Friday, 16 May 2014

EDUC 2012 - Examining the Ontario Curriculum Front Matter

Monica Taylor
Professor Michael Savage
October 3, 2012

Examining the Ontario Curriculum Front Matter

This paper takes two curriculum documents; the Grade 9 and 10 Canadian and World Studies and the Grade 9 and 10 Arts and will be showing how its content, skills and values demonstrate the Ministry’s attempt to create well rounded and critical thinking citizens. Although the content and skills are different in the two curriculums, the underlying values and life skills are similar. These along with the similar teaching practices outlined provide clues to how the Ministry of Education wants secondary students to think about and interact with the world around them.  At the end of this paper, the criteria for assessment for the two curriculums will be analyzed in order to shed light on the role the teacher plays in the success of the delivery of the curriculum. This paper will be a reflection of personal views on the belief that the Ministry’s attempt to assist students into becoming well rounded and critical thinking citizens is a positive venture.
The Grade 9 and 10 revised Arts Curriculum has brought the courses of dance, drama, integrated arts, media arts, music and visual arts into the 21st century. The importance of the arts curriculum is outlined as “nourishing the imagination while providing opportunities to gain insight and appreciation about the world around them” (The Arts 3). What is unique about the
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arts curriculum is the students will be taught how to plan, produce and assess artistic work they will create alone or in groups.
 There are four underlying ideas that are presented as the main skills for the arts curriculum, they are; developing creativity, communicating, understanding culture and making connections. The Ontario Skills Passport is a bilingual online resource provided to teachers in the curriculum and online that will assist in teaching the skills in the curriculum to the students. The Ontario Skills Passport is a resource “that enhances the relevance of classroom learning for students and strengthens school – work connections” (The Arts 43). This resource provides descriptions of the skills being taught in the arts curriculum that are transferrable into the work, academic and general life fields post-secondary. The document highlights that these skills being taught in the art curriculum are; reading text, writing, computer use, measurement and calculation (for the Math curriculum), and problem solving.  
The Ministry is putting an emphasis on content that can be transferrable to life outside of the school systems. The content provided in each section of the courses in the document are mostly skill based in order to produce the art expected and taught, which is unique to the creative process of the arts curriculum. To give some specifics to assist in understanding the content expected of teachers to teach are as follows; challenging and inspiring work, imagining and generating, planning and focusing, exploring and experimenting, producing preliminary work, revising and refining, presenting and performing as well as reflecting and evaluating.
The values that are underlying in the curriculum help to weave together the skills and content provided. Outlined in the curriculum are; ethics, health and safety, critical thinking,
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equity and inclusive education. Ethics of living in a technological world is a value that is exceptionally important to students as we move forward into the future. The distinction is made between being inspired by others’ work and reproducing others’ work as your own. Health and safety is a value and a skill that is taught using planning learning activities that tie what is happening in the classroom to future uses of skills learned in post-secondary life.    
The Ontario Curriculum Document: Canadian and World Studies Grade 9 and 10 provide insight to how the Ministry views the content and its values. The Ministry says that by studying these subjects (Geography, History, Law, Economics and Politics), “students will learn how to interact with and within their social and physical environments today, and how they did so in the past” (Canadian and World Studies 3). The Ministry outlines four main content goals of the Canadian and World Studies curriculum which are as follows. Gaining an understanding of the basics in these courses will allow students to continue learning during their post-secondary experiences and later in life because they will be taught practical skills. These practical skills (such as critical thinking, research and communication skills) will be developed throughout The curriculum is based around a set of fundamental concepts; systems and structures, interactions and interdependence, environment, change and continuity, culture and power and governance. The different courses within the broader subject of Canadian and World studies (Geography, History, Law, Economics and Politics) provide insight to the previous set of fundamental concepts and are followed through and built on from Grade Nine to Grade Twelve.
The skills that are learned and built upon within this curriculum are important to the students’ success in the Canadian and World Studies curriculum but can also be applied to other curriculums within the secondary school system as well. These skills include literacy skills that
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involve the use of written, oral and visual communication abilities. Using the language with greater accuracy and care is transferable to other subjects and will be an asset to further learning if the teacher enables students to build upon these skills. Numeracy skills are linked with the Mathematics and Science curriculums but Canadian and World Studies’ use of graphs, diagrams, charts and tables to organize, interpret and present information. These literacy and numeracy skills are essential in strengthening the skills outlined in the Achievement Chart for the curriculum. The Ministry puts an emphasis on having students demonstrate their; knowledge and understanding of the material, thinking skills, communication skills and application abilities. It is noted that the Ministry is putting an effort towards having the students apply the content and skills learned to the real world and to think critically about the spaces, people and practices around them. This is important in order for students to make informed decisions and become active citizens within the community.
Becoming a contributing and positive citizen is a value that can be read through this curriculum. This concept of helping to build contributing and positive citizens is evident in the Arts curriculum as well. Especially with the content studied, which is focusing on people’s interactions with their communities both on the local and global scale, the choices a person makes can have an impact on the people and processes around them. An example of this is the value of anti-discrimination within this curriculum. Students will be asked to “demonstrate understanding of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of citizenship, as well as willingness to show respect, tolerance, and understanding towards individuals, groups and cultures in the global community and respect and responsibility toward the environment” (Canadian and World Studies 24). This value is an example of the positivity and awareness that the Ministry wishes
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students to possess. The curriculum highlights many of these types of values which shows that the Ministry not only believes that the content students learn are important but what they do with the knowledge and how they interact with the world around them is just as important.
            The assessment that is provided in these documents is the way that the Ministry can be sure that the material is being delivered and assessed the same way across the province the Ministry relies on the assessment being valid and reliable. The section called “Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement” is in both documents and outlines the same basic principles of assessment: knowledge and understanding, thinking, communication and application. The Ministry of Education provides teachers with materials, such as the Achievement Chart, that will assist and improve their assessment methods and strategies. In order to ensure that students are getting the best of the curriculum and learning and growing into critical thinkers, teachers are encouraged to assess and evaluate using strategies outlined by the documents. Some of these strategies include; addressing both what students learn and how well they learn, ensure that each student is given clear directions for improvement, promote students’ ability to assess their own learning and to set specific goals, and are varied in nature, administered over a period of time and designed to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the full range of their learning. Ensuring the validity and reliability of both the delivery of the curriculum and assessment and evaluation of the expectations allows all students to have a fair and equal chance at success as both a student and as a growing member of both a local and global community as a well-rounded and critical thinking citizen.

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Works Cited

Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 and 10: Canadian and World    Studies, 2005. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2005.
Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 and 10: The Arts, 2010.                   Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2010.

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