In the world of exercise, good health, and injury prevention, core strength is a commonly cited necessity that often precedes or permeates exercise and conditioning programs. Improving and enhancing core strength allows one to move with greater ease, to physically navigate the world with less stress, and to have greater stability in the face of rapid changes in moving or lifting demands.
But what about the social and cognitive world we also live in? What have we learned and how can we teach our children this core strength—this ability to move, to navigate and to contribute with greater ease, less stress and greater stability in the face of changing demands.
As a parent, I know that I want my own children to be—at the core—happy and healthy. I want them to be independent, critical thinkers who can communicate their needs and also listen to and respect the needs of others in the communities and environments that they will live, learn, work, and play.
As a teacher and learner, I am excited to see these skills listed in the BC draft curriculum as Core Competencies. The core that is to be infused in all curricular areas: thinking, communication, and personal and social competencies. These are skills that are not grade dependent but rather skills are identified as a learning continuum, beginning in the home and community prior to Kindergarten and continuing beyond Grade 12.
Parents, teachers and learners can use these continuums to create learner profiles that can move from grade to grade, allowing students to continue to work on areas of need and to see how core learning is connected in every learning task or activity. Educators have previously used a variety of tools to create learner profiles: multiple intelligences, CAT tests, and personality colour tests to name just a few. All of these have their own merits and will continue to be utilized; however, I believe that using the Core Competencies allows us to share a common language with those outside of education. We might not recognize the need to build our Spatial/Visual Intelligence to help with our Linguistic/Verbal Intelligence, but we can all understand the need to be critical, reflective, and creative thinkers; to communicate and collaborate with others; to recognize our own personal strengths; and to appreciate the diversity and strengths in others.
The profiles provided by the Ministry of Education, are “written from the student’s point of view, reflecting student ownership and responsibility for demonstrating the competencies.” The use of “I” statements empowers learners to identify their strengths and also recognize where they can focus their growth and progress. For example, in the communication competency, the following “I” statements are used to show movement along the continuum:
- “In familiar situations, with some support or guidance, I communicate with peers and adults.”
- “I communicate with peers and adults with growing confidence, using forms and strategies I have practiced.”
Teachers can also use the profiles to guide their planning—looking at the skills identified along the continuums encourages teachers to plan a variety of instructional lessons that will allow learners to acquire, to practise, and to demonstrate the skills outlined. The profiles also enable teachers to differentiate or to individualize learning with greater ease; strategies can be identified that will enhance the facets of each competency for individual students, and these strategies can be shared with teachers in the succeeding years.
Will it take time to improve and enhance our understanding of and application of the Core Competencies in our teaching and learning practice? Definitely. But just like building core physical strength, there are benefits. Building core learner competencies will allow learners to move, to navigate and to contribute to their communities with greater ease, less stress and greater stability in the face of changing demands. These are the things I want for my children—and for all learners. I look forward to the journey ahead.