Learning Partners Advisory Council Meeting - November 20, 2017

Location: UPEI Alumni Engagement Centre, 618 University Avenue, Charlottetown

Revised Agenda

4:30 - 4:40 Welcome and Introductions; Review of Agenda
4:40 - 5:00 Review and Approval of Discussion Summary Materials (Meeting 7: July 13) and Business Arising
5:00 - 6:00 #LearnDay: Reflections and Actions
6:00 - 6:30 Light Meal
6:30 - 7:00 Learn Grants: Applications Overview and Review Process
7:00 - 7:20 Community Presentation: Dr. Don Glendenning, Education 20/20 Inc.
7:20 - 7:40 Renewal of the Learning Partners Advisory Council
7:40 - 7:50 Business Arising:  PEIHSF Proposals for Consultation and Collaboration
7:50 - 8:00 Closing Remarks / Next Meeting

Discussion Summary

In attendance: Co-Chairs: H. Wade MacLauchlan, and Bill Whelan; Amanda Brazil, Amber Jadis, Angela Arsenault, Anne Bernard-Bourgeois, Bethany MacKay, Bonnie Stewart, Donald DesRoches, Jackie Charchuk, Lori Johnston, Michelle MacCallum, Moira McGuire, Peter Rukavina, Ron MacDonald, Tracy Michael; guests:  Hon. Jordan Brown, Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture; Dr. Don Glendenning, President, Education 2020; ex officios: Brad Colwill and Susan Willis; resource:  Wendy MacDonald, Ghislaine O’Hanley and Sharon Cameron; Regrets: Anna MacKenzie, Jeff Brant, Kathleen Flanagan, Natalie Mitton, Rocio MacCallum, and ex officio Craig Dalton

1. Welcome, Agenda Review, and Sharing

Co-Chair MacLauchlan called the meeting to order at 4:30 and extended a welcome to newly appointed Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture Jordan Brown, and to the department’s new Public Engagement Coordinator Ghislaine O’Hanley.  Minister Brown expressed his appreciation at being invited to attend, and spoke to the importance of collaboration.

The agenda was reviewed and it was agreed to move item 3, business arising, to the end of the agenda.

Members were invited to share recent experiences and insights on learning. Highlights included:

  • A recent visit to a new business downtown, established by a newcomer to PEI, which led to a “go in and say hello” initiative to these new enterprises, to encourage their continued operation and retention in PEI;
  • A new enterprise, supporting family health and nutrition by teaching cooking through online classes;
  • Self-advocates sharing the history of Down syndrome in Canada through presentations to intermediate school students, a Canada 150 project;
  • Participation in a recent Essential Skills forum in Ottawa, which was energizing and exciting;
  • Hosting by PEI of a recent national conference attended by 600 teachers, who had greatly enjoyed Lieutenant-Governor Perry’s participation;
  • Busy times in our schools, with parent-teacher interviews, book fair, and student assessments in progress.  While many students are doing well, it was noted, many needs remain;
  • A recent meeting with Senator Jane Cordy of Nova Scotia, a long-time teacher, and discussions on child poverty and mental health;
  • How UPEI’s graduate programs in education in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, are shifting to online approaches to increase access for learners, and how post-secondary leaders are exploring how better to accommodate learning disabilities at the post-secondary level;
  • #LearnDay and YDay as offering both learning and an experience;
  • Positive views by a recent delegation from Hainan Province, China on the extent of experiential learning in our systems;
  • A recent visit to four K-12 schools in Japan affiliated with our K-12 system, using our curriculum and employing teachers accredited by PEI. These schools are highly valued by learners and their families and more are in development;
  • A recent visit to Colonel Gray Senior High and conversations with students from China, the Middle East, Belgium and other countries about their experiences and challenges;
  • How PEI fire departments are learning peer-led mental health approaches from BC, and train-the-trainer applied suicide prevention;
  • A new position at UPEI, an umbrella leadership role for experiential education across the university;
  • The development of the new Cultural Strategy, released earlier that day;
  • Ongoing work to advance the SEAM/STAR program and the Canada Learning Bond for marginalized youth, to help them change their vision of themselves, build a new community, and form connections;
  • A day building a cabin with family members;
  • Recently hosting the Power of Ideas tour, an initiative by Innovation150, aimed at engaging youth in science through exhibitions, festivals and events – pointing up the challenges of getting thousands of students to an even and the key role of partnerships and the effectiveness of a learn-while-you-play approach.

2. Approval of Discussion Summary of Meeting 7 - July 13, 2017

The discussion summary of the July 13, 2017 meeting was approved as circulated.

3. Reflections on #LearnDay Event of September 30, 2017

#LearnDay infographic poster Bill Whelan thanked Bonnie Stewart and Sharon Cameron for their leadership in organizing #LearnDay.

In turn, Bonnie thanked the members of the Working Group: Amber Jadis, Jackie Charchuk, Michelle MacCallum, Anne Bernard-Bourgeois, and Craig Dalton. She noted that the group had worked to design a day wherein the participants shaped the agenda, with help from BraveSpace facilitators. She described how the day had unfolded: The morning had opened with a keynote address by George Couros, followed by lightning talks from seven speakers engaged in a range of learning activities and systems, and then an address by Premier MacLauchlan. Lunch had given the approximately 120 diverse participants a chance to meet and connect in new ways; then, the afternoon was designed to enable people to identify their burning issues about learning. This was followed by two rounds of table conversations on some two dozen wide-ranging issues. Discussions had been captured via the BraveSpace template at each table, the transcript of which had been circulated to the Council prior to the meeting. As well, the day’s discussions had also been reflected in a mural created by BraveSpace artists throughout the day (see above).  Subsequent feedback from participants has focused on the opportunity to explore a range of issues with diverse participants, and to interact with the Premier and with deputy ministers responsible for learning. 

Council members who had attended the event provided perspectives:

  • Generally, praise was expressed for the organization of the event, and speakers were seen as engaging and energizing.
  • The diversity of participants was noted, allowing a lot of cross-pollination – something that people think wouldn’t be needed given PEI’s small size, but that is needed and valuable. 
  • It was noted that some of the issues require a systems response, yet the participants were mostly outside the system. The same holds true for the Learn Grant proposals, a list of which had been circulated before the meeting (further discussed below). How to bring these together and follow up?

It was asked, what might the Council identify as an initiative, a prompt from #LearnDay that we could add to our workplan?  Two themes were highlighted as arising in a number of the conversations and presentations, as potential work areas for the Council over the coming months:

  • Newcomers and their transitions
  • Pathways to work, and experiential learning as a pathway.

Council members discussed how best to capture the insights of the day, as contained in raw form in the table conversation transcripts. Should these be synthesized further? Are there elements that the Council could pull out and take on as projects? These questions led to reflections on the role of the Council.

Should we focus on our response to #LearnDay input, e.g. “we heard, learned, were struck by,” etc. or should we be taking or promoting action on specific matters?  It was noted that many of the #LearnDay participants were asking for and expecting specific, tangible actions; yet our role is advisory, not just to government but to all learning systems and to the public at large.  #LearnDay was a way to gather information from the community on what it thinks is important, and the District Advisory Councils carry out a similar role regionally. It was suggested LPAC could work to draw out common and cross-cutting themes across these bodies.

Should we be working to develop a learning strategy for the province? – a role that the LPAC is uniquely suited to.  Some saw much value in having a shared vision and an overarching strategy, but this was noted as bring a huge task for a volunteer body, necessitating additional resources.  Others felt that an action plan, rather than a strategy, was needed, such as the Cultural Strategy released earlier in the day.  For this approach, it was felt that the Council’s role was not to develop the plan, but rather to advocate for its development, to “be the convener, the collective, set the bar.”

As an initial step, it was suggested, there is a need for assets-based mapping of what is taking place to paint a more complete picture of learning in PEI. Such an asset map would create shared awareness of the significant work already being done, and allow all learning stakeholders to position their elements and to better connect with each other. It was felt that this asset mapping needed to take account of some very significant, indeed transformative changes: a shift from net out-migration to net in-migration to PEI, the upcoming availability of effective internet access throughout the province, and the ongoing transition from a seasonal resource-based economy to a more diverse and advanced economy – requiring ways to recognize and build the literacies and skills of existing workers to ensure that all can benefit.

Another suggested approach to the task of developing a strategy or plan was to break the task down into components, such as plans for subsets of the K-12 system, or an adult literacy plan to replace the one done two decades ago. 

A further role for the Council, it was noted, is to act as an advisory body and a sounding board for its ex officio deputy minister members, on issues, ideas, and things in the pipeline

As well, a role for the Council was seen in connecting people, facilitating partnerships, and purposefully aligning groups and organizations – as accomplished at #LearnDay and through the Learn Grants.

Within this context, discussion then focused on how best to capture and disseminate the insights from #LearnDay.  It was felt that releasing the verbatim data would not be useful, putting too much detail on the reader.  Following discussion, it was agreed to begin with a one-page infographic, capturing key themes from #LearnDay and linking them to the Council’s three pillars.  Bonnie Stewart offered to draft the infographic for review by the Council. (Note: This work was carried out and the resulting infographic and an update were emailed to all #LearnDay participants on December 21, 2017.

4. Overview of Learn Grants Applications and Review Process

Wendy reviewed the Learn Grant initiative and provided an overview of the 24 applications received by the closing date of November 9.  She described the process proposed for selection, consisting of a committee with two members from Education 2020 and a chair from the Council, and guided by a rubric. It is recommended that the selection committee’s decisions be final.  The aim is to make decisions by December 1.

Following discussion, the Council endorsed the approach, and emphasized the importance of communications to both successful and unsuccessful applicants, and other #LearnDay participants, once decisions are made. (Note: All applicants were informed of the outcome shortly before Christmas. Agreements were completed, where required, and all funds were provided in March. Download description of 12 successful Learn Grant projects.

5. Community Partner Presentation:  Dr. Don Glendenning

Co-Chair Whelan welcomed Dr. Don Glendenning, founding President of Education 2020, as a community partner speaker. 

Dr. Glendenning indicated that he would focus his remarks on Education 2020, and provided a brochure.  He noted that the cover image shows people on the road of life, with three things: what they were born with, what they have learned, and the direction in which they are going. The brochure outlines the priorities of learners. It poses two questions for government: what services do learners need, and which of those services is government going to pay for?  We encourage learning for all but we do not pay for all of it.  

After a career spent in the education system, Dr. Glendenning noted, he founded Education 2020 five years ago. If you’re asked to think of health organizations, the list is very long; of education organizations, the list is very short. Education 2020 considers what learners need, the services and instruction provided, and what the community needs. Government is always balancing these, with a view to helping people get the skills they need for this society and economy.

Transitions are currently a major topic of discussion, e.g. the Council of Minister of Education Canada meetings this past summer, and numerous Education 2020 conversations.  In particular, math transitions have been a concern. The conversations suggest a focus on course numbers, and problems with communications.  The real issue is, what are they learning? There is a need for a master list of competencies on which people can be mapped, with varying combinations and clusters of skills.

Another key issue is the need for the public at large to get the information they need to make decisions about education.  A recent visit to a rural community indicated that such information is not readily available on key service areas, and there is no voice in the community to organize learning outside the formal system.  Education 2020 is looking at doing a survey in this community to identify their learning assets, which only number six at first glance.  What are our young people looking for, and what are our employers looking for?  We must meld these somehow.

There is a shortage of opportunities in continuing education.  People are calling for a continuing education and training system offering any course, any time, paid for. “We Never Close”.  There is a need and it may or may not be expensive. We have an obligation to let people go on learning for as long as they want, although not all may be free.

Within the K-12 system, Dr. Glendenning noted, he does not believe that establishing levels and standards are an education function. Rather, this is a qualification function which is regulatory in nature.  Only the United States and Canada do this within their education system; it is time to consider a separate entity.  Formative assessment is an educational role, but there is nothing in the literature to support establishment of levels and standards as an educational role.  Shifting it to a separate entity would lift a major burden from teachers.

In closing, Dr. Glendenning invited questions and comments.  Discussion followed of the concept of moving away from levels in the education system: Dr. Glendenning noted an experiment in the southwest United States in the 1930s which compared post-secondary acceptance and performance by students in a system with rigid graduation requirements, compared to an open innovative system in which the principal decided if students were ready to graduate. The latter group performed better in many ways. “We’ve regulated this business so much that we’ve lost our ability to respond to people’s needs,” concluded Dr. Glendenning.

Concern was expressed about ‘credential creep’ in the post-secondary system, with higher requirements for many jobs than 25 years ago, but no evidence that this results in better outcomes or performance.  It was noted that due to this intense focus on the credential rather than the competencies and the learning, most of the resources are channeled to the institutions providing those credentials – resulting in little investment in lifelong or community-based learning.  Dr. Glendenning noted that recent published research on competency-based learning in New Hampshire indicates that this approach not only facilitates learning and transitions, but may be less costly.  MPHEC is starting to look at this approach, as are health occupations across Canada. 

In closing, Co-Chair Whelan noted a final comment regarding competency-based education (CBE) versus grades – with CBE, at any age, learners will know better where they’re at and what they need to get to the next level.  On behalf of the Council, he thanked Dr. Glendenning for his remarks and insights.

6. Renewal of the Learning Partners Advisory Council

Co-Chair MacLauchlan noted that approximately half the terms on the Council, including his own, conclude on December 31, 2017, and one seat is already vacant.  He expressed thanks to the members for their contributions and participation to date, and welcomed their continued interest in serving for a second term.  He noted that he would not be seeking renewal of his own role as Co-Chair, and that he and Co-Chair Whelan would consider his successor over the coming months.  As well, Co-Chair Whelan will be in touch with individual members to identify their wishes.  Wendy noted that, starting the following day, applications would be sought through Engage PEI for any seats that might come open.  Members were encouraged to think of possible new members and reach out to them.  

7. Business Arising, July 13, 2017 Meeting: PEIHSF Proposals for Consultation and Collaboration

Peter Rukavina was invited to provide follow-up to the items discussed on July 13, regarding the “BBQ for Learning” and the ideas presented for the evolution of the District Advisory Councils. Peter briefly described the BBQ, held July 27 2107, and gave an overview of the responses to the evaluation survey circulated after the event (Attachment Six)

Regarding the evolution of the DACs, Peter reported that the PEI Home and School Federation had discussed at length the proposals that he had presented to the Council at the July 13 2017 meeting. Despite some concerns about the DACs and the process through which they had been established, and concerns about the school review process, the PEIHSF remains committed to collaboration, reflecting their 65-year history of education partnership.  In support of this, the recent HSF Semi-Annual Meeting had included a very productive session on how communities could play a greater role in the design of new school construction and renovations. Going forward, the PEIHSF will continue to work alongside the DACs as they evolve. (See collaboration graphic and the protocol for the Semi-Annual discussion).  

8. Wrap-up

In closing, Co-Chair MacLauchlan noted it would be his last meeting, and that he had been happy to be a part of the Council’s first years. He thanked all Council members for their insights and productive discussions and advice. In turn, Co-Chair Whelan expressed thanks to Co-Chair MacLauchlan for his leadership and his generosity with his time.  

Published date: 
December 28, 2017
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