How do we live the PYP?

With the following objectives in mind, we set out to plan a day of thinking, learning and reflecting to launch our PYP self study:

  • Understand the purpose and requirements of the self study – an appreciative inquiry.
  • Ensure clarity of vision for the PYP evaluation – Rather than an exercise in compliance, we will see it as an opportunity to explore how best to bring the standards and practices to life.
  • Connect across teams, grades and campuses to share learning.
  • Ensure familiarity with the standards and practices (the old ones for now – we will map them against the new in a later step).
  • Highlight the major areas of focus in the Enhanced PYP.
  • Begin to reflect on how we bring the standards and practices to life.

A quick Kahoot! quiz in teams provided an opportunity to revisit some of the big ideas in the PYP, introduce some facts and figures about the program globally, mention some of the changes with the enhancements… and add an element of fun.

A provocation: How do we live the PYP?

Teachers considered how we LIVE the PYP at our school. Apart from the obvious, responses included factors such as…

  • Fluid and flexible units
  • Teachers as learners and inquirers
  • Reflection is integral to everything
  • Agency, choice and voice – for students and teachers
  • Curiosity is at the core
  • Time is invested in planning and reflecting
  • We consider the whole child
  • Being open to emergent inquiries
  • A natural language that permeates everything
  • Inquiry as a stance
  • Constant change and growth
  • We inquire into our own practice
  • Individuality is encouraged- in students and teachers
  • We put the learner fist
  • Learning is not prescriptive, innovation is encouraged
  • We walk the talk
  • Open to change and to different perspectives
  • Planning is in response to learning
  • We value process and document our journey.

An inquiry: How might we continue to bring the beliefs of the PYP to life?

In mixed groups we examined standards C1, 2 and 4, using the traffic light protocol (on first instinct, how would we self assess? – Green= going well, orange = on the way, red= not moving yet) and generated questions for both clarification and innovation.

Reflect: How are we currently doing?

Clarify: What do we need to know?

Innovate: What if…? How might we…?

Next we reflected in more depth on Standard C3, the practices that relate to teaching and learning.

Consider: What might this look like in practice?

Share: How are we doing this?

Document: How will we record our evidence?

Taking this practice as an example, ‘Teaching and learning develops student attitudes and skills that allow for meaningful student action in response to students’ own needs and the needs of others,’ we considered the learner action we have witnessed so far this year:

It was then inspiring to witness teachers of 3 year olds sharing learning with teachers of children up to 12, across campuses, languages and specialist areas. The examples were efficiently recorded and photos and videos uploaded to our dedicated Google site. It felt less like gathering evidence of compliance and more like a celebration of the wonderful learning that takes places in our school.

An analysis of the group and individual reflections from the day reveals common threads and patterns that will guide our inquiries moving forward. The next step might be to align the themes that were revealed with the new standards and practices and explore the notion of ‘motifs’ within them…

#PYPEvaluation 2

PYP Evaluation – an appreciative inquiry…

As we begin the self study for our IB PYP evaluation, it’s worth considering how to make it feel less like an inspection (compliance, judgement) and more like an invitation to reflect and an opportunity for growth.

What if we view the process as an appreciative inquiry? 

Define: How best might we LIVE the PYP? 

Rather than proving how we comply with the standards, let’s continue to explore how best to bring them to life.

Discover: What is…?

Reflect on our practice, identify our strengths and celebrate our successes.

Dream: What if..?

Fearlessly and creatively ask ‘what if?‘ and imagine new possibilities.

Design: How might we…?

Identify the best possibilities for innovation, encourage our people to take ownership and bring their ideas to life.

Deliver: How will we…?

Take action. Make things happen 🙂

 

(Thanks @fionannbir and @megangraff)

What does inquiry learning look like?

Our PYP evaluation went really well and it was gratifying to hear the evaluators’ positive observations of our school.

They talked about our dynamic learning spaces, the energy of our teachers and learners and the respect that is evident between staff and students. They were impressed by how articulate our students are and the openness of our teachers. It was clear to them that the entire school community has a deep understanding of the PYP philosophy and that we have a strong culture of learning.

Almost all their recommendations are things on which we are either working already or have identified for action through the self study.

There’s only one thing I found jarring in their feedback and it relates to my beliefs about inquiry learning. They noted that neither students nor teachers seem able to identify what particular inquiry cycles we follow. They said the children to whom they spoke didn’t seem to be aware of the specific ‘stages’ of inquiry and that most teachers couldn’t articulate how an inquiry cycle directs our planning.

To be honest, I’m glad.

If it’s something we need to clarify, we will, of course, and perhaps it will be helpful for newer teachers to be aware of some of the inquiry cycles we have visited along the way. Over time, we have worked with both Kath Murdoch’s and Kathy Short’s inquiry cycles and examined some others. But I’m proud of the fact that most of us no longer need to use a specific inquiry model to guide our planning for inquiry – our planning looks more like this and this.

We’ve worked hard to develop an understanding that inquiry learning is messy and NOT limited to a step by step approach. True inquiry learning is neither linear nor cyclical, but rather moves back and forth between the different stages identified by most of the inquiry models.

Kath Murdoch herself, whose inquiry cycle is slavishly followed in many schools writes this – ‘ It’s hard to do justice to the complexities and nuances of inquiry in writing. So much gets lost. Something that is rich, layered and multidimensional can come across as flat, linear and recipe-like. Over the years, I have published several books that share a ‘cycle of inquiry’ and the kinds of learning engagements that we might design within a cycle. I have seen hundreds of interpretations of this idea in classrooms. Many have been gratifying and exciting. Teachers who really ‘get’ the intention, understand the complexity and invite their students into the learning have blown me away with what they have done. And I have also seen (and heard) many bewildering versions or iterations of the cycle that are such a long way off the original conceptualization and intent! Ironically, I have seen slavish adherence to a cycle actually impede rather than enhance inquiry.’ (Read the whole post here.)

Interestingly, I remember that educators who did the IB workshop leader training with me, when engaging in our own inquiries, all noticed that our learning journeys did not follow the inquiry models on which we were supposed to base our inquiries. Participants realised that the inquiry process moves back and forth between asking, investigating, reflecting, connecting and constructing meaning. Some groups found they even shifted between more than one ‘model’. I recall that some of the high school teachers in particular, less familiar with this kind of learning, admitted to feeling a degree of discomfort. But it’s the kind of positive tension that leads to authentic learning.

If anything, I rather like the star shaped model, based on the work of Barbara Stripling, which Dave Truss of the Inquiry Hub wrote about a while ago. I like the idea of ‘inquiry points’ much more than the more common models of ‘inquiry cycles’. Inquiry can start at any of the points and bounce between them, rather than moving in a defined order. Too often in (so called) inquiry learning contexts, teaching and learning follow a prescribed order, as per one or another inquiry model.

I’m proud to work in a school where inquiry is a natural, non-linear process and teachers are encouraged to listen to the children’s learning and plan responsively, rather than follow a prescribed path that has been set in advance. This is true inquiry. It has no map, no set pattern and it can be messy…