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"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

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A five-star post about Assessment

Here are a couple of short, funny* videos that could be used for informal discussion prompts on assessment. If you have more, please post them in the comments below.

Mr. D on grading tests

  • Is the assessment we design and give to students a valid measurement of learning outcomes?
  • Does the application of the grading criteria give reliable data on student learning?
  • Is there a place for attitudinal grading in academic assessment? (This is to be largely removed from the MYP as part of the Next Chapter).


John Gordillo on the arbitrary and undefined nature of star reviews

  • How do my assessments in one criterion compare to those in another?
  • How does the application of criterion-based assessment in my subject compare to that of another?
  • Are there really some subjects that are ‘easier sevens’ than others? Why? If so, how can this be fixed?


*Depending on the descriptors you use for funniness.


Using Student Learning Data to (try to) Improve Student Data Processing: A Department Goal

This year saw the start of a school-wide push to become more data-driven in our decision-making and evaluation. As a result, one of our goals as teachers at the start of the year was the Student Learning Goal, a target set by groups or individuals based on data collected in school. As a science department we opted to investigate Criterion E: Data Processing in the MYP. We picked this criterion as it is something we have all experiences student difficulty with, it feeds directly into success at IBDP and even with the Next Chapter changes the skills and conventions are likely to remain intact as it is such a fundamental part of the scientific method. Data analysis on data analysis; that’s how we roll. 


  • Our initial goal was to analyse the Criterion E scores given in 2011-12 and take actions to improve them in 2012-13, though we realised early on that there were too many uncontrolled variables within the department to make comparisons valid and reliable. Scientists, eh?
    • As a result we shifted this year’s focus to setting up a greater vertical departmental understanding of the elements on Criterion E, as well as preparing resources and exemplars for students.
    • We are confident that the semester 2 data from this year are more reliable, and so will be useful in comparison next year (2013-14) as we take action on our work.
  • To work towards this common goal we needed to have a lot of discussions about data processing, presentation and analysis. This involved:
    • Identifying and discussing common student errors and misconceptions.
    • Unpacking the rubrics to make sure we all shared a common understanding of what is expected.
      • This included a lot of vertical discussion about what elements are appropriate for MYP 1 and 3, and I think this was the most powerful part of our work.
    • Identifying commonalities and differences in expectations in MYP and DP Biology, Chemistry and Physics courses in terms of conventions for data processing.
    • Moderating exemplars of student work.
    • Looking up research, journals or articles on student issues in data processing and sharing these with the group, to further discussion and develop strategies to use in our classes.
  • Towards the end of the year we were able to produce a GoogleSlides set of resources to give common advice to students, with exemplars. This is to be copied and edited to MYP3 and MYP1, to meet the adjusted expectations of the interim objectives. As you can see, there is still some work to complete, though it will be ready for action with students in August.

Read more…

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Using personal GoogleSites for learning, assessment & feedback in #IBBio

Click to see an example of how the GoogleSite was set up.

This is reposted from my i-Biology.net blog. To comment, please go there.


Over the last two years, My IB Bio class have been keeping individual GoogleSites as records and reflections of their learning. Based on this experience and their feedback, I have tweaked the project to try to make it more effective as a learning tool.


With the bulk of our resources online (here on i-Biology.net, Slideshare and elsewhere), as well as a 1:1 laptop and GoogleApps environment, it doesn’t make much sense to be using too much paper. The aim of this project was to empower students to build skills and knowledge connected to the IB Biology course, whilst making their thinking visible to me as a teacher. Through this process, students are able to track their progress, stay on top of their grades and prepare at their own pace (especially if they are working ahead).

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MYP Mind the Gap: Tensions in Transition from MYP to DP

UPDATE: March 31 2017

hackthemypI have just presented on #HackTheMYP at the IB Global Conference in Yokohama. At the conference there has been a lot of talk about Visible Learning. Since 2013, when I gave the Mind the Gap presentation, Visible Learning has really taken hold in international schools, as well as attracted some critics. Please read here for a review of Hattie’s more recent Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn, as well as links to some critiques of the work.

Of course, since 2013 the MYP Next Chapter has taken place, and is now up and running. It is a great updated to the programme, and it is easy to put high-impact teaching practices to work to generate success in MYP… and send great learners up to DP.

I used the ideas in this presentation as the foundation for some assignments with the University of Bath, and in forming the pragmatic definition of inquiry. The rest of this post remains untouched and reflects my thinking back in 2013.


Reflection: March 2013

Last Saturday I led my first conference breakout session, at the IB Asia Pacific Regional Conference 2013. It was hugely nerve-wracking, yet thoroughly enjoyable and well worth doing. As James MacDonald said in his session on Creativity, there’s nothing like doing a presentation on a topic to make you learn a lot about it – quickly!

When I was preparing the session, I had a few aims in mind:

  1. Pick a topic of discussion that would generate interest and be relevant to everyone in the audience.
  2. Develop a resource that would be used beyond the conference session, giving something tangible that participants could take home and work on.
  3. Facilitate something interactive, rather than a one-way information dump.

Also, after reading more about the Hattie meta-analysis, I wanted to introduce this as a ‘lense’ for these discussions. Whichever side of the fence one may sit with regard to the MYP-DP transition, it is hard to argue with evidence-based teaching and learning. There are strong practices from the DP that can be used in the MYP, as well as strong practices from the PYP and MYP that DP teachers might appreciate more fully with the evidence base.

To (try to) achieve this, I built a wikispace for resources, along with a Prezi for the session and some Wallwishers to collect participant ideas. I was careful to choose tools that would be available to participants when they got home (thanks http://www.blockedinchina.net/), and would be easy to use in the session. This meant many, many hours of preparation.

The premise was simple: are there significant ‘gaps’ between MYP and DP, either real or perceived, what does the evidence say about them (based on the Hattie meta-analysis), and what can we do about them?

MYP Mind the Gap

MYP Mind the Gap: Click to go to the Prezi for my session.

I tried to classify some of the tensions into three main domains. The links take you to the wikispaces page for each.

In each domain, I summarised some of the key findings from the Hattie meta-analysis, and then provided a number of quotes and provocations for groups to discuss: this was an attempt at differentiation by interest, and as I circulated, I could see that there was a great diversity in the interests of the groups. Some groups diverged from the MYP-DP issues and got really into looking at the Hattie resources, which was fine by me – at least there was a take-home for them.

I was even able to include a shout-out to the #MYPChat and extend an invitation to all to join in.

The session turned out better than I had expected, and was worth the work.

The room was busy, with a couple of latecomers standing, and I tried to encourage a loud and collegial discussion. From the first stimulus question, people were engaged – it is clearly an issue that resonates with many schools. I joked at one point that I could just leave the room, but really I probably could have done. I was thrilled to see groups form that did not previously know each other, and one group near the front were lovely – some ladies from India, Indonesia and Malaysia who found they all faced similar challenges of national curricula as well as MYP-DP transitions. I hope they stay in touch with each other!

The hour flew by – which I expected – and I got the sense that the participants enjoyed it. The feedback I received after the session was very positive. Although we had some issues with connecting to the Wallwishers for posting ideas there was little need (that was probably a tech-step too far for some people), everyone received a paper ticket with the URL and QR code, so they can revisit the domains of tension in their own schools.

One comment I’ve had a couple of times is that there is enough material in this to develop a full workshop, which would be cool: taking an evidence-based view of teaching and learning across the transition to strengthen our practices. As the IB grows in its research base and strengthens its provision of pedagogical workshops, this might have a place.

So next year: MYP Mind the Gap, Part 2? [Edit 2017: I did propose this, but nope] 

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A pedagogy of personalised learning

A pedagogy of personalised learning, from education.gov.uk

A pedagogy of personalised learning, from education.gov.uk (pdf)

While reading about “Current issues in curriculum” today, I was pointed to this document from the UK government: Personalised Learning: A practical guide (pdf). I thought it might be worth sharing and of use to others. It’s long, but outlines some plans and strategies for personalised learning in schools.

How achievable is this in a setting with a rigid curriculum syllabus?

How fluid can the curriculum be made in order to really facilitate personalised learning ideals without sacrificing ‘standards’?

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MA Assignment: Proposed Assessment in MYP Next Chapter Sciences

This is a piece of work I submitted in February for my MA in International Education unit on Assessment with the University of Bath. I was given permission from my tutor to post it on this personal professional reflective blog.

It explores some of the issues of validity and reliability in the proposed changes to assessment in the MYP Sciences as the Next Chapter comes into focus. Please note that none of the proposals mentioned in this assignment have been ‘signed off’ by the IBO, as there are elements still in the pilot scheme.

Thanks to Malcolm Nicolson and Sean Rankin for their support in the process.

Next up: Curriculum Studies! Now that the year is starting to wind down (or screech towards the final day), my mind is starting to be filled with thoughts of what’s coming next year in the role of MYP Coordinator. I’ll try to base that assignment on an issue of relevance to CA as well.