Mention a traditional classroom setting, and most people think of a teacher in front of a blackboard disseminating knowledge to 30plus kids who later need to regurgitate that information on a test paper. Those days are long gone, said Al Klassen, president of the Richmond Teacher's Association.
"Teachers are always in advance of ministry curriculum changes. Educators are the vanguard of that kind of stuff," said Klassen. "We're trying to make learning personal to the kids."
Personalized learning was the focus of a recent presentation put together by the Richmond School District and presented to the minister early this month. It was also the topic of discussion at Monday night's Board of Education meeting.
"Each student should have a way of personally connecting with what he or she is learning and how to learn it." Klassen said it doesn't mean each child will be taught individually, but having varying instruction for students at different levels of experience.
Richmond Board of Education chairperson Donna Sargent said the concept is not new in local classrooms and is being built on.
"We are looking at the individual and seeing what they need to be successful," she said, adding that advances in technology help. "But that cannot replace a committed teacher who is connected with their students."
This teaching style has been fully embraced by Glyn Davies, a Grade 6 and 7 teacher at Anderson elementary. Well-known for turning his classroom into the dark reaches of space complete with stars and planets, he said the way he and his colleagues have approached teaching has changed dramatically over his 16-year career.
"When I taught in another district, it was literally on Wednesdays, you'd teach a subject and the kids all do the exact same, exact questions," said Davies. "Right now in the classroom we've been learning about extreme space. We've got level 1 and level 2 ESL kids, kids with different challenges."
With such a varied group of students, he said it is impossible to have a generic lesson plan. Over the holidays, instead of assigning readings from one book, Davies had his kids pick out a book at the public library that was at their reading level. Then, an individual topic and project was chosen accordingly.
Davies said the prospect of educational tailoring is scary to some teachers in the initial stages, but added that there are so many resources available to both instructors and students nowadays.
"The world is changing - when I was a kid the teacher knew all the stuff. Now these kids leave the classrooms, they're on computers and have access to a wealth of information and they do extra research. It's amazing."