Amy Allison, English Language Arts Teacher and Cycle I Coordinator at Trafalgar School for Girls; Christianne Loupelle, Science Teacher and Department Head in Science at Trafalgar School for Girls; AdrianaRuffini, Mathematics Teacher at Trafalgar School for Girls
This year’s IALS (International Association of Laboratory Schools) conference was held this past April 26th-28th and hosted in Toronto by the Jackman Institute of Child Studies (JICS) in collaboration with several other Toronto area Lab Schools. Many different educators, researchers, and administrators from Lab Schools around the world were in attendance. This was Trafalgar’s first year attending, and we are the newest members of IALS.
We had two presentations at this conference. The first presentation was a workshop titled Designing Inquiry-Based Learning Experiences Through Cross-Curricular Collaboration in Middle School. Its purpose was to inform the audience about Trafalgar’s innovative inquiry projects that emphasize collaboration within departments and explain how educators can go about implementing similar work within their own classrooms and at their respective schools.
IALS Presentation: Designing Inquiry-Based Learning Experiences that Foster Collaboration in Middle School by Amy Allison, Christianne Loupelle, and Adriana Ruffini
Stephanie Leite, Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University
Students today face a series of challenges—and with them, opportunities—unknown to previous generations. Quality education is continually identified as key to addressing those challenges, which range from ecological destruction and social injustices to ethical development of artificial intelligence. While these are all global issues, they play out at local levels, and therefore it is up to individual communities to find solutions that are relevant and locally-contextualized. Schools are well-positioned to serve as hubs for developing innovative, community-driven solutions to global issues.
In particular, independent schools have more flexibility to try out new approaches to teaching and learning that are urgently needed in our rapidly changing world. Because independent schools are set up to have more local control over decision-making, they are more readily able to be responsive to community needs and concerns. Independent schools are managed by an elected board of directors or governors and therefore operate according to multiple layers of accountability, being supervised by both the Ministry of Education and the dedicated board.
Vanessa Gold & Ellen MacCannell, Doctoral Candidates in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University
What do you think of when you hear “student voice”? You might think of a student talking out loud and you wouldn’t be wrong, but it is also a broad research term used to describe “an assortment of activities through which students can influence decisions that affect their lives”1. In other words, research that actively involves students in decision-making processes. These decision-making processes might be related to policy, school change or many other structures that affect the everyday lives of students.
In research, trying to understand what student involvement means is a complex task. This is because different contexts, relationships between people in schools, and institutionalized decision-making processes all influence what student involvement can look like. Researchers, therefore, use different typologies to understand what involvement might mean. These typologies include but are not limited to: the student voice pyramid2, discrete categories of student involvement3, a matrix of student engagement4, a ladder of methodologies5, and a pathway of student leadership divided into stages6.
Christianne Loupelle, Science Teacher and Department Head in Science at Trafalgar School for Girls
Since 2017, Trafalgar School for Girls’ Secondary 1 science class and I have collaborated with Dr. Dawn Wiseman (Bishop’s University) and Dr. Limin Jao (McGill University) to explore and practice student-directed inquiry in STEAM. This educational research has sparked a range of questions from families, educators, and researchers alike. As Trafalgar works to develop the CoLab partnership with McGill University's Faculty of Education, I wanted to shed some light on what research in the classroom has looked like for me and my students so far.
We begin the inquiry project by asking students about their interests and how they might tie into the Secondary I science curriculum. Students then research these topics of interest, pitch their ideas to the class, and select one as the topic for the year. To date, the majority of our classes have chosen to pursue one topic as a larger group, with the themes varying widely:
Lisa J. Starr, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University
Current talk in K-12 education involves much discussion of renewed expectations regarding what kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions students need for an unknown future that is characterized by change more than anything else. In addition to mastering traditional academic knowledge and skills, expectations for students today include critical and creative approaches to decision-making and problem solving that will enable them to not only live in a multi-faceted world but also actively engage and thrive in its citizenship.
The partnership formed between Trafalgar School for Girls and McGill University’s Faculty of Education sets the stage for world class educational innovation and growth at a time when both are needed. While a strong relationship between these storied institutions has existed for more than a century, we are entering into a new collaborative partnership that we refer to as the CoLab. That naming intentionally plays on the duality of meaning of collaboration in both French and English, and also builds on a rich history of lab school partnerships between schools and universities. Our vision is the creation of a space and school where teachers and researchers are working together to innovate teaching and learning best practices in real time alongside students, with each party playing an active role in constructing meaningful learning.