Designing for Learning

We are loving the PYP enhancements especially the agency being honored for all IB educators to shape their own understandings and develop the PYP for their own contexts. We have fully embraced this idea of ownership through the ability to craft our own unit planner.

We knew we wanted to explore a new way of planning because we had been feeling “boxed in” by the old planner. We thought we could adapt all the things we loved about the PYP planning process and put into a format that fit our needs and our context.

But first we wanted to learn from others and so we called on the expertise of thoughtful educators within our PLN. Edna Sackson, Sonya terBorg and Taryn BondClegg were quick to reply and very generously shared with us their work and the thought behind the changes they made in their own contexts. The Programme Communities on My IB has samples of planners and planning processes and is a wealth of information compiled from the work of educators around the world.

To begin our process we began with our Instructional Leaders team and together we explored the question “why do we plan?” We discussed the purpose of planning and uncovered some new truths and beliefs for ourselves.

    • We design experiences and environments that provoke learning
    • We design for the learning of all learners
    • We design for learning together
    • We design for learning in response to learners
    • We design for learning to take us from knowns to unknowns
    • We design for learning that honors the individual learner
    • We design for learning that honors the agency of the learner, the learning community and learning and teaching

Guided by our beliefs we explored planners and templates created by other schools, educators and organisations; we analysed them alongside the traditional and updated PYP planners from the IB. We discussed what we loved and what we would change; we explored what excited us and what worried us; we celebrated the work of others and found connections to our own contexts and needs.

From these discussions and the lists of wants and needs that came out of these explorations I drafted a new planner for our school that we called the Design for Learning. To accompany this document I also made a Reference Page that could support the process and the dialogue that emerges from collaboratively working together to design for learning. We took these two new documents to our Common Planning Meetings and Planning Retreats (which maybe we should change the name of to something that honors our belief about designing for learning). We used them to help us in the process of designing the learning for our fourth and fifth units making adjustments and changes in response to the voice and needs of our learning community. With a final draft ready to go we had one last critique for our sixth unit. While we do not consider the Design for Learning to be a fixed document that can no longer evolve with the growth of our learning community we did want to be able to continue designing for learning without having to constantly reflect on the document and process.

You can find both our Design for Learning and Reference Page linked here and at the end of this blog. We would like to share these back freely as others so generously shared their thoughts and processes with us. We would also like to give credit to all the educators who have shared and have guided our own thoughts and reflections through this process. We did not create this we simply melded together many ideas from others into a document that fits who we are.

Our Design for Learning begins with the voice of our learners. We follow this with the choices of our educators as learning designers. These choices honor the components of the PYP, such as the TD Themes which reflect a structure to the world that allows us for connections, concepts that give meaning to a unit, knowledge that is transferable, skills that are universal, attributes that reflect who we are becoming, and lines of inquiry which shape a path of learning grounded in a central idea. While we honor the agency of our learners we also honor the agency of the curriculum and our teachers. In this way we outline a structure that includes the elements of the PYP while also considering the environment, both of time and space, that lays before us. But once we saw ourselves as designers and co-designers and not planners we realised that we cannot fully plan a unit on our own, and so, our Design for Learning ends before it begins. We stop at a skeletal overview allowing the learners to take their role as partners in the Design for Learning.

Our weekly Common Planning meetings are shifting to become opportunities to share pedagogical documentation as action researchers and designers for learning. We hope to focus on this next step in the process of designing for learning in the coming school year. We have some ideas for this that were inspired by our inquiries into Reflection and a visit from Anne van Dam; we have included below the Design for Learning documents some provocative questions that will guide our continued collaborations and reflections and inform the weekly learning.

We still need to further explore the role of the single subject teacher, the role of the wider learning community, how to better include our young learners in the conversations when collaboratively designing for learning and, as always, constantly reflect on our choices and actions as lifelong learners. We would love to hear your feedback to help us feedforward in our learning journey.

Design for Learning

Reference Page

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Induction as a Programme of Inquiry

Induction as a Programme of Inquiry, with 6 units, following 6 Transdisciplinary Themes 

Week 1

How we organize ourselves – the structure and function of organisations

The structure and organization of a school affect how it functions

    1. Function: Systems within our school
    2. Connection: Framework of the PYP
  • What documents/forms do I need to know; where are they and where do they go? (Forms, Help Desk)
    • Sorting and labeling
  • What is the PYP framework?
    • See Think Wonder
    • Sorting and grouping
  • How does a unit planner frame the inquiry?
    • Share UoI elements for each Induction unit (on a planner)
  • Where am I now?
    • Tuning in – place yourself on a continuum
    • Burning questions to guide induction inquiries

Resources: ISU Policies, Curriculum Documents, MTPYPH, Unit Planner, the book of PYP Essential Elements, ISU and JS Handbooks, Strategic Plan, IBO documents

Week 2

Who we are – beliefs and values

Beliefs and values shape who we are

    1. Responsibility: The mission statement of the IBO and “international mindedness”
    2. Form: A Learner’s Profile
    3. Causation: How IBO beliefs and values influence ISU
  • What are the beliefs and values that drive the PYP?
    • Read the mission statement of the IB
    • Headline routine
  • What is international mindedness?
    • Finding out (read/browse resources below)
    • Frayer Model
  • How might I develop international mindedness (through the Learner Profile attributes) at ISU?

Resources: Making the PYP Happen, IB Community Blog on International Mindedness, The Learner Profile and International Mindedness, The magazine of the International Baccalaureate on International Mindedness, Video: Understanding International Mindedness

Week 3

Where we are in place and time – orientation in place and time

Making connections across subject knowledge helps construct meaning

    1. Causation: Beliefs that led to the development of the PYP
    2. Change: Transdisciplinary teaching and learning
    3. Connection: The relationship between the subject areas and units of inquiry
  • What are the beliefs that led to the development of the PYP?
    • Read “The Educated Person” pg 1-3
    • Word – Phrase – Sentence
    • Read and Share: Human Commonalities
      • I. The Life Cycle
      • II. Language
      • III. The Arts
      • IV. Time and Space
      • V. Groups and Institutions
      • VI. Work
      • VII. Natural World
      • VIII. Search for Meaning
    • Summary – what’s worth learning/knowing?
  • What is a transdisciplinary Programme of Inquiry?
    • 6 TD Themes (connections to human commonalities)
    • ISU’s POI
    • Transdisciplinary learning
    • Graffiti walk connections to subjects/topics for teaching and learning
  • How might I bring transdisciplinarity into my teaching and learning?
    • Reflection; Try it on Monday.

Resources: “The Educated Person“; Video: Anima Mundi an Introduction to Transdisciplinarity; IBO Documents: Scope and Sequence documents, ICT in the PYP; IB Community Blog on Transdisciplinary Learning, Readings: Transdisciplinarity… it’s a word, I think!, What is transdisciplinary learning?

Weeks 4-5

How the world works – how humans use their understandings of scientific principles

Over time, people have developed an understanding of how we learn best

    1. Responsibility: The role of inquiry
    2. Causation: How concepts support inquiry

*to be completed in 2 parts

  • What is inquiry and conceptual teaching?
    • Jigsaw (MTPYPH)
  • Why is inquiry important?
  • How do concepts influence inquiry?
  • How might I plan for inquiry?
    • Models of inquiry
      • See Think Wonder
    • Brainstorm questions for each concept to ignite inquiry about chosen focus
    • Reflection; Try it on Monday.

Resources for Inquiry: ISU Inquiry Folder; IBO Documents: MTPYPH;  Books: “Classroom Connections”, “The Power of Inquiry”, Inquiry as a stance (chapter from “Taking the PYP Forward), “Concept Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom” “Taking the Complexity out of Concepts”; Readings: Bringing Inquiry-Based Learning Into Your Class, Planning for Inquiry: Example, Natural Curiosity: A resource for Teachers, Strategies for Inquiry Based Learning, Planning an Inquiry Based Start to the Year, The inquiry process: step by step, Inquiry Based Learning in the Early Years, Said no true inquiry teacher ever, Inquiry and the specialist teacher, Defining Inquiry, Planning for Concept Driven Learning, Concept Based Learning, Concept-Driven Inquiry Learning,; Blogs: Inquiry Learning, Train the Teacher, Just Wondering, What Ed Said; Video: An inquiry approach, Inquiry based learning – developing student questions

Week 6

How we express ourselves – the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity

Developing skills and attitudes leads the way to lifelong learning

    1. Change: The importance of developing skills
    2. Perspective: A values-laden curriculum
    3. Connection: The relationship between skills and attitudes

Resources: The PYP Attitudes are going away!, Attitudes within Learner Profile, What’s worth knowing? Why Realizing the Full Promise of Education Requires a Fresh Approach, Reflecting through attitudes and skills, Student-Written Reports, Using Attitudes and Skills as Learning Objectives, Content vs. concepts, skills, attitudes, Reflecting through attitudes and skills

Week 7

Sharing the Planet – access to equal opportunities (rights and responsibilities)

Cultivating agency acknowledges the rights and responsibilities of the learner

    1. Form: Action
    2. Responsibility: The importance of agency
    3. Change: Considering rights, responsibilities, identities
  • What is action, what does it look like, feel like?
  • What is the power of agency?
  • How do I make room for agency in my learning environments? (How do we honor voice, choice and ownership through partnerships for learning?)
    • Reflection; Try it on Monday.

Week 8

Personal Action  – How can you share your new understandings? What are you going to do?

  • Time for reflection and action

Week 9

Personal Inquiry – What will you inquire into? How will you keep learning?

  • Personal Learning Journey
  • Reflection of Induction (box 6-9)

Thank you to Kath Murdoch, Tania Lattanzio and Taryn BondClegg for sharing so many resources!

Personalised Professional Learning as a Unit of Inquiry

How do we approach professional learning with our teachers? Should it be any different than how we approach learning with our students? Should professional learning model student learning and vice versa? If so how do we do this?

I propose that we plan professional learning in a similar way that we plan for student learning: student-centered, conceptual, skills driven, inquiry based, value laden, units of inquiry. But we can’t look at each staff meeting or professional learning session as a unit, we need time in order to consider the breadth and depth of the learning. And so can we plan for personalised professional learning as one, year long, unit of inquiry? How do we do this?

This is our journey.

First the strategic plan of the school was crafted with representatives from all stakeholders in order to write a mission, vision and learning principles. These are aligned with the philosophy of the IB and guide our actions in a similar way to standards or benchmarks. We use them to flesh out the framework of the IB. In previous years we followed the learning principles, Learning is Inquiry Driven and Learning is Inclusive. The strategic leadership team decided this year to follow Learning is Reflective.

Learning is Reflective

  • teaching is responsive to the learners’ needs
  • learners give and receive frequent, quality and constructive feedback that leads to further learning
  • learners are challenged to reflect on our learning experiences and take action on feedback
  • learners are responsible for their own learning
  • we acknowledge our successes as well as our mistakes and shortcomings

Planning for a year of reflection.

First, the TD Theme: Who we are. A year of reflection will be all about looking back in order to look forward. While our year of Learning is Inquiry Driven was more about How We Organise Ourselves and our year of Learning is Inclusive was about Sharing the Planet, we felt a year of reflection will truly be about discovering Who We Are (an inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human).

We started to plan our year long unit with the entire Junior School teaching staff. We needed first to understand prior knowledge and gather learner interests. So we took a professional learning session in order for teachers to contribute voice and choice and ownership to the unit planner (you can read all about this here).

From this session our Instructional Leaders analysed the work of the teachers and found a few emerging themes or related concepts: community, space and engagement. These were to become the basis for our lines of inquiry. An inquiry into ISU’s community of learners. An inquiry into the space for learning (both environmental and time). An inquiry into engagement with learning.

We tied these into the key concepts:

  • An inquiry into ISU’s community of learners. Function – how does it work
  • An inquiry into the space for learning (both environmental and time). Connection – how is it connected to other things?
  • An inquiry into engagement with learning. Causation – why is it like it is?

Our learning principle, learning is reflective provided us with the teacher questions that would help guide those inquiries.

  1. How can teaching be responsive to the learners’ needs
  2. How do our learners give and receive frequent, quality and constructive feedback and how can that lead to further learning
  3. How can we enable learners to be challenged to reflect on learning experiences and take action on feedback
  4. How can we help our learners be responsible for their own learning
  5. How do we acknowledge our successes as well as our mistakes and shortcomings

At this point in the planning we needed to look at what we hoped our learners would know, understand and do ( we have interpreted the “do” portion of the KUD chart as do- who will we become and do-what skills will we use).

So we broke our teacher questions down into learning goals:

  1. How can teaching be responsive to the learners’ needs = Responsive community, Responsive spaces, Engaging learning 
  2. How do our learners give and receive frequent, quality and constructive feedback and how can that lead to further learning = Feedback, Assessment
  3. How can we enable learners to be challenged to reflect on learning experiences and take action on feedback = Reflection as learning
  4. How can we help our learners be responsible for their own learning = Agency
  5. How do we acknowledge our successes as well as our mistakes and shortcomings = Self management, Growth Mindset

This gave us a draft for our framework:

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.45.17 PM

To gain students voice we met with representatives who shared their ideas for each of our inquiries. In addition, the upper junior school student body as a whole participated in a reflective assembly where they collaborated to write their vision of ISU (an excerpt of their work is below)

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.26.09 PM

We added these student voices to our unit of inquiry plan.

We then took this back to the staff again and asked teachers to select workshops that would allow them to further add structure to the unit of inquiry plan. They considered learning spaces, sensory playgrounds, timetables, community, student agency and teacher agency (all topics that came out of the Exhibition Workshop).

We added these teacher voices to the unit of inquiry plan.

Our plan was becoming large and was feeling a bit overwhelming.

To help us focus our ideas we had been using the Why-How-What model crafted by Simon Sinek and added to it Who to draft our plan for year long professional learning as a unit of inquiry. We decided to take these ideas and put them into the concentric circles that Simon Sinek uses in his presentation, and we began to see the big picture.

We are still missing two important components of a PYP planner, the Central Idea and Summative Assessment. But as we begin to think about agency and what this means for a unit of inquiry we have decided to leave these components empty for now.

As the school year starts in August we will be asking our teachers to reflect on who they are and select a passion or area of interest that will contribute to our community of learners. This will be their inquiry, their learning journey which they will embark on for the year. The What circle above outlines some learning engagements and learning opportunities that they might select as a part of their journey. They will draft their own success criteria and decide how or if they want to document the process and how they will share their learning. Our Wednesday professional learning sessions will allow for the time and space for our learners to design and follow their own path, to collaborate with the community and to share their discoveries with each other through Choice Workshops and Professional Learning opportunities.

We are excited to see what our year of personalised professional learning and inquiry will bring.

(We are also excited to see how this planning process can be reflected on, refined and transferred to our unit planning with our students – let’s bring them into the planning and give them choice, voice and ownership within the units of inquiry.)