Educators are in constant competition with the ever-increasing wireless and communicative world of students. Outside of juggling fire, performing illusions, and donning a duck costume, teachers are constantly working on engaging students in learning.
The fact is, students who are not engaged do not achieve. This fact is not lost on the professionals within Regina Public Schools.
With graduation rates between 68 and 72 percent, the senior administration at Regina Public Schools – one of the largest school divisions in the province of Saskatchewan – empowered students and professionals to challenge the norm. This empowerment has led to the creation of a new learning community in Regina: Campus Regina Public. Campus Regina Public is an interest-based career-pathway option for Grade 11 or 12 students to study within a unique educational community.
In 2009, the senior administration of Regina Public Schools tasked a group of superintendents, administrators, consultants, and teachers to research new ways to engage students. This task continued through 2014, and is continually evolving. The initial process employed a very traditional model of inquiry involving research, site visits (throughout North America), concept and implementation plans. While this model of inquiry was the needed first step, the professional group realized that a traditional research model would only recreate a traditional learning community.
The solution, while not necessarily new or innovative, was to focus primarily on the wants, needs and advice of students, in consultation with the advice of industry leaders in the community. Each high school was asked to select 40 to 45 students from various demographic backgrounds to give feedback on the current state of education. There were many themes reported, but overwhelmingly, certain themes were central at all schools:
- Students believed that teachers were working extremely hard and that teachers cared immensely about their students.
- Students were bored at school. The term “dying in my desk” was used by numerous students. School needed to be more activity based and less theoretical in nature.
- Students expressed that the skills they were learning did not meet the needs of ever-changing industry.
- Students were tired of being asked for input and then having their input ignored because it did not fit into the traditional model each school employed.
- Students wanted to be challenged to show what they have been taught in a practical sense rather than through a written test.
Additional focus groups were held with members of various industries in Regina and surrounding areas. Industry participants reported the following:
- Students need to be taught basic Math and English skills in order to meet the needs of industry. But equally important was the ability to problem-solve and work as a member of a team.
- Schools need to provide real-world opportunity for students to develop the soft skills necessary to function in every industry.
- Industry partnerships should be developed with schools directly in the classrooms rather than the traditional corporate sponsor relationships that currently exist.
- The massive need for skilled employees was not being met within the current education system.
The next phase was to take these ideas formulated at the division level and implement them at the school level. The findings of the traditional research combined with the use of student and industry feedback became the foundation of Campus Regina Public.
The challenge was to ensure that the feedback of students and industry would drive the development of the learning environment that Campus Regina Public would become.
The Campus Regina program
Campus Regina Public explicitly answers the question every educator has heard: “When will I ever use this in real life?” Students become a part of an educational community that brings together elements of secondary education, post-secondary and industry. Courses are designed to integrate a core credit (Math, English, Science, Social Studies) and an elective credit into a cohesive, relevant and in-depth learning community. Carefully designed industry partnerships and direct industry involvement provide a relevant and authentic environment for student learning. Many of the courses provide students with the opportunity to achieve certifications necessary for industry; for example, WHIMIS, First Aid, CPR, and Scott Safety Training. The learning environment at Campus Regina Public has industry standard equipment and lab spaces.
Essentially, Campus Regina Public gives students the opportunity to discover if they would be suited to be employed in certain areas. Students are given the opportunity to explore and take risks, while achieving credits toward graduation and learning specific career skills.
Campus Regina Public offers 20 different career pathway courses, selected to meet student interest and industry need, with such varied options as:
- Construction Technology (Math and Construction)
- Financial Services (Math and Accounting)
- Graphic Design (English and Graphic Arts)
- Application and Video Game Design (Computer Science and Communication Media)
- Fire Sciences (Chemistry and Physical Education)
- Performing Arts (English and Theatre)
- Oil & Gas Production (Social Studies and Mining)
Campus Regina Public does not specifically target students; students of all abilities and skills who feel this approach is more conducive to their learning style are welcome.
Core competencies for curriculum are evaluated based more on performance than on theory.
Electrical and Electronics: Students apply mathematical formulas and measurements while connecting basic circuit panels. Students eventually will apply the knowledge gained to perform the wiring of multiple rooms, thus fulfilling components of both the Electrical and Math curricula. Finally, students will be sent out into the field with our industry partner, SaskTel, to learn from actual industry members in the field.
Cosmetology and Health Sciences: Students collaborate on real-world accident scenarios. The Cosmetology students create the scenarios, fulfilling the English curriculum components of writing and speaking, and apply make-up and prosthetics to actors, thus fulfilling the Cosmetology curriculum components. Health Science students evaluate the scene, diagnose injuries and apply first responder skills, fulfilling both Biology/Health Science and Work Experience requirements.
One unique aspect of Campus Regina Public is the industry partnerships that have been developed for almost every course. This practice has allowed for a relevant and current industry reality in an educational environment.
For example, our Law, Public Safety and Security course (LPSS) is a partnership between Campus Regina Public and the Regina Police Service. The Regina Police Service provides a member of the service (who also holds a valid teaching degree) to collaborate with another teacher on a daily basis. The LPSS course is designed to emulate Police College. Students are required to wear uniforms and follow an agreed-upon moral code.
Another example is a newly developed partnership with Capital Auto Group. Senior management staff from Capital Auto Group have been instrumental in the design of a new lab and in the acquisition of tools and supplies. However the partnership, as with all our partnerships, is based on reciprocation. For example, the automotive facilities will be available for use by Capital Auto Group for their own training when not being used by the school. The Capital Auto Group team has agreed in principal to provide training for our teachers, to provide work experience for our students and ultimately, to interview and possibly hire some students.
In just two years, Campus Regina Public student enrolment has doubled. In the first year over 300 students registered and this year we had over 600 hundred students. The projections for the 2014-15 school year anticipate close to 900 students enrolled.
Feedback from students has been positive. In a speech to a chapter of the Regina Rotary Club, Riley Wood described her experience:
“By taking both these classes I was able to explore two careers that were of interest to me, which were Social Work and Nursing. Getting the chance to explore these career paths in detail, while attaining two credit courses as well, was very beneficial to me, especially while approaching my graduating year.”
Does Campus Regina Public improve outcomes? Ultimately, the program’s success will be measured by students who graduate and acquire employment. Our first two years indicate that the new educational community created at Campus Regina Public is improving outcomes. In our first year, students successfully completed 89 percent of all credits. First Nations and Métis students successfully completed over 65 percent of all credits. In this year, overall successful first semester completion was 91 percent, and 73 percent for First Nations and Métis students; second semester was 92 percent, and 80 percent for First Nations and Métis students.
Our slogan says Futures Begin Here. At Campus Regina Public, we truly believe that futures do begin here!
For more information: http://campusreginapublic.rbe.sk.ca
Photo: courtesy Jason Coleman
First published in Education Canada, September 2014
EN BREF – Le programme axé sur les carrières Campus Regina Public s’adresse à tous les élèves de 11e et de 12e année fréquentant actuellement les écoles secondaires publiques de Regina. Offrant des cours spécialisés de deux crédits portant sur des carrières et donnés par des professionnels sectoriels chevronnés utilisant du matériel de pointe, le programme fonctionne en partenariat avec des entreprises et des industries locales afin que tous les programmes de formation procurent aux élèves les compétences professionnelles requises pour travailler. Par la planification de carrières, l’enseignement de compétences, les cours magistraux, l’accréditation et l’expérience de travail pertinente, les étudiants sont prêts à accéder directement à la population active ou à entreprendre des études postsecondaires.
Le processus de création d’une nouvelle communauté d’apprentissage, qui repose sur la pertinence et l’authenticité, a été déterminé par les élèves et documenté par l’industrie locale. L’article traite de la création de ce programme expérientiel conçu pour aider les étudiants à trouver leur voie professionnelle.