Self study as an appreciative inquiry…

Over coffee with @shazbailey1, we chat about strategies for making the self study process worthwhile. She shares an approach she took with her teachers and, when I ask if I can steal it, she tells me to adapt and improve on it and then blog about it so that she can steal it back. The biography of an idea 🙂

The enhanced version of the IB Primary Years Program has detailed, well researched articles on all areas of the program, divided into sections: The Learner, Learning and Teaching and The Learning Community. I like the title ‘Principles into Practice’ which fits with our approach to the self study we are currently (perpetually, actually) undertaking. ‘How will we bring the beliefs of the PYP to life?’ rather than ‘How will we ensure we comply with the standards and practices?’

In last night’s session, teachers considered the headings of the sections and talked about which topics they are most familiar with and which they know least about…

Next, they each chose a section to inquire into and spent some time reading the articles and reflecting, individually, in pairs or groups, using a thinking routine adapted from Project Zero.

Connect: What connections can you make to current practice in our school?

Extend: How was your thinking extended? What’s new for you here?

Explore: What might we explore further? (individually and as a school)

The outcome:

  • Productive discussion in mixed groups, across grade levels and specialist areas.
  • Collaborative reflection around big ideas.
  • Collegial sharing and support.
  • A deeper understanding of the principles of the program
  • Documentation of current practice in how we live the PYP.
  • An opportunity to question the way things are.
  • Further ideas for exploration as a school community.
  • Individual goals that teachers will work on.
  • An organic approach to appreciative inquiry.

So simple. So much data for moving forward…

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

When do inquiry teachers let go?

A request arrived this week for permission to use a cartoon I’d created years ago, showing the gradual release of responsibility of model.

As an inquiry teacher, who values learner agency, do you always teach or model first, only letting go when you think they are ready?

Or are students free to have a go, explore, experiment, test theories, formulate ideas… while you observe the learning, allowing your observations to inform when and whom to teach or support and when to step aside?

Do you trust the learners and the learning process?

Update 2019

Cultivating action…

“When students see tangible actions that they can choose to take to make a difference, they see themselves as competent, capable and active agents of change “(Oxfam 2015).

‘How do we get them to walk the talk? ‘ someone asked in our leadership meeting, sparking, as always, a host of ‘what if’ and ‘how might we’ questions. (A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger)

  • What if we chose action as our whole school focus for 2019?
  • What if we created a whole school inquiry that was inherently about action?
  • How might this provide an opportunity for teachers to delve into the new PYP Principles into Practice?
  • How might we explore the interconnection between action and agency?
  • How might we link our focus on ‘cultivating action’ to our previous annual teacher inquiries?
  • How might action look in the early years?
  • What if we redeveloped our Year 6 leadership program to further encourage students to pitch and drive ideas for action? (Thank you Stephanie Thompson!)
  • How might an action focus impact school culture?
  • How might thinking beyond ourselves empower us to act?
  • What if we used the cultural forces as a way to think about cultivating action?
  • What if we included parents and how might we get them thinking about action they might take with or in relation to their children?
  • How might members of the whole learning community take, encourage, support and acknowledge individual and collective action?

… which brings us to Day 1 of the school year and a massive, whole school workshop for teachers, assistants and leaders, to initiate the process of our inquiry.

We start with time to chat about the holidays first… with the guiding questions ‘What is something you learned in the holidays?’ and ‘Which form of action was sparked as a result?’

(Action markers in Early Years PYP doc)

Inspired by the beautiful Lead India clip, The Tree, participants record their initial thoughts about action.

Each group is assigned one of the action examples (Participation, Social Justice, Social Entrepreneurship, Advocacy and Lifestyle Choices) to unpack, considering how it might look through the lenses of their various roles and contexts, using the action markers above as prompts. The action section from the new PYP Principles into Practice is a valuable resource, adding a layer to the process.

Regrouping in jigsaw fashion, allows teachers to share their groups’ thinking as well as build an understanding of the bigger picture. What better way to synthesise the ideas and express the essence than through making….

The next stage is to consider how this goal relates to and builds on our whole school inquiries of the past few years, such as encouraging learner agency and starting with the child. Guiding questions: How does this goal connect with our previous goals? How does this goal extend learning and teaching? What challenges or questions do you have?

Then it’s back to the initial thoughts recorded by participants at the start of the session. How has their thinking changed? What new questions do they have? What action will they take?

What action do you plan to take in 2019?

What do you notice about yourself as a teacher?

It’s exciting to see teachers adopting the idea of thoughtfully considered reflective questions for themselves, as well as for the learners, in continued pursuit of the goal of developing the whole child – and the whole teacher! – rather than simply focusing on curriculum content.

If I want the children in my class to be creative, how might I encourage creative experimentation? How will I foster creative thinking and problem solving?

If I want to develop writers who consider audience and purpose in their writing, how will I help them find opportunities to write for an authentic audience?

If I think feedback is an important part of learning, how will I promote the giving and receiving of effective peer feedback?

If I want learners to be empathetic and understand different perspectives, how will I ensure that all points of view are considered to help them develop empathy?

If I want the next generation to make sustainable choices, how will I help them to understand the impact of their choices and to become thoughtful, principled global citizens?

If I want them to care about their environment, how will I foster a genuine sense of shared responsibility?

If I don’t want them to see mistakes as failure, how might I help learners use their struggles to develop resilience?

If I want my students to be positive, active digital citizens, how can I provide authentic contexts to practise digital citizenship? And how will I help them understand that positive active citizenship applies online or off?

In a recent collaborative planning session, while developing the notion of iTime (or Genius Hour) into an opportunity for self reflection and personal growth, the Year 6 team took this type of reflective questioning to another level!

What do I notice about myself as a teacher?

What skills and dispositions do I need to develop as a teacher…?

 

Learner agency and classroom management…

How does learner agency influence the need for ‘classroom management’?

Posting the question on Twitter brought responses such as these:

After listening to Derek Wenmoth’s video, our teachers collectively came up with a list of words that characterise agency. These included concepts like initiative, empowerment, intentionality, self-regulation, trust, awareness, active involvement, interdependence and, interestingly, wellbeing…

Inspired by Nadia Ellis’ post, we explored the meaning of ‘management’ and compared our agency list with synonyms for ‘manage’ – control, handle, master, manipulate, dominate, rule, oversee, supervise…  No wonder that little blue guy is pushing back!

So how might we create a culture of learner agency in our classrooms, a culture in which learners are empowered to take ownership of their learning and the need for classroom ‘management’ is diminished?

We’re exploring agency through the lens of Project Zero’s Eight Cultural Forces: language, time, opportunities, expectations, interactions, routines, modelling and physical environment. How might a thoughtful approach to each of these support the development of a culture of agency? What might we need to change? We’re compiling a collaborative list, so what are your thoughts?

Images from http://www.presentermedia.com/

Teachers as learners…

‘How do bloggers find their voice?’

Joc is facilitating a meeting with a team of teachers, exploring blogging as a writing form…

‘Through their passions?’ someone asks. Taking a stance on an issue? Sharing experiences? These are some of the possibilities raised by the the group. They have all read blog posts, but not written any.

‘By writing’, someone says.

I think back to eight years ago when I first started blogging.

My first three posts, which I soon deleted, sounded as though they were written by different people, as I struggled to find a voice. It was only when I let go of preconceived ideas, stopped trying to impress an imagined audience and just wrote, that I found a voice… my own.

It’s best not to over think or over plan. Try not to agonise over whether your writing is good enough. Write, check, publish, done. You can always write another post when you’ve developed your thinking further or changed your perspective. Just write. A lot. Or you will never find your voice.

Now write’ says Joc. She has provided links to some mentor texts (blog posts) and wants the teachers to experience this themselves, before they ask it of their students. Initially there is resistance. Anxiety even? Realisation dawns that this is what our students experience every day and our awesome teachers throw themselves willingly into the learning pit

Teachers in the flow of writing their posts.


And this is Megan’s take:

Today I was asked to just write for 30 minutes…. Easy right? Go for it? Ummm no, I thought…

About what? Where do I get my ideas from? Geeze….is this how I make the children feel when I say…”Just write about whatever you want”  Do they freeze up like me?

How am I meant to encourage children to be authors and find their voice, if I am unsure of how to find my own? I have never seen myself as a ‘writer’ but find such contention with this because I know how important it is, as a teacher, to model to the children, to show them different styles of writing, to show them what it might look like to take a leap and enter the world of being an author!

Have I ever written something as an author? I really can’t say. I have recorded my opinion while listening to someone speak…Is that being an author? I have modelled story writing with the children in class…Is that being an author? I have written my reflection or opinion on things…Is that being an author? I write questions to my children in response to their learning…Is that being an author? Perhaps I am just a little unsure of what being an author ‘looks like’ or perhaps I just lack the confidence in my own skills to ‘have a go’. I encourage that ‘growth mindset’ with children everyday, yet haven’t been able to apply it in my own world. Why?

If I really think about it, I am a writer everyday, I just don’t put my words in to writing.

My younger sister recently had a career change from Lawyer to Transformational coach – what a huge leap of faith she took. And, while following this niggle has lead to great things, she has also come across road-blocks when it comes to writing and expressing her voice. Being new into the industry she feels her voice isn’t valued or worth something…yet! And although she has felt this way she has realised that it is the only way to share her feelings to have her voice heard and to inspire people…so she did it!! She writes blogs, facebook posts, reflections, coaching seminars, she uses anything she can to share her passion and her voice. She was terrified…she didn’t know how it would be received….but she did it!

So……really I am just being a big wuss…look out blogging world, I am coming in hot!

By Megan McKenzie

Opportunity for learning…

The children at Matt Glover‘s feet are unsurprisingly engrossed in the conversation. Matt is interesting and funny and he talks to them in an engaging and respectful way.  This is the introduction to a lesson in which he models his approach, observed by teachers inquiring into how to improve the teaching of writing.

What strikes me is that it’s not just about writing workshop. Good practice can be applied across all learning areas….

What if teachers kept all ‘lessons’ to 5 minutes?

What if the learners were quickly released to get on with it?

What if the majority of learning time involved learners engaged in doing?

What if the teacher conferenced with individuals, not to correct, remind or tell, but to teach at point of need?

What if strengths were noticed, named, shared and built upon?

What if children were encouraged to see themselves as ‘insiders’ in the learning process?

What if learners modelled their own creations on authentic examples from the real world?

What if learners were encouraged to imagine and to innovate?

What if learners were encouraged to be the teachers in the room?

What if teachers trusted the learners and the process?

What if learners had agency over their learning?

What if successes were shared and celebrated?

What if classrooms were always filled with ‘real’ learning rather than ‘doing school’?

Should we focus on teaching or learning?

Inquiry happens when you focus on the art of teaching.” Kath Murdoch.

This is an interesting moment in Kath’s conversation with teachers. I lose focus on my note-taking as I pursue this thought… I tend to say ‘focus less on teaching and more on learning’, and here is Kath Murdoch, inquiry guru, expressing what, on the face of it, seems to be just the opposite.

Kath has spent the week with teachers at my school, provoking thinking, that of teachers and students alike, modelling in classrooms and then collaboratively analysing teachers’ observations. The conversations during the week have been as valuable for teachers as the classroom observations, especially the final day reflections, when teachers draw out the big ideas in response to Kath’s question:

What does it mean to have an inquiry stance in our teaching?

After the session, I attempt to categorise the teachers’ ideas under conceptual headings. The more I think about their statements, the more my categories overlap. I consider first Kath’s shared list of inquiry practices and then Ron Ritchhart’s cultural forces. In the end it comes down to a handful of big ideas, for me…

  • Language:  Use a language of learning not compliance. Choose language that supports learners in describing and reflecting on their thinking and learning.
  • Process:  Focus as much on the process of learning as the content. Use split screen teaching. Notice and name how we are learning, not just what we are leaning.
  • Release:  Let go of your expectations and allow students to lead. Ensure the learners do the heavy lifting. Release responsibility as early as possible, then observe where to take the learning next.
  • Teacher as learner:  Position yourself as part of the learning community, not as the expert in the room, both physically and through your interactions. Make your own thinking process visible.
  • Time:   Do less, but do it more deeply. Devote time to developing learning dispositions. Give children time to reflect on how and why they change their ideas or thinking.

But, even as I elaborate on these, I notice they are further interconnected. I keep going back to change and revise them. It’s impossible to separate ‘using the language of learning’ from the notion of ‘teacher as part of the learning community’… or the ‘focus on process’ from the notion of time…

And, in a moment of clarity, I see that Kath and I are talking about the same thing… The ‘art of teaching’ IS knowing how to focus on the learning.