Here are some thoughts from a recent PYP Evidencing Learning workshop, supporting teachers to shift from a traditional model of ‘Pre test – Teach stuff – Post test’ to a model where assessment is integrated and iterative.
Learning is not linear.
Planning and teaching are in response to what learners reveal.
Learners can be reflective self adjusters, able to drive their own learning.
(Note: Start anywhere, move back and forth as required, always pass through the centre.)
I was convinced the school had chosen the wrong workshop.
The pre-workshop survey indicated that teachers’ needs included things as disparate as drama teaching, physical education and inquiry in the early years. Their requests appeared to have little connection to the objectives of the PYP workshop I would be leading for them – ‘Get Connected: Engaging in authentic global learning practices.’
I confess to a degree of panic and several exchanges with the school’s coordinator in Mumbai to check if she was sure they had chosen the appropriate workshop. How would I possibly be able to cater for the diverse needs of drama and PE teachers, a counsellor, a French teacher, primary and pre-school teachers?
In the end, it was simple. Instead of trying to address all of those requests and instead of learning about getting connected, I made the decision to immerse them in global connections. All I needed to do, was to draw on my own network to demonstrate the power of global connections and networked learning. The Mumbai teachers would have access to a range of educators from different countries and fields… and agency to design their own learning experience.
We posted the teachers’ questions on a Padlet called ‘Ask the World’. By morning we had a broad range of responses from generous PYP educators around the globe! (Check it out.)
With tremendous appreciation for my local and global network (mostly PYP educators, in this case), many of whom I have never met in person, for generously sharing their time, ideas, experience, vulnerabilities and expertise so that others may learn and grow.
How might we encourage children’s (and teachers’) creative instincts?
How do we create opportunities for creativity in our classrooms?
Is teaching creatively the same as teaching creativity?
Is creativity an attitude, a skill, a conceptual lens or is it action? (PYP connection)
What is the relationship between inquiry learning and creativity?
How might global collaborations enhance creativity?
These are some of the big questions with which participants grappled in a PYP workshop on encouraging creativity, last week at Victorious Kidss Educares, an international school in Pune.
It was the first time I had led this workshop and I wanted to ensure that the teachers’ own creativity was awakened and that the workshop would provide opportunities for creative thinking and creative expression.
In addition to exploring the issues above, among other things, teachers designed creativity maps..
It was the first time I had led a ‘Making the PYP Happen’ workshop and it was for teachers at my own school, so I approached the planning with a strong sense of responsibility. How would I ensure the workshop was valuable and would impact on practice?
MTPYPH is a workshop for teachers new to the PYP and its name describes it. The purpose of the workshop is to support participants, not just in understanding the principles and practices of the PYP, but in actually ‘making it happen’ for themselves and their students in their own particular learning environments.
The philosophy and underpinning principles of the PYP correlate closely with my school’s beliefs about learning. One of our new teachers (with a background in PYP schools) said ‘ The difference is that you LIVE the PYP here’. I’ve thought a lot about what that means! It means we go beyond fulfilling requirements and ticking boxes. It means we are not afraid to question or challenge the aspects that are less compatible with our beliefs. It means we constantly reflect on how best to make it meaningful in our context.
So planning the recent workshop, with my colleague Joc, included thoughtful consideration of how to take it ‘beyond the book’ and make it relevant and thought provoking. We wanted to focus on the big ideas in order to help the teachers make connections between the separate elements.
This unit map was helpful in pulling the elements together and went far beyond the original intention (as learning experiences do when the learners take control!) The teachers changed the directions of the arrows and added their own as they realised connections and developed new understandings. This led to ideas for how to improve and develop the unit map for future use.
The workshop focused on inquiry, concept driven learning and constructivism. Teachers explored the PYP curriculum model and essential elements through the lenses of these big ideas, by inquiring, focusing on big ideas and constructing meaning themselves, both collaboratively and through individual reflection.
It’s been gratifying to hear them reflect on the shifts they are already making…
What I previously saw as disasters, I now recognise as opportunities for learning.
I’m realising that the less I talk, the more students do and learn.
I’m not planning the learning in advance so much. I’m allowing the learning in each lesson to shape further learning.
I’m accepting that learning is messy and realising that students are not all on the same learning path.
I’m not so stressed about ticking boxes and completing tasks. The learning is more organic as I hand over more to the kids.
I’m stepping back a bit, allowing the students to lead more, reflecting more as a teacher…
Relinquishing control, choosing intentional questions so the children can have more ownership of learning.
Providing more opportunities for student choice.
More opportunities for problem solving and collaborative thinking.
Trying to make more connections across different learning areas.
I’m reflecting more with my class on the learning.
I’m allowing myself to be more of a messy learner, pursuing my own learning and developing the bigger picture of the whole child.
It seems that a number of participants in my Digital Citizenship workshop imagined they’d be learning about cyber safety for three days! Is that what comes to mind for some people when they hear the term digital citizenship?
Instead, we explored what it means to BE a digital citizen and, by the end of the workshop, every one of them had become an active contributor online, developing confidence to participate as thoughtful, active citizens themselves.
Can you teach digital citizenship, if you are not an active digital citizen yourself?
During the workshop, participants reflected on the ways they engage online and categorised their online activities under the headings of CONSUME, CREATE or INTERACT.
Googled themselves and considered the impact of having a positive digital identity, a negative one… or none at all.
Considered and prioritised the key competencies for our students (or anyone) to learn in order to participate in society today (online society too).
Connected with educators around the globe, via Skype and Twitter as well as face to face.
Explored our rights and responsibilities as digital citizens.
Debated the risks vs rewards of online participation for ourselves and our students.
Heard the perspectives of some enthusiastic and articulate Grade 4 and 5 students.
Shared, discussed, collaborated, planned and reflected… face to face and via a range of digital avenues, such as Twitter, Today’s Meet, Google docs and our workshop blog.
Inquired into digital citizenship through the lenses of the essential elements of the PYP – knowledge, concepts, attitudes, skills… but mainly ACTION.
Some of the action…
Take a look at the brand new professional blogs by Tania,Joel and Leona and follow up on the action via Twitter…
It’s exciting to see empowered digital citizens thinking about how to foster active digital citizenship in their students, instead of focusing only on the’ don’ts’ and the ‘dangers’.
I’m thinking about all the authentic learning about to happen in a real context…
In a PYP school, the culmination of primary school learning is the exhibition unit, in which students carry out an extended, collaborative inquiry. The exhibition synthesizes the essential elements of the program: knowledge, trans-disciplinary skills, concepts, attitudes and action. It’s an opportunity to celebrate their learning and share it with the whole school community.
As leader of a PYP workshop on the exhibition recently, I wanted to ensure that participants thought deeply about the purpose of the exhibition, to support them in formulating their opinions and developing concrete plans for how it would look in their own schools.
Participants shared their what, how and why questions in groups and we set these aside to be addressed during the coming three days, including this one:
‘What should we avoid?’
Simon Sinek’s golden circle served as a trigger for initial thinking. It’s worth watching his TED talk, if you haven’t seen it, but the essence is that great leaders and organisations (teachers and schools!) start with ‘why’.
I shared my school’s journey: Our first PYP exhibition three years ago, focused on the ‘what’ (forms, sheets, protocols and guides to support us)… and we thought it was wonderful! Our most recent exhibition started from the ‘why’ and was all about the learning. The process became much more important than the product. The exhibition itself was an opportunity for students to really talk about their learning, with a choice of one means of presentation (a painting, a poster, a movie, an artifact…) replacing the mass of paper we used to have on display and discard the following day.
Keeping the ‘why‘ in mind throughout the workshop, the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ fell into place and the three days flew by. We explored possibilities, deepened understandings, aired concerns, shared experiences, discussed issues and made plans…
On the last day, I asked the participants to answer their own question-
What should we avoid?
anything that isn’t purposeful
teachers controlling the learning
focusing on product and polish at the expense of learning
While it’s clear that the teachers will have to deal with the demands and expectations of their specific school contexts, I could see that my dual messages of ‘keep it simple‘ and ‘start from why‘ had been internalised.
Back at my own school, the Year 6 Learning Team Leader and I have prepared a proposal to move our own exhibition to the end of the school year as a trial. We would like to replace the traditional, contrived graduation ceremony with a celebration of authentic learning. Graduation would consist of a simple student-created opening ceremony, followed by the exhibition: our students presenting all that they have learned, displaying the attributes of the learner profile, demonstrating their skills and sharing their knowledge with pride.
Are the powers that be ready to shift the graduation focus away from product and polish?