HWEO/WWA in Studio4

#Studio4 at ISHCMC are currently beginning a long unit that will run until the end of March. There has been a lot of thought and planning into how this unit might run and it is already feeling VERY right!

Here is a sneak peek of our current week for our students (and this is only 2 periods per day!)Screen Shot 2019-01-16 at 6.28.22 PM.png

Amazing, right?

I have begun to write a progressive blog post about the Studio 4 journey with this particular unit. Since it is progressive, I will not post it here, but it can be found on my blog: http://innovativeinquirers.weebly.com/blog/hweowwa-in-studio-4

I have written about the first two phases and our plans (which may change) for the rest of the unit. I will continue to add and edit it as we go along. Please follow us on our journey and share any thoughts, challenges, ideas, or similarities that you are experiencing with us. It is definitely an exciting time for education. I wish I could have had these opportunities at school when I was their age!

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Assessment-Capable Learners – Making Report Writing Easier and More Exciting

Recently one of my colleagues saw me sitting at a table writing end-of-the-semester assessment reports for the elementary Visual Arts students. “Listen to this,” I said, and proceeded to read to him a couple of the reports for the students.

“I think you’re the only teacher I know who enjoys writing assessment reports,” he commented with a laugh. “How do you collect this information?”

Like most teachers, I used to dread writing assessment reports. I used to ask myself how I could write so many reports and make them all sound different. And like some teachers, I sometimes copied and pasted a report from one student to another, rearranging a couple of sentences and being careful to change the name. Honestly, it wasn’t always easy to distinguish one student from another. 

Now I enjoy writing reports. Oh, it still takes a lot of time and patience to produce so many reports. That part continues to be a challenge. But the writing part – trying to compose something different for each student – is easier. The secret, I discovered, is to focus on developing assessment-capable learners in the classroom.

I know that I still have a long way to go to better support my students to be assessment capable learners, but, by targeting two key things, I’ve made report writing easier and, well, more exciting!

Reflection

In order for students to be capable of assessing their own learning, it’s important for them to have regular times to reflect on their learning. They need time to talk about their learning with peers, to reflect on their process, and to explain their thinking for their projects. In our Visual Arts class, that is usually a brief partner share time to discuss the projects at the end of class. Since these students are often designing their own projects (alone or working collaboratively), they naturally discuss them with each other during the class, as well. Additionally, while they are working, I am circulating through the room and talking with them to ask about where they got their ideas, how they figured out how to do something, etc.   

Interviews

Each semester, I take time to have a brief one-on-one interview with each student. While it’s challenging to work this out during class time, the benefits are invaluable. (In our school we’re fortunate to have homeroom teaching assistants who accompany the students to specialist classes.) I ask the students how the class is going for them. I ask them to tell me about their favorite project. I ask them about what they are getting better at. I ask them what they notice that shows them they are getting better. I ask them about what’s challenging. I ask them about how they deal with those challenges. And I ask them what’s next. While they talk, I take dictation. I probe their answers and get them to go deeper with their thinking by asking follow-up questions. 

Their answers from those interviews are a treasure of information about how the learners perceive their progress in the class, how they feel about things, what they enjoy the most and what they’d like to do next. Their answers are humbling and inspiring.

Examples

I’ll give a few examples from some of these elementary students this semester so that you can see what I mean:

“It’s a place where I can be myself,” one student recently mentioned about the Visual Art class. “I can create stories about my feelings and show them to others. I can talk with them about their ideas and feelings, too. I like all the things I make. They show me being me. When I am happy I make things that look happy. This semester, I learned that artwork can show how you feel.” – Grade 4 Student

“We make things we have never seen before by thinking how we make it. I imagine how to make different things. When it is done, we can see it and we will know something new in our brain.” – Kindergarten Student

“I like designing my own projects. I can create new things that can turn into something big. If I make something today with cardboard, then one day I can make things with other materials like wood and metal. No one is telling me what idea I’m supposed to do. Something will come up in my own mind, maybe something I’ve never done before.” – Grade 2 Student

“When I have an idea, I am excited about it. There are a lot of materials to make my own things. If I do my own thinking it helps me, not only in Art, but in other subjects. I know how to focus on what I have to do. In art, if I make a mistake I can always find a solution. In Physical Education we had to design a game and it was easy to focus and design it because I do that in art!” – Grade 5 Student

When I make a mistake, maybe I learn something…I got the idea to solve a problem. My creative thinking got better because I made my own project.” – Grade 1 Student

“I feel like I am in the kitchen mixing different things together to make brand new things. I am using my creativity. I am using my imagination. When you are creative, it helps you discover new ideas. I have been trying to express myself more because I think it brings more joy to the picture instead of copying something.” – Grade 3 Student

“I feel very free to do anything I want. I can decide what to do. I feel more confident. I like to go back and look at the things I made before and that gives me ideas.” – Grade 2 Student

“I like the freedom. We think harder. Sometimes we do not even know what we will make when we start. I want to be an explorer. I planned an explorer’s suit. I don’t give up easily.” – Grade 4 Student

“[Designing my own projects] helps me because I am able to think back and talk about how I made something. I am working harder and making stuff with better thinking and faster imagination.” – Grade 2 Student

“Art helps me figure things out. I can draw it and then I get it.” – Grade 3 Student

“I like making artwork about things I like and sharing it with my friends. That way we learn more about each other. Now I am working better with friends.” – Grade 5 Student

“I like that we can use our own creativity. We can make things that are important to us. I am building skills so that I can design things like houses in the future. I’m using a lot of imagination. I imagine something, design it, and then make it.” – Grade 3 Student

“I like that I can [design my own projects]. I can do things on my own. I feel more confident. When I first came here I was shy. Now my confidence is growing and I can express a lot of ideas,” – Grade 5 Student

Ownership

Another benefit I have noticed with these one-on-one interviews is the confidence with which some of the quieter students approach me afterwards to talk about their work more often. I want each of the learners in my class to know that I am interested in their ideas and in their development as creative thinkers. But most importantly, I want to empower them to take ownership in their learning. Reflection and one-on-one interviews are two steps that we are taking to become more assessment-capable learners. I encourage all educators to involve learners more in the whole assessment process.

You’ll be thankful when it’s time to write your reports, too.

Adopting a Flexible Approach to the Curriculum

Edna Sackson – ‘What if we liberate ourselves from the traditional curriculum prison and explore new vistas?’ 

Tania Mansfield – ‘What if we were brave and daring? What if we put learners and learning before curriculum and standards and paperwork?’

This blog post has been inspired by conversations I have read online recently regarding ‘time’, or the perceived lack of, and the development of flexible units of inquiry. I have come to believe that these conversations are closely connected with one directly effecting the other.

I have especially been interested by the conversations surrounding Edna Sackson’s blogpost, Liberating the Programme of Inquiry, and Tania Mansfield’s response, Those Beautiful Questions. Both these educators are asking some truly ‘beautiful questions’ that are pushing the boundaries and challenging the traditional ideas about our approach to education. Both represent a growing number of modern educators that are beginning to ask ‘What if…’ with regards to teaching and learning. It is an exciting time to be an educator as traditional barriers in education are being seen to be taken down. We seem in the midst of an educational revolution led by educators and administrators that dare to ask, ‘What if….’. It is a time to be ‘brave and daring’.

‘Time’ seems to be a continual challenge for many educators. The beginning of each school year signals the start of a new race to meet numerous deadlines of learning outcomes, expectations and assessment. With all the other distractions that school life brings (e.g. holidays, sports events, celebrations etc) it seems that we are in a constant race against the hands of time and many of us feel that we are always on the losing side. This yearly up hill struggle provides needless stress for both educators and students alike. I was once part of this yearly struggle but things became much easier when I came to the conclusion that ‘time’ is not the issue but rather how I approached the curriculum. Authentic learning is not somethings that we can compartmentalize into convenient timeframes and boxes. To attempt to do so creates an unnatural learning environment.

The timetable below represents my traditional approach to inquiry. As you can see the 4 units of inquiry have been placed neatly into set timeframes. Approaching inquiry in this manner also has an effect on the specific subject learning within each of the inquiries e.g. Maths and Language etc. So not only are we putting self imposed timeframes on the inquiries themselves but also to the other areas of the curriculum that are connected to each specific inquiry. Are we really saying that authentic inquiry and learning has a clear start and end date? This approach seems too neat, tidy and regulated for any real authentic, deep or personalised learning to occur. Approaching the curriculum in this manner also begins the clock ticking on many of the self-imposed deadlines.

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I feel our traditional approach to teaching and learning has always been to neatly arrange our curriculums within specific blocks of learning. If we are continually working within a set timeframe we are placing unnecessary pressure on both educators and our students to complete tasks and meet objectives. We are also restricting authentic learning and exploration as our students learn at an unnatural time and pace. We create timetables that are ‘repetitive and predictable’ allowing little flexibility for new and authentic inquiries that may occur.

The arrival of the Enhanced PYP has gone some way in offering some flexibility in the implementation of the programme, but it is going far enough?

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The PYP states, ‘Greater flexibility on starting points and time frames for your units of inquiry will create a range of learning opportunities, for example, one unit could run throughout the whole year, while others could be revisited once or numerous times, with some overlap where appropriate.

This year I have made greater attempts in creating a more flexible approach to inquiry. This has been my third year working with this specific curriculum and each year I have been able to make moderate changes to allow the inquiries to flow more naturally and offer greater opportunities for student agency. Many of these changes have so far only been able to occur on a personal level as we are still to have these conversations on a whole school level.

Below I have placed an example of my own implementation of the inquiries for this year.

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Even this approach seems to suggest a beginning and a start time to inquiry when in reality the inquiry for many of our students has already begun long before they enter the classroom and will continue long after. If we take ‘How We Express Ourselves’ as an example. I would be naive to believe that most, if not all, children had not developed a sense that stories are a means of communicating meaning and that they can be told in a variety of ways. In most instances they may not be actually aware that they acquire this information but it is there. In all sense and purposes their inquiry has long begun and it will continue long after the date that is penciled into our yearly calendars. So what are we need to ask ourselves what we are actually doing within these timeframes of inquiry. We need to consider that we are using these time periods to assess, develop and push our students understanding of subjects that may be all too familiar with already. We need to be clear that we are not the ones that have started or will finish our students personal journeys of learning but are on hand to steer and support when the time demands it. This is also the case for each of inquiries for the year. 

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So if we begin to think more in terms of continuous inquiry, rather than ones with a beginning and an end, then our curriculum begins to look at lot more similar to the image above. All transdisciplinary themes, all inquiries and all learning running simultaneously throughout the year. This will in turn allow for a flexible curriculum that allows for new opportunities for learning. Approaching the curriculum in this manner provides the opportunity for our students to choose the when, where and how they learn. It is important that for modern education and the need for student agency that we provide our students with these flexible systems that allow for choice in learning.

“Trans-Articulation”: What if our POI can create a future world that works for everyone?

I woke up feeling electric. My body simply can’t take any coffee, so I made a cup of Good Earth herbal tea. Its tea tag contained the message:

Tag Your It Winner:

Good ideas are laughed at in the beginning. 

-Katrucha Huork

I’m not sure if this is an omen.

As a disclaimer, I’m not in the habit of reposting from my personal blog on this website, but I’d like to share some musings that are slightly edited from my personal blog post, Future Thinking: Evolving as a Part of Enhancing A #PYP Programme Of Inquiry  in an effort to open a larger dialogue around what it means to be a PYP school. Thanks for indulging my ideas and responding to how we might “evolve” the PYP curriculum.


Not everyone wakes up on a Sunday morning and sketches out ideas for a Programme of Inquiry (POI), but I’ve been reflecting for a while on my experience from last spring when I went to the IB’s headquarters in the Hague to help design sample POIs for the Enhanced PYP initiative (see the Teacher Support Materials that can be accessed in the MyIB section of the main page for those samples in PYP resources). During that time, our teams sat down and began to create POIs that were structurally synergistic, organized so that there was more conceptual coherence and personalized to the uniqueness of that school reality and age group. In the blog post, #PYP: What is a Successful Programme of Inquiry?, I articulated the intention that was foundational in creating those sample POIs, but I’m starting to consider this definition of “success” as my “first thinking” when I consider what it might mean to “enhance” something.

Probably all you English scholars know that the word “enhance” is a transitive verb, meaning that this verb is relational and influential. enhanced pyp I find it an interesting word choice by the IB in its re-branding effort. So their call to “enhance” our Primary Years Programme has got me lingering on what it is that we want to elevate in the learning experience.  Visually, “Agency” has now become the symbolic heart of the PYP’s graphic. I think many educators are painting a picture of what that can look like on this blog, with a multitude of examples of how teachers are pivoting towards an agentic pedagogical approach. Currently, I am enamored with Rick Hanson’s definition of agency from his book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength and Happiness , which I’d like to share with you:

Agency is the ability to look for ways to cause an effect. It’s a sense of internal freedom when you make something happen.

Hmm…..when I consider that interpretation, my eyes begin to widen its focus upon the outer ring’s message of this enhanced PYP graphic: “Building For the Future”.  Should we not, as PYP educators, be contemplating what sort of future we wish to build? We often undermine our influence of the big picture of how society and culture are developed over time through our educational paradigms. Educators have played a big role in creating the Millennial-generation, and we are helping to create the next generation of global citizens. We shouldn’t take these things lightly, and in fact, I think we should be much more intentional with our power and ability to transform our human experience and life on Earth. We should look for ways to cause an effect….because we have the freedom to make something happen. For example, it seems obvious to me that the intelligent and thoughtful people at the United Nation’s know this, which is why they have created a call to action with the #TeachSDGsmovement. Our schools should be seriously considering how we might achieve those 17 goals by 2030, because this is certainly one way to shape our schools’ POIs which is in alignment with the PYP curricular framework and values of the IB.

A Second Thought

As I reflect back to that Hague experience, I feel that this initial approach to considering what it means to “enhance” the design of the POI is still ongoing. If you look carefully at those Sample POIs, you would notice that they don’t really deviate much from each other. Because at the end of the day, whether we were using national curricular standards or the IB’s Scope and Sequence, the challenges with using either the standards-based vs. concept-based curriculum results in more similarities than exceptions when creating the units of inquiries. I think this a testimony to the strength of the PYP framework and transdisciplinary learning with how translatable it is to a variety of educational settings.  However, when I read books like Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly and  How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil, I begin to wonder if our current POIs are teaching towards the past or preparing for the imminent reality of our students. Are we, as schools, engaged in future-building, with meaningful and forward-thinking POIs, or clinging onto industrial-age ideas.

I’m not sure how familiar you are with those books, so I’d like to share a quote that persistently plagues me from Homo Deus:

As human fictions are translated into genetic and electronic codes, the intersubject reality will swallow up the objective reality and biology will merge with history. In the 21st century, fiction might thereby become the most potent force on Earth…hence, if we want to understand our future, cracking genomes and crunching numbers is hardly enough. We must also decipher the fictions that make meaning in our world……Fiction isn’t bad. It’s vital. Without commonly accepted stories about money, states or coorporations, no complex human society can function. We can’t play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can’t enjoy the benefits of the markets and courts without simliar make-believe stories. But the stories are just tools. They should not become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality.

Yuval Noah Harari, from Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

I’ve been marinating in those words for over a year. Curious about what could be the “story” we are telling ourselves now about our future and how we can use it as a “tool”. I know that some feel that the book Future Shock is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But what if we could choose another direction, one in which we meet the disruption that advancing technology will bring with creativity, grace, and intention. I believe wholeheartedly in that possibility, which is why I’ve been working on developing online courses for well-being in the digital age. I feel strongly that we should not resist technology but instead embrace it and use it to promote greater health and improve our relationships. That is the empowering “story” I wish to tell.

And today, I woke up, feeling alive, wanting to create a POI that was bathed in an over-reaching goal of developing well-being because I think that is the “fiction” I’d like to cultivate in the intersubjective (socially agreed upon) future reality of students. Here are the main 6 concepts that I feel need to be unpacked and gone into depth over the course of a student’s PYP experience within our 6 transdisciplinary themes.

  1. Sustainability (Production and Consumption):  because we need to shift from scarcity to ingenuity.
  2. Entrepreneurship: because we need to shift from profit-orientated goals to positive contributions in society.
  3. Computational Thinking: because we have to understand the algorithms of life and how we can co-evolve with exponential machine learning.
  4. Digital Citizenship: because online relationships and media are influencing us and our society. We need to navigate this reality skillfully.
  5. Social Emotional Learning: because attention and emotional awareness is vital to our health and is the new currency in our economy.
  6. Imagination (and Poetry): because creativity is the by-product of imagination, and we need to find more beautiful ways to express it.

I’ve started to create potential POIs that take these main concepts and build them out so that the overall force of the programme is one that develops well-bing: resilience, awareness, positive outlook and generosity. It’s really hard to translate these ideas into words without a fully fleshed out sample POI to show as a model but hopefully, the spirit of this quest has been communicated and I will have something completed soon that I can show as an example.

An Invitation

Now, whether you agree with me or not about what concepts need to be on a future-orientated whole-school POI isn’t the point but I do hope to open up a debate. I know in schools that are moving towards personalized learning culture, very broad and general central ideas are highly valued so that there is a lot of flexibility in the direction of a student’s inquiry. In my own experience, I am grappling with casting such a wide net with central ideas in the curriculum, uncertain if the overall outcome behooves the students and is manageable for teachers. But the purpose of this post is not to incite discussion around central ideas, but instead to provoke a re-examination of “the big picture” of your current school’s POI and reflect upon the future that you want to create through the curriculum.  Especially in schools that have authorized programmes, we need to be really challenging ourselves, moving beyond horizontal and vertical alignment and articulation. I’m beginning to have a new working definition of the Enhanced PYP: “trans-articulation”, which is less about ticking boxes and more about growing the future today, evolving consciously and actively within our curriculum approach.

As always, I hope you share your reflections, wonderings and concerns in the comments below.

The signals within the noise…

Our discomfort has been in that we continue to struggle with the definition of ‘success‘. We are opposed to defining success of learning and the success of a child through one time and place statistics or data points, on standardised assessments and on what can be measured through numbers and graphs. We constantly battle with the question – ‘how do we measure what matters?’

In our model, we see learners living the PYP, thriving, growing in confidence and becoming more reflective and self-aware whilst developing skills to motivate themselves and their peers. We see learners, who although on our radar as students of concern, fly because in our environment of self-directed learning,  no one is putting them in a box or pre-planning their path for them – but rather allowing them time, space, freedom and, most importantly developing respect and relationships within the model to support them and their learning.

So we struggle – to answer the question “How do we know our model of self-directed learning is successful?” as we continue to resist against the needs of others outside the model, and advocate for the needs of our learners within the model.

In September this year our principal, (@peterson_kurtis), provided us with a provocation to help us unpack our struggle:

“Our gut says its good – but how do we KNOW?”

He introduced our Studio 5 team to a text by Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise.

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As a team we collaborated to record all the data we had collected last year, and compared it to the data we were planning to collect this year.

As you can see – we are not short of data.

We are literally drowning in evidence and data. Some of  the data is qualitative, some of it quantitative. Some collected and curated by advisors, others by learners. Some of it standardised, some of it subjective and collected through conferences, observations and conversations.

 

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Data Summary – HERE – Our gut says it’s good but how do we know?

But look at it – there is what Nate Silver calls, just too much ‘noise’. There is too much for us to decipher, streamline and present….. so Kurtis challenged us – so where are the signals?

This began more conversations and reflections, how could we decide on the signals if we didn’t know their purpose , how were these signals to be used?

There has been alot of time and energy invested in this pilot of self-directed learning so we are a little hesitant to move forward without purpose – a little wary of agendas and resistant to feeling we’re being pushed back towards traditional thoughts and ways of  measuring success, assessing and collecting data…. so we hesitated… and reflected.

adaptA few meetings later, our Head of School (@rebelleader18) added to the conversation.

He introduced the short video Adaptable Minds –  which questions whether we are focusing on what matters in learning?

He also sent out follow up clips for us to reflect on which included development and celebration of the character strengths from www.letittripple.com

 

 

 

purposeIf our gut did believe that this model was successful – and we had all this ‘noise’ – could we, as a school, a group of determined educators who were committed to change, could we come up with “an authentic system that shows growth of our learners in a self-directed model.” 

The challenge was set. Next meeting, we brainstormed some criteria for such a system:

A system that:

  • was applicable from our youngest learners through the PYP and MYP to our eldest learners in the Diploma programme.
  • showed growth of the learner over time
  • allowed next steps and goals to be set.
  • would be transferrable and valued across age groups
  • would be transferrable and valued in other schools
  • authentic and embedded in real life context and learning 
  • was suitable for all learners
  • meaningful to all
  • manageable 
  • simple, effective and purposeful for all stakeholders

We then went to the research. There were so many conversations globally, so many schools working towards change, there must be something we can use as starting block to give us some direction.

So we went to the research, took time to read, reflect, dig deeper, discuss and then sort what could work for us, and what would align with our criteria?

Our research included:

Through all of this research, we liked alot of the pieces, but some were more secondary based and thus not applicable to our early learners, and some were still driven by ‘subjects’ and curriculum needs instead of the learner needs.

atlsWe eventually came back to our PYP ATL skills. Sometimes time and space to explore and gain perspective leads us to appreciate what we had in front of us the whole time.

These 5 skills were what we believed learners needed…so how could we incorporate these into a system that fit all the criteria we had set for ourselves?

 

 

We continued to look at some of the tools and resources out there that could support us in our tracking of the ATL skills – but they were more about tracking rather than the learner….so we kept exploring.

In the weeks between meetings, 3 things happened.

  1. The IB officially released the 3 documents making up the newly enhanced PYP Principles to practice.
  2. Our Former Studio 5 colleague, Suzanne (@OrenjiButa ) updated her wonderful graphics incorporating the new PYP ATL skills.
  3. Our student success team shared with us their student developed learning portfolio for student reflection, goal setting and action.

These 3 events helped us move forward in our purpose:

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ATL;F01 Pg 27 Learning and Teaching (IB PYP Publications)

The document “Learning & Teaching” from the IB PYP included this graphic on Pg 27  to represent the 5  interrealted Approaches To Learning Skills.

It was so similar to our Studio 5 graphic, we were encouraged to move forward.

 

 

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Suzanne’s graphics helped us review and reflect on the changes to the ATL Skills in the PYP and compare and contrast to the MYP ATL Skills (graphics developed by @ndbekah)

 

 

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The template that our student success team have been using for our learner led ILP conversations gave us a format that was already proven, that gave our learners ownership of their learning and gave them a voice to set their own goals.

And this all helped us in formulating an idea…. however, if this idea was to meet all our criteria we needed to start a conversation with our MYP colleagues to see if our plan would be:

  • applicable for our older learners in the MYP through to our eldest learners in the Diploma programme.
  • would be transferrable and valued across age groups 

So we presented our plan…..

  • to develop a system orientated around the ATL Skills that gave learners choice, voice and ownership of themselves, their learning and their next steps.
  • to develop a continuum using both the ATL PYP Skills and MYP Skills that guided learners in their reflection and assessment of their learning and inform their next steps.
  • to have this system directly feed into the learners’ Evaluations of Learning as they reflected on who they were as learners.
  • to develop a system that followed our students as they advanced through to the MYP & DP.

This is what we presented to the MYP:

Learner’s Journey – Self-Directed Model

The MYP team, were very supportive and positive in response to our thinking and plans to move forward.

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They reflected that they had been working in Grade 6 individual google sites designed for students to develop reflective practices.

They had also come to the conclusion that the ATL Skills were the direction to head in, but they’d not yet got to discussions about an ATL continuum.

So this is where we now are: (December 2018)

  • We have our purpose and the criteria to meet support that purpose.
  • We have our signals – the ATL skills
  • We have a plan that this will feed directly into the learner Evaluations of Learning, so that learners will be reflecting on themselves as learners through the ATL skills and not through the traditional subjects in PYP & MYP.
  • Evaluations of learning will reflect learners as ‘Researchers’, ‘Communicators’, ‘Self-Managers’, ‘Thinkers’, and ‘Socialisers’ and will include next steps and goals to be shared with others.
  • We have already removed grades from our Evaluations of learning  – we believe the power is in the narrative and the conversatsions leading up to and following the development of the learner reflections.

Our next steps moving forward are:

  • To revise and review the ATL continuum that our ATL committee developed using the new enhanced PYP ATL Skills descriptors
  • To explore the use of a google site for students to use that will follow them through their ISHCMC life and can be transferred to new school contexts.
  • To explore and play with the potential with our learners and get their voice and feedback whilst assessing the best way to ensure the format is  manageable  and simple, effective and purposeful for all stakeholders (as agreed in our criteria)
  • To introduce to our lower PYP grades levels and begin the conversation with them is this something they could adapt and use developmentally?
  • To follow up plans to silence some of the other data that is creating ‘noise’ so that the data we collect continues to be learner owned.

We’d be interested in hearing from anyone who may be on a similar journey, or have found ways to manage student digital portfolios of learning for a whole school ( K – 12 system)  or have maybe found alternative ways to develop “an authentic system that shows growth of our learners in a self-directed model.”  

Those beautiful questions.

Last month Edna Sackson published a new blogpost, Liberating the Programme of Inquiry.

Some beautiful questions to drive thinking, to challenge norms and to stir up those creative juices in response the newly published, PYP Enhancement documents. Before the publication of the documents, there had been many rumours and wonderings gleaned from the drip-drip of information coming from the IB. The new long-awaited documents now provide more clarity on the direction of the PYP,

I was recently running a PYP workshop, when Edna’s blog post was raised in open discussion. Some saw these beautiful questions as a relief , a celebration and step in the right direction and embraced the possibilities.

Others were more critical – these beautiful questions were pipe-dreams, un-realistic, and pushed the boundaries of the PYP just a little too far.

Before responding, I paused to reflect and remember that as learners and educators we are all in different places in our ‘PYP journey’, working in different contexts, within different parameters and are developing our understanding through different pathways. So, although I wanted to react and respond to those that were more critical, I understand that some may see these these beautiful questions as just that ….’beautiful’. But I urged…. they are not impossible.

At International School of Ho Chi Minh (ISHCMC) , some of these beautiful questions are very much a reality.

Edna’s Beautiful questions: 

  • What if….whole school unit of inquiry, linked to our whole school focus?
  • What if we we have the same central idea for all the classes at one grade level, but each group of learners develop their own lines of inquiry?

Since 2015 ISHCMC have had a whole school unit of inquiry, under Who we Are. This unit was developed in response to a need in our school of a consistent approach to our understanding of  being a learning community and is the first unit for the beginning of the year across all grade levels and specialists. You can read about the ISHCMC journey developing this HERE.

In 2018 – our whole school Who We Are unit looks like this

wwa#1wwa #2

This central idea and unit was developed for a purpose, a need in the school community and relevant to the school and the needs of the learners at that time. Over the past 3 years we have grown as a school, we have changed as a school and our learners have grown and their needs have developed, so this year we will review our process, our central idea and ask ‘is the purpose still true.’  Our whole community teachers, learners and parents focus on this inquiry as a community and it sets the tone for our year ahead – an inquiry into Who We Are.

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if units do not follow one after another, but rather overlap and intersect?
  • What if one unit incorporates two trans disciplinary themes? 
  • What if some units are year long, some short, some ongoing… depending on content, concepts, trans disciplinary possibilities and student interest?
  • What if we actively seek unexpected combinations of learning areas, like science and poetry? 
  • What if one unit incorporates two trans disciplinary themes?
  • What if we wait to develop the lines of inquiry till we see where the learners want to take it? 

At ISHCMC we have anumber of units that overlap, that flow into each other ( same central idea but different TD theme and lines of inquiry.  See our POI HERE across our grade levels.

ee 2018

Early Explorers @ISHCMCIB  – POI  – 2018-2019

In Early Explorers this year, we have all four units of inquiry running simultaneously over the year, and are observing as learners are invited to provocations and learning engagements and we are noticing, naming, documenting and responding to learners and their learning.

In Kindergarten last year we had two units running parallel, How the world works and How we express ourselves. (Previous blog post on this)  It allowed for time, space, connections and inquiry to happen. It transformed 2 lots of 6 weeks of  ‘hurry-time’ into 13 glorious weeks of inquiring, curiousity, play and the ‘so what’. Now with the new enhancements this unit has been rolled into one under How we Express Ourselves – with an authentic focus on science and maths, bringing the awe and the wonder to how the world works and how we are inspired to create.

Our Grade 3 team this year have played with theit units of inquiry. That beautiful “what if…” and the culture of the ‘Permission of Yes’.  They have put the authentic needs of their learners first whilst  designing their year. They now have 2 year long units, one of which threads itself through all of the other units of inquiry, because learning is not a silo. They have one unit that re-occurs (because learning never stops) and 3 that now have more time to explore and inquire.

g3 2018

Grade 3 @ISHCMCIB – POI – 2018 – 2019

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we actively seek unexpected combinations of learning areas, like science and poetry?

We are forever trying to fit Arts, Music. PSPE etc into our classroom units….but transdisciplinarity in not a one-way highway…. learning is learning.

This year, our Head of PE & I sat and watched kids playing at camp. We observed individuals and groups. We observed who picked up sticks and stones, and what they did with them, who observed and interacted with nature, who created natural game zones and courts and who climbed, ran, sat and played.

This led to a ‘eureka’ moment for both of us. We marveled as we watched and chatted just how much authentic maths and science there was in this 30 minutes of outdoor play.  So… we wondered, why could the maths, science and arts not be integrated and taught through the PE units and lessons? And why could classroom teachers not take more advantage of  more classroom time to bring learners outside to explore maths and science concepts through PE and outdoor exploration?

So, with a stick, drawing in the dirt we started brainstorming and mapping possibilities and opportunities for data collection, measurement , and forces through the athletics component ot the PE unit whilst ensuring learning had multiple pathways as classrooms maths units incorporated athletics and swimming and games into their real ife math applications.

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we wait to develop the lines of inquiry till we see where the learners want to take it?

We have a number of units where the first line of inquiry is the tuning in….and we wait.  If it is the learners unit, their inquiry and their learning, why do we insist on planning all 3 lines of inquiry at the beginning of the unit?

But, I wonder if maybe even writing the first line of inquiry is taking it too far?  What if the provocation is exactly that –  a provocation where we as educators observe and wait.  There is power in the wait. It creates that precious ‘think time’. So what if  we as educators also used this ‘wait time’ to observe, to reflect, to probe and to then discuss next steps forward?  (Found this mindful link that explores this idea) and we then bring all the student data back before we go next steps and respond to learners ….and plan which path to take for tuning in and true inquiry.

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we analyse our program of inquiry in terms of the concentric circle model and check the balance between opportunities for self discovery and thinking beyond ourselves?

At ISHCMC we don’t have a concentric circle model – although we are watching and learning with interest what Edna and her team are developing and using with their learners at Mt. Scopus.

21st cent

Our Head of School (@rebelleader18)  provoked our thinking last year –  “What if all units focus not just on developing knowledge, understanding and skills but on developing human beings?”

So during our reflections we include the attributes of the 21st Century learner – how did this unit help to develop and contribute to building better humans?

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if every grade level has at least one unit that is individual and personal, student selected and student driven?

At ISHCMC, our Studio model of self-directed learning allows for complete learner choice and mapping of the learning through the studio.  Follow some of our educator blogs – Making Good Humans & Innovative Inquirers to learn more.

This year, Studio 4 and Grade 3 currently have incomplete central ideas (the ellipsis is our friend!) ….where learners choose how to complete the Central Idea – giving them ownership of the unit, ensuring accountability of their learning and giving them the opportunity to construct their own understanding and to have ownership of their learning.

g3

Grade 3 – Where we are in Place & Time

g4

Studio 4 – How we Organise Ourselves  & Sharing the Planet

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we liberate ourselves from the traditional curriculum prison and explore new vistas? 

Yep….what if ?  What if we were brave and daring? What if we put learners and learning before curriculum and standards and paperwork – What if ? What if we asked more of these beautiful questions and turned them into a reality? What if?

I look forward to reading how others have turned beautiful questions into reality within their learning contexts and how Edna and her team approach their POI review this year – we will be watching , learning and asking more of those beautiful questions.

 

Agency in the Exhibition

‘Thinking beyond ourselves empowers us to act.’

This is the central idea for this year’s exhibition and it has been powerful in driving learner inquiries towards action. We started by asking students and teachers what they do to go beyond themselves in their school, in the community, and in the world. There followed a series of powerful, engaging provocations including a whole day conference with workshops led by NGO’s, charities and other social justice groups, a series of opt-in excursions to similar venues, short films, documentaries and guest speakers. Once immersed, students began to identify areas in which they felt they could explore going beyond themselves.

But this post is not really about the obvious learner agency idea of choice. I’ve come to understand that agency is more about learner investment. We tried to rethink the process of the exhibition this year to bring agency and action into its every aspect:

Examples of this included:

  • students ‘running’ the conference – catering, audiovisual aspects, welcoming guests, giving inspirational speeches, self-selecting workshops
  • opt-in guest speaker sessions throughout the exhibition process
  • mentorship with adults based on rapport and personal connections rather than an interest in a similar area
  • allowing students to plan, implement and evaluate peer-learning lessons and workshops with younger students
  • discussion groups run by students for students of the same year level – themes included Perspectives of Bullies, Bystanders and Bullied Students, ‘Exploring Fear and Coping Strategies’, and ‘The Masks we Wear to School’
  • cross-year level collaboration and flexible timetabling – teachers saying ‘yes’ to students turning up at their door wanting to interview other students or even the whole class (as long as it didn’t disrupt something terribly important)
  • one on one student sharing sessions throughout the journey with various thinking routines used to scaffold conversations and provide feedback structure
  • extended email engagements with primary sources and mentors
  • students organising their own immersive experiences
  • students organising and implementing food drives without teacher intervention

As a teacher, once again, I’ve tried to say ‘yes’ amidst the chaos. Let’s face it, the beautiful chaos of exhibition can push those teacher control buttons. Sometimes rightly so. There have been times where staggered sessions of high structure and teacher choice have been necessary for the well-being of all learners.

The externalisation of my thought processes about agency continues to be a strategy I use when negotiating learning experiences with students. It’s my way of modeling my own inquiry and has engaged students in conversations around this. When learner agency is high, students should be able to articulate reasonable justifications for their plans and choices.

This is a short post, sorry. There are eight days to go until the exhibition, nine days until the end of the school year, and I’m pretty well cooked. But I wanted to make a little space to remind myself that I’m still doing all of this with something bigger in mind.