What does learning feel like?

In my previous post, entitled ‘What does learning look like?’ I described the process of our Year 6 PYP exhibition unit, through which learners explored social inequities.

The day was a huge success. The opening ceremony showcased how every student explored the topic through a creative medium of their choice. The exhibition itself showed what each group had learned about their chosen example of social injustice, and how we can take action to address it. exhilarating as the day was, the truly exciting thing was the learning that took place throughout the preceding weeks.

Here’s a sample of student reflections to share their perspective…

The most important thing I learnt in the process is that there are so many stereotypes out there. At the start I thought all homeless people where ugly bearded people. Now I know that you can’t tell. I will remember that we are so much luckier and have to be gratful for what we have. The next time I see a homeless person I will see him as a human. A person. Alive. (Zac)

The part I will remember forever is the process of doing the inquiry. This is the first time we have independantly made our own questions, used the transdiciplinary skills etc. I will always remember it because this way of learning makes so much sense, because you are able to deepen all your learning and learn more. (Josh)

The exhibition unit has been a really great experience. I have learnt so much and I feel like it has been an amazing evaluation of all our PYP learning. I think our group was fantastic, and we did both our presentation and our level of learning very well. If anything could be changed, we might have maybe stopped learning and learning, and started getting to work sooner! (Matt)

The most important thing I got out of the exhibition process was to always appreciate what you have because we are so lucky to live our lifestyle. The thing I will remember forever is the importance of being aware of whats happening in the world, not just what we see! (Hannah)

The most important part to me was learning in a whole new way. It really made me aware of all the horrible things in the world and all the social inequities. It taught me that everyone is equal in the world and we all deserve the same rights. I will remember my group taking action at the Glenroy Special School forever. It was such a meaningful day for me and I will never forget it. (Miffany)

I think the most important thing to remember is to work with your partner or else you wont be able to pull it together in time. I think the thing that I will remember is presenting to an audience and having that feeling that you are sharing your learning. (Oliver)

The most important thing that I got out of the exhibition process was learning how to work as a group and how to work collaboratively and cooperatively. Another important part of the process for me was learning how to work under pressure because during the end of the exhibition we had lots to get done in a very short amount of time. I will remember forever our excursion to Parliament house and meeting Janice Munt. Janice Munt was the former MP of Mordialloc. Janice Munt told us about gender discrimination in Australia. (Lexi)

I think my group were co-operating a lot and the process was adventurous and engaging and it will be an experience I will never forget. I think the end result was the thing I will never forget because when I stand there I can feel proud of myself. (Bianca)

There are many insights in these reflections that excite me. Students’ ownership and understanding of their learning, a focus on process not just end result, increased awareness of the world, students’ pride in their learning, an emphasis on big ideas and trans-disciplinary skills not just on content…

As a recently authorised IB PYP school, this was only our second exhibition. We know we need to focus on improving the information process and making sure all students synthesise and organise their information before hurrying to the presentation stage. We might need to adjust the way students are grouped, in order to maximise learning. We’ll revisit the provocations, consider how to refine the conference day and whether we can reduce classroom activities so that students can start their personal inquiries earlier.

We plan to take the lessons we learned from the exhibition unit and use them, not just to make next year’s exhibition experience even better, but to set some goals for learning in the rest of the school.

Further student reflections here and parent feedback here, on some of our Year 6 blogs.

7 thoughts on “What does learning feel like?

  1. Congratulations! Amazing achievements by all youngsters and teachers, mentors and teaching/learning coordinator 😉
    I wonder what next year’s theme will be and whether there’s any scope for your current Year 6 sharing their learning of the process, if not the topics, with next year’s Year 6 children.
    I liked the fact that the children were able to select areas that interested them within the overall Social Inequity theme. I expect elements of their young learnings will stay with them and ripple and develop as they grow. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to discover, in a few years’ time, that your students were applying what they’d learnt in Year 6 to make the world a better place!


    1. Thanks, Clive. This is the second year we have had the same central idea. Personally, I’d like to see a new one next year, although this is a topic well worth exploring, so I’d want them to do it at a different time of year, if not for the exhibition. Whatever the theme, the kids choose their own areas of interest. And yes! Hopefully there is enough of an awareness there now to encourage future action.


  2. I like the idea of the PYP exhibition of the social inequity a lot. Letting the students choose their own creative medium to further explore and not just be fed the knowledge by the teacher. As you said, they will shown more enthusiasm because they choose what they are interested in, and will no doubt learn more since all aspects have their own characteristics of all sides. Besides, learning about the real life situation and give them an opportunity to cooperate with each other and step out their comfortable zones is a good way to train their maturity. It’s a big project and will need many preparation and guidelines, but I think it’s really worth it!


  3. Thanks to Twitter, came across this and really enjoyed getting a sense of the active learning taking place in your school (and students enjoying asking their own questions). You may be interested in our work on teaching students how to produce their own questions, improve them and strategize on how to use them. See a short version in the recent Harvard Education Letter (http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/507) and for a longer version, our new book, Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions (http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/144.)


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