Learning isn’t linear. Consider your own learning… How do a range of separate experiences contribute to the development of your understanding? How does that understanding deepen, the more you engage with the same conceptual ideas in different contexts?
So, why had we historically planned the order of our units of inquiry in a linear way? (When would one unit end and the next unit begin? How many weeks would we need to devote to each? What dates would work best?) The time had come to view the process in a different way.
We started from the most beautiful questions that drive change –
‘Why?’ ‘What if?’ and ‘How might we?’
Why should curriculum be viewed as linear?
What if we put the child at the centre and considered the learning in a more wholistic way?
How might we approach the big picture through the lens of transferable concepts, rather than the calendar?
In each team meeting, we began by writing the ‘related concepts’ (PYP terminology for the big transferable ideas) in each unit on individual sticky notes and arranging them to allow us a visual perspective on the learning as a whole, then underlining the concepts that are most transferable.
This simple activity raised a number of insights, such as:
- There are opportunities for further development of understanding, through concepts repeating in different units.
- Some concepts are more highly transferable across different areas and more applicable in life.
- Sometimes a unit has too many concepts, leading to less depth in the learning.
- Some combinations of units have concepts that interconnect more, while others are more subject specific.
- Some units lend themselves more to transdisciplinary learning than others…
Approaching the exercise conceptually, visually, in a non linear way led teachers very quickly to valuable conclusions about the big picture of learning – which units would flow on most logically from each other, which units might be best run concurrently and which units lend themselves to ongoing learning, woven throughout the year.
Some examples of ongoing, concurrent or even year-long, units of inquiry:
A Prep unit, exploring reading and writing as an inquiry.
Central Idea: We can receive and communicate meaning through symbols.
Lines of inquiry:
- How sounds and words are represented
- How we receive and communicate meaning through written text
A Year 5 unit which, after the initial provocation and exploration, will continue as a Genius Hour project, with learners pursuing their own inquiries and action.
Central Idea: Ideas inspire possibilities for action.
Lines of inquiry:
- How we bring our ideas to reality
- Skills and attitudes required for taking action
And our whole school, year-long central idea: Our choices define who we are as individuals and as a community, with different lines of inquiry at each year level, such as:
- How our choices help us learn
- Choices in how we express our learning
- How we choose to use our environment to support our learning
Year 3 (individual and community)
- Who I choose to be as a member of our learning community
- Choices that affect our learning community
- How diversity enriches our learning community
Year 6 (personal, local and global)
- Active citizenship
- How choices and decisions are made
- The impact of our choices and decisions – personally, locally and globally
Learning isn’t linear…