Planning for learning…

The way we plan PYP units of inquiry is different from the way many other teachers plan. The planner is designed to make teachers think deeply about the learning, before planning a single learning experience. It’s always a collaborative process, including much thinking and discussion.

  • We start from the end. What do we want students to understand? We don’t talk about activities till we know where we are going and why. And yet it’s more about the process than the end result.
  • It’s concept driven, not content based. We begin with a conceptual central idea, an enduring understanding that is broad, significant, engaging and transferable to other contexts.
  • We plan a powerful provocation to hook students in, get them thinking and asking questions about the big ideas.
  • Within the framework of our central idea, students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning, explore their own inquiries and build conceptual understandings.
  • We consider what evidence we will look for that learning has taken place. We keep in mind the variety of ways students may express their learning..
  • Although inquiry is embraced as a stance, there is explicit teaching of skills. We plan what we would like to see demonstrated in terms of transdisciplinary skill development.
  • Reflection and metacognition are essential components for all learners, both teachers and students.
  • The ultimate goal is to create lifelong learners so we are constantly aware of developing the attributes of the learner profile.
  • All of the above are thoughtfully considered, before and during the planning of learning engagements.
  • We map out some possibilities, but there are endless ways of getting to the destination. Moving off the ‘intended path‘ is a sign of success, not a sign of failure.

We are trialling Managebac, an integrated management system for IB schools. As always, we start from the learning. If  teachers are going to buy in, they need to see how we can use it to enhance learning, not just as an organisational tool. But this isn’t a post about a management system, it’s about planning for authentic learning. And it’s about our journey as a community of learners.

The PYP unit of inquiry planner in Managebac simplifies the planning process. Everyone loves the ease of use. We can pull up the definitions of the concepts to help choose the lens for our inquiry and we can access the curriculum with a click to ensure we are addressing the necessary skills and knowledge. We like the way the headings come up one at a time and we can consider first the overarching theme, then the central idea, then the concepts, then the skills.

But the more experienced teachers, who have a deep understanding of the way the planner is designed and why, are a little disturbed by the linear format. We’ve passed this on to the Managebac team, who seem very supportive. We’ve told them that planning isn’t linear. Learning isn’t linear. We need the central idea and concepts on every page, so we don’t lose sight of the ultimate learning goals while we think about possible activities. And that assessment is intertwined with the learning engagements, it’s not a separate task or test.

At the end, you click a button and the program generates a comprehensive PDF of the PYP planner, in the familiar non-linear format to which we have grown accustomed. The staff is delighted! I hope the teachers can see the Managebac planning process as a metaphor. While we might consider all the elements separately and individually, they are part of a complex whole. We can’t plan or teach without the big picture of learning.

If only that was as easy as clicking a button!

With thanks to my thoughtful online PLN, with whom I like to think and bounce ideas. Input from Steve BoxCraig Dwyer and Miranda Rose.

19 thoughts on “Planning for learning…

  1. Hi Edna, great post. Managebac sounds like a useful tool.
    I’d be interested to hear how your process involves specialist teachers and tech people like myself and what the planning actually looks like when all the minds have worked together.
    I thoroughly enjoy the collaboration involved in planning UOIs and the correspondng dialogue which occurs but the actual documentation of this process is frustrating and becomes rather fractured over numerous planners, weekly plans, unit plans and stand alone plans. Is it possible to share your model?


  2. Hi David, Thanks. Managebac is worth investigating. We have a free trial and they give online tours to demonstrate. So far we like it and they have responded quickly to support requests.

    Our planning: Each Year level gets a half day out to plan each of their 6 UOIs. These sessions are facilitated by either myself or the PYP coordinator or occasionally both, which we love! This might be from after lunch and include an hour after school. We can’t bring all the specialists into the sessions, much as we would like to, due to timetabling issues, so I meet with the art, music and PE teachers separately before or after or both. The ICT facilitator and librarian do come to all the unit planning sessions.In addition, the class teachers have regular meetings to plan their literacy and numeracy and to discuss how the unit is going. I’ve started meeting with them a couple of weeks into the unit to analyse student questions, an excellent way to track student thinking and check the direction the unit is taking.

    Email me with more specific questions you might have.


  3. I will have a look at managebac and pass it on but ultimately management has to make decisions. We follow similar procedures at our school although specialists including ICT tend to meet as and when they can. It is a struggle working closely to integrate ICT across the school but one I enjoy.
    Really appreciate the response Edna and I will email!


  4. What a brilliant post. The links you provide to previous posts, as well as to other resources made this a fabulous resource for my entire staff. I have received grateful replies from many teachers after forwarding a link. Thanks!


  5. Hi
    Have you used the reporting side of managebac? I would be interested in your comments our school is using managebac this year.


  6. Hi all
    We are into our second year of using ManageBac so it might be helpful for me to share some thoughts.
    We used to use Google Docs for all our collaborative planning. The IB provide a perfect template on the OCC and the boxes grow with the text. Sometimes there are 12 teachers in the group and we have a shared conversation before adding our notes. In Google Docs, we could each input at the same time and see what everyone was typing. Once finished, Google allows a PDF or word doc download for archiving and it’s easy to just go back each year and use reflections, rename & edit the previous year’s planner.
    When our school investigated ManageBac, our first question was about how we might be able to all think, plan & edit together. We were told yes. We asked this several times in the initial stages. The answer was always yes. BUT IT’S NOT TRUE! And here’s a direct quote from ManageBac

    “ManageBac was never meant to replace the organic thinking, planning, and reflecting that teachers undergo, and we’re well aware of being only one piece in the overall curriculum development process. Our intention was to simply help with organizing documents centrally, improving school-to-home communication, and providing real-time insights into your curriculum”.

    You can imagine our frustration – a year of transferring all our documents only to find that the MB planner can NOT be co-edited, the PDF bubble planner version looks dreadful and the linear format is clunky and not intuitive.

    We also finished our 5 year curriculum review cycle this year so we wanted our own scope and sequence documents available for selection in the MB planner but – like the IB PYP scope and sequence docs – they aren’t all the same format which presents problems in MB as you can only have one format.

    The platform is slower to upload than any other website we access – which further hinders the process.
    As a team, we have really given this a go and we are disappointed that what was promised has not been delivered. Our meetings are hijacked by MB glitches so that pedagogy has taken a back seat.
    My advice to you all – proceed with caution!


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