STEAM Job descriptions for Curriculum Planning




Using job descriptions can facilitate program planning and student learning. A job description provides us with rich opportunities to extract content areas, learning goals, success criteria, and rich tasks for learning. It just doesn’t matter if the position is paid or not, volunteer or mandatory. The point is that you will often find key information about skills that are important in our world today, and perhaps discover more relevant ways to teach those skills.

In my quest to make learning relevant for students, I have begun to look at job postings for S.T.E.A.M. related work, and think about ways that I can apply them to the curriculum. There are a great number of possibilities that crop up when we consider how our curriculum can be interpreted through the lens of a real job.

Consider the following job description in blue. As you review it, consider the cross-curricular, and integrated learning opportunities that may present themselves. Consider the project-based learning opportunities you can use to help students gain the necessary skills to apply for this job. Where do various technologies fit into this picture?

Check it out: 



Organization: Ministry of Transportation
Division: Provincial Highways Management
City: London
Job Term: 1 Permanent
Job Code: 12682 – Engineering Services Officer 3
$1,122.02 – $1,410.37 Per Week*
*Indicates the salary listed as per the OPSEU Collective Agreement.
Understanding the job ad – definitions

Posting Status:

Job ID:
Apply Online
View Job Description
Are you looking for a new challenge? Would you like to apply your knowledge of civil engineering technology and computer abilities in a new way?
Consider this opportunity in structural design while contributing to the safety of Ontario’s transportation system.

What can I expect to do in this role?

In this role you will:
• Prepare scale drawings depicting bridge details and materials for review and approval;
• Prepare associated contract documentation according to Ministry standards using required software;
Review bridge site plans and preliminary geometry information supplied by consultants;
• Carry out quantity calculations and cost estimates;
• Provide and assist in the training of regional staff in bridge inspections, in the use of computerized bridge detailing systems and bridge management systems;
• Provide interpretation of standards, specifications and policies as required;
• Assist in bridge inspections by carrying out inspection of simple structures, and updating and maintaining related databases;
• Provide technical guidance, training and advice to junior staff on bridge drafting and contract preparations, durability and construction issues with complex structural details and innovative techniques ensuring safety and economy;
• Answer queries on technical issues from other jurisdictions as required.

How do I qualify?

(aka learning goals and success criteria, criteria for rubrics and other assessment methods)

Knowledge of Bridge Design

• You have knowledge and skills in the design, detailing and contract preparation of provincial bridge contracts.
• You have knowledge and skills to be able to inspect bridges.
• You have knowledge in bridge design and detailing principles, and ability to consider various constraints such as materials, fabrication and production techniques.
• You have practical working knowledge of the varied and complex safety issues related to the design of bridges.

Communication Skills

• You have well-developed oral and written communication and presentation skills.
• You can use consultation skills to identify needs and maintain effective working relationships with regions and other functional teams
• You are committed to customer service.

Research and Project Planning Skills

• You can understand and interpret engineering plans and profiles, technical reports and relevant codes of practice.
• You have knowledge of project planning in order to design, detail, implement, lead and manage a number of concurrent projects of varying degrees complexity, individually or within a team environment.
• You have demonstrated analytical, planning, scheduling, project management and work coordination skills.

Computer Skills

• You can use computer systems and their applications, including Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems and database systems.

Now that you have had a chance to look at this, tell me you are not inspired by the sheer opportunities to connect science, math, technology and literacy? How many skills can be extracted and channeled into balanced literacy and math activities? How many rich tasks can be created? What projects and inquiries can be facilitated? How will they culminate into an end of unit(s) assessment task that includes applying for this job?
How can we help students figure out what they need to do next in order to ‘prove’ that they have the skills to apply?
What if my students were given a small bank of job descriptions, and they need to choose one that looks interesting that they will apply for.
Here are a few steps to consider:
1. Conduct your hypothetical job search
3. Teach the feedback skills that enable all students to engage in higher quality feedback and assessment as learning processes.
4. Find the Big Ideas
5. Plan your projects, centers, and assessment protocol.
6. Reflect
7. Share
Job searching can provide key information into the skills and knowledge that are important in our world. They can even help inform our curriculum planning and instructional design. Next time you are wondering how to infuse math, science, literacy and more into your short and long range plans, consider starting with a job search.
Deborah McCallum
c 2016

The Big Ideas in Education and STEAM


How do we plan for STEAM?

We start with the Big Ideas.


Attached is a chart I created to link the Big Ideas in Education with S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). Big Ideas in Education STEAM

This chart is specifically geared toward the Ministry of Ontario curricula that address STEAM subjects, and specifically for Grade 3. However many of the Big Ideas remain the same across grades.

I also included overall expectations where there were no explicit big ideas already mapped out– just to get the picture.

The next step after this chart, is to first ask ourselves what other specific variables might come into play. We don’t need to have them all mapped out first however. Some specific expectations arise when student inquiries take us there.

Next, we need to think about the teaching strategies we will use. Our choices will depend on our students interests, inquiries and needs. They will also depend on social justice variables including equity, access, and privilege.

Finally, we will consider what tools will best support us.

Things to think about:

  • How does this relate to Growth Mindsets?
  • How can we harness strategies that help us understand what students are thinking, vs helping get the ‘right’ answer?
  • Can we be flexible enough to allow students to share their thinking in many different ways without being judgmental?
  • How can we help students document their own learning and engage in ongoing reflection?
  • How will our strategies help us to create a #feedbackfriendly classroom?


If you choose just 1 Big Idea, this does not mean that you are stuck only teaching that one subject. Remember that when you cluster the specific expectations around the Big Idea, they can be from any subject. However, you can also choose 1 or more Big Ideas to make explicit links to different subjects from the start. It is my belief that we cannot plan ahead for all specific expectations that will be met. If we did then this is treating education as a knowledge repository where students come to get the information from the teacher about the specific expectations. When we know the curriculum, we can allow for flexibility and let student inquiries, learning needs, interests and more guide us to the specific expectations that can be taught with various strategies and tools that best helps our students to achieve. All the while, still ensuring that we are covering the curriculum. It also allows for innovation, collaboration, and connections to real life.

Check out the attachment here. It always helps me to see the Big Ideas in one place.

Big Ideas in Education STEAM D


Deborah McCallum

c 2016

14 Considerations for Inquiry Based Learning


Inquiry is essential.

The fact is that students come to school with partial knowledges.  But the curriculum documents themselves do not address the parts that students know or don’t know. It has been built to present to us about the privileged people and only the most successful moments in history according to those people. Textbooks, websites and other resources generally reinforce this. It may not represent the real stories of our students.

For instance, social studies, history and geography generally focuses on the privileged people who had the ability to win and ‘own’ history. Just consider the lack of focus on anyone who is not privileged in history. For instance, Women, FNMI, Slaves, Middle Easterners, and more. We hear about the achievements of the upper class, but none about the working class.

Just consider the fact that it was not too long ago that only men were thought to be able to think scientifically or mathematically? The last Residential School closed in the 1990’s.

Where does this leave our students who already know some of these things about the world? What about the students who have other equally important knowledge of the world as what is shared in curriculum documents?

This is precisely why Inquiry is an essential part of our curriculum! 

Without student and teacher inquiry, knowledges remain partial and limited. Biases and stereotypes prevail.

But how do you foster inquiry? How do we make it meaningful for students? 

14 important conditions for meaningful student inquiry:

  1. We create a culture of wonder for our students! Wonder walls, and wonder journals are just 2 ways to support this culture:)
  2. We lead students with Big Ideas vs specific expectations.
  3. We encourage questions! We encourage students to continue to refine and hone in their questions, and we model good ones for our students.
  4. We reserve closed questions for Google, but teach skills to help students read and synthesize information for open questions.
  5. We know that younger students need more structure. But as students get older, we enable very messy, rigourous and ambigous inquiries. This really pushes students to demonstrate flexible thinking, and metacognition, grit and more!
  6. We have clear expectations of students, including the expectation that they will need to demonstrate their new understandings from their research.
  7. We allow students to research that which is not ‘privileged’.
  8. We allow connections to their own lives –  even if it is not listed as a concrete expectation in a curriculum document.
  9. Sometimes questions require new background knowledge. Students background knowledge might be only partial. Therefore, we realise that we may need to take time with activities that help students build background information first. We know that teachers and students alike may need to investigate something completely new and uncomfortable first to continue!
  10. We emphasize the process of inquiry, and not merely the creation of the end product.
  11. We realise that different students will be focusing on different skills, and/or different numbers of skills. But we are okay with this because learning is happening!
  12. We hold students accountable to high standards. We expect high quality conclusions, connections, inferences and many other forms of comprehension.
  13. We – as in teachers and learners alike – are continually engaged in feedback and assessment FOR and AS learning processes!
  14. We become comfortable with the fact that this is not ideally done in 1 – 2 fifty minute blocks a week.


What do you wonder about the Inquiry Process?

If you have a moment, please take a moment to fill out this Padlet Wonder Wall:




Deborah McCallum


Fill out our Wonder Wall! Promoting Feedback and Inquiry #ontsshg

Promoting Feedback and Inquiry in the Social Studies, History and Geography classroom. Join us next Thursday February 25 @ 9PM on Twitter: #ontsshg

Please take a moment and fill out our Wonder Wall!


The Formal Assessment of Literacy Skills


There are several key reasons that need to be involved with formally assessing student literacy:

First, we can gain key diagnostic information about the current skills that our students have. We also can glean key information about the previous knowledge and experiences of our students through meaningful diagnostic assessments.

Second, it provides opportunities for students to practice new skills and gain knowledge. These assessments can be the conduit to meaningful feedback for students to take their learning forward. It also helps us as educators to know where we need to take our learning next.

Finally, we hope that we can gain evidence to see if our students have improved over time, and gain evidence that we are in fact providing high quality instruction for learning.

Assessment strategies are also clearly defined in the Growing Success document as Assessment for, of and as learning.

Please watch the following video to learn more about assessment for, of and as learning:

However, in my experience, assessment strategies are not ‘stand-alone’ entities that we bestow upon our students to obtain grades. Likewise, quality assessment is not necessarily synonymous with quality ‘feedback’. I discuss this more in my new book ‘The Feedback Friendly Classroom’ set to be published this fall.


We need to be clear that assessment is an absolutely essential process that is more than just a cause-and-effect variable where students show what they have learned, teacher grades their work, gives feedback, and we move along to the next unit.

Assessment as, for and of learning is key for students and teachers alike. However, we need to make sure that it is embedded within a framework of ongoing and professional reflection and dialogue that informs our theory and practice of teaching literacy. This in turn provides key information for more purposeful planning of our literacy programs.


At this day in age, a lot of our purposeful planning also includes the critical and effective use of technology for literacy as well. This purposeful use of technology can be harnessed in ways that fosters social cohesion and collaborative communities of learners in safe, and inclusive and respectful environments.

Regardless of how we are innovating and evolving in the 21st century, we will always be in need for appropriate and equitable assessment practices, that are varied in nature, and conducted over periods of time. Preferably interrelated with other subjects, and with the 6 C’s as described by Michael Fullan in the NPDL global initiative. Essentially we need to provide key opportunities for diverse learners to demonstrate their learning. This can be done with well crafted assessment procedures.

We can think beyond the test and the worksheet to evaluate student learning. We are allowed to think outside of the box, we can be brave and be bold with our pedagogies for learning.


However, the strategies do not need to necessarily be technology based. At the heart of assessment for, as and of learning are ultimately relationships. Relationships help us to build meaning around the learning goals, and thus assessment strategies should also be holistic, and interpersonal in ways that don’t just support learning, but also support relationships around that learning. How you use the strategies in your particular context may also be more important that What strategies you use to assess.

The following is a thinglink that can be used as a guide for thinking about assessment for various literacy learning skills:


Harnessing Assessment strategies for Communication

We can harness technologies for continuous strategies for communicating with home and community. Technologies can include, but not be limited to ePortfolios, Blogging, Google Drive, email, and an app such as Remind or SeeSaw for sending regular visual and textual information about what and how students are learning in class. This is of course, in addition to regular letters going home, agendas, and ongoing communication in person and phone with parents.


Professional collaboration, including moderation, to support student learning.

The ability to meet with our colleagues is absolutely essential to keeping our assessment practices the highest quality they can be. This is a great way to re-calibrate our understandings of the assessment criteria, and what our students are doing to meet that criteria. Teacher moderation is a form of teacher collaboration for assessment purposes. It cannot be taken lightly. Though it is difficult to find time to engage in moderation, it is very beneficial for helping colleagues to obtain reliable assessment data.


What strategies do you use to assess literacy skills with your students? 

In your opinion, how does assessment inform pedagogy, and vice versa? 

Deborah McCallum

c 2016

Learning is Complicated: 4 Myths in Education Explained



Education abounds with myths, several of those ‘myths’ are about how the brain works. These myths have a long standing history of being perpetuated, believed, purchased, and shared.

As educators we all have our own inquiries and hypotheses of how students learn best, sometimes we do this with a lack of educational research. This can perpetuate problems when there is no quality control of our inquiries and conclusions.

I believe that the messages conveyed in this article need to be more widely promoted in our education systems, lest we allow our enthusiasm about the ‘issues’ to perpetuate further education myths.

Neuro-myths are a particular problem in the 21st century because with new technologies we are taking a great deal of information and ideas surrounding education at face value. We are excited about opportunities for innovation and being able to extend student learning outside the 4 walls of the classroom. While this is wonderful, we still need to be careful that in the process we are not  making damaging assumptions that will inevitably decreases the quality of education for our learners.

The three urban legends discussed included Digital Natives, Learning Styles‘, and students as Self-Educators‘ with edtech.

Myth 1.’Learners are Digital Natives’

We make assumptions that technology has transformed our children into naturals at information processing, information retrieval, evaluation and critical thinking skills. There is an ever increasing shift from information processing models to integration of edtech itself into programming.

However, the reality is that our enthusiasm about new technologies may in fact causing us to overestimate the educational impacts on our children.

There are key differences between a child’s interactions with technology and what they are actually learning.

We may assume that because children are quite adept at clicking on links and operating the tech, that they can learn the curriculum and knowledge skills much more efficiently than ever before. We may also assume that they can learn deeply on their own.

Myth 2. Students are great at multitasking

What we also see is that students are multitasking more than ever with multiple media and technologies. The assumption is that because students are so adept at using technologies simultaneously, they also must be better at learning.

However, research continues to show that our brains only allow for us to switch between different tasks NOT perform them simultaneously.

I have often thought of this as ‘Figure-Ground’, where we cannot ‘see’ both the figure and the ground separately and at the same time.


Our brains cannot see both representations at the same time. Our brain must make the decision to move back and forth between the figure and the ground.

However, believing that our students can do multiple tasks simultaneously is potentially damaging to our youth in terms of education and deep learning. The research has always shown, and still shows, that multitasking puts too much strain on our cognitive resources. The brain continually has to make decisions to switch back and forth between tasks, and this competes for cognitive resources. This absolutely impacts information processing abilities.

Further, if we consider also that some students have difficulties with working memory capacity, and this further impacts the information processing functions. This has consequences if we do not consider that the uses of certain popular educational technologies are also detrimental to student learning.

In fact, research tends to show that heavy multi-taskers are more likely to be affected by environmental stimuli – therefore they tend to perform worse in learning tasks! It is just not possible for learners to be heavy multi-taskers and learn as efficiently as possible. Students will indeed suffer if we perpetuate this myth that students they are excellent at multitasking.

Up next, we have ‘Learning Styles’,


Myth 3. Students have specific Learning Styles.

This is confusing, because it feels like common knowledge: we have all differentiated for our students to meet their learning preferences. And we SHOULD do that. This is different than the Learning Styles theory however.

There is absolutely no scientific research that has ever shown that learning styles are useful to choose instructional methods. However, a great deal of money has been made from resources, workshops, and standardized tools to ‘help’ educators to take learning styles into account. The fact is that we do our students a disservice when we pigeonhole them into succinct learning ‘styles’. Preferred ways of learning are poor predictors of how students actually learn best. We can assess cognitive abilities, but need to stay away from preferred learning styles.

It is impossible for educators to be able to completely take the myriad of dimensions into account to improve learning. But we also cannot use unfounded theory to decide. Educators always need to take into account the nature of the knowledge and skills that need to be taught, and the extent to which they are taught.

And Finally,

Myth 4. Learners are Self-Educators in the 21st Century.

Yet another myth stems from the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the possibilities with modern technology in the 21st century: learners are also self-educators. So why would we still need teachers? This is an easy one to believe. With many exciting new opportunities, and excellent strategies that now exist to use technology, innovate, and  engage students, all we need to do is give students a voice and help them engage in their own inquiries – from there, students should be able to figure it out, right? Nope. The truth is, there will never be a magic bullet that diminishes the power of good pedagogy.

Students are not expert information problem solvers just because they search and use the internet every day. Research still shows that students NEED facilitators to guide the learning process. Further, information-processing, knowledge building and problem solving are very complex cognitive tasks. So complex, that they are major if not insurmountable for our students, or any of us, to do alone.

Being savvy with electronic media does not make students effective ‘users’ of the technologies. Regardless of knowledge building tasks used, it is still of utmost importance that we teach our students to be information-literate, and learn transferrable skills, search and assessment strategies.


How do we combat the learning myths? First, it never hurts to have a Feedback Friendly Classroom. This is an idea, that perpetuates the kind of pedagogy we need to help students become active participants in their learning.


If you have read this far, you may be excellent at managing your own learning. However, students typically are not. We must always strive to figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and why.

Further, we need quality control. We need research that is not flawed to help inform of us of our popular hypotheses myths and assumptions about education.

I hope that you will be critical about where my information, and anyone else’s information is coming from. I am merely writing on my own professional blog. It is based on my references. It is not peer-reviewed. There are perhaps few quality control measures here – you will have to find out! – you can take my word for it, or you can cross-reference with your own research. Most likely, after reading this, your cognitive resources will likely move to another topic of interest – as it does with our students. We are, after all, only self-directed to a point.

Regardless, I really hope that you will stop and think about any myths that may prevail in your learning environment. While we can make learning more innovative, engaging, relevant and appropriate for students, the learning process itself is complex with no easy answers.


Paul A. Kirschner & Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer (2013) Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education, Educational Psychologist, 48:3, 169-183


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.