An Optimal Learning Coaches team working in classrooms within the Medicine Hat Public School Division told the board of trustees this week how it was achieving success through a focus on teacher clarity.

Joining in the presentation were teachers and administrators from across the division who gave their perspective on how the OLC team, a program used since 2017, has aided them throughout the past academic year.

Corey Sadlemyer, associate superintendent inclusive mindset, explained that optimal learning was one of the key goals for the OLC team and it was invested heavily in at the start, with 11 optimal learning coaches going out to support schools. Prior to this program, the division was having difficulty getting its excellence numbers up.

“In the first three to four years of this work, there was a dramatic change in our results, particularly on the diploma and the PATs (Provincial Achievement Tests),” stated Sadlemyer. That was for 2020, but even after the pandemic hit, MHPSD was still above expected results, particularly in Grade 6 and high school.

Lindsay Bardahl teaches both science and cosmetology at Medicine Hat High School. “As a teacher, how am I supposed to teach and assess this? If I’m a kid, how do I know how I am doing if I don’t know what success looks like?”

Bardahl worked with an OLC to develop success criteria in her cosmetology classes, which lets students know exactly what they need to do to succeed and also provides a platform for discussion between teacher and student.

“Teacher clarity has probably been one of my favourite initiatives because it was so applicable,” stated Bardahl. “It was what I was already trying to do but more formalized and it helped me wrap my head around it more.”

She also likes to see how other teachers, like in math and computer science, are using teacher clarity to allow students to see clearly what success looks like in each class. It’s become a common language in all classes and the students now know to ask for it. Bardahl will have demos of what needs to be done in cosmetology, sometimes showing three different ones, and she finds the students now have the skills to assess them.

Going through the process in her cosmetology classes has changed the way Bardahl approaches teaching physics so she can see that constant growth and feedback with those students as well.

Bardahl believes teacher clarity helps students better advocate for themselves as they are moving out of high school and into post-secondary education or the work force.

“How am I supposed to achieve a goal if I don’t know what the goal is? That’s where I think they would be more empowered to go to a university professor and say this isn’t clear.”

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 04, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta

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