A middle school in Port Moody is flipping the role of teacher and student on its head, doing away with letter grades and inviting technology into the classroom. 

Just one year old, Eagle Mountain Middle School in Anmore is one of the first in the province to implement the revised curriculum laid out in B.C.'s Education Plan.

In doing away with letter grades, the school has revamped its entire process of student evaluation.

"A letter grade in the past sometimes stopped conversation," said principal Nancy Bennet.

Children now use "performance standards language," to describe their understanding of class material. For example, "I am really exceeding expectations. I'm doing more than you asked. I'm going more in-depth," offered Bennet.

Parents are able to keep abreast of their child's learning progress through the FreshGrade app, which instantly sends an email to parents when their child adds a submission to their e-portfolio.

Integrated subjects

Gone are the individual subjects of Social Studies, Science and Language Arts. Instead, they've been blended into an Integrated Studies program.

"They're much more powerful when they're combined as an integrated curriculum. It lets us focus on concepts, and big ideas, and competencies that we see in the new B.C. Ed plan," said Bennet.

Grade 7 students would typically study ancient civilizations in Socials Studies class, she said. "Now, our students are tackling a theme, a big idea, such as, historically, what are game changers in society?"

"They took on all sorts of aspects in a much more meaningful way than perhaps building a pyramid out of sugar cubes."

No more 'stand and deliver'

When it comes to teaching, Bennet says "we're a 'guide on the side model' rather than 'sage on the stage,'" so that students "have an opportunity to follow different paths with their learning."

"We're not using textbooks, but students are accessing information on their devices," she said.

"They're often navigating through more information in a single year than during our time we would've encountered in ten years."

Other schools to follow suit

Within the next three years, every school teaching kindergarten to Grade 9 will have implemented B.C.'s new curriculum. 

But Bennet expects the Ministry of Education to begin making changes to higher education within the year. 

"Every school at every level in our province is working on this, this year. Our universities are changing too," she said.

"We think that we are producing students that are moving forward into secondary [school] with confidence, a nice skillset, and really authentic ownership of their learning."

The school has just won an $8,000 Innovation Grant from from the province to further develop its programs.


To hear the full interview with Nancy Bennet, listen to the audio labelled: B.C. middle school flips education model on its head.