Teaching-Learning Critical Pathways

A Kindergarten Perspective

The Human-Being Is A Learning Machine ... If you put him in the right position to learn what you want him to know (Dr. Asa Hillard)

At a TED Talk in 2010, Sir Ken Robson had this to say about education:


“…education, in a way, dislocates very many people from their natural talents. And human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves. And you might imagine education would be the way that happens, but too often it’s not. Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment and it’s not enough. Reform is no use anymore, because that’s simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education. One of the real challenges is to innovate fundamentally in education. Innovation is hard because it means doing something that people don’t find very easy, for the most part. It means challenging what we take from granted, things that we think are obvious. The great problem for reform or transformation is the tyranny of common sense; things that people think “Well, it can’t be done any other way because that’s the way it’s done.”


By embedding learning opportunities for ourselves into our classroom practices through TLCPs, we reflect on our own practices, we question why we do things the way we do, and we open ourselves up to new teaching possibilities. In this way, through small changes, we begin to make transformations which allow all students to learn to a high-degree of success.

Teaching-Learning Critical Pathway

But What Is A T-LCP?

A T-LCP is an ongoing process in which educators, as part of a 'Professional Learning Community' (PLC) examine their current practices and make small, measured changes that effect student success. It requires colleagues to come together with open-minds, ready to make changes (which isn't always easy).

These pathways ask us 'how do we know that our actions are resulting in improved student learning?' By collecting data from our students and engaging in moderated marking (in which teachers examine and mark student work together), teachers are better able to plan for student success.

Stage 1: Setting Up The T-LCP

During this stage of the T-LCP, teachers will meet to discuss the direction that this exploration should take. Looking at the evidence which is currently available (such as EQAO scores, DRA and CASI assessments, Observational Surveys, and any other teacher assessments), teachers will highlight areas of greatest concern for their students.


Once these needs are identified, the team will consider where those needs fall within the curriculum documents. The team will consider the following questions:

  • How can expectations be clustered and explored simultaneously?
  • What do we currently do to teach these skills?
  • What research is available and what does it tell us about how to best teach these thinking skills?


The team will then create a plan which considers:

  • What high-yield teaching strategies will be used (such as mentor texts, think-alouds, think-pair-share, etc...)?
  • What the success criteria will look like for this pathway? What should the students be able to say and do to demonstrate that they have successfully learned this skill?
  • How will this data be recorded (such as rubrics, data walls, culminating tasks, etc...)?

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Stage 2: Planning For Instruction & Checking In

During this stage, teachers should be using high-yield strategies to teach the clustered expectations. Teachers will co-plan a six-week teaching block building a collective understanding of what and how to teach (what mentor texts will be examined, what strategies will be used, what will assessment and cumulative tasks look like, etc...).


As the process begins, teachers should be checking in with each other. Consider what has been noticed so far:

  • Have the students understanding of the subject improved?
  • What strategies have been successful, and which ones have not? What does that tell you about your students learning styles?
  • How can you build on what has been happening so far to further develop student learning?
  • What issues are arising and how can they be addressed?


Regular check-ins with each other allows for 'just-in-time' conversations to happen: teachers can more easily address any concerns and further embed their own understanding into the practice.

Stage 3: Outcomes

At the end of the six-week block, the teaching team reconvenes to explore their new data and discuss the outcomes from the T-LPC.


Each teacher will bring work samples with to the meeting. Using the success criteria or rubric created during the first meeting, teachers will examine each artifact and assign a level to each piece. Teacher Moderated Marking like this allows all members of the team a chance to carefully examine work at different levels and discuss/justify why each piece deserves the level that is assigned to it. In return for this hard-work, teachers can then look at the rest of the work their students have produced and assign them levels that are consistent throughout the school. Also, by creating this type of consistency, students develop a clearer understanding of what a level 2 assignment looks like as opposed to a level 3.


Finally, teachers have an opportunity to consolidate their own learning from the pathway. In discussion with each other, teachers will think about:

  • how successful their high-yield strategies were;
  • what they have learned about their students based on this inquiry;
  • what can be done to support students who are still struggling; and
  • based on what was learned in this pathway, what the team will focus on next.

What A TLCP Looks Like In Kindergarten

Putting A Play-Based Spin On A T-LCP

Admittedly, the assessment data and strategies used in a T-LCP will be different in a kindergarten room, but the process is still the same. Below, you will see pictures which were part of a T-LCP conducted in a full-day kindergarten room in Toronto.


The school-wide focus for this T-LCP was to examine 'Point Of View.' The mentor texts used in this room was a variety of 'Big Bad Wolf' stories. At the same time as exploring the importance of voice and point of view in literature, the teacher also want the students to explore structures and the big question 'how do things stand up.'

Understanding Point Of View

Over the course of six weeks, the teacher introduced a variety of stories about the Big Bad Wolf. As time progressed, the discussion about the wolf became richer. The teacher included questions like 'why did the wolf eat the pigs? Is that bad?', 'Who decided that the wolf was bad?', and 'Do you think the wolf is bad? Why or why not?'


The teacher also included props and invitations around the room for students to create their own Wolf stories.

Relating the T-LCP to a Class Inquiry

The students in this class were very excited about building, and large groups of children would congregate at the building centre each day. However, the teacher noticed that the students were (a) not working together as a team and (b) only building large towers that often had the unsafe results of falling on people and encouraged children to climb on shelves in order to make the towers taller. Rather than placing limits on the students at the block centre, the teacher decided to pose a challenge to the students. One day she said to them, "Today I am the Wolf and you are the Pigs. I want you all to work together to build something, and when you're done, I'm going to try to knock it down. I wonder if you can build something that will be strong enough to survive the wolf."


The children were up to the challenge. Finally they were working together... but their first building was not very strong... the teacher knocked it down by touching just one block.


As the six-week block continued, the class continued to look at Wolf books, and the teacher introduced a variety of Little Red Ridinghood stories as well. At the same time, they went on countless exploration walks around the school and the neighbourhood looking for ideas about how to build a structure that would withstand the strength of the wolf. Their buildings got stronger and more elaborate, their empathy for the Wolf grew, and the teacher collected strong evidence that the students understanding of the subject had increased. She collected work samples, photographs, anecdotal notes, and quotes from the children, which all indicated that they were learning to think and problem solve to a high-degree of success.

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A Little Change Makes A Big Difference!

The Process Is Never Really Done...

While the six-week learning block may come to an end, the work has been moderated, assessments and conclusions are complete, the work keeps on going. Learning is an on-going process in which new skills build upon previously mastered ones.


The last step of a T-LPC is for teachers to plan their next T-LPC, based on what they have learned from this one...