Ripples & Reflections

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


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The Buoyant Force of Continuum Learning

There are no new ideas in this post, yet as I work on curriculum development across the subjects, I reflect on how easy it is for us to fall into the trap of backward mapping without considering the buoyant force of learners as they move up the continuum. 

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Starting with the end in mind – backward design (Wiggins & McTighe) – is critically important in making curriculum decisions. What are we aiming for at the end of this great journey? What do our learners need from us? This helps us design schemes, units, assessments and instructional resources that meet whatever standards or outcomes we need to address. A great backwards-designed curriculum is powerful and engaging. By knowing the desired outcomes we can see the pathways for differentiation, interest and flexibility; the learner’s journey is rich and varied and the learner becomes more than the sum of the (instructional) parts.

Rubrics@sjtlyrInterpreting backwards design too inflexibly, however, runs the risk of stripping out the soul of the subject through a laser-focused aim on a narrow selection of terminal performance tasks:  “we need to get them ready for (exam/essay/other) by doing lots of (exam/essay/other) at every stage.”  Well-intentioned, though potentially stifling, “get them ready for…” creates the spectre of a future to worry about. As large-scale terminal assessments necessitate reliable (standardised) operations, they measure what can be measured easily – but do they get to its true heart? If we strip a subject down to the items on a list, what happens to disciplinary authenticity and deep inquiry over time?

Whilst keeping the end in mind, how can we really harness the present enthusiasm and inquiry and build on past excitement and learning to create the moving force of experience that carries learners upwards?

The Buoyant Force

The learners that walk into our schools are not blank slates. When they step into MYP from PYP, they are energised by PYPx and their many exciting experiences. If they step up from a strong PYP, they are already knowledgeable, enthusiastic inquirers. Similarly in the transition from MYP to DP, the tempered learner enters DP with a toolkit of ATL skills, disciplinary and interdisciplinary foundations. None of this is frivolous or superficial and they are not fixed empty vessels, waiting to be filled with a set amount of content.

bubblesThey are more like air bubbles racing to the surface of the water, expanding and accelerating as they go. When they hit the surface, they transition into the next phase: we launch them from school to the world. Along the way, however, there is the buoyant force, an upwards push that we can harness in curriculum design. It might sound cheesy, but run with it.

What are the opportunities and experiences that nucleate those bubbles? How can we catch the bubbles and keep those moving forces pushing upwards? When I reflect on things happening in our own context I think of a few examples:

  • The rapid evolution of our Design classes in many ways. Introducing 3D printers and Tinkercad was great – but even greater is that once the PYP kids got a hold of it, those initial MYP lessons have become redundant already. Now the young MYP designers are doing amazing things, with purpose and audience. The buoyant force of the early experience allowed for even more awesome things to happen later.
  • The revolution of PHE in MYP and the obvious and exciting enthusiasm of the learners as they move up the course. I’m stoked to see how they introduce more authentic data analysis and as a department they have created fantastic learning opportunities.
  • The young PYP writers, coming out of a workshop model into MYP are already equipped for mini-lessons, conferencing and lots of active output in authentic genres. They are ready to write, read and produce work for real audiences.

In every discipline, in all sections of the continuum, I see examples like this, and it is amazing. The buoyant force creates pressure on a backward-mapped curriculum. There is no surer way to burst a kid’s bubble than to approach curriculum with the view that “I know you can do [amazing thing], but we need to do [less amazing, but seemingly more ‘valid’ thing].

So as we develop vertically articulated curriculum, are we spending the care to think about the very best of what these learners know and can do already, and about how a rapidly evolving curriculum in the years below might precipitate a need for (r)evolution and reinvention in the years above? Do we think about it as a spiral, so that even if they encounter similar topics or concepts, they are truly building a stronger understanding through inquiring more deeply and with greater sophistication? Are we looking left and right for connections and experiences that can enhance the experience?

In the younger years are we thinking about how these bubbles nucleate, and how they connect to (and inspire) experiences in later years? When we teach a topic, are we taking care not to inflate the learner with misconceptions that rise with them?

When we deal with transitions, do we focus on communicating the very best of the learners’ experiences? Do we ask the teachers before us “how do we keep them excited?” Are we creating exhilaration for what comes next, rather than anxiety?

What are the buoyant forces in your continuum? 

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Animations:


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The Tempered Learner (on self-regulation)

I’ve been thinking about effective self-directed inquiry, the approaches to learning and Bold Moves curriculum a lot recently. As always, the Twitter PLN is full of ideas and questions, and this question by Alison Yang got me thinking:

My first thought was that these learners are “in control”. They demonstrate the learner profile with calmness and balance. In my class of DP biologists, there was a full range of approaches to the challenge and workload, so what set apart the highly self-regulated (and most successful) students?

I started to list characteristics of learners I know from past experience have been “in control” of their learning, thinking about their mastery of the ATL skills and (from Cognitive Coaching training), how they reflect holonomy and the five states of mind (efficacy, consciousness, craftsmanship, interdependence and flexibility).

Ever the sucker for a nice acronym and positive imagery, I sorted them out to yield “TEMPER”. Defined as a state of mind between anger and calm (that works), or the balance between hardness and elasticity in a metal (I like that too). Flexible, calm, tempered students in a state of flow can be highly self-regulating. Conversely, what’s in low resource in a student who is demonstrating inflexible, stressed or angry behaviour?

So, here goes. Cod-psychology at its finest, but an intellectual toy for me and a starting point think about how we might identify and develop traits of self-regulation.

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The TEMPERed Learner is Highly Self-Regulating

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 17.25.09Time Management

The tempered learner is in control of use of time. They are less stressed by deadlines, but “ship” the goods on time. They have autonomy of their use of time in class and outside, but are disciplined in their approaches.

Could a strong self-regulated learner be in control of their own schedule and learn more effectively and efficiently than our regular timetable allows?

Emotional Resources

The tempered learner is in control of their affective skills and aware of their emotional responses. They understand how emotion interacts with the other ways of knowinghow their emotion might affect their learning and relationships and how to plan or respond accordingly. They “fail forwards” and bounce back from challenges with positivity.

Mindset/Motivation/Mastery

The tempered learner is in control of their own drive to succeed, valuing the process that leads to a quality product. The most self-regulating students in my own classes tend to be those that see feedback (in any form) as a step towards success, can see the gap between where they are and where they need to be and know how to close that gap through mastery.

Physical & Mental Health

The tempered learner is in control of their physical & mental wellbeing. They eat well, move lots, sleep plenty and seem to enjoy life even in stressful times. They maintain balance with physical and creative pursuits, family and connection. It’s tough to see students succumb to stress, evidenced by visible changes in wellness, and signals issues in our systems and/or their self-regulation that need to be addressed. What are their avenues to physical health and talking about (and taking action on) mental wellbeing?

Educational Goals

The tempered learner is driven by a purpose beyond chasing grades. They demonstrate clarity of purpose in the course, programme or pathway even if their own career outcome is not clear. They set and achieve challenging, realistic and meaningful goals and demonstrate effective strategies (such as use of feedback) that will get them there.

Reflection

The tempered learner is effectively reflective, generating their own cycles of feedback, planning and action. They are highly metacognitive, learning well from their experiences, building on success, avoiding repeating mistakes in the future and making connections across contexts through transfer.

What happens to the ill-tempered learner? 

Reflect for a moment on what might go wrong if a student is not self-reliant in one more of the TEMPER traits. What are the causes and effects, and what has been our role as a the expert (or system) in leading them to that place? What needs to be fixed and what does that learner need in order to become more self-regulating?

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Forging Steel: A Teacher’s Tempering

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Kate in “A Knight’s Tale” developed a stronger, light armour. (Article: KissMyWonderWoman.com)

Let’s push the image to breaking with thinking about the role of the teacher in developing truly self-regulating learners. Iron alloys, like steel, are made stronger and less brittle (more flexible) through tempering, a process of careful heating and cooling.

How is this analogous to the role of the teacher in developing the tempered learner? What are the repeated processes we use to help create, strong, flexible young adults who can guide their own development and take on the world?

Each of the TEMPER traits are teachable, practicable and observable through the approaches to learning and many effective strategies. This is where the role of the teacher as an activator (rather than facilitator) of learning is critically important: to explicitly use and evaluate effective methods.

The learners themselves become experts in learning: the tempered learner can set their own path to success through self-regulation.

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The Temper Trap

I love this band, with their Indonesian lead singer, soaring choruses and interesting lyrics. Trembling Hands is a favourite: laced with aspiration, filmed in Cuba and showing the triumphant tempering of an acrobat’s mettle.

 


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Webb’s DOK4 & Transfer

115013bLast weekend I took part in a fabulous Bold Moves Curriculum Mapping Bootcamp, by Dr. Marie Alcock at ISKL. I was there to think about next steps for curriculum planning at CA, and it was a great opportunity to pick the brains of a true expert (and get lots done). I like the bootcamp model for PD: short, focused and with the opportunity to take immediate action with great feedback from colleagues in similar positions.

Through one of the discussions about high-quality assessment, Marie dug into Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework. It’s not a “wheel” of command terms as is often (and incorrectly) presented, but a way of framing how deeply students need to know and use information, skills and concepts. Similarly, DOK is not the same as Bloom’s Taxonomy, and is not a pyramid or a hierarchy of knowledge that “peaks” at DOK4. It can be accessed from any of the other three levels, and effectively sits in parallel.

For a decent explainer of how DOK levels work, see this by Erik Francis for ASCD Edge – I used his DOK descriptors in the teacher plansheet tool.

In practical terms, as explained by Marie, students should be able to access DOK4 from any one of the other DOK levels. This is important, as DOK4 essentially can act as a filter for transfer.

How else can the student use the knowledge, skills and content at this level? 

This means that in curriculum and task design and differentiation, teachers can set up situations for all students to pull their learning (even if only at a recall/DOK1 level) through to DOK4 by applying it in a new context – as long as it is the same skill/target. For example, this might mean taking a scientific skill and applying to a new experiment, or a writing technique applied to a new genre. This is knowledge augmentation. MYP Teachers will see the immediate connections here to higher-order objectives in the criteria.

 

Teacher Plansheet: A Practical Use

Transfer is a notoriously difficult skill to teach, even though it is included in the ATL framework, and so I sketched up this planning tool (pdf) in the hope that it can visualise how DOK4 can be used as a filter to make transfer explicit. Follow the arrows as you think about putting a target standard or learning outcome to work. What level (DOK1-2-3) is expected of the student? How else (DOK4) could it be used? For some excellent, practical resources on applying DOK in the various disciplines, check out Dr. Karin Hess’s Cognitive Rigor and DOK rubrics and resources.

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Transferring the Transfer: Thinking Collaboratively

How else might this tool be put to use? Here are some quick thoughts on how this might work with the collaboration of the relevant experts or coaches in the school.

  • Technology Integration: using the DOK4 filter as an opportunity to amplify and transform (RAT model) the learning task (but still meet objectives).
  • Service Learning: In moving from “doing service” to service learning, could this be used to help frame students’ focus on planning, or post-service reflection? As students learn about issues of significance, how can they put it work through transfer to meaningful action? As they reflect on their learning, can they connect new and existing disciplinary knowledge?
  • Interdisciplinary Learning: How can students take their learning and use it meaningfully in a context that requires transfer between disciplines?

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Taking on the Challenges of Interdisciplinary Learning

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 (nominally) 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 perceived 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 this prototyping year 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, the purpose being a visual supplement to the IDU guide that will help us through the process clearly. 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 Poster Taylor

IDU Planning Flow-Chart for CA; an attempt to make the IDU guide more visual and quick-reference and to create a flow that will work for our busy teachers.

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Personal Project Cycle Diagram

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Simple animated version, made in gifmaker.me

To add to the Cycle Diagram frenzy of my last few months, here’s one for the Personal Project. Although the MYP Projects Guide has one that covers the Community and Personal Projects combined, I wanted to make one to focus on PP alone, and which could be used as a process guide for the Project.

It needed to be immediately recognizable as a type of Design Cycle and to be in line with the experimental cycle (and other disciplinary cycles). This is a deliberate effort to promote a design-thinking approach through the programme, as well as to visualize elements of inquiry in different contexts without having to use too many forms, sheet or texty documents. I also wanted to connect it as closely as possible with the Service Learning Cycle, to highlight how well suited a good service learning project would be for a Personal Project.

To highlight the central nature of the Approaches to Learning to the success of the Project, I’ve taken the “demonstrate [named ATL skill” strands and collected them in the middle, adding reflection for symmetry. The command term-based statements around the outside represent observable outcomes or checkpoints, most of which are taken from the objective strands.

Some outcomes have been added or edited, based on our experiences, to make the actions more explicit. These include adding ‘meaningful’ to the goal, and a focus on the Process Journal in planning. To connect more closely to the Service Learning Cycle, and to recognize the importance of the student-mentor relationship, I added ‘establish a relationship with your supervisor’ to the start of the Planning phase. In order to emphasize a focus on quality of Projects, I split up the Taking Action phase into three actions, ensuring an interim opportunity for reflection and improvement. The Reflecting phase is largely untouched.

If you have any suggestions or feedback, please leave them in the comments below, or reply to this thread on Twitter.

EDITS

  • 12 March: Based on a second-look and feedback from Twitter (thanks Martin Jones), Draft 2 has Process Journal take a more central role, with ‘rigorous’ added to the success criteria and ‘organize materials’ added to the planning phase.

Final Version (for now)

This one’s the final version for now – my plan was to get the sections to link to supporting resources, but it doesn’t embed on WordPress and keep the links, as you see in the centre (as far as I know).

A little extra…

  • Here’s the GoogleDrawing file, so you can have a fiddle. Please attribute appropriately.
  • Here are some images that focus on each section in turn.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Ready, Steady, Flow: #GAFESummit Presentation

This weekend we had the good fortune to host a Google Apps for Education Summit (#GAFESummit) at the school. With a range of keynotes from the EdTech Team and a couple of day of interesting (and useful) breakout sessions, we had a good time, learned a lot and got to meet some new people.

On the second day, I presented a session entitled “Ready, Steady, Flow!” aimed at showcasing a workflow that gives us more active time in class, reduced clicks and stress and makes use of high-impact practices when we’re working on assignments. In essence, we make the best possible use of the tools we have to change our relationship from giver and doer of work to writer and editor. I refer to some of Hattie’s ideas, define inquiry, and look at some of the issues that hold teachers in harmful old practices (such as clinging to the time-suck of Word docs).

Some big take-homes (the tL;dR version): 

  1. Design good tasks, and communicate this clearly to students.
  2. Don’t cause others to click around unnecessarily. If you want a certain formatting, do it on the task-sheet and share it out!
  3. Don’t send out emails with word docs that you then have to collect, save, rename…
  4. Do value the task with enough class time – but keep that time as active as you can
  5. Force early drafting/commenting on work so that we can all see – and take action on – the ‘gap’ as soon as possible.
  6. Give up marking; the sea of red wastes your time and puts the student in the wrong mindset to receive it. Instead go for the three-levels of feedback (task, process, self-regulation) and make it clear.
  7. Separate the grade from the feedback to have a higher impact.

There’s quite a bit more on the GoogleSite I created for the session here: Ready, Steady, Flow. This includes resources, links, the slides and details of the two “Demo Slams” I did on the main stage at the end of the first day.

The experience was fun and nerve-wracking, as always when you present to an unknown group of adults. The talky bit took longer than I expected, but it ended up being appreciated as there were lots of opportunities to discuss, think and challenge our thoughts. At the end, participants had access to the template document and other resources to take home and play with.

It was a good experience to have the GoogleSummit here at CA, from a number of perspectives. Personally I enjoy these things, but am not a huge fan of being away from the family. As a school I think we’re doing some interesting things and it’s good for others to see those – and add their ideas and perspectives. And thinking about my role for next year, it’s great to see that CA can pull it off, and do it effectively. Kudos to all the CA-based organisers, they did a great job.

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Here are the slides:


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

Californian Blue Whales are almost back to historical levels after whaling bans in their range.

Californian Blue Whales are almost back to historical levels after whaling bans in their range.

We’ve wrecked the world.

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.

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

“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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Links: