Meeting 2 - April 20, 2016

Learning Partners Advisory Council

Location: Three Oaks Senior High School library, Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Agenda

A light meal will be available prior to the start of the formal meeting at 6:30.

  1. Approval of Agenda
  2. Approval of Notes of Meeting 1, February 11, 2016
  3. Update - Other Advisory Councils:
  • Update on District Advisory Councils: Pat Campbell, DAC Engagement Officer
  • Update on Principals’ Council: Susan Willis, Deputy Minister, EELC
  1. Update on Transition Process: Susan Willis, Deputy Minister, EELC
  2. Preview of Learning Partnership Website
  3. Process for LPAC Collaboration
  • Goals and Directions: Members are asked to review and be ready to discuss the twelve potential goals, actions and directions identified by the Council and presented in Attachment 2. Do these bullets capture the key priorities identified by the Council (in Attachment 1)? From this, we will look to see if these priorities can be clustered or organized in such a way as to better frame “The Challenge” that needs to be addressed.
  • Social Innovation Lab Model and Framework: This is a process for the Council to consider, to move forward with the priorities identified by its members. The features of the process will be discussed and members will be asked for their input as to the overall applicability of the approach, phases identified, potential variations, timelines and other process options that should be considered.

Briefing Materials

Discussion Summary - Meeting 2

Co-Chairs H. Wade MacLauchlan and Bill Whelan

Members: Amada Brazil, Amber Jadis, Angela Arsenault, Anna MacKenzie, Anne Bernard-Bourgeois, Bonnie Stewart, Jackie Charchuk, Jeff Brant, Peter Rukavina, Lori Johnston, Michelle MacCallum, Moira McGuire, Natalie Mitton, Rocio McCallum, Ron MacDonald, Shawn Loo, Tracy Michael

Ex officio members: Sharon Cameron, Teresa Hennebery, Susan Willis

Resource: Wendy MacDonald

Guest: Pat Campbell, Engagement Officer EELC

Regrets: Members Bethany MacLeod (represented by Patrick MacFadyen); Donald DesRoches; Kathleen Flanagan

The meeting was preceded by a light supper and social. Co-chair MacLauchlan called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m. He welcomed the members, especially those who had been unable to attend the first meeting, and led a round of introductions.

1. Approval of Agenda

Co-chair MacLauchlan reviewed the agenda, noting that the first half of the agenda focused on catching up on events, and the second half, after the break, would be devoted to an in-depth discussion of further directions and approaches. With the consent of the members, he added a “give and get” section to the agenda as item 6, preceding the break.

2. Approval of the Summary of Meeting One, February 11, 2016

Co-chair MacLauchlan asked for any comments on the summary of the Council’s first meeting, on February 11, 2016, included in the materials as Attachment One.

The importance of authentically reflecting PEI’s heritage, including the histories of its aboriginal people and of the Acadian population was communicated. (Note: this has been incorporated into the meeting summary, page 4, in the fourth paragraph of the section on “Building a Learning Culture: Goals’.) As well, it was recommended that the First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model (3.3 Mb) be viewed as a valuable framework for the Council’s work. It is a holistic, integrated approach that links lifelong learning and community well-being, and can be used as a framework to measure success. (Note: The First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model was forwarded to the Council on April 26, 2016).

It was agreed that the summary as revised reflects the discussion and input of the members and is ready to share with the public.

3. Update on the Work of Other Learning Advisory Structures

3 (a) Update on District Advisory Councils

Pat Campbell, Engagement Officer with the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture, briefly introduced herself, then provided the Council with an update of the work of the District Advisory Councils and a summary of the key priorities and insights arising to date. These are detailed in the following three documents that were distributed at the meeting:

  • Trusted Voices, Powerful Learnings, a detailed slide presentation by the DAC Engagement Officer.
  • District Advisory Council Meeting Highlights, a summary of the four or five key outcomes from the first meetings of each of the eight District Advisory Councils, during February and March.
  • District Advisory Council Summary, a brief synthesis of the themes across the group, and an overview of the results of meetings to date.

Pat presented highlights, noting:

  • Status of meetings: first round completed by early March, second round underway and completed May 5
  • Key themes:
    • For parents and teachers, key themes included the need for an inter-agency support model especially with regard to mental health and addictions; class composition and related resourcing issues; programming for student differences; and assessment matters.
    • For students, key themes included homework and the balance with extra-curricular; the desire for engaging and interesting learning; the desire for more consistency in program delivery and assessment practices across the province; and mental health and addictions issues.
  • Outcomes: feedback surveys indicated strong satisfaction with the meetings and the opportunity to be part of the advisory structure. In the second round of meetings, members are considering their role as representative of their school and considering how to gather input from their school communities. There is much energy for the process and some innovative ideas and approaches are already emerging.

3 (b) Update on Principals’ Council

Susan Willis, Deputy Minister Education, Early Learning and Culture, reported that the Principals’ Council has held one meeting to date, with a second meeting being planned for mid-May. At their first meeting, principals were briefed on the Learning Partnership components and rationale in the morning, and spent the afternoon in a facilitated discussion on ways to improve student learning, barriers and solutions. Key themes raised by the principals included the importance of listening and effective communications; the need to narrow the focus and not work on a host of fronts at once; the critical role of inter-agency supports; and an interest in re-empowering principals within a framework that includes accountability.

It is expected that the second meeting will build on this work, and focus on identifying goals for the 2016-17 school year that principals can take back to their school teams for discussion and development.

Discussion followed on both presentations, with the following points arising:

It was noted that both categories of councils had identified ‘inter-agency support’ as a key priority, and it was asked whether this held the same meaning for both groups. The presenters felt that it did, defining it as supports for those social and emotional needs of the child that can have a negative effect on learning. As well, it was noted that the support personnel needed can vary by school level, with the K-12 system team including, e.g. counsellors, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and public health nurses. While many of these professionals may also be needed in the secondary levels, there is more emphasis on mental health and addictions supports. Later discussion affirmed the importance of closer linkages among agencies, with concern expressed about the culture and practices of keeping things confidential within agencies, rather than case planning together.

It was further noted, that while issues of special needs and external supports were highlighted by both DACs and principals, that most of the conversation had focused on academic and student learning themes, such as assessment, enrichment, flexibility and other topics.

A question was raised about goal setting by principals and schools, and whether this process would focus on literacy, numeracy and student achievement. It was stated that it would go beyond these categories, and noted that it was very important that each school community identify for itself what is important re achievement. It was further noted later in the discussion, that the goal-setting process needs to be bounded by some direction on core, non-negotiable goals, given the range and complexity of needs, issues, and goals that could be set.

A question was also raised about the inter-relationship of the three categories of councils, which was referred to Item 6, below. It was noted that the DACs and Principals’ Council held promise to be mutually reinforcing, with members of the DACs bringing insights from their meetings back to their individual schools to help shape goal setting and school improvement planning.

It was noted that while it is good to address individual needs, the councils, and individual principals, also need to take a collective, whole-school approach. When one walks into some schools in PEI, they feel healthy, while in others, one doesn’t feel safe, a difficult situation for the students and teachers there every day. Taking this approach may help us to get out ahead of problems rather than reacting to them.

With regard to the DACs, a question was raised as to whether their role might extend beyond advisory, e.g. perhaps have a budget to support innovations at the school level, or otherwise take on a larger role? The powerful role that belief systems and culture play in the education system, and that the DAC process is already reshaping these. In the first round of meetings, some members were unsure, or defensive. In the second round, people are becoming energized and are beginning to take ideas and information back to their schools. The process even at an advisory level has promise to be a force for change.

A question was raised as to the role of research, evidence and expert advice in the overall process of educational renewal. These were seen as essential to the work of the advisory committees. This will be further addressed in item 6 below. As well, it was noted that an element had been added to the DAC agendas, “Wonderings,” in which research information and evidence is provided on issues and questions raised by the groups. This is already being helpful on issues in which people may not have the full picture, e.g. class composition.

It was noted, that as we move towards exploring new approaches to learning, that much has already changed over the past two decades – pedagogy, technology, curriculum – and that some teachers may feel that they don’t have the skills to deal with all this. Professional learning continues to be very important.

4. Update on Transition Process

Susan Willis reported that work had begun in November to develop a new integrated structure which brings the English Language School Board into the Department.   To date, the following has been achieved:

A new structure was designed and approvals were obtained from Treasury Board and Executive Council. Key features of the new structure are that:

  • the curriculum elements of the board are being integrated into the department; and
  • the remaining functions of the board are to be carried out via a new Public Schools Division of the department comprised of a crown corporation.

The management structure of the Department has been realigned, position descriptions prepared, and the four senior management positions have been advertised as an open competition. Interviews for these are complete and the outcome will be announced shortly. The second round of positions, for manager level positions, has just been posted.

It was noted that this has been a complex and difficult process which is significantly affecting a very large number of people. Despite this, staff have worked very professionally to design and implement the transition. There are fewer positions, partly because of the realignment and partly because of the goal of preserving front-line resources. It was also observed that notwithstanding this major effort, the structure is not perfect and will need to be tested and perhaps refined.

Currently:

  • Applicants for the senior management team were recruited through an open process, and have been screened and interviewed.
  • Applicants for the next level of management are currently being recruited.
  • A new Education Act has been drafted and will be introduced in the Legislative Assembly shortly. It provides for the transition to the new structure, and also modernizes some elements, given that the former School Act dates back to the 1970s.

A question was raised as to whether the policies of the English Language School Board will be retained in the new authority, under the Department’s new Public Schools Branch, and whether the Board’s consultation processes would be maintained, or changed. Susan Willis indicated that some policies would continue via the new education authority, and others might be adopted or carried forward by other sections of the Department. She noted that consultation processes for policies would be looked at, and improved if need be. Co-Chair Whelan noted the new advisory structures create new channels for consultation.

It was asked whether questions from DACs and answers would be made public, using the analogy of written questions in the Legislative Assembly and tabling of written responses.   In reply it was noted that the intent is to make DAC materials public.

5. Review of Draft Learning Partners Website

Co-chair Whelan reviewed the draft website that is being developed for the Learning Partnership. It has three panels, for the DACs, Principals’ Council, and the LPAC. Each panel has links for:

  • Members (goes to a page with photos and bios)
  • News and Info (goes to a page with information materials, including meeting agendas and summaries, meeting background materials, news releases, etc.
  • Have Your Say (goes to a comment form)

A question was raised as to how the “Have Your Say” tab would be monitored and responded to. This is not yet determined, but will be addressed. As well, it was asked whether the LPAC will get synopses of questions and responses, and the answer was yes.

Members discussed the posting of the meeting summaries and its implications for open discussion. They affirmed that the approach being taken by the Council (Chatham House rules) creates a climate for open expression of ideas and discussion at the meetings. It was felt that the notes of the first meeting were acceptable in terms of summarizing the gist of the discussion.

The importance of reviewing the website language with a plain language filter was noted, to ensure that it is readable by a wide audience, and avoids jargon and technical language.

Given that the members’ photos will be made public on the website, a question was raised as to how members should respond when people approach them individually with questions, comments and ideas. It was acknowledged that Islanders expect this, and that input should be welcomed.

6. “Give and Get:” Member Sharing

Peter Rukavina briefly described a workshop which had been held following the PEI Home and School Federation’s recent AGM on April 9. The workshop, entitled Workshopping Different Models of Education and facilitated by Gerry Hopkirk, had engaged about 100 participants in a visioning session. Participants had been asked to read three brief articles that challenge our thinking about education, circulated in advance; to imagine that it was 2020 and that PEI had just received an United Nations award for innovation in education; and to describe what that system would look like. The findings, wide-ranging and sometimes unexpected, have been summarized in a report that Peter requested be circulated to the Council. (Note: The report was forwarded to the council on April 21, 2016).

At the next meeting, more time for sharing will be built into the agenda.

7. Process for LPAC Collaboration

Co-chair Whelan presented suggestions for the Council’s work going forward, building on two documents that had been circulated prior to the meeting:

  • LPAC Briefing Document: Goals and Directions
  • Social Innovation Lab

His slide presentation on these materials was forwarded to the council on April 26, 2016.

7a. Review of Goals and Directions

Co-chair Whelan noted that following the meeting, the summary had been reviewed carefully, with a view to identifying priorities. This work resulted in the twelve themes set out in the briefing document, Goals and Directions.

Comments and discussion of the 12 goals raised the following points:

  • If decisions are being made that affect schools, it is important for the Council to hear the voices of the people in the system. It was noted that the Council’s role is to shape, rather than make, decisions.
  • The Council’s role goes beyond the K-12 system to address learning more broadly — working at a strategic level rather than the more applied, operational focus of the DACs and Principals’ Council.
  • It is important to include the concepts of health and fostering healthy citizens in the Council’s goals.
  • Emphasis needs to be put on creating a learning culture province-wide, with the aim not just of parents encouraging their children’s learning, but of those parents engaging in learning too.

It was noted that the 12 goals could be pulled together into three broad priorities, as depicted by the image of the three-legged stool:

  • Fulfilling the potential of each learner, defined broadly to include their uniqueness, health and wellbeing, inclusion, class composition, and supports to teachers;
  • Transitions from one part of the system to another, and into and out of the system;
  • Partnerships — both strengthening existing partnerships and mobilizing new ones.

Each ‘leg’ is critical to the overall goal of supporting learner success.

To proceed, it was proposed that an ecosystem approach be adopted, a philosophy that acknowledges and promotes the connections between and among the currently isolated elements of the learning system. This approach envisages individuals and families as consumers and architects of their learning, with a voice in the form and content of their learning. It was noted that ecosystems are resilient because of their diversity.

Comments included the following:

  • The economic development system needs to be brought into this approach and not a separate silo.
  • Consideration should be given to looking at the individual school level, as there are a number of schools in PEI that are very healthy ecosystems at that micro level. What can be learned that can be extended to other schools?
  • The ecosystem must start with shared values and beliefs, else we are not all in the same system; however this is challenging.
  • There are currently barriers to information sharing across organizations to better meet the needs of children. However, it was noted, the Hub model being put in place for individuals at risk is tackling these barriers and shows promise to be transformative. The strong leadership of the Premier is helping to make this happen.
  • The term ‘learner success’ is not engaging and is really a means to move PEI towards greater prosperity, broadly expressed– it was suggested that the term ‘prosperity’ be used as the seat of the 3-legged stool.

7b. Social Innovation Lab Model and Framework

Co-chair Whelan then reviewed the Social Innovation Lab model as part of his presentation. He outlined the key elements of the model:

A diverse group is brought together to:

  • Define the challenge
  • Understand the issues, e.g. different definitions of success
  • Gather existing evidence, and develop new evidence if needed
  • Look at solutions
  • Develop prototypes and test, including consultation with varied audiences
  • Scale up as warranted.

Comments included:

  • Is PEI one ecosystem, or do we need to consider ecosystems for regions of PEI, given the significant differences among e.g. Alberton and Charlottetown?
  • Related to this, should there be one prototype — one size fits all — or multiple prototypes? “The best system is one that adapts to its environment.” Several members of the Council expressed support for this perspective. It was further noted that the needs of Island communities differ.
  • On the other hand, the view was expressed that there are also commonalities among the groups, more than we perhaps realize, and perhaps we should focus on what unites us, rather than on what is different.
  • Looking at the Maritime region, it was asked, what does PEI need, and does this differ from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick? Should we take a different path, re use of testing, approaches?
  • A middle view was that we are developing learners both as citizens of their community, and as global citizens, and that accordingly there are some things that everyone must learn, and some elements that can vary among communities. It was further noted that 21st Century skills serve both ends.   This view was also affirmed by several members as the conversation continued. Early childhood education and the elementary grades were also suggested as an aspect of the education system that should be consistent province-wide.
  • There was also support for a less rigid view of where learning occurs, rather than seeing schools as the place for academic learning and the home and community as the place for life skills learning. Instead, it should be recognized that there are such opportunities to learn in PEI in every sphere — on farms, in the community, in varied settings.   Similarly, schools should integrate the teaching of life skills such as nutrition and financial literacy into academic courses rather than separating them into streams.
  • Following from this, it was suggested that we need to build a flexible structure, which has a core of consistent principles, but which is responsive to local social and economic needs and priorities.
  • Complementing this, it was suggested that some prototypes could be small-scale (e.g., a coding pilot), while others should be provincial in scale (e.g. addressing anxiety in children, enhancing aboriginal content in the curriculum). Ultimately, however, the aim is to find solutions that benefit all of Prince Edward Island.
  • A caution was noted that we are planning for the future and that the pace of technological change is very rapid.
  • As well, some caution was expressed that we must ensure that the Council’s work is values- based. It was noted that the overall model being discussed originated in Silicon Valley and is very solutions- focused, and frames conversations about education in a very particular way, e.g. the language about ‘consumers’ of learning. Moreover it was suggested that if we use the model it should be in an open way, as the model in its full version is a specific product.
  • Very broadly, it was asked, what is our horizon? Do we expect that at the end of this process, we will have a system that is broadly much like today’s, or might it be significantly different?

Co-chair Whelan then reviewed the elements of his framework, which comprise three phases: defining what should change, exploring how it might change, and testing solutions. He proposed that this guide the Council’s work for the coming year, through a facilitated workshop for each phase, supported by research information, an inventory of innovations currently underway, participation by key informants, etc. The workshops were tentatively proposed for June, early fall, and December.

Co-chair MacLauchlan noted that this entailed five meetings in 2016, rather than the three that had been mentioned during recruitment of the Council. Members expressed willingness to commit their time to this increased schedule.

Duration of the June workshop was discussed and it was agreed to try to carry it out in five hours, including a meal part-way, either lunch or supper. Members will be surveyed on their availability and preferences re timing (day/evening, weekday/weekend). Background information will be distributed in advance of the workshop.

It was recognized that this is an ambitious and challenging agenda and pace. To assist with this, a Council member noted a helpful collective impact mapping methodology developed by the Tamarack Institute, and offered to circulate information to members. (Note, subsequently circulated by email, and included as Attachment Eight.)   More generally, it was suggested that members share information of value to the group. To assist with this, it was suggested that the Council have an online space where members could post readings and share their thinking. Wendy will look into this.

In closing, the Co-Chairs thanked members for their contributions and commitment to the work.

 

Published date: 
December 30, 2016
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