Collaboration in action…

Planning an inquiry unit can be challenging, so it’s always a collaborative effort in PYP schools, including class teachers, technology facilitators, librarians, art and music teachers if possible. Doing some pre-thinking for a brand new unit on historical change yesterday, I was pleased to chat online with Maggie Hos-McGrane. She works in a PYP school too, in Switzerland, and her blog posts inspire PYP educators world-wide. She helped me see how to shift the focus of our old unit to transform it into something much more powerful. It provided a great foundation on which to build with my colleague and thinking partner, Layla. Our collaborations are fun and fiery as we think in very different ways. A further conversation online with my friend MJ in New York, an artist with a passion for learning and a great historical imagination, helped crystalise my thinking.

That’s what great learning looks like! It was a perfect picture of one of our learning principles in action. I’ve posted before about how we articulated our beliefs about learning and are working on unpacking them to help teachers shift the focus in our school from teaching to learning.

Principle #2: Learning is active and social and is enhanced by collaboration and interaction.


  • Learners have opportunities to work in pairs and groups
  • Tables are arranged in groups to facilitate conversation.
  • Classes can be noisy.
  • Ideas are shared, developed and remixed.
  • Co-operation, communication and mutual respect are modeled and practiced
  • Learning is not confined by the classroom, the teacher, the textbook or the test.
  • Learners are given time to talk and construct meaning in between teacher directed instruction.
  • The teacher is part of the learning community.
  • Global connections are encouraged via Skype or Voicethread.
  • Teachers and students develop a personal learning network, online and off.
  • Students express their learning and engage with other learners via social media such as blogs.

Working together!

Photo by Mazz Sackson

Posts in this series:

Principle #1: We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, learning styles, preferences and interests.


8 thoughts on “Collaboration in action…

  1. Hi Edna,
    Working in a PYP like you I can only testify to what happens in the school community. The beautiful noisy messy dynamic thing that happens is LEARNING. With, from and within a community – of kids, teachers, parents, experts.
    I wonder though how this can be shaped in schools where tests, scores and a strict curriculum are the core of the activity (which can hardly be named “learning”- at best, working)…


  2. HI Edna,
    The planning of this new unit continued for me well into the night. (being Ed’s thinking partner) My family was gathered around the Sabbath table and my son in law, (who teaches history at a secondary school) and I debated how a unit such as this could move beyond isolated historical events to exploring patterns and still engage our students.

    Basically – in a nutshell – he said ” History is about how we got to be where we are now.”
    Yes, an aha moment for me.
    Thats the big question.
    So it was once more thinking well into the night.. drawing new pattern.

    I love the thinking and exploration that goes with each new inquiry unit. By the way – I see Christina, we are working on how to integrate the new curriculum into what we do, and not the other way round. We will keep you posted on our journey. wish us luck


  3. The community that has been built within your building and in the larger, global PYP community is such a wonderful picture of what is available to your students as a result. The collaboration starts at the educator level and transfers beautifully into the classroom.


  4. I am Lisa Taylor in edm310 at USA. I agreed with your post. Almost everything you mentioned we practice in this class.The focus in our class for learning is alot of group work and projects and the most important thing is blogging. I believe we will be better teachers reading posts like this that make us think.


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