3 (or more) sets of eyes are better than 1

As mentioned in last week’s Zoom meeting, we are often too hyper-focused on our own projects to have that “outsider” view that is so critical in improving our work, so I am grateful for the feedback I received for my prototype and module #1. With a course focused on Indigenous Canadian perspectives, as a white, middle-class female (among other categories that mark me as ambiguously and unjustly privileged in our colonized society), I 100% welcome critical feedback that allows me to see where I can (un)learn and adjust for my own truth and reconciliation journey and for my students. Although I love to see where peers think I am doing a good job in planning, for my own selfish reasons, I am more focused on personal improvement and that will be made clear in the heavy focus of considerations for module #2 and revision of prototype/module #1 as seen below.  

What is working well in my prototype/modules: 

Most of the aspects of my course that peers mentioned as positives in my courses, I generally foreshadowed. I say this because I have seen the success of these aspects in my classroom, and therefore have kept them a staple of my teaching. For example:
-using a calendar for planning and providing one to students
-sticking with a platform that students in my division are already accustomed to
-deliberate and emphasized scaffolding of lessons and content
-thorough explanation and expectation for assignments and assessments that are easy-to-follow guides for students
-employing a wide range of content/texts for a number of reasons
-attendance; although the course is a blended synchronous model, there is the opportunity for success despite potential absenteeism (which could be due to a myriad of reasons) 

One deliberate aspect about my course that I would like to point out in consideration of accessibility is the minimal asynchronous work and I should have mentioned this in my prototype shell explanation. I started minimizing any work to be done outside the parameters of scheduled class time quite a few years ago and I have stuck with it (even after moving schools) – I make my students aware of this and my rationale and it is beneficial because they (for the most part) give me a concerted effort for the period knowing we will just pick up the next day wherever we left off and often times we are slightly ahead of my calendar schedule. I had students in a variety of situations that brought me to this practice: no wifi at home and they had no data on their phones for any electronic work, students who had caregiving responsibilities for their siblings from the moment they left school due to their parents’ work schedules, multiple (younger) siblings who required the use of the only available device at home for homework, had to be at work directly after school to help support their family, among other reasons. This is very similar to the considerations outlined by Technological Equity and Accessibility for Virtual and Hybrid Learning. 

Considerations moving forward: 

I said it above, but I will say it again: the feedback I received was invaluable in improving my prototype and modules. I will be adjusting my prototype, my module 1, and module 2 according to the specific and helpful feedback from my peers. In no particular order, here are my opportunities to improve: 

  1. “What you need to know about Canada” worksheet
    In module 1, this is only alluded to because my module was based on the opener activity of the Parlay discussion. I have already included it in my overall prototype, but I will add it to module 1 for interest and clarity sake because it really does set a bit of a foundation for what base knowledge students will have in moving forward in my course. 
  2. Incorporating learning objectives
    On this topic, I typically follow suit as to what my department has decided in terms of displaying learning objectives. I do think it is a good practice to employ though. Because we never truly know the details or big picture aspects that students notice and/or cling onto, I think it would be beneficial to include them if even one student uses it as a guiding tool for their purpose in each lesson.  
  3. Adjust Parlay discussion
    I appreciate the feedback to shift my Parlay discussion to either synchronous OR asynchronous dependent on the group I’m teaching as an accommodation. This was a good suggestion because I need to remember that students are going to be at different spots in their truth and reconciliation journey so the time to absorb some of the questions/content might be necessary for a group that is early in their understanding of the truth. 
  4. Language
    THANK YOU. For a high school class that is literally based on language and while I try to choose my wording very carefully, thank you for this reminder and moment of unlearning. To backtrack, the course theme descriptions use the terms “acknowledge the scandalous” which I heavily focus on because of how much this subtheme matters for understanding Canada and ‘Canadian perspectives’ (the umbrella theme for the unit). For someone who has no problem criticizing the systems/curriculum (specifically, wording) I’m meant to follow for my job, I should have thought of this one myself! The curriculum was updated in 2012 and is therefore vastly outdated in comparison to the speed at which society is moving, including word choice that carries misleading implications. It was suggested to scrap the use of “scandalous” in regard to the content in my course. As soon as I read this, all I could think was “DUH, Jacquie!”. The term implies rumours or partial truths when that is not the case for the content – it is sensitive and hard truths of Canadian history that have only recently (in the grand scheme of things) even been brought to light. I think it is especially worth mentioning to students when I teach this class that although this is the term in our curriculum, it is not the term I will be using as I do not want to minimize anyone’s trauma, even in the sense of intergenerational trauma, as a result of the horrific truths we are learning about. 
  5. Supports/Considerations for Indigenous students
    I plan on furthering my considerations mentioned in my prototype to address this point. The peer providing this feedback understood that with this course being mostly synchronous that there would be verbal inclusions that are undetectable unless you are sitting in the classroom as I teach it. Verbally, I make it clear that any student part of any group, whether it be their cultural background, sexual orientation, gender, etc., is not a voice for all and their voice (if they so choose to use it) is meant as a means to gain understanding in perspective. This is also the purpose of having special guests in the classroom – a voice of perspective, not as a blanket perspective of an entire group of people. Additionally, I am going to implement some opportunities for private interaction that is multipurpose (another means of interaction, another tech piece for students to explore, and most importantly a consideration for Indigenous students as suggested by my peer). I am currently on the hunt for paperless exit slips – so if anyone has any suggestions, let me know so I can explore that option! I am also strongly leaning toward students keeping some sort of journal throughout this course and/or unit and while I haven’t fleshed out the details of what that could look like, I am liking that avenue for private interaction. The supports and considerations I would ultimately put in place when I return to teaching will be based on the demographic of whom I’m teaching because I will have to consider their prior knowledge, preferred learning styles, etc., as Bates mentions.
  6. New resource!
    I was lucky enough to be introduced to a new resource in my feedback. The flexibility this story (Shin-Chi’s Canoe) provides for a high school classroom makes it really valuable. I have a million different thoughts about how to include it, pair it with other content, etc. I am still undecided if I am going to squeak this new resource into my prototype plan. While I DEFINITELY don’t discredit how useful a tool this book could be, I am torn between wanting to provide my students with as many different learning opportunities as possible and the thought of veering from my motto of depth not breadth.  
  7. Give more time
    It was clear from both sources of feedback that I should allow for more time for my Parlay discussion and I agree. I think this was a misjudgement on the requirements of the module assignment so I am going to rework the timeframe of module #1. In consideration of more time provided, I actually often forget, despite using computers all the time, how many students don’t know how to type using home row or without looking (problematic for efficiency), let alone allowing time to think and respond to the questions. Typing is a skill I grew up learning, therefore I take it for granted sometimes when planning work periods for students to type up responses, etc. An entire work period may only scratch the surface of typing up an assignment or a response for some students. This is a real struggle for some students, and I need to keep that in mind. Students often aren’t as efficient with their typing skills either – as they look up and down from the screen to their keyboard, they will see a red squiggly line for an error and backspace until they get to the error instead of leaving it til the end and fixing only that word/phrase.  

HUGE thanks to my peers for providing such meaningful feedback to help me see a little bit more clearly! Any other insights based on the above points are also welcomed.

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