Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Teaching-Learning Critical Pathways (TLCP) Model

In my Junior qualification course at Brock University (Ontario) this summer, we were given the task to create a Teaching Learning Critical Pathways document (TLCP) for a Social Studies unit in a Junior grade. The TLCP framework is different than a standard unit plan in a specific subject in several ways. This model integrates several subjects within one inquiry-driven unit. Therefore, there will be a cluster of curriculum expectations that will be used in the TLCP.
The teaching and learning inquiry cycle is tailored to students’ needs by providing a wide range of choices and possible accommodations within the subtasks. It is important that all the subtasks engage the students in inquiry learning and critical thinking, and be connected to the real-world and the students’ lives. In a number of subtasks, students are engaged in collaborative group work. In addition to the teacher’s frequent feedback (assessment for learning), students learn to self-assess their work, as well as to provide meaningful feedback to their peers (assessment as and for learning). All of this ensures that the students are engaged and actively involved in their own learning. The choice of a meaningful and engaging Big Idea for the framework is of paramount importance. A good Big Idea should result in open questions that are interesting to the students and that can be researched and eventually answered through inquiry in the subtasks. The TLCP culminating tasks should, among others, “engage students, connect them to the world beyond the classroom, reinforce reading and writing expectations, involve more than one curricular area and require higher order and critical thinking skills.” (Page 3)

For this project, I collaborated with Michael Holden, a Social Studies and Dramatic Arts teacher in Ontario. Because I am a Chemistry and Math teacher, we were able to each bring our areas of expertise to the table and create a framework with rich tasks in many subjects. We created a teaching and learning inquiry cycle framework for a grade 6 class following the Social Studies curriculum. We designed the following big idea for our TLCP: “How does Canada’s relationship with our environment affect our relationships with other countries?” This big idea allowed us to integrate curriculum expectations from Social Studies, Language, mathematics, Science & Technology, and the Arts into our teaching and learning inquiry framework.

Summary of the Inquiry Cycle of our TLCP
Through this unit, students will choose a Canadian environmental issue that has international implications. Students will explore this issue from different perspectives, including local, national, international, FNMI, and environmental perspectives. Throughout the unit, there are opportunities for extension tasks/lessons where the students can explore unanticipated nuances of their issues. All of these lessons build toward the culminating task, the Take Action! campaign, where students apply their learning to an activist campaign in the real world.

Each subtask includes opportunities for critical thinking and inquiry. Students will co-construct criteria for a number of tasks, and will explore critical questions relating to their chosen topic.

To facilitate student inquiry, the class will decide the order of most subtasks based on their interests and needs as the unit evolves. Some subtasks are fixed for logistical or pedagogical reasons (e.g., field trip dates). In most cases, however, the order of the subtasks can be changed to fit the needs of the class and allow for more student control over the inquiry cycle. In effect, the order of subtasks in the task chart is a recommended order, which can change and adapt to meet students’ needs.

Rationale for our TLCP
The status of the environment in Canada and in the world is a highly current topic which matters to our students, our community, and the world. Some of the environmental issues that Canada is currently creating within its borders do affect everyone globally. For example, the world is currently studying and trying to understand the extent of the climate change that has been worsening since the industrial revolution. The latest assessment report published by the IPCC concluded that humans are most definitely actors in the
current climate change crisis.  Everywhere in the world, solutions areproposed to improve the status of the global environment, such as thereplacement of non-renewable energy sources by cleaner technologies that use renewable energy sources.  

The goal of this TLCP is to have the students examine and reflect on some important environmental issues that are happening within Canada’s borders. Students will engage in critical thinking and inquiry by researching and analyzing the various factors involved in their environmental issue, and by trying to provide informed and viable solutions to these issues. Students will learn how their federal and provincial governments deal with these issues internally and on the international scene. Using this knowledge, students will determine what they, as Canadian citizens, could do to convince the stakeholders that our environment should be preserved as much as possible, while offering possible alternative solutions. Students will learn how to become more engaged citizens in their community and country while working on the tasks of this TLCP. Students will collaborate with their peers and engage in active learning. The topic of this TLCP is linked directly with the social studies curriculum expectations, strand B: People and Environments: Canada’s interactions with the global community.

You will find my TLCP framework here. Feel free to read it and use it with your students if you think it would provide a good learning experience for your class. And don’t forget to leave me a note to let me know how it went!

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