TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release
TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release

Changing My Role from Entertainer to Choreographer


Stephanie Iwan

How to Create the Classroom I Wanted?

When I began teaching, I was disappointed to find myself standing at the front of the classroom and “delivering” knowledge to my students, as if they were empty vessels waiting to be filled. How could I possibly change my classroom and lessons to be truly student-centred and transformative? It was only when I began to promote student engagement using the resources and the framework outlined by The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC²) that I found my answer.


Changing How My Classroom Works

TC² tools and strategies have empowered me to choreograph activities that foster deep understanding and invite students to think critically about the issues featured in the curriculum. I no longer need to think of ways to entertain my students; instead, I spend my energies designing and facilitating critical thinking tasks. My students have become deeply involved in their work, and manage themselves. They move naturally about the classroom, have meaningful debates, and develop judgments together based on criteria. In effect, they are “thinking” their way through the curriculum.


Empowering students about reconciliation

Let me give you an example. I am passionate that we should teach Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples but sometimes find the content to be overwhelming. Not only is the history vast, the topic is complex. I found inspiration while browsing through the Teaching Historical Thinking resource book.

I decided on my course of action: I would create a gallery walk using the history documents available on the TC² website and have my students identify key stakeholders while extracting key ideas, beliefs, and attitudes that led to the development of the Indian Act. I then had students do three things:

  • connect the laws found within the Indian Act to consequences for First Peoples
  • determine what cause was the strongest in the development of the legislation
  • determine what consequences were the most widespread and longest lasting
My next task was to find a way to help students connect personally to the content. Once again, I found inspiration from a TC² resource, and developed a project in which students created a word collage in response to the question, “What opportunities and challenges does legislation related to collective rights pose for First Nations.” The words students tracked while exploring resources ranged from challenges (e.g., extinction, shame, and assimilation) to opportunities (e.g., self-government, reconciliation, and healing). Students then developed a unique symbol that represented reconciliation as a vessel for their word collage.


The deep impact

The final projects and reflections that accompanied them were incredibly insightful and moving. The whole exercise fostered in students a deep understanding of Canada’s colonial relationship with Indigenous peoples and the consequences created because of it. I can safely say that my students now have the knowledge and motivation they need to speak out against injustice and spread a message of truth and reconciliation.

To say that designing and facilitating critical thinking tasks has helped my classroom is an understatement. It has utterly transformed my teaching, my classroom, and my students.

Stephanie Iwan
Junior High Teacher, St. Monica School
Calgary Catholic School Division
Calgary, Alberta