Implementing the new Australian Curriculum appeared to be an onerous task. English and Maths were fine on the whole, but how would we ensure ‘coverage’ of Science, History and Geography within our PYP trans-disciplinary curriculum framework? How would we incorporate content based outcomes into our student-centred Program of Inquiry?
Despite our reservations, we approached it as a learning experience, a time for reflection and an exploration of ways to improve teaching and learning. As an IB school, as long as all areas are addressed, we are not compelled to stick to the precise grade levels for prescribed achievement standards. So…
During unit planning sessions, we investigated what aspects of the Australian Curriculum could be incorporated and how we could make them inquiry based. If approached creatively, we saw that many aspects could be integrated into specialist areas and via our kitchen garden program. We set aside an afternoon for three groups to explore respectively the Science, History and Geography curricula, to find connections with what we already do as well as possibilities for change. Then a core group worked on mapping our Program of Inquiry with the Australian Curriculum, removing less successful units to make place for stronger ones that could, at the same time, be better related to the big ideas in the Australian Curriculum.
Finally, this week, a focus group of representatives from each grade level, as well as some specialists, met to evaluate the current draft of the planned Program of Inquiry for 2013. We collaborated in small groups to analyse all our units of inquiry and to audit the program, first horizontally (across each grade level) and then a vertically from K-6.
We asked such questions as…
Are all areas of the Australian Curriculum being adequately addressed, without losing sight of the fact that as a PYP school, our approach to learning is concept driven, trans disciplinary and inquiry based ?
Do the units invite inquiry and offer opportunities for multiple perspectives? Do they have the potential to develop conceptual understanding? Are they globally significant, addressing the commonalities of human experience?
Is there a balance of key concepts? Are all subject areas incorporated despite the trans-disciplinary nature of the program? Are we addressing all aspects of each trans- disciplinary theme? Do all units challenge and extend learners’ understanding?
The process was an engaging one, probing questions were asked and critical thinking was recorded, based on which units will later be developed by grade level teams. It has been valuable for everyone to have an overview of the whole, to know where their students have come from and where they are heading. Cross fertilization of ideas was facilitated by mixed teams from different grade levels working together. The teachers valued the opportunity to make decisions about and have ownership of the curriculum.
The current draft is now in the hands of the rest of the staff for comments, questions and feedback.
I like the way we managed to put aside our reservations, take a prescribed curriculum and make it our own…