May as well make it a learning experience!

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…

8 thoughts on “May as well make it a learning experience!

  1. Another timely post for me Edna! I’m just about to start a similar process but from the other side – my head wants me to explore how a uk national curriculum school could be more pyp… I’d like to share your questions with my colleagues to help us on the way. Who knows, we might even become a pyp school in time! Started sharing about it on my blog and would love to connect with others who have done similar things.


  2. Hi Donna
    How funny that we have written mirror posts! The questions are based on the IB rubric for evaluating the POI. Look forward to hearing how your process goes!


  3. Certainly an interesting process. We found that we had to create “space in advance” to accommodate the soon to be added Civics and Citizenship, Arts and Business and Economics as well. I think what the PYP does, once the mapping takes place,is make e AC even more engaging.


    1. No ‘spaces in advance’ for us. Firstly our POI is always in flux, every time we plan a unit, all elements are revisited from scratch, so we can update, improve, change. Also, the trans-disciplinary nature of PYP means much of the AC is blended through a range of units anyway. It appears as if the Civics fits in well with IB principles and won’t be a problem. and the Economics has the potential to be incorporated into some existing units…
      Not sure how it looks in non-IB schools… It seems to me that trying to ‘cover’ all the ‘stuff’ in the AC as separate subjects, the way it is listed out, you would need to have at least 20 days in a week. The solution is to join the dots, look for the big ideas, understand the big picture… which in the end takes us right back to the PYP way of doing things 🙂
      (Writing this has given me an idea to think about and consolidate in another post!)


  4. HI Edna

    Lovely to read this post – given I just ran a workshop on Inquiry and The Aus Curriculum last Friday and will now recommend this post to all my participants! Thank you. I keep emphasising the necessity to make the curriculum work for us – not the other way around and I love the way your post reflects this empowered stance for your teachers, The AUSVELS website makes a point of reminding schools that they remain responsible for the organisation and structure of their curriculum. I think the general capabilities have the most to offer in terms of inquiry. Thanks again!


  5. This post brought me back to our first POI when we were still in candidacy status. I think that was one of the biggest positives of creating our POI, the collaboration across the grade levels, and how everyone’s perspective helped the learning experiences come together in ways we’d not have thought on our own. The fluidity of the POI is constant, as we were authorized three years ago now (I think?) and are still making adjustments each year as we learn more!


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