Calgary Board of Education Interactive School Maps Student Results International Students Why choose the CBE? Click here to email us

Archived Principal Message

Principal Message: March 2014


Michelle Speight, Principal Glendale SchoolToday, effective teaching practices centre on the importance of learning opportunities that are thoughtfully and intentionally designed to engage students both academically and intellectually. While academic engagement draws our attention to on-task behaviours that signal a serious engagement in class work, intellectual engagement refers to an absorbing, creatively energizing focus requiring contemplation, interpretation, understanding, meaning-making and critique. Learning that invites students to engage intellectually awakens the human spirit’s desire to know. The result is a deep, personal commitment on the part of learners to explore and investigate ideas, issues, problems or questions for a sustained period of time.”

~Sharon Friesen, “What did you do in school today? Teaching Effectiveness: A Framework and Rubric”, May 2009

What did you do in School Today?
The Connection between Documentation of Learning and Intellectual Engagement

In February’s school newsletter, we shared some of the key questions which have informed the development of this year’s school development plan.  These questions included:

  • How can our school improve intellectual engagement?
  • What is the link between intellectual engagement, documentation of learning and academic achievement?
  • How can documenting our work in Inquiry support the improvement of intellectual engagement and academic success?

As teachers immersed in the inquiry process, the teachers at Glendale School are beginning to utilize documentation of learning as a research tool.  As we work through the first steps of this process, throughout the school, visitors will start to see many examples of documentation of learning gathered, selected and presented by each classroom teacher.  Teachers are starting to work carefully with students to focus on the “process of learning” by displaying many artifacts of the learning process; including quotes from students, planning documents, sketches, photographs, examples of writing, final products, and ongoing teacher and student reflections.  All of these artifacts combined together enable teachers to determine “the next right thing to do” in the inquiry process. 
As the Vice Dean and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs of the faculty of education at the University of Calgary and president of the Galileo Network, Sharon Friesen’s research on effective teaching practices is an important framework for each of our teachers as they decide what the next right thing to do truly is.  In our professional learning together, teachers throughout the Calgary Board of Education have been examining the five core principles of Friesen’s Teaching Effectiveness Framework which state that:

  • Effective teaching practice begins with the thoughtful and intentional design of learning that engages students intellectually and academically.
  • The work that students are asked to undertake must be worthy of their time and attention, must be personally relevant, and deeply connected to the world in which they live.
  • Assessment practices must be clearly focused on improving student learning and guiding teaching decisions and actions.
  • Teachers foster a variety of interdependent relationships in classrooms that promote learning and create a strong culture around learning.
  • Teachers improve their practice in the company of peers.

Through our professional learning this year, teachers will focus specifically on the principle that teachers are “Designers of Learning.”  As Friesen notes, “It is relatively easy to identify curriculum outcomes for relevant programs of study, but often much more difficult to link these outcomes to the larger disciplinary concepts required to make connections to the disciplines, students’ lives and the world.” (2009)
By looking thoughtfully at the learning process shown through documentation, teachers can utilize Friesen’s “Teacher Effectiveness Framework” to determine if specific learning tasks are in fact, intellectually engaging.  Through a constant adjustment cycle, teachers utilize the framework to design effective inquiry focused learning environments in which students inquire into questions, issues and problems; build knowledge; and develop deep understanding. The work that teachers are undertaking is transformational, challenging and rewarding. 
It should be noted that research demonstrates that learning improves when teacher learning happens in the classroom, when teacher leadership receives consistent support, and when teachers have opportunities to learn from one another (McKinsey & Company, 2007). Through collaborative teaming model and by collaboratively planning with one another, the teachers at Glendale School  have created an inspirational network of collegial support to become more effective teachers for your children; thereby improving intellectual engagement.
Please take a moment to explore the documentation of learning throughout the school and be sure to ask your child, “What did you do in school today?” 
Michelle Speight

Principal, Glendale School

Archived Principal Messages