National Leadership Conference

Date: December 5 & 6, 2017
Location: The Design Exchange, Toronto

A new vision

A new approach.

A dynamic conversation about the future of science learning in Canada.

The Canada 2067 National Leadership Conference engaged all participants – delegates and speakers alike – in a dynamic conversation about the future of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning in Canada.

This unique event brought together diverse stakeholders – youth, educators, industry, policy-makers, community partners and others – with the shared goal of preparing Canadian youth to thrive in a technology-driven world for generations to come. Conference discussions — with panels held in plenary featuring insightful and experienced panelists —tackled important issues in education including: how we learn, who’s involved, how we teach, where education leads, gender, culture and more. Attendees were actively encouraged to contribute.

Opening (Councillor Margaret Sault), Panel

The opening session frames the discussion about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning in Canada and the role of science learning from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Gender, Culture and STEM

A successful learning framework places students at the centre and emphasizes the need to include and support students from all backgrounds. There are three recurrent inequities in terms of participation and achievement in STEM education and careers:

  • inequities between girls and boys
  • socio-economic inequities
  • inequities between students from majority and minority cultures

In Canada, Indigenous students are under-represented in STEM-related studies and employment. There is also a gender imbalance with girls more likely to pursue life sciences and boys more likely to pursue physical sciences and engineering.

How We Teach

Educators are key for ensuring student success. In an era of rapid change and increasing interest in student-centred learning and differentiated instruction, educators face mounting challenges to support learners. This panel discusses the critical importance of educators and the support, training and resourcing that they require to implement change in STEM education.

Who’s Involved

Innovative STEM education requires the engagement of multiple stakeholders: governments, educators, parents, community organizations, the science and technology research community, post-secondary institutions and businesses. Collaboration between community organizations, universities and colleges, museums, science centres, parks, cultural agencies, media outlets, and more can result in the types of experiential and innovative learning opportunities that will inspire learners: From classroom presentations and after school programs to student work placements, tutoring support, professional learning opportunities, and more. They not only serve to expand the number and type of direct science learning opportunities for students and educators, they also help to raise the overall public profile of science knowledge and careers which helps build a more supportive environment for STEM education and further stimulate interest in science learning among students.

In this session panelists explore the nature and value of the opportunities offered by diverse stakeholders to support education.

What We Learn

In an era of rapid change, what should Canadian students know and be able to do by the end of secondary school? What competencies should education systems foster? How are expected outcomes of learning changing? Are we moving from “what you know” to “what you know how to do”? What are the implications for curriculum and teaching practices? What’s needed to support competency-based learning? How do we measure competency development (e.g. critical thinking, problem-solving) or assess learning outcomes in these areas? How can these changes be made without compromising foundational competencies (e.g. literacy & numeracy)? How can we integrate experiential learning and interdisciplinary learning into STEM learning?

Covering many of the same issues, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) identifies the fostering of the following six global competencies as a critical goal for Canadian education systems and recently agreed to begin working to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for assessing them.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship
  • Learning to learn/self-awareness and self-direction
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Global citizenship and sustainability

Any attempts to improve STEM learning will need to take into account the roles that global competencies play in education and adapt them to the specific context of STEM learning. From this perspective this panel explores how STEM learning needs to evolve.

How We Learn

There is growing acceptance of the importance of engaging students in experiential, inquiry-based learning opportunities in STEM education. In the past few years, we have also witnessed a rapid increase in the use of computer and web-based technology in schools along with growing interest in enhancing digital skills among students. For some, digital literacy is seen as a key skill required by employees and citizens in technologically advanced societies; others see computer-related skills (such as coding) as having the more general advantage of enhancing broader problem-solving and critical thinking competencies. Less often discussed is the potential for information and communications technology (ICTs) to support new approaches to teaching (including assessment practices) and new forms of interaction between and among educators and students that can transform the classroom and the educational experience – including approaches that are more student directed, collaborative, creative, and linked interactively to the real-world activities of science and discovery. The addition of ICT brings new opportunities and tensions to discussions about innovative approaches to teaching and learning. This panel focuses discussion on the teaching and learning possibilities offered by new ICTs as well as inherent challenges.

Closing Remarks