If I remember correctly, BC brought in Grade 10 exams back in 2007 (please correct me if I am wrong). I had already been teaching for 8 years and I distinctly remember my new found frustration getting the better of me. With the new Provincials, I would have to remove the fun from both my Math and Science 10. I had spent years creating engaging, corporative projects, only to have abandon them all so that I would have enough time to cover all of the prescribed learning outcomes. I never taught Science 10 again— I was in a state of mourning over the course I had spent almost 10 years developing. Why would I teach a class that only had time to superficially touch on an insane number of factoids? (Thankfully, being the only Physics teacher in the school, I had the freedom to not teach Junior Science, should I not want to.)
And here we are, nearly 10 years later. The government, in an effort to roll out their “Big Ideas”, realized that if teachers were to accommodate inquiry based learning, that the Provincials would have to go. They are probably not sad to save a few bucks, either. Teachers, should they choose to do so, can now go back to those inquiry based approaches, that they had long before “Big Ideas” ever came out, and hope to capitalize on facilitating more opportunities for students to learn and remember on a deeper level.
But in true government form, by plugging one hole, another hole (holes?) has formed– at least in the subject area of Mathematics. I read this week’s study with great interest. What educator doesn’t want to learn about optimal learning and remembering conditions? In particular, the authors, on multiple occasions, stated that educators must build on students’ background knowledge so that the new knowledge would be able to “attach” or “link” itself to the previously learned material. It is then, and only then, that higher level learning can take place.
So what’s my new problem? It’s the “Big Ideas”. In my opinion, “Big Ideas” need to be removed from the mathematics curriculum. The new curriculum minimizes overlap and generates massive jumps between years of learning. For example, combining fractions appear, disappear, then reappear. Similarly, order of operations is introduced, it vanishes, then reappears. Skill based content, unless practiced and built upon, does erode the retrieval mechanisms, hence we risk not accessing the LTM information.
I’m not anti-Big Idea for everything. Bring it on in Science, no question! Expecting kids to remember information and skills from two years ago is unrealistic.