Originally I was incredibly reticent towards changing my Biology class to 21st teaching because of fear. Fear of it not working, but also fear of the departmental exam that’s attached to my class. You see, at the end of the semester my students were required to write an exam to assess their learning. It’s created, distributed, and scored by the Ministry of Education.
The exam is 50 multiple choice questions taken from 100 hours of material and worth 40% of their mark. And to make matters more ambigious, in parts of the curriculum it’s difficult to ascertain the depth and breadth to which you’re supposed to teach. You can likely understand why I was afraid.
In addition to this, my students wrote very few exams during the semester. Most of their knowledge was applied, instead of memorized.
But I will never be afraid again. I received the departmental results on Friday. It was shocking. Not one student failed. Beyond two or three exceptions, their marks did not move more than 5%. Most moved only up or down by 1%. And the majority of the marks were well above 70%. The student with the highest mark in the class went into the exam with 98% and finished the semester with 97%. Amazing.
One of my colleagues joked with me, “I guess you think you’re a pretty great teacher now, huh?” Nope. But my students are really great learners. And I couldn’t be prouder of them.
But here’s the success story of the semester. One of the students in the class was modified and actually working on a Science 21 credit, instead of a Biology 30 credit. Here’s the thing, because all of our work was in groups, and the knowledge in the end was applied to problems or projects, she ended up doing the same work as everyone else. Sometimes she had friends or group members help her with things. However, I don’t consider that cheating; It’s called collaboration.
As the departmental approached, she spent the last two days in class preparing for the exam. I asked her if she wanted to try to write the departmental and earn a regular credit. She did. So she wrote the Bio 30 departmental. Her final mark, 71. I’m ecstatic and so is she. This is a victory.
I truly believe in the power of inquiry, collaborative and project based learning to teach and develop skills in my students. As teachers, we need to advocate for what is best for our students. We may need to do it loudly. Furthermore, we need to teach our colleagues, administrators, and parents, who don’t know, that there are better ways for our students to learn. For them to experience success. It’s called 21st teaching and learning and it needs to happen now.