Progression of Learning in Elementary School

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Progression of Learning in Elementary School

The progression of learning in elementary school constitutes a complement to each school subject, providing further information on the essential knowledge that the students must acquire and be able to use in each year of elementary school. This tool is intended to assist teachers in planning both their teaching and the learning that their students are to acquire.

The role of knowledge in learning

The knowledge that young people acquire enables them to better understand the world in which they live. From a very early age, within their families and through contact with the media and with friends, they accumulate and learn to use an increasingly greater body of knowledge. The role of the school, beginning in kindergarten, should be to progressively broaden, deepen and structure this knowledge. 

However, helping young people acquire knowledge raises the challenging question of how to make this knowledge useful and durable, and thus evokes the notion of competency. For example, we can never be really assured that a grammar rule has been assimilated until it is used appropriately in a variety of texts and contexts that go beyond the confines of a repetitive, targeted exercise.

In this way, knowledge and competencies must mutually reinforce each other. On the one hand, knowledge becomes consolidated when it is used, and on the other hand, the exercise of competencies entails the acquisition of new knowledge. For example, the mastery of mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.) is consolidated through using them to solve increasingly complex problems that teach students to perform a series of operations in the correct order.

Intervention by the teacher

The role of the teacher in knowledge acquisition and competency development is essential, and he or she must intervene systematically throughout the learning period. In effect, the Education Act confers on the teacher the right to “select methods of instruction corresponding to the requirements and objectives fixed for each group or for each student entrusted to his care.” It is therefore the teacher’s responsibility to adapt his or her instruction and to base it on a variety of teaching strategies, whether this involves lecture-based teaching for the entire class, individualized instruction for a student or a small group of students, a series of exercises to be done, a team activity or a particular project to be carried out.

In order to meet the needs of students with learning difficulties, teachers should encourage their participation in the activities designed for the whole class, although support measures should also be provided when necessary. These might involve more targeted teaching of certain key elements of knowledge, or they might take the form of other specialized interventions.

As for the evaluation of learning, it serves two essential functions. Firstly, it enables us to look at the students’ progress during the learning period in order to guide and support them effectively. Secondly, at the end of the school year or cycle, it enables us to verify the extent to which the students have acquired the expected learning. Whatever its function, in accordance with the Policy on the Evaluation of Learning, evaluation should focus on the acquisition of knowledge and the students’ ability to use this knowledge effectively in contexts that draw upon their competencies.


The progression of learning is presented in the form of tables that organize the elements of knowledge in the same way they are organized in the subject-specific programs. In mathematics, for example, learning is presented in fields: artithmetic, geometry, etc. Every element of learning identified is associated with one or more years of elementary school during which it is formally taught.

A uniform legend is used for all subjects in order to specify the pattern of progression for each element of learning identified. The legend employs three symbols (an arrow, a star and a shaded box). For each element of learning, what is expected of the student is described as follows:

Student constructs knowledge with teacher guidance.
Student applies knowledge by the end of the school year.
Student reinvests knowledge.

An arrow indicates that the teacher must plan for the student to begin this learning during the school year and continue or complete it the following year, always requiring systematic intervention from the teacher.

A star indicates that the teacher must plan for the majority of students to complete this learning by the end of the school year.

A shaded box indicates that the teacher must plan to ensure that knowledge already acquired will be applied during the school year.