Saturday, October 3, 2015

Curriculum Update 2015: BC Senior Science

Many of you will have heard of the pending curriculum changes to all BC curriculum. These changes started a several years ago with the release of the BC Ed plan. The goal of this revision is to have:

“A more flexible curriculum that prescribes less and enables more, for both teachers and students and a system focused on the core competencies, skills and knowledge that students need to succeed in the 21st century.”

The K to 9 curricula are now available for interested Districts and schools to begin implementation with full implementation in Sept 2016.

An August 2015 draft of grade 10 and High School courses has been posted at

Senior Science Format
The current draft is an “outline” and the courses are not considered “complete drafts (sic) but offer a flavour of what optional courses could encompass.” Implementation of this curriculum is currently scheduled for September 2017.

Many of you will recognize the similar format from the K to 9 science curriculum. First there are the core competencies. All curricula are designed to support the core competencies of and educated citizen: Communication; Thinking; Personal and Social Responsibility. As a side note, I would watch how reporting practice change over the next couple of years to better support these core competencies.

Each grade or course is built around 4 to 6 Big Ideas. These Big Ideas “tell the story of science thorough the concepts featured”. At this point, it’s best to look at these Big Ideas as a work in progress. There is a lack of consistency in how they are written and how “Big” each statement is in terms of scope. I suspect in the next revision the Big Ideas will be more succinct.

Supporting the Big Ideas are the Learning Standards. These standards are broken into two parts: Curricular Competencies and Content. Both parts of the Learning Standards are somewhat limited in scope so the Ministry plans to include elaborations or explanations in future drafts. For the K to 9 science curriculum these elaborations provide limited guidance.  The Curricular Competencies are similar to the process skills found in previous curricula. The Content is similar to current PLO except the statement are not written in an assessable format. This is a serious shortcoming for all curricula and leads to the question: “How do I assess student performance?” Students are expected to ‘do’ and ‘know’, but there is minimal assessment direction from this document. This lack of direction will be a major challenge for Districts. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with the vision of this current round of curricular change, the bottom line is that an ‘A’ will be different in every classroom in the province.

Two areas of interest to senior science teachers will be grade 10 and course structure.

Grade 10
There are two big questions around grade 10: Will there be an exam for this grade; and what do I have to teach? At this point in time the first answer is “YES” and the second answer is in the table below:

Big Idea
Genes are the foundation for the diversity of living things.

Chemical Reactions

Chemical processes require energy change as atoms are rearranged.
Energy is conserved, and its transformation can affect living things and the environment.

The formation of the universe can be explained by the big bang theory.

Course Structure
The following Table outlines the current and new course structure for senior sciences. Students will still need a senior science course to graduate. Many will welcome the optional nature of this new curriculum and the new environmental science courses. But, it’s not clear how timetables, and consequently funding, will allow for combinations of various courses. It is also not clear how students currently taking Science and Technology type courses will find an appropriate course to reflect their needs.

Current IRP
Proposed Provincial Optional Curriculum
Biology 11 and 12
Biology 11 and 12
Chemistry 11 and 12
Chemistry 11 and 12
Physics 11 and 12
Applications of Physics 11 and 12
Physics 11 and 12
Earth Science 11 and Geology 12
Earth Sciences 11?
Sustainable Resources 11 and 12
Science and Technology 11
Environmental Science 11 and 12

For more detail on each course, please see:

Future posts will examine the changes in each curriculum, but in broad strokes only Biology 11 will have significant changes. And of course, Environmental Science is completely new. It is hard to comment on the Earth Science as grade 12 is missing and grade 11 appears incomplete.

Final Thoughts

As a publisher of print and digital resources, my goal is to provide you with the tools to be successful as a professional and help you create an exciting learning environment for teaching science. While this curriculum clearly has a goal of bringing more students to science and allowing them to explore their interests I am concerned that this is being done with insufficient resources. Not having the time and funds to learn, plan and implement this new curriculum is a recipe for continuing the status quo. We will do our part to support you as the classroom teacher. I believe you know we always have had this goal as our main focus when producing resources for a new curriculum. But, it is time for our educational leaders in Districts to demand sufficient resources before passing these new policies along to the classroom teacher. Towing the party line just to get the job done is no longer acceptable.