For our Friday session, the two areas of focus were research/writing skills and the new BC Social Studies curriculum. On the topic of research/writing skills, we wondered about how much do we teach, why students needs this, and how do we teach it? We used the essay writing guide from http://historyskills.jimdo.com/ to centre our discussion and, if nothing else, this probably convinced more or us to revive attempts to teach formal writing for research essays in our classes, not just as prep for the SS11 exam (which we agree required a different "formula" for success), but as a way to organize and drive thinking (primary benefit) as well as to demonstrate learning (secondary benefit).
Our other endeavour was to unpack the new curriculum. A few of us had not had a good look at it yet, while others had been been mucking about in the new waters for some time. We had copies of the K-9 Social Studies Curriculum, the Draft SS10 and proposed Gr. 11/12 electives. We used the SS9 curriculum to centre our discussion, and were impressed by two things: the sheer volume of historical content that could be attached to the course the way it is framed (1750-1919), and the related challenge of how to approach the course thematically or from a framework other than that of the familiar sequential survey course -- the history teacher's skilled tack over a long distance with a strong wind aft and only occasional forays ashore. The content bookends effectively place most of the old SS9, all of the old SS10 and some of the old SS11 into one course. Rather than simply drop a pile of topics and rebuild a survey course, the new SS9 begs for a new framework. We didn't exactly nail one down (not that the six of us would teach the course in the same way), but we did see how the four "Big Ideas" (basically: ideology, environment, power, identity) could act as new curriculum organizers. We also speculated on the use of some kind of matrix for unit design where the content and competencies would form the axes. While this appeals as some kind of curriculum checklist, in reality it is hard to draw out a single skill from one historical case study or vice versa. For example, do bits and pieces of WWI pop up throughout the course as they help elicit a skill or competency or follow a theme, or does it make more sense to teach WWI in one go and dogpile the associated skills? Part of what made our discussion interesting was to wonder if we have become history teachers instead of socials teachers, and if this was a problem or even a real thing. It is quite possible to approach Social Studies through a different lens, a geographic one, for example, and maybe the new curriculum makes it easier for us to broaden our skillsets as teachers. We noticed that the SS9 course, and perhaps others, was laid out to make project-based learning and cross-curricular inquiry a more natural fit. The lack of provincial exams and paring down of learning outcomes -- tempered somewhat by the massive amount of Canadian history that takes place between the start and end dates -- really does open the door to a different approach.
We agreed to all take a stab at throwing together a new SS9 outline and see what happens next. As is often the case at our Pro-D sessions, we left with the an uneasy feeling like we had generated more questions than answers, a result of having our ideas challenged by others, especially the easy ideas. We also left with that warm feeling that we were lucky to be doing what we were doing -- working with students, teaching in a field that continually offers us change and interest, and having colleagues to keep us sharp and connected.