Learning Partners Advisory Council Meeting - December 5, 2016

Location: Village Musical Acadien, Abram-Village, Prince Edward Island


4:30 – 4:40 Welcome & Introductions

4:40 – 5:00 Review and Approval of Discussion Summary Materials (Meeting 4, October 19, 2016)

5:00 – 5:20 Paper on Directions and Priorities for Learning

  • Outstanding points/issues (if needed)
  • Communications plan

5:20 – 6:00 Learner Transitions: Current System / Change Needed

6:00 – 6:30 Light Meal

6:30 – 6:45 Case Study: Partnerships & Collaborations

6:45 – 7:30 Proposal: “Rapid Response to Barriers to Learning” Working Group

7:30 – 8:20 Give and Get

8:20 – 8:30 Closing Remarks / Next Meeting

Briefing Materials

Briefing Note

Learner Transitions: Current System / Change Needed
It is envisioned this will be a continuation of the conversation on transitions, initiated at the October 19 meeting. We can use the Social Innovation Lab framework to identify the current system that could include early childhood,kindergarten to grade 12, post secondary and workplace transitions, and then consider any needed change perhaps with an eye to proposing a set of principles/goals for successful transitions.

Case Study: Partnerships & Collaborations
A presentation will be given on how cross-departmental collaboration and partnerships could better support learnings. This case study will use the Autism Lending Library as a practical example.

Proposal: “Rapid Response to Barriers to Learning” Working Group
A proposal to cast a working group has been put forward by a Council member and is included in the meeting materials for consideration. We will consider the working group proposal as well as discuss the terms for the establishment and operation of Working Groups.

Give and Get
A Council member would like to share some recent UPEI research relevant to our work - KSG Grant Final Report to SSHRC.Wiebe et al g materials. This is for your information only. At the meeting, the Council member will summarize the research and identify any potential future opportunities for the Council to input on / impact this research. As always we encourage you to share with the Council any information, initiatives, or projects on learning that you are aware of or are participating in.

Digital Technologies Impact Paper (920 Kb)

Discussion Summary

In Attendance: 

Co-Chairs: H. Wade MacLauchlan and Bill Whelan

Members: Amanda Brazil, Amber Jadis, Anna MacKenzie, Anne Bernard-Bourgeois,  Bethany MacLeod,  Jackie Charchuk, Donald DesRoches,  Kathleen Flanagan, Lori Johnston, Michelle MacCallum, Peter Rukavina, Tracy Michael

Ex officio members: Sharon Cameron, Teresa Hennebery

Resources: Wendy MacDonald, Secretary; Pat Campbell, DAC Engagement Officer

Regrets: Angela Arsenault, Bonnie Stewart, Jeff Brant, Moira McGuire, Natalie Mitton, Rocio MacCallum, Ron MacDonald, Shawn Loo, Susan Willis

1. Welcome, Agenda Review, and Updates

Co-chair MacLauchlan called the meeting to order at 4:30 p.m., welcomed members and conveyed regrets from those unable to attend. He reviewed the agenda and supporting briefing note (attachment one), which was approved as presented.

As well, he noted that Shawn Loo is moving out of province and will be stepping down from the Council. On behalf of the group, he expressed his appreciation to Shawn for his insights and contributions over the past year. Outreach will be conducted through Engage PEI to seek another member, with emphasis on a youth perspective.

Kathleen Flanagan joined the meeting by phone.

Co-chair MacLauchlan then asked members to briefly share recent or current experiences related to education and learning. Responses included the following:

  • Learning about healthy school lunches while car pooling to the meeting
  • Potential for new learning opportunities for adult learners as new companies establish in PEI
  • The reality that Christmas is a very stressful and difficult time of year for vulnerable Islanders, as shown by calls to social departments and organizations, but happily also many calls from Islanders and businesses wanting to help
  • Positive findings as the work of data collection on school nutrition continues, and many opportunities for partnerships and progress toward student access to healthy food in schools
  • Progress toward training all staff in the Commission scolaire de langue française in mental health first aid and awareness
  • A recent workshop for physical education teachers on the signs and symptoms of mental illness
  • Planning work and progress toward wraparound supports in École Évangéline through a partnership between the school board and 24 local organizations
  • Focusing on academics in the run-up to Christmas at an elementary school, and looking ahead to reach-back work in the New Year to act on progress monitoring findings
  • Work at a national organization for persons with disabilities to develop plain language materials, and to take part in federal consultations regarding a new national Canadians with Disabilities Act
  • Teaching an online course to post-secondary students for the first time, and realizing that they struggle more with the technology than with the content
  • An inspiring meeting with Billy Bridges, sledge hockey athlete, and watching the game
  • Active District Advisory Council involvement and collaboration in the school change process through two rounds of meetings in the fall
  • Changes and new partnerships at the Collège de l’Île
  • Advocacy for action on adult literacy by the federal government
  • Creation of a learning community among women leaders of NGOs through the Torch leadership program
  • Learning that parents in Asia seeking overseas post-secondary education for their children put highest priority on a place that is safe, connected, and personalized.
  • Reading and learning about assessment and 21st Century skills
  • Working with the federal government and in other provinces to advance the development of early learning systems.

2. Approval of the Summary of Meeting Four, October 19, 2016

Co-chair MacLauchlan asked for any comments on the summary of the Council’s fourth meeting, on October 19, 2016, previously circulated by email (Attachment Two). Four corrections were requested:

  • Peter Rukavina attended the first half of the meeting, and Lisa MacDonald, President of PEIHSF attended the second half.
  • The university exchange experience between UPEI and Germany is for physics students, specifically.
  • The Lennox Island experience involved harvesting birch bark only.
  • The reference to author George Couros pertained to his book, The Innovator’s Mindset – no visit to PEI is planned.

It was agreed that with those corrections, the summary captures the presentations, discussion and input of the members and is ready to share with the public.

3. Discussion: Draft Paper on Goals, Directions and Priorities for Learning in PEI 

Co-chair MacLauchlan opened discussion by noting that the paper had been much revised since the Council’s review at Meeting 4, and asked for comment.  These included the following:

Readability: It was felt that the revised paper is significantly more readable – shorter, clearer, active tone – but there remains much scope to use plain language to make it accessible to all. E.g., seek to replace multi-syllable words with one or two-syllable words. An option was also identified to prepare a plain language version of the document, drawing on the expertise of organizations like the PEI Literacy Alliance and the Community Legal Information Association. As well, it was noted that the paper, once online, can be made more readable by adding definitions and information via hyperlinked words and phrases.

Agency: It was noted that each of the ten directions on the second page starts with the term, “We must...,” and the question was raised as to who the “We” referred to. It was agreed that this referred broadly to all education partners and the community at large, not only the Council. The paper is from “We the Council” to “We the public”; the advice is not only to government. To express this more clearly, it was agreed that a couple of sentences need to be drafted at the start of the section, introducing the ten bullets, and positioning them as an aspirational call to action. The “we” can stay, but may need to be tweaked to ensure it is inclusive. E.g. “together we must...”  As well, any wording in the paper that suggests the Council’s role is restricted to advising government should be revised to reflect that the Council is offering its advice to all Islanders.

Scope: It was suggested that the paper is appropriately high level, and captures the “what,” in terms of future directions, but does not address the “who” and the “how”.  This point was discussed and it was generally concluded that the “who” includes everyone at this early stage, and that defining the “how” can be done in partnership going forward.  This will emerge as the Council’s work progresses.

Specific directions: There was also discussion of the wording of item 7, “We must ensure educators are equipped to respond to multiple learner interests, talents, capacities, aspirations, needs and contexts, and to engage learners in active, collaborative and rigorous learning,” questions were raised about the term “equip,” and who would do the equipping.  The item needs to be worded in a way that engages and includes teachers, and makes them say, “yeah!”  As well, it was noted, while the LPAC’s role spans formal and informal learning lifelong, the term, “educators,” means K-12 teachers, for most.

Call for input? It was noted that the paper asks for input at the end, in a general way. Several questions were raised about this:

  • What is our purpose in seeking input? Do we propose to revise our directions or the paper?
  • Do we have the capacity to analyze and apply the feedback if there is a substantial amount?
  • Should the paper pose questions to guide the input?
  • If so, it was suggested, we should ask people to tell us what they are already doing to move in these directions, what are the successes and the promising initiatives.
  • We should ask them not only for comment, but also pose a call to action, and ask the readers to think about what more they can do, as individuals or members of organizations or systems.

ACTION: Co-chair Whelan to prepare a revised draft of the paper with assistance from Wendy.

Process for Release of the Paper: Following discussion, it was agreed that the process for release will be:

  • The document will be revised as outlined above and circulated to the Council for final approval by the end of the week.
  • The paper will be translated.
  • The website will be modified as ready with a view to going live at the time of the paper’s release.  All Council documents from the first four meetings, as well as the materials circulated for this meeting, will be posted to the site, organized by meeting. The website will be standalone to reflect the overarching, cross-sector role of the Council.
  • The paper will be shared with the Principals’ Council and the membership of the District Advisory Councils a couple of hours before its public release, in recognition of their complementary role to the Council.
  • Re timing, ideally the release of the paper will occur via a House Statement by the Premier the week of December 12.
  • Social media, while an important component, will not form part of the initial launch.  Design work will be carried out in the coming weeks and presented to the Council at its next meeting for review and direction.

4. Learner Transitions: Co-Chair Whelan recapped highlights of the discussion of October 19 on the topic of transitions:

  • The issue of transitions represents both one of three pillars in our bridge graphic, and item 9 on the list of priorities and directions in the paper.
  • Some key points are noted in the discussion summary, does this capture the discussion?
  • Are there data, research findings that we could pull out, to give us a better sense of what successful transitions look like?
  • The maps indicated significant differences from one family of schools to another.

Discussion raised the following points.Two perspectives emerged, one looking at the negative aspects of transitions, and the other seeing them as potentially positive:

From a critical perspective, it was noted that the Council has mostly focused on major transitions, particularly into and out of intermediate schools.  But, there are important transitions at every scale.  At an even larger level, there is the transition from home into early learning and care, from early childhood to K-12, from K-12 to post-secondary and/or the workforce. 

At the other end of the scale, every school day has micro-level transitions that may affect some learners – from one period to another, from classroom to playground and back, substitute teachers and bus drivers, etc. Especially in larger schools, these can consume a considerable amount of time as students move from setting to setting.  In contrast, it was noted, the Montessori system features large blocks of time, with learners choosing when to transition from one activity to another.

Between these extremes, within each grade configuration, there is the transition from school to summer vacation and back again, often with a significant learning setback, and from one teacher to another. The current change process is an opportunity to move from today’s diversity of configurations to a more coherent, evidence-based model. 

From a positive perspective, it was noted that transitions are good for some learners, e.g. students with ADHD benefit from having opportunities to move about and that it helps them to focus. And a mild level of anxiety and discomfort is important to stimulate people to learn and grow.  Life is full of transitions, and factors like accelerating technological change and globalization mean that this will intensify. Our learning systems need to prepare learners with life skills for adulthood rather than shelter them up to the time of exit.  So the Council needs to ask, when looking at transitions, whether they are disruptive, and for whom.

Ideally, there should be a learner-centred approach that allows individualized transitions with an appropriate amount of change and stress, and provides them with the tools and skills to benefit.  To do this, we could look at changes in pedagogy and curriculum, such as greater emphasis on 21st Century skills.  As well, it was noted, communications within and between systems play a critical role in smoothing transitions and avoiding gaps and disconnects. 

A question was raised as to whether we could expand, rather than reduce, the types of transitions.  Are we looking only at, or beyond the current system?  E.g. could we consider new kinds of transitions, like skipping grades?

Co-Chair Whelan summed up, noting:

  • We are starting to define transitions more fully, and in a much broader way than initially, reflecting the Council’s focus on learning throughout the lifespan.
  • We must prepare learners for transitions and strive to benefit from transitions as teachable moments and experiences.
  • We should look at individualized approaches.
  • We should try to build a picture of what successful transitions through the lifespan would look like, from home to school, through school and into learning in the workplace and community.
  • To broaden our thinking, it would be good to look at other jurisdictions and other models, and learn from experts.  It was suggested that this should include expertise from our own systems to understand why we have the current approaches, and what may be valuable to retain.

ACTION: These insights and findings will be cast into a separate document for further review by the Council.

5. Case Study: Partnerships and Collaborations

A member of the Council told the story of his son’s experiences of learning and transitions to date, presented information on the resources that he had been able to find to help his son deal with transitions, and noted that these resources and the school system library in which they were contained had not been well known to the public. As well, two community organizations each maintain their own small resource libraries. An opportunity was seen to publicize the existence of these resources and to create a shared catalogue to let other families know what was available and where it was located, thus leveraging existing resources at no cost and fostering collaboration.

To date a blog post has been written about the library, and the concept of a shared catalogue has been explored with several departmental and board staff. Through these communications, it appeared that:

  • During this K-12 transition process to shift from the Board to the Public Schools Branch, it was unclear who is currently responsible for these resources.  Hence there is no clear way forward to advance the concept of a shared catalogue between government and NGOs.
  • There was not a consistent understanding by service providers of the extent to which these resources are intended for public use. 
  • There was limited awareness within the system that a catalogue was already online and publicly accessible. 

It was emphasized that this was not intended as a criticism of the individuals contacted, who were doing their jobs as defined, but rather an examination of what appeared to be a system-level set of issues, including fragmentation, lack of communications, restructuring impacts, and a lack of focus on the end user, i.e. learners and their families. This insight led to the development of the concept forming the next item on the agenda.

6. Proposal: “Rapid Response to Barriers to Learning” Working Group

The proposal for a Working Group on Rapid Response to Barriers to Learning was presented to the Council (Attachment Four). It was noted that this is not intended to take the Council to an operational role or to involve costly new initiatives and measures. Rather, the aim is to identify and explore a small number of fixable problems each year, say three or four, knitting together things that already exist or are being done, and to use these as learning experiences to gain greater insight into system issues and barriers. In short, see a real world problem, bring together a group of smart people, try to fix it, and learn from the experience. By looking at micro level issues, the Council gains evidence that it might miss if only working at a macro level.  Rather than writing reports that may go unfulfilled, this kind of hands-on approach by a Council working group would bring some change, and more importantly, demonstrate what is possible – not just pointing or modelling the way, but actually doing something. The methodology is what matters, more than the substance.  

Discussion by the group raised the following points:

  • The case study provided valuable insights into an issue and an opportunity. It was acknowledged that other such examples of fragmentation and lack of collaboration exist elsewhere in the education system, in government at large and in the community.
  • There is a need to carry out the kind of work being proposed, in a constructive way. A related example from the economic side is the Addressing Red Tape sector roundtables carried out for agriculture, tourism, small businesses, and food service.
  • It was questioned whether the Council or a sub-group of the Council is the right vehicle.  Several members noted that their concept of the Council’s role included two important features: high-level, and advisory.  The Council’s strength lies in its diversity and in the widely varied knowledge and perspectives that members bring to the table, and this is maximized when the full group meets.
  • It was acknowledged that the Council’s founding documents do envisage a role for the Council in promoting integration of services.  Other groups are trying to achieve this as well, e.g. re implementation of the mental health and addictions strategy.  Can we align or partner?
  • The Council’s work serves all learners, and each learner is unique, has in effect special needs. However some learners have greater needs, and the Council must be mindful that some areas of system focus, such as assessment results, run a risk of overlooking those learners.
  • It was observed that the people at the front line are essential and it is vital that they communicate and work together across boundaries. The more removed people are from the front line, the more they may focus on the system between them and the learner, and lose touch with one another. The Council can play a role here by pushing for better communications both vertical and horizontal, and emphasizing the need to focus on the learner. 
  • More broadly, the Council’s role here might best be to search for new connections and for approaches that go beyond the boundaries of the present system, to better support learners. 
  • In conclusion, the discussion was felt to have been valuable in exploring and defining the Council’s role and approach.  The case provided valuable insights relevant to all three pillars – transitions, partnerships, and learner wellbeing.  It was agreed we should look for more examples, including problems that have been solved, to provide practical, real-life information to guide the Council’s work.

7. Next Steps / Next Meeting: Next steps were summed up as follows:

  • Discussion paper: a revised version to go out by the end of the week for review, further revision as needed, and Council endorsement, with a view to a House statement during the week of December 12.
  • Website: to go live in concert with the release of the paper; issue of social media approaches to be further considered at the next meeting.
  • Transitions: more focused approaches to be considered at the next meeting.
  • Working Group concept: well explored by the discussion, and to be on the agenda for the next meeting
  • School change process:  Recommendations and a further public comment period early in the New Year, Council to follow developments


Published date: 
December 28, 2017
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