the answer. I certainly know of aspects of what it shouldn’t be. We need to get out of the industrial model of mass education. We are losing students. We talk about affective ways to improve student learning like formative feedback and mastery learning but I question if we are doing it. And when I mean WE, I mean a collective we. I just love the fact that Alice Keeler’s practice is guided by research. I also believe that students need a voice in the learning process as well. Hence, I’m reluctant to say what “I” would do if I were to start a school from scratch because that’s what WE have been doing for so many years.

I would love to have a collaborative approach with open spaces that are inclusive and safe places to learn and make mistakes. Culture is a huge component to schools as well. We are “guided” by policies but sometimes I wonder if we forget who we are serving and why. I love the 8 characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset: empathetic, problem finders/solvers, risk takers, networked, observant, creators, resilient, and reflective. I would love to have a learning space where all of these characteristics are honoured, nourished, and expected from students, teachers, educational leaders, and parents.

Physical structures, policies, instructional and assessment practices, and school culture would be focused on student learning and be student centred. In this photo above, it’s a student leading my class. Technology is embedded. Students are engaged. My role as the teacher is to create the framework, the culture, and mindset so that students can thrive, take risks, and be creative to find their personal strengths and interests. I believe that we can do this now in our schools but I believe it’s a collective effort. Do we all share the same vision? Do we all believe that students are able? Are we all willing to change our practice (and make mistakes) to benefit student learning? I hope the answer is YES x 3.

Final note… I love that students have CHOICE in their learning… or as Alice would say, LOCUS OF CONTROL… that they feel invested in their learning and have a say. Students know and understand way more than what we believe they know and understand. Our job is to help, guide, and facilitate their learning with our expertise and experiences that will help them thrive and be autonomous learners. I love that essential question: “How doe we save Nelly?” That’s what learning is about… not just a set of facts to memorize.

#IMMOOC Season 3 – Episode 2 with Alice Keeler @AliceKeeler

Communication Competency

Week 5 – EDUC471D100 – October 6, 2017

I love how this course is evolving. The student-led warm up activity this week was one that exercised and emphasized the Communication Core Competency as described in BC’s New Curriculum. The class was subdivided into groups of 4. Each group is given a picture. The first person who has the picture has to describe what they see to the second person. The second person has to draw what they perceive is being described within a 2-minute time limit. Once complete, the second person describes their drawing to the third person of the group. Finally, the process is repeated once again from the third to the fourth.

The activity resembled the “telephone” activity where messages can be and likely to be revised when told from person to person. The same could be and would be true with this activity. To my surprise, the students did very well. It was not an easy activity and it really relied on communication skills, listening skills, and a wild imagination. I could see how this activity could be used in the English Language Arts courses in K-12 as students are learning descriptive words to depict what they see. You could also use this activity over time (i.e. September, December, April, and June) to see progress in the communication competency over time. It was a fun, engaging, and interactive activity. I would do this in a mathematics class to demonstrate the importance of communication in math.

Journal Reflection Questions – Personalized Learning

How does personalized learning and inclusive education connect to BC’s New Curriculum?

  • It’s about acknowledging each student and their strengths. It’s not about looking at homogenizing learners and grading them on how well they have conformed to the expected “learning outcome.” Personalized learning is about choice, interest, and exercising student agency within the framework of the course/subject area. This is not about creating 30 individualized curricula, but rather finding ways in which student can acquire and/or demonstrate their learning. This is where emphasizing curricular competencies and using content as the vehicle can create some flexibility for planning and personalized learning. Personalized learning acknowledges our differences.

How is your learning being personalized in this course?

  • Choice was offered for which participation activities students wished to facilitate. Choice was offered in what topic they wish to do their IGNITE presentation on, but it must relate to curriculum development and/or content highlighted in the course. Choice was offered for the final assignment.

How are inclusive practices being used in this course?

  • A safe learning environment is created. Student input and voice influences the direction of the course. Different opportunities for students to engage and participate. Tries to include and acknowledge all types of learners in class.

What are some possible benefits of personalized learning and inclusive education for student learning?

  • Students can exercise student agency and choice. Students learn more about their learning and what they are good at or interested in. Students feel like they are part of a learning community and we are able to celebrate our differences. We can achieve this within a common framework but can acknowledge our progress relative to ourselves and not others. Feedback would be personally relevant and applicable. All students would feel like their are part of the collective learning process. We are all learners (me included).

My Reflections

We are creating some momentum in this course. I am grateful for the early adopters for setting the stage for the rest of the class. This takes courage and I applaud them. With a solid foundation created by students, the student-led participation activities are getting better and better. I love that students create their own discussion questions from the readings. This week, many of the questions posed on personalized learning were somewhat similar, which I found interesting. There was some skepticism from the discussion. I would expect that when we as a collective of learners have been part of the 20th century learning model of achieving the same goal and being assessed that way. However, I am optimistic as I see topics of student choice as demonstrated in the Wild Card Activity. This week 2 students talked about the importance of drama (aka. action, student participation, or experiential learning) is valuable for students and the learning experience. We participated in an activity that involved math… from the 3 times tables to 7. With more time, we could have realized what the students were trying to convey.

I look forward to the upcoming weeks. We are approaching the halfway mark. I’m excited. We are moving towards assessment and evaluation and how that influences curriculum development and its implementation in context of BC’s New Curriculum.

Convocation 2017

Me, Dr. Daniel Laitsch, and Dr. Carey Chute

Finally… I cross the stage… oh wait a minute, I took a detour mid-stage and avoided shaking the hand of the SFU Alumni President. Could this be a metaphor? Like, I’m not done? A denial of the end? I had full intentions of crossing the stage… no, I didn’t. Another lie. I never visualized myself crossing the stage. I did see myself sitting with faculty after being hooded, hence the detour. I guess I should have read ALL of the instructions inside my folder. I read the hooding portion and that’s it. All I had to do was follow my friend and classmate Carey Chute but I must have lost sight of him. Do not fret. I did get my alumni pin and my sudden detour did not make the video of the convocation LIVE, so I’m good.

The day was such a whirlwind. I caught the first ferry with my husband, picked up my kid from Starbucks at Horseshoe Bay who was coming back from a concert from the night before, then we went for breakfast at Denny’s before heading to SFU. I had to teach that morning before convocation, so I set my family free to roam SFU campus. I taught from 9:30am to 1:00pm then went down the hall to the Academic Quadrangle to get my gown. I barely got past STEP ONE of getting ready, but thank goodness for the volunteers who helped all of us to get ready for convocation. I was so glad to graduate and spend the afternoon with my friend and classmate Carey Chute. He supported me throughout the dissertation process. I was the keeper of Flat Carey from Dr. Michelle Nilson’s Class from the summer, How to Complete your Dissertation. He kept me entertained all afternoon.

My favourite moment was captured in a screenshot sent to me from my friend who was watching my convocation LIVE at home (see below). Don’t get me wrong… I loved getting hooded (even though Dan hit me in the face during the process… and said sorry soon after). It was this moment when I realized that I’m his equal… his peer. Dr. Alice Christine Ho Younghusband, EdD. Now that’s a mouthful. I’ve wanted this my whole life. My dad remembers me as a kid writing my name out on paper with all “my letters.” Sadly, I realized in my mid-40’s that my dad snooped in my room during my teenage years. That aside, the letters after my name are: Dr. Christine Younghusband, BSc, BEd, MEd, EdD.

I am proud of my alma maters, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. Now at the end of this chapter and my dream realized, I never thought I could do it. I never thought that I would get through my first degree (I don’t think that my dad did either). I never thought that I could get into or afford my second degree (but I became a teacher). I never thought I would get into my masters program due to my reading and writing phobia (but I got in and stayed in). And, well… my doctoral journey took 9-years. Again, I did not think I would get into this program (but I was accepted twice because I declined my first acceptance) and I never thought that my dissertation would be completed (but I finished and finished well). I am happy with my research.

“You don’t embark in higher education with hopes of being the same person.” Thank you Dr. Daniel Laitsch, my senior supervisor, for affirming this and THANK YOU for your belief in me, your guidance, and your gentle approach. From beginning to end, I took a 180. I felt myself turning around during the dissertation process such that I believe that I could not have completed my dissertation had I stayed teaching math. This is the irony. My dissertation is all about teaching, learning, and improving the learning experience of students. Moreover, another reason for pursuing a degree in educational leadership was to learn more about leadership in the field of education. Not only did I find solace in my research, I found solace in this professional learning experience of pursuing a doctoral degree. My reading and writing phobia is no longer. I answered my research question, one that I had for more than 20 years. And, I understand more about leadership.

So, what’s next? I’ve blogged about this since my oral defence and I continue to blog about it now. Acknowledging that I am a different person, it is unrealistic to believe that I would return back to teaching secondary mathematics… even though that’s where my heart is. My experience as a secondary mathematics teacher informed my writing as a Masters student, a Doctoral student, and now academic/researcher. I continue to teach at the university and I LOVE IT. That is very clear to me. I love to teach. I love honing my craft. I love facilitating learning. My students make my profession so wonderful and I would love to continue this. So, I may not be teaching in the Grades 8-12 classroom, but I am teaching at the university and influencing those who may teach in a K-12 classroom. This is powerful. I would also like to continue my research, travel, and present.

In the short term, I have a tonne of things to do. I have another study to complete, a research poster to prepare, and a conference presentation to make. In the meantime, I am also applying for opportunities to teach at the university and finding funding to further my research. This is a learning curve that I’m enjoying but also find humbling. You don’t know what you can or cannot do unless you try. I was also thinking about writing a book on MATH STORIES and my friend also wants us to co-author a book too. This is something that I never thought was possible… but it might be. “Look for and take opportunities that come your way.” More words of wisdom from Dan. Yes, I do overthink and want to make things happen that may not be aligned to my direction. Sometimes you have to reach out to figure out if something is within your alignment or not. There are no mistakes, only learning. This is the greatest human experiment… and I’m loving it.

A Full Class

Week 4 – EDUC471D100 – September 29, 2017

I love this photo. We are delving into BC’s New Curriculum and what it entails. In this course, students have the opportunity to sign-up for various participation activities. One of those activities involves reading reflections. This week, two students were responsible for the oral presentation of the article and two of them were responsible for the written summary. In this photo, these students are writing on the board questions they have for themselves and the class to discuss regarding the article we read. I love this.

I also loved how the student-led warm-up activity took a shift from “getting to know you” to “getting to know you better” with team building and problem solving. Students were divided into groups of 5 and given a handful of straws and a metre of masking tape. The challenge was to build a the tallest free-standing structure they could within a given time frame with the materials they were given. Wow. I could not have designed or planned for this better. This activity best exemplified the development of the Core Competencies of THINKING and COMMUNICATION. I was so impressed with the activity and final products.

With the introduction to BC’s New Curriculum, the topic I wanted to focus on this week was the concept and policy of “The Educated Citizen.” The image below shows the main points of The Educated Citizen as seen in the Statement of Education Policy Order – Mandate of the School System of British Columbia (1989). BC’s New Curriculum (2016) and its development was focused on The Educated Citizen and how it can be achieved via the curriculum. It was believed that the curricula developed since the Education Policy Order (1989) did not satisfy the vision The Educated Citizen. Students were asked to reflect on what it means to be an educated citizen and if schools helped them to be one.

What does it mean to be an educated citizen?

For me, it’s the ability to think critically and creatively, to communicate with others effectively, and to find my passions, strengths, and interests. I feel that BC’s New Curriculum’s CORE COMPETENCIES help me to become an educated citizen.

In what ways have you met the criteria of BC’s Educated Citizen?

I feel as a 47-year old adult, I am an educated citizen. However, after my K-12 education experience, I am not certain if I satisfied all, if not some, of these bullets as seen above. I think I achieved the second and third last bullet… being productive and cooperative. I believed that I learned this from curling (aka. sport).

In what ways have you NOT met the criteria of BC’s Educated Citizen?

As an adult, I wished I was more consistent with “striving for physical well-being.” Going into that would be another blog entry, but I am left wondering where did I learn how to the rest of the bullets or did I learning it in K-12 and improved on it over time. I am curious what my students wrote in their journal reflections.

In what ways do you believe that BC’s New Curriculum will satisfy the characteristics of an Educated Citizen?

I mentioned this in my first response… I believe it will be the CORE COMPETENCIES. The curricular competencies feed into the Core Competencies and content serves as a vehicle to develop the competencies. Furthermore, student self-reflection, formative assessment, and Communicating Student Learning will compliment BC’s New Curriculum to help students to become metacognitive and understand their strengths, weakness, and appropriate learning adaptations to thrive in schools and beyond.

My Reflection:

My students remind me that students should be integral to their learning and leading their learning. They also remind me the power of the teacher as facilitator. The class spent much of their in class discussion on EDUCATION FOR ALL and what would the learning experiences look like for those with learning challenges if integrated with students how are university bound, for example. In essence, they were discussing and deliberating the idea of INCLUSIVE CLASSROOMS. Not only do these conversations inform me as to what we will be doing next class, but also it lined up to the Wildcard Activity chosen by the student this week. What did she present about? DIVERSITY. We discussed cultural diversity and cognitive diversity. I could not have planned that any better. I was so shocked how the student led activities, class content, and group discussions were interconnected. It seemed uncanny or serendipitous. Although it was not explicitly “planned” by me, the teacher, it was absolutely planned such that the topics and conversations about education, curriculum, and learning are natural fits. Too cool!

Intro to #IMMOOC

IMMOOC = Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course

I never done a MOOC before… nevertheless #IMMOOC. I am super excited… yet somewhat disoriented…but I’m catching up and here’s my first blog for #IMMOOC.

There is a weekly YouTube, a weekly Twitter chat, and blog prompts you can respond to. I missed the first YouTube event with Jo Boaler and now I’m “catching up” as mentioned watching the interview now. It’s so inspiring and in “my wheelhouse” in terms of math education and growth mindset. I am so glad that I took the time to listen to this interview with Jo Boaler. I feel so inspired… and yes, helped to me to make sense of (or add context to) the two blog prompts provided. I was wary about what I would write or if I would write a blog entry for #IMMOOC to share my thoughts and tell my story but Jo Boaler motivated me to do so. I loved what she had to say and I appreciated Jo Boaler’s story about her research. I feel validated and compelled to share. So here it goes…


Why is innovation in education so crucial today?

I loved it when Jo Boaler mentioned in the interview that curriculum is designed beautifully for the 1800’s, a time when we needed shop keepers who were able to count and calculate. BINGO. I am a former secondary math teacher and now teach a course at the university on curriculum development. I agree that curriculum serves a purpose and should reflect the current state of the world and possibly the future.

Jo Boaler speaks in the context of math education, but that is my area of expertise as well. Students need to go beyond filling out worksheets, answering questions from the textbook, and hoping to get the answer right. Testing is another problem and lack of formative feedback. Students have no idea if they are THINKING “correctly” (I use that term loosely) unless they check the back of the book… and that’s not good enough. I love the idea that schools (math included) should be a place where students can make mistakes, take risks, and play as part of their learning experience. I am aligned to this.

I’d hate to use the term “discovery learning” because that’s getting a bad wrap, but what I’d like to say is school is a place to LEARN ABOUT THEIR LEARNING. Innovating, creating, experimenting, tinkering, playing… whatever… help students to develop their metacognition, solve problems, and design something new. School should be more than just DOING and COMPLYING. That was very useful in the industrial model and factory style of learning… where GRADING learning was appropriate for assessment and evaluation of student achievement to see how well “students moved through the system” to become educated citizens. The letter grade symbolizes a “quality” of learning, but it’s a mish-mash of arbitrary measurements (e.g. testing, homework, work habits, behaviour).

This is where the fixed-mindset is established as students, teachers, and the system BUY INTO “the B-student.” This is what the industrial age needed and wanted… to create “quality widgets.” Today, we’re beyond that. We need and want our students to become global citizens… and, what does that look like? Innovation and growth mindset are integral to this “new” direction in education and all parts must align in this direction to make it happen for our students. So, I do get aggravated when I hear that students have to put their cell phones in a basket, memorize the parts of the periodic table, and learn from a worksheet. This is NOT how the real world is and we need to LOOK AT OURSELVES to determine what needs to change and then DO IT. Students should not be waiting to get out of school to start learning something that interests them, that celebrates their strengths, and that is purposeful and meaningful. Now is the time.

Talk about a time you dealt with adversity in education, and how you overcame it?

During the Twitter chat, one of the questions asked which quote was our favourite from the Innovator’s Mindset book. The one that resonated with me is situated early in the book on page 47 that says, “Great educators can work within the constraints in the system and still create innovative learning opportunities for their students.” I wholeheartedly believe this and KNOW that there are some great educators out there doing incredible and innovative things with their students in their classes… but there are very few. Meaning, innovation and risk taking in schools is not a cultural norm.

I love how Jo Boaler says that we need to CELEBRATE MISTAKES and CELEBRATE RISK-TAKING. I do believe that we get too caught up in the “the rules” or perceived rules or ways of being that teachers don’t bother, don’t know, or feel fearful to try. Furthermore, I love how Jo Boaler is not a fan of homework such that she would “gladly to get rid of all homework” because it’s an equity problem and most kids feel defeated with homework. I would absolutely agree with this. We need to teach differently. The final comment that made an impression on me with Jo Boaler was her comments to POLICY MAKERS… “We have to free up teachers”… “that’s when they start seeing connections.”

Leaders must also be “educated” on what it means to lead innovation in education. When I left teaching in public schools, I felt like I was being forced back into a box. The image of this lived experience was “me oozing out of my chair.” I couldn’t fit back into the chair. I wanted to grow. I wanted to experiment. I wanted to play. Slowly but surely I was put back into my room, denied opportunities I wanted to be a part of, and I felt like a “troublemaker” or out of place with my teaching practice. Over time, I was feeling disconnected and misaligned to my practice. I was becoming defiant and my focus was more about questioning why versus innovating with my students. So, I quit my job.

That was 7-years ago and it was not an easy journey back. I completed my dissertation and doctoral degree. I became a public speaker and facilitated many workshops and presentations. And, I was part of BC’s New Curriculum and its development. I restored my love of public education as a school trustee and gained a new understanding of how policy influences practice and student learning. I had the opportunity to return back to teaching as a sessional instructor and I love how I am able to be creative, innovative, and fun-loving in the classroom again. Yes, there are constraints teaching at the university, but also an academic and pedagogical freedom I adore and respect. I feel very lucky.

My Biggest Take-Away – Week 1 – #IMMOOC

When you push against what is traditionally known, you will get push back.

This is huge. That’s the underpinning of how I felt… and sometimes continue to feel with my former teaching practice, my research, and now educational leader. The solace that this gives me is overwhelming. Since leaving teaching in public schools I tried to avoid “the push back.” It’s not a good feeling. You feel isolated and alone… like you’re doing something wrong. In hindsight, this is counterintuitive. If you want to make change, accept that there will be push back. YEEEEESSSSS!!! Jo Boaler’s story was validating and inspiring. Thank you. I have attached Jo Boaler’s YouTube interview below. Enjoy!

#IMMOOC , Season 3, Episode 1 – with Jo Boaler (Twitter: @JoBoaler)

Gave Birth

I love this picture of my baby… from 14-years ago. Look at her little hands and monster feet… and her itty bitty nose. Super cute. I must admit, giving birth was the toughest thing I had to do EVER in my life. There were not enough prenatal classes for me to make this a natural and straightforward experience. I pushed like no one has pushed before (i.e. popping several blood vessels in my eyes… it was not pretty). She was suppose to be born on the 28th… and yes, she was born on the 29th. I was not prepared for this.

Completing my dissertation was a probably the second most difficult thing I have ever experienced (thus, giving birth still takes first place). Instead of being pregnant for 9-months, I was a doctoral student for 9-years. Ugh. As much as I wanted the dissertation to finish, I thought that the process would never end. I can see why giving birth and completing a dissertation are similar. You have something growing inside you… you write and revise it to finally defend it (aka. you’re working through the contractions and finally pushing)… and voila, you finally submit the “real” final draft of your dissertation to the university library (aka. your beautiful baby is placed into your arms). Now what?

When my daughter was born, I remember thinking that now I have someone completely dependent on me. My mind had shifted. I was someone else. I had unrealistic expectations of returning back to the person I was before she was born. That was a weird place to be. It was much like denial, in many ways. Maybe it was. Well, that’s how I feel about my dissertation. I have an obligation, a message to share about teaching and learning. However, I must admit, I catch myself looking on the Make a Future website focussed on the math teaching positions believing that’s where I am suppose to be.

Even today at the shoe store, I bumped into two former colleagues who congratulated me on completing my doctorate. I thanked them, but the classic follow up question of “what’s next” came up. I would like to believe I’m in a crossroads, but really, I think I’m in denial. I know that I love to teach math, but that’s where I came from. It’s not that I am walking away from it, but really it’s what I have learned from it that matters and what I can do with that information to help with student learning. I love data analysis (more than I should) and I love looking for and finding patterns in the context of K-12 education.

I have another study to complete… and policy to review and revise for two organizations. These are opportunities I cannot pass up or overlook. Furthermore, I am teaching at the university, learning from my experiences, and sharing those experiences with prospective teachers. That’s more than what I had hoped for. I love teaching and the creativity that’s involved with it. I enjoy research and the idea of being published gets me super excited. As much as I think that being back in the math classroom is a “solution,” the reality is, I’m preparing for the next step. It’s not going to be an easy one, nor will it be straightforward and immediate. I’m starting all over again and it’s OK to be at a NEW beginning.

I am not the same person and I don’t understand why there is a part of me that wants to be. The future is unpredictable, but what I have to come to grips with is, I am an “academic entrepreneur.” I’m not sure if I’m coining this term, but I am an academic and I need to create, sell, and promote my ideas. This is where creativity, vulnerability, and courage are essential to my future success. Now that’s scary. But if I really want to honour where I came from (aka. teaching secondary math), then I need to forge forward and take the entrepreneurial leap, make partnerships, and embark on new research. Much like my baby, my research will grow and develop over time, but also it will get better.

Outside Again

Week 3 – EDUC471 – September 22, 2017

Oh my goodness… it was so nice to go back outside to learn. The start of today’s class reminded me of EDUC454 (Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education) I taught during the summer. We were outside for almost every class. I loved it… rain or shine. Come to think of it… I don’t think it ever rained. I could be wrong… but I loved learning outside. In EDUC471, we were outside for the warm-up activity. The hallway was ok last week, but we had to dodge foot traffic during the activity. Those walking through were a distraction, so I loved the whimsy of choosing to go outside. It was a beautiful day, as you can see.  I enjoyed the activity. We had to shake hands, introduce ourselves, and play rock-paper-scissors. If you win, you’re the leader. If you lost, you’re the follower. We played three rounds of the game. All I could think of was the MATH… what a nerd. I liked meeting new people, but also I LOVED the competition. Learning outside is joyful.

This week’s reflection questions:

  • Looking at your school career and curriculum, what do you think you are prepared for (post schooling)?

When I had finished my undergraduate degree in chemistry and mathematics, I thought I was trained to work in a lab. That said, I took my major and minor so that I could teach secondary math, science, and chemistry. The best skill I learned in high school that best served me throughout my life and career was typing. I wished I followed through on that course. I dropped out halfway through the course. Generally, I believe that my schooling from K-12 to graduate studies have taught me how to think, but the notion of “getting a job” served as a distractor such that I could not fully learn for fun. It seemed more geared for function, which in many ways was not as fun.

  • What experiences have you had while in school that recognized and focussed on your strengths?

Hmm… this is a good question. Admittedly, I focused much of my learning (or schooling) on addressing my deficiencies. I was “burdened” by my reading and writing abilities. For me, it was my sense of “English Language Efficacy” that was my nemesis in school. It was always a perceived barrier and I could never believe that I could make it to the “next step” (i.e. university, faculty of education, and graduate studies). But look at me… I’m done my doctorate and wrote a dissertation to my disbelief. Many of my students felt the same way about math. I’m not sure if I had realized my “strengths” in high school or in post-secondary education. I think that I learned more about my strengths from competitive CURLING, as a student. I am learning more about my strengths now.

  • What do you think would need to change in the current curriculum to prepare students for the 21st Century?

I would love to see more choice in learning so that students can discover their strengths but also exercise student agency. Furthermore, I would love to see learning experience more personally relevant and driven by intrinsic goods (aka. interest or passion) rather than extrinsic goods (e.g. grades and course credit). I believe that learning can be and should be FUN. I don’t mean easy… but the “act of learning”… engaging and collaborating… creative and critical thinking… are the source of joy. And from this acquisition of 21st Century Skills (and mindset) via learning content of interest, would lead to a more meaningful learning experiences that would meet the needs of the job market. It is not one or the other, but what foot you lead with that matters.


Oh my goodness again… the managing of the logistics of getting people signed up for activities and understanding how to access information for this course has been frustrating and time-consuming to say the least. Having to reprimand students is not my favourite thing to do as a teacher, but when the course is designed such that all of us are interdependent, one person who is not aligned to what is expected disrupts the learning for the whole class. Once again, maybe I should sit in another class (without being noticed) to understand what these students have experienced in their other courses. On the one hand, yes… students are getting graded as individuals… but on the other hand, we are all members of this learning community and we are are going to succeed together. This might be a mindset shift. I’m not sure, but what I know for sure is, we are going to get the BIG IDEA at the end of the course. I feel optimistic and I look forward to our next class. We are going to look at BC’s New Curriculum. I can’t wait. Exciting times!!!