Wayfinder Learning Lab

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


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Visualising the Curriculum: A Design-Cycle Approach

design-cycleThis year, two of my professional learning ‘Tankyuu‘ goals are to develop the curriculum review cycle for our school and to investigate ways in which we can best communicate our curriculum to the school community: parents, teachers, students and outside agencies.

What kind of MYP Coordinator would I be if I didn’t at least attempt to apply the Design Cycle to this design challenge ;>

Over the coming couple of months, I’ll post updates and ideas to the blog, following the cycle as well as possible. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have found the right vehicle for curriculum communication and can start on putting it together.

Why do we need this?

As an international school with a diverse student body, light turnover in faculty and families coming in and out throughout the year, we need to be able to clearly articulate what our students are learning in a way that is understandable to all stakeholders. Where cultural expectations of curriculum might differ, as well as interpretations of an inquiry education (defined below), we need to show the common threads, the ‘safe knowledge’ and the space for exploration in our programmes. As an accredited international school and authorised IB World School, we need to be able to show that learning is built upon clear expectations and that articulation is maintained. As we look towards connecting our curriculum standards to our programme of inquiry, and as we seek to help our parents understand what we do as a school, finding a clear way to reach them is paramount.

Defining Inquiry

Inquiry is creative, critical, reflective thought, built on a foundation of well-taught knowledge, skills and concepts, that invites learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?“. (link)

The non-negotiables

Here are some parameters I’m setting before getting started. There will be more as the research develops and the design specifications take shape.

  1. We already use ATLAS Rubicon for curriculum documentation at the school. Teachers have done a lot of work on this over recent years, and we are moving towards using it as a tool for curriculum conversation rather than form compliance. Although it does not currently help our communication with parents, I will prioritise using ATLAS to its fullest potential over suggesting anything new and will not suggest any tool that generates extra work for teachers. If possible, the communication tool will draw from ATLAS to produce something clearer, leaving ATLAS itself as a ‘safe space’ for curriculum development.
  2. Communicating our curriculum needs to help parents understand the connections between curriculum standards, programme frameworks, our learning principles and an inquiry education.
  3. It must be attractive, usable and accessible to parents from different demographics.
  4. It must meet the requirements for CIS/WASC accreditation and for IB programme evaluation (such as producing clear subject group overviews for MYP). As we prepare for a synchronised visit in a couple of years, I’d like to be done by then.

Next Steps

In the inquiring and analysing phase of the cycle I’ll be looking for research on effective curriculum communication tools from the parent perspective, digging deeper into the potential for ATLAS and looking at some products that are available for curriculum visualisation. As I go, I’ll continue to develop the design specification.

If you’re interested in following this journey, I’ll categorise posts with ‘Curriculum’ and tag them with ‘Visualizing Curriculum’. If you have any comments or ideas, please leave them below or let me know on Twitter (@sjtylr)

 

design-cycle-myp-5-criteria-poster

The MYP 5 Design Cycle, with descriptors. Adapted for Canadian Academy from the IB MYP Design Subject Guide (2014).

 


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Taking on the Challenges of Interdisciplinary Learning (Updated 2018)

Reflections: April 2018

Since the original post in early 2016, we’ve made some progress, experienced some great successes and uncovered some further challenges. Enthusiasm is building behind Interdisciplinary Units (IDU’s), though there is still work to be done. I’ve updated the flowchart below to show some other “ways in” to IDU planning. The pdf version has live links to supporting documents.

Some successes

Although we’re still working towards solid IDU’s in all grade levels, there are some which are working well. In MYP3, the “Keen Machines” IDU evolved from a “nifty lifter” design challenge into a more authentic Design-Science connection, generating mechanical solutions to client-based problems around the school, with many creative products. Three years in, this is already ready for the next step in its development, and the teaching team there have done a great job. This quickly spun off into more client-driven Design projects, including a project to redesign school spaces.

Another great example in MYP4 connects LangLit with I&S. Evolving from a long-standing history unit (pre-MYP authorisation, I take no credit at all), involving a Hiroshima trip and bomb-survivor guest-speaker, this connects historical contexts and Hersey’s book. It resulted this year in “A Noiseless Flash” an exhibition of responses to the bomb, empowered by a month of interactions with a professional curator artist-in-residence and attended by the survivor. This authentic, experience-driven unit led to some amazing outcomes, and some participating students told me that her presence at the exhibition increased the quality of their work; the power of the authentic audience. This is an example of a unit that connects to a significant local and historical context.

These two examples contrast in their use of the coordinator. Although the teachers will lead the way in designing all IDU’s, I was more hands-on in the design of the Keen Machines unit, whereas in the Hiroshima unit my role has been “clear (and stay out of) the way” (they would be doing this anyway).

In both cases I am inspired by the passion of the contributing teachers. And in both cases, the coordinator role has included minimising as much administrivia for teachers as possible. Before I leave CA this summer, I need to make sure that the work these teachers have completed is faithfully captured in ATLAS – something I’ll do in conference with them.

Some Challenges

The biggest challenge to successful IDU implementation is the weight of documentation that seems to be expected; the reason for the creation of the flowchart below. Similarly, we are reluctant to formally assess the students’ work and put it on a report card – we’d rather reduce the number of grades given to students. We are experimenting with alternative ways to capture student reflection against the IDU criteria, outlined below, and some EdTech solutions might help.

Another challenge is for partial participation subjects – such as language and arts options – and how they can effectively engage with IDU’s. Two workarounds so far have been to use the subject expertise of some members of a team to support others, and to work towards some smaller “satellite” IDU’s in grade-levels that already have a strong “everyone in” unit. There is still some work to be done here.

Another challenge in IDU implementation is sustainability of projects. With a public showcase of products, it becomes quickly apparent to the upcoming classes what “success” looks like. The challenge of keeping it fresh.

Future Developments

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Developing a new IDU

As momentum gains behind IDU’s, the enthusiasm to connect subjects and build new units increases. In recent meetings, we’ve used Spiderweb discussions (tracked using Equity Maps as a technoid for teachers), to emerge new units. Moving from this into the flowchart helps keep us off screens and in the conversation, and I’m looking forward to helping develop a new MYP2 unit to connect science, PHE and food design; a slightly-asynchronous experience based around nutrition, data analysis and sustainable development.

As subjects roll through curriculum review, new developments and connections (such as the SDG’s/ Global Goals) can inspire action and design of new IDU’s. As a school working towards Creating a Culture of Thinking, developing IDU’s helps energize the force of Opportunities.

Where once we were planning IDU’s to meet a requirement, I’m now trying to keep up with the requests to help create new experiences. It’s an exciting time for IDU development.

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Original Post: January 2016

April 2018: This post is unedited, save for the image.

Here’s a quick post of some work we’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. Now that the foundations of MYP: Next Chapter are bedded in, with teachers using the guides, working well with the assessment criteria and coming up with some interesting inquiries, it’s time to tackle interdisciplinary units (IDU’s).

Although the school had some IDU’s before, these tended towards more thematic connections; the publication of the IB’s”Fostering interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP guide demands a higher level of sophistication and planning, as well as the use of a separate set of assessment criteria. In the interim period before MYP:NC, we disconnected a few IDU’s to focus on strengthening disciplinary practices, so that when we re-connected, they would be stronger and more authentic to those involved. As a result, more teachers are asking for ways to connect, some of the IDU ideas are evolving and becoming more adventurous and a keen group of teachers have attended (or are about to attend) IDU workshops.

The challenge as coordinator? How to manage and encourage this, whilst ensuring the energy remains in the connections without being diminished by the added burden of a new planner, criteria and restrictions. My solution (for now) is to take on the formal documentation of the new IDU’s and build some support resources, so that the teachers can get on with it. In these prototyping years for the new IDU’s there will be plenty to test and evaluate. One of the key differences in this approach compared to our normal unit planning is that I manage the IDU ATLAS planners: while teachers discuss and plan together, I observe, question and clarify and record the results into the planner. The planner itself won’t be ‘complete’ until at least the second cycle through as we reflect and tinker, but at least we get to test the unit in ‘beta mode’ and see how it grows.

I’ve tried to capture the flow of the IDU in this poster (updated 2018): a visual supplement to the IDU guide that will help us through the process and reduce the amount of pages that teachers need to read. As usual, it’s made in GoogleDrawings, so that I can embed, refine and include links where needed. I’d love to read your feedback in the comments below or on Twitter.

IDU Planning @sjtylr

A sample flowchart for working through the IDU process, distilled from “Fostering interdisciplinary teaching & learning” and MYP Coordinator Support Materials. Click to download as pdf, with active links. Updated April 2018.

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“Culture does not make people. People make Culture.” Chimamanda Adichie

Another great TEDx Talk from Chimamanda Adichie, on “We should all be feminists.” She describes her journey as a feminist and her interactions around feminism with others.

“A feminist is a man or a woman who says ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it and we must do better’.” 

I loved this quote about Culture, but the whole talk is worth watching and sharing:

Chimimanda Adichie: "We should all be feminists."

Chimimanda Adichie: “We should all be feminists.”

Since reading about culture and curriculum (Denis Lawton’s ideas), I can’t help but see the connection between what we value and what we teach. As educators we should consider the ‘story’ we promote about gender issues and although I have some way to go, I do try to promote positive gender roles in class and made some significant changes to sexuality education last year.


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New Challenges: Director of Curriculum & PD [for 2015-2017]

Taylor Family at Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) Ceremony in Kobe.

Taylor Family at Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) Ceremony in Kobe. Anya had a big say in our decision to stay this year – she knows a great lifestyle and education when she sees it!

In the exciting time of year where international school friends and colleagues are making decisions about their futures – stay or go, which fair, which country, which school – we feel some relief at having made the decision to stay. We’re happy here, the school is great, Japan is brilliant and we have a good life. There’s a lot to be thankful for. But there will be some change…

Just before the Autumn break (it was lovely), I signed on as Director of Curriculum and Professional Development* for the next two years. I’ll keep one teaching block and the MYPCo role, but will be looking at things from a more whole-school perspective, following in the footsteps of the super-capable Tony. They’re big shoes to fill, but I’m proud of the work we’ve done together over the last few years, and I think the school is in a strong place for moving forward (and for the first PYP and MYP programme evaluations). There is an excellent leadership team in PYP, an experienced DPCo coming in and a strong set of Principals. We’ve established a good direction as a school, so I hope that the new Head (to be hired) is a great fit.

So over the remainder of this year we want to make sure everyone is on the same page with MYP: Now Chapter, developing curriculum and classroom practices, establishing protocols for strong IDU’s, gathering evidence for the review and preparing for next year’s PD. It’s going to be a busy few years, but this is the right place to take the next step.

Rock on.

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*Does Director of Curriculum & Professional Learning sound more ‘now’? Or even just Director of Learning?


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Educate for hope, not despair, for a fair and sustainable world.

I wrote this post in 2014, but come back to it often. See edits and additions below the main body. We tread a delicate line between hope and despair; between student action for change and not overwhelming our young learners with the pressure of a future that was shaped by others.  

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We’ve wrecked the world.

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Californian Blue Whales are almost back to historical levels after whaling bans in their range [Image: Getty, free for education].

Inequality, environmental destruction, outbreaks of disease, terrorism and economic collapse. We are (we think) aware of the problems we face – and the message can be one of hopelessness. Do we risk passing on global ignorance to our students – a connected, compassionate generation who are plugged into a media-rich stream of (mis)information?

As we try to bring global issues into the classroom, there is a danger that we promote a message that all is lost; a message reinforced by media reporting on the same issues and clouded by prejudices and emotion? This is something I worry about in international curriculum design and often think about how a globally-informed curriculum can also be a hopeful one.

We can fix it.

We can choose to educate for hope. The solutions to many of problems are out there, or on the cusp of being realised – the technological age is well established and we are reaping the rewards. Now it’s time to recognise the importance of the psychological age. George Monbiot writes that if we terrify people, they will focus on saving themselves, not others; a feeling of hopelessness that accompanies awareness of global issues is unhelpful. Yet if the focus is on the concrete and the hopeful – the actions that we can take to make a difference – then we might affect a more positive outcome.

I would love to see an international school curriculum that produces graduates who are globally literate (as in Hans Rosling’s Ignorance Project) and who are hopeful, compassionate and active ‘fixers of the future‘. With the IB Programmes we have the framework – the ‘heavy lifting’ of the elements of an excellent education has been done for us. As schools we can choose to use that framework to build an inspirational experience.

Edit 2018: Rosling’s posthumously-published book (Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think) is out. Here is an excerpt in the Guardian.

We can start with simple actions

Blue whales are recovering and we can re-grow rainforests – so we can reclaim hope in the curriculum with simple actions:

  1. Design units that connect to Global Contexts in authentic ways.
  2. Evaluate our own understandings of the global issues we’re addressing before we teach them.
  3. Use student research and examples to highlight both the reality of of the situation and the actions that can (and are) being taken to make a positive difference.
    • MYP Sciences, Criterion D – I’m looking at you. And you too while we’re at it, and Design Cycle.
  4. Discuss how these actions and our knowledge can be connected to meaningful action.

We want to create a realistic hope – not ignorance, boredom or hopelessness.

We can do it.

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Update Dec 2017: Blue Planet’s Back! 

“We want children to love nature so that they protect it in the future.”

(Patagonia “Family Business” Raising the Next Generation)

Read this post from June 2017 on the Patagonia blog, about the Great Pacific Child Development Center and their studies and efforts to connect kids to nature. Similarly, we can reflect on the kinds of experiences and media that promote positive feelings towards environmental stewardship in our kids. Shows like Blue Planet II and Planet Earth stimulate fantastic conversations in our house and inspire our kids whilst also informing them of the human impacts. They’re not afraid, but they care.

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Update April 2018: International Contexts

“We do not see ecological grief as submitting to despair, and neither does it justify ‘switching off’ from the many environmental problems that confront humanity. Instead, we find great hope in the responses ecological grief is likely to invoke.”

Read this excellent post from the TheConversation/TerraMar Project,Ecological Grief: Understanding Hope & Despair in the Anthropocene.” As you read the piece, think about the psychological impacts of environmental change. What can we do about them? How might you use “Why Them? Why There? Why Then?” in connection with the article to develop IMaGE?

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Update January 2019: #Factfulness & Global Ignorance

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 8.05.01 AMAnyone who follows me on Twitter will know how much I love Factfulness by Hans Rosling & family. I have a growing LibGuide full of connected resources for the global ignorance project and data-informed inquiry here. I presented it recently at ACAMIS Tech 2018, and will run an extended session at Learning 2.019 in Nanjing in November.

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Update March 2019: Global Thinking Toolkit

PZ Global Competence Model A3 Portrait Graphics (@sjtylr)The Global Thinking Routines from Veronica Boix-Mansilla’s (@VBoixMansillaGlobal Thinking Bundle, are a set of project zero resources that can help focus classroom action and inquiry. Click here to read the full Global Thinking guide, and here for her piece in Educational Leadership Magazine on How To Be A Global Thinker. I also love her IB blog post on “bringing international mindedness to life” with portraiture.

See this post for more graphics and links.

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Update April 2019: #OurPlanet!

Attenborough & team are back… on Netflix. The new series, Our Planet, does a great job of teaching for hope, not despair, without white-washing the issues. After George Monbiot’s scathing criticism of the more recent series, Our Planet shares the beauty, highlights the issues and show real and inspiring examples of how human actions are already making a positive impact. They have a great website of resources & clips here.

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Links: 


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A pragmatic approach to inquiry: my article in IS magazine

Click to read.

Click to read.

This article, “(Re)defining inquiry for international education,” is based on a thread of thought started with my “MYP: Mind the Gapconference presentation and continued with an MA assignment. It was published in the most recent issue (Autumn | Spring 2014) of International School Magazine, edited by University of Bath tutors and international education gurus Mary Hayden and Jeff Thompson.

In the article “(re)defining” refers to clarifying the meaning of the term inquiry, so that we can give access to high-quality inquiry learning to students through the whole continuum. It builds on anecdotal experiences in discussions that ‘inquiry’ has been framed from one end as a weak, free-for-all alternative to teaching and critical reasoning. This is a misinterpretation, and the article advocates for a reminder of what inquiry is and a working definition of inquiry as critical reflective thought (after Elkjaer & Dewey) that is future-oriented, but based on strong foundation of effectively-taught skills and knowledge (after Vygotsky, Hattie…). From the other end, it is important to understand that inquiry looks and feels very different as disciplinary studies become deeper and more authentic.

This is of particular importance to IB schools. Stakeholders need to understand that an inquiry-based framework is not a knowledge-free curriculum, and that a high-stakes test-based assessment at one end is no excuse to crush the exploration out of the learning process.

In essence: we create an outstanding curriculum that gives students knowledge and skills to work with and has lots of room for them to put them to use in critical, creative and reflective problem-solving. Use high-impact strategies to teach those skills and that knowledge, to avoid misconception and to ensure that these critical thinkers have a solid foundation of raw materials for future learning.

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Read the full article on IS Magazine’s website here, or download the magazine (pdf) here (or just the article pdf here).

Click to read my article on Inquiry in the Autumn | Spring issue of International School magazine.

Click to read my article on Inquiry in the Autumn | Spring issue of International School magazine.


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How NOT to be ignorant about the world.

Hans Rosling, TED.com

“Fame is easy to acquire. Impact is much more difficult.” 

Update, 2018: As a Rosling fanboy, using their work on i-Biology since about 2008, I was saddened to hear of his death in 2017. However, his recent book #Factfulness, is fantastic and well worth reading. More below. 

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Another great Hans Rosling TED Talk, this time with his son, Ola.

Here Dealing with misconceptions, bias, ignorance of global issues and a little formative assessment*, they discuss how we can be better informed about the world, with a fact-based world view… and how we could (eventually) perform better than chimps on a global issues quiz. I have blogged about how this might be used in IBTOK or science classes on i-Biology.

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Should a fact-based world view be the core curriculum of an international school?

Early in the talk, Ola recognises the influence of early bias of students and outdated curricula on the world view held by students – and how these are compounded by an ill-informed media. Through their project, they are trying to measure these misconceptions and propose a ‘global knowledge certificate’ that candidates (or organisations) might use to stay informed, to be competitive and to think about the future.

It seems to me that the fact-based world view would make for an excellent set of content-knowledge standards for an international school, and might pair nicely with the IB programmes as we seek to create knowledgable young inquirers who seek to make a positive difference to the world around them. How can they achieve this if they are learning outdated concepts of development or using stereotypes to paint the world in an ugly shade of ill-informed?

Hattie’s meta-analyses note that the power of prior learning (including prior mis-learning or misconception) has a very high impact on students’ future learning (d=0.67). As we generate scopes and sequences for courses or set up units of inquiry, should we be looking to the research not only on misconceptions in our own content domain but in global literacy in order to give students the tools they need to inquire in a changing and often-misunderstood world?

Is globally-literate the same as internationally-minded?

It is hard to define international-mindedness, though we can recognize it in our own settings. We might observe the behaviours of a globally-engaged student (or teacher), and might use assessments of students’ fact-based world-views as a measure of their international-mindedness. To this end, a globally-focused national school might be a more effective ‘international school’ than a more narrow-focused overseas expatriate school.**

You read about the ignorance project here on CNN, or find more classroom resources (including a world-view card game) on Gapminder’s education page. The Guardian also has a selection of global development quizzes, which you can take for fun or in class.

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*making great use of the audience-response clicker system pioneered by Eric Mazur.

**this is part of the idea of my web-chart of the IMaGE (IM and Global Engagement) of a school in my MA work.

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“Please return your brain for a free upgrade.”

Edit 2018: Rosling’s posthumously-published book (Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think)is out. Here is an excerpt in the Guardian.


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Growth Mindsets & IB Programme Evaluation

Please encourage your own school to see the ongoing programme evaluation process as a growth process, using the standards and practices as a reference.

Please encourage your own school to see the ongoing programme evaluation process as a growth process, using the standards and practices as a reference.

Reflecting on Carol Dweck’s Mindset got me thinking about the process of IB Programme Evaluation and some of the many conversations I’ve had with people about it over the last few years.

Although I know the IB and its representatives in the IB Educator Network aim to reassure schools that the process is one of self-evaluation and growth, I commonly hear people stressed about ‘re-accreditation’ (it’s not) and the fear of being judged from outside. It is entirely natural to feel a sense of judgment when someone evaluates your programme and curriculum (or even internally in teacher evaluations by admin or students). It is very difficult sometimes to see suggestions for improvement as personal criticism; after all, we have put a *lot* of hard work into the product. There may be strong extrinsic or external motivations for an ‘excellent’ report, but validation is not the sole purpose of evaluation. It is important to recognise that as educators we are agents of change and should apply the ‘growth mindset’ to evaluation in order to use feedback to improve; in the process modeling the actions of learning for our students and community.

It’s not ‘re-accreditation‘!

The table below is my attempt to apply fixed and growth mindsets to the process of programme evaluation. What do you recognise in your own experience? What might you seek to change? When it’s time for your school’s evaluation process how will you aim to make it a growth experience rather than a fixed judgement?

Personal Reflection

When I was DPCo in Bandung, we were careful to frame it as ‘ongoing programme evaluation‘, completing the self-study survey early in the process, then again just before submission. We tracked each department’s perceived changes in levels of implementation of the standards and practices and used the information to generate action plans. In the end, after using the evaluation as a growth process, we were happy with the report and there were no surprises. We had been able to predict and already start to set action plans for the Recommendations. Although I didn’t know the language back then, we were trying to frame the process in a ‘growth mindset’ manner. We plan to do the same for the upcoming (and first) five-year evaluation for CA, in conjunction with the new PYP Coordinator.

 

 


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Are IB Schools Trivium21C Schools?

Update (Dec 2018): This is a really old post now, but something I reflect on regularly. I have some related posts at the bottom. Since this review in 2014, Edutwitter seems more divided, which is a shame; we all want the very best learning for our kids, and our contexts can be dramatically different. The more I see this, the more I’m convinced that truly creating a culture of thinking is what can unite contrasting viewpoints, transcend programmes and help focus on quality implementation. 

Since this post was originally written, a lot of new resources have come out around learning science, which are also really useful. There is a greater push in the IB world towards learner agency and I’m now working in a school making some really bold moves towards the future of learning. These ideas are not mutually exclusive and they have a lot to complement each other. It is our privileged position to build models of what they could be and share the journey as we go. 

The body text is unedited from 2014, except where strikethroughs indicate change. 

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I was lucky enough to get this for a pound on Amazon, but it is worth more. Trivium 21C by Martin Robinson.

I recently finished Martin Robinson’s (@SurrealAnarchy – now @Trivium21C) excellent Trivium 21C: Preparing young people for the future with lessons from the past, the author’s journey through the history of education to find the inspiration for the education he wants for his young daughter. As I read I became more and more convinced that he was essentially describing a high-performing International Baccalaureate education, combining a well-taught, high-quality curriculum (the Grammar), with the development of skills and wisdom to really inquire through critical reflective thought (the Dialectic). With the grammar aligning with a more traditionalist view of education and the dialectic with a more progressive set of methods, Robinson’s book hits very close to my own views and ideals on education and where I want it to go: a set of principles and practices that combine the best of both worlds. The third element of the Trivium, the Rhetoric, is the capacity and engagement of the student in performance, communication, discussion, presentation and participation in authentic and meaningful (global) communities.

Along the way, Robinson takes us through the history of education, from the ancient Greeks to now, at each step highlighting the competing paradigms of learning. It seems as though the progressive vs traditional debate mud-fight has been raging since long before the written word! He interviews leading educational thinkers on both sides of the progressive/traditional divide and my thoughts on Ken Robinson’s TED Talks agree generally with his – we do need content in our curriculum, but we need to ensure it is the right stuff, taught well. What is the culture we want to preserve into the future?

What does a Trivium 21C education look like?

Robinson describes the grammar and dialectic as cyclic in nature, the grammar (content) giving the raw materials for the dialectic (inquiry). The rhetoric is ongoing, connecting the student’s learning to the wider world through communication. The diagram below is my attempt to summarize Trivium 21C in one graphic.

My attempt to represent Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21C in a graphic. Can you see the connections here between the Trivium and a well-implemented IB continuum of programmes?

 

Is an IB Education a Trivium Education?

Robinson’s descriptions of his Trivium 21C align very closely with the principles and practices of a well-implemented continuum of an IB education. Although an IB education is inquiry-based, we need to be careful to define this inquiry as critical reflective thought; guided inquiry based on a strong curricular and pedagogical foundation. Inquiry in the PYP may well be open-ended and student-directed, but the rigorous planning and careful, responsive teaching that takes place are exemplary to all teachers. The assessment descriptors of the MYP, as well as the broad and balanced, concept-based approach to the student’s total curriculum give a rounded and challenging experience. Founded on strong unit planning and vertical and horizontal articulation of curriculum, there should be room for inquiry, as well as effective preparation for the higher-tension IB Diploma. In the Diploma itself we see the broad and balanced approach remain as students study not only six subjects, but really exercise their dialectic and rhetoric muscles through the Theory of Knowledge, 4,000-word Extended Essay and challenging learning outcomes of Service (MYP) and Creativity, Action and Service (IBDP).

IB Learner Profile

The IB Learner Profile – or the Philosopher Kid? Click through to read more.

IB Learner ProfileThe philosopher kid of Robinson’s Trivium21C is the embodiment of the IB’s Learner Profile. Towards the end of the book, Robinson makes mention of the IB’s programmes, referring to the dialectic and rhetorical nature of the Theory of Knowledge course in IBDP, the criterion-related assessment of the MYP and the rhetorical (participatory) elements of Creativity Action and Service.

The hierarchical nature of assessment descriptors in the MYP and DP highlights the content-first (Grammar) approach to teaching, learning and assessment. Students can experience success with a good level of content knowledge, but to really excel they must put it to action, with the higher-order command terms driving the higher achievement levels (explain, analyse, evaluate, design, for example).

On paper, an IB education would seem to have all that Robinson seeks in the Trivium 21C, but even within this globalized framework for an international education there is a high degree of variability. This is key – a well-implemented IB continuum of programmes has it all. A poorly-implemented programme may lack in one or more elements of the Trivium; however the frequent and constructive programme evaluation processes in place with the IB should help schools improve.

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Recommending the Book

I highly recommend reading this book, though it is not a quick read by any means; you may well need a note-pad. It has a cast of characters greater than Game of Thrones, yet you’ll feel less soiled once finishing (and none of the ideas are killed off in such gruesome ways as GRRM does his creations). It is quite high-altitude, and though I’d like to recommend it to new teachers, it might not be the practical volume they need to survive. It is an excellent provocation for school leaders and coordinators, as well as those studying curriculum development and educational policy at a more academic level. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who places themself on either side of the progressive/traditional education debate.

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Personal Reflection

Both Robinson and I share many values and ideas on the education we want for our children. I have the deep privilege of not only being able to choose it for my own kids, but of being in a position where I can help shape it through an IB education. I want my kids and the learners in my school to be excited, globally aware and motivated to learn more, following purposeful lines of inquiry, built on solid foundations.

Over the last couple of many years, my thinking on education has matured, largely as a result of experience in teaching coordination and curriculum development, but also as a result of taking a more academic approach to learning through my MA studies.

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The following selection of blog posts are related: 

 

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Some alternative versions of the graphic

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Defining Inquiry: A Pragmatic Approach


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Curriculum Spark: ATLAS Webinar

Here are the slides from a short webinar I presented for Rubicon ATLAS on our MYP: Next Chapter journey so far.

Over the last couple of years, we have had a lot of interaction with Ben, Chris, Natalie and the Rubicon ATLAS team to customise our planner to give more guidance to teachers, test out elements of Next Chapter and to link from ATLAS boxes to supporting resources on our Faculty Guide. After all the hard work, we’re now at a stage where we can think more about just getting it done and focusing on evaluation and improvement of curriculum, rather than completion of documentation.