Some parents of students at Douglas Park School are concerned its “innovative” way of teaching is not doing their children any good.
“Our kids came home saying, ‘Mom there are 49 kids in my class’,” said Brigitte Zerr, whose son is in grade 6.
When the school opened in September 2012, the Regina Public School Board said it was leading-edge, with large classrooms to accommodate big groups which can be divided into smaller rooms for more intimate learning. Zerr, however, feels it could hurt her son’s education.
“He said, ‘you know mom, I found it really noisy, but they told me to bring an iPod’,” she explained.
There are at least two teachers for the class, but with 50 kids the fear is some students will fall through the cracks.
“He wasn’t ever given quiet time, taken to a separate room,” Zerr said. “It wasn’t ever identified that he was the type of student who didn’t do well in that type of learning environment.”
Regina Public Schools says it is part of “21st Century education.” The focus is on being flexible with the space and have teachers working together to make sure each child succeeds.
In Regina, Arcola and Douglas Park schools both follow that model. The goal is to expand the concept to all new facilities that are built.
“Learning styles change,” said Mike Walter, the deputy director of school services for the school board. “The children of today are much different than they were 20 to 30 years ago. The result is that schools need to become better at meeting the needs of today’s learners.”
One way to do that is through differentiated learning by breaking into groups to focus on the needs of each student.
“It doesn’t look like the box with the desks in the rows, but desk in rows doesn’t automatically ensure learning, and we know that,” said James McNinch, dean of the faculty of education for the University of Regina.
Zerr met with the school board this week but is still not sold on the method.
“I’m not entirely convinced that my child and other children learn in a completely different way from what we did,” she said, though she admitted her son enjoyed having all his friends in one room.