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.
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.
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.
A 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?
If 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
- 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:
- Bold Moves: Heidi Hayes – Jacobs
- Contemporary teacher to Contemporary Learner
- Access, Engage, Express
- Big Picture schools (high school Model) Australia (https://www.bigpicture.org.au/node/797 )
- MYP ATL Skills: approaches to learning
- How to Personalise Learning – Barbara Bray & Kathleen McClaskey
- Adaptable Minds – USing the 5 Future Skills
- Skills 2020 – Can we develop descriptors or “I can statements?”
- The Learning challenge – James Nottingham
- Most Likely to succeed – Dintersmith & Wagner –
- NZ Curriculum – Key competencies: http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Key-competencies/About (and further links for reading)
- PYP ATL skills continuum developed by the #ISHCMCIB ATL Committee
- Mastery Transcript Organisation – https: //mastery.org and their YouTubechannel
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.
We 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.
- The IB officially released the 3 documents making up the newly enhanced PYP Principles to practice.
- Our Former Studio 5 colleague, Suzanne (@OrenjiButa ) updated her wonderful graphics incorporating the new PYP ATL skills.
- 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:
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.
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:
The MYP team, were very supportive and positive in response to our thinking and plans to move forward.
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.”