Wayfinder Learning Lab

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


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Is this an inquiry with an ‘I’ or an enquiry with an ‘e’?

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while, and I was reminded to complete it after a question from a student when I was covering a TOK class: “What’s the difference between inquiry and enquiry?”

[tL:dR: Definitions matter in education, especially when a topic is misunderstood or controversial. Using traditional definitions allows for a distinction between purposeful inquiries and surface enquiries. This can help choose the right tools for the best learning and most appropriate time. We can have the best of both.] 

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Defining Inquiry: A Pragmatic Approach

I’ve been thinking and writing about this a lot over the last few years, tinkering with and testing definitions that try to capture what makes powerful, pragmatic inquiry learning. He’s my current best effort and if you pick it apart you should be able to recognise the best elements of the classical with an aspiration towards the contemporary (in the Bold Moves sense).

Inquiry iscreative, critical, reflective thought. It builds on a solid foundation of accessible, well-learned knowledge, skills and conceptual understandings, inviting learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?”  

Although it opens with higher-order aspirations, and closes with an invitation to action, it is anchored by a solid foundation of knowledge, skills and concepts. Knowledge is the stuff we think with: the more we know, the better our questions and stronger our conceptual understandings. This does not dictate a linear approach. It highlights the critical role of the expert teacher who, with subject mastery and pedagogical mastery, can create a true culture of thinking in their class, (co-)creating the moving forces of experience that pull a community of learners through the hard work of building understanding.

An expert inquiry teacher inspires learners to learn lots, learn well and want to learn more. They know what needs to be taught, what has been learned and how to use this as a launching pad for exciting exploration.

Defining Inquiry

Defining Inquiry: A Pragmatic Approach

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So what about inquiry vs enquiry?

Beyond some regional variation*, I find this OUP contrast really useful in developing curriculum, collaborating with teachers and working with students. I suspect that the two terms are conflated in the minds of many (educators and non-educators). Could a clear distinction help?

“The traditional distinction between the verbs enquire and inquire is that enquire is to be used for general senses of ‘ask’, while inquire is reserved for uses meaning ‘make a formal investigation’.”   [Oxford Living Dictionaries]*

It helps evaluate the depth of an inquiry in terms of moving into investigation, creation and research, rather than the simple act of “looking stuff up”. Enquiry gives inquiry a poor reputation when inordinate amounts of time are spent on (perceived) “fluff”, squeezing out the opportunities for truly engaging experiences. There is a time and place for enquiry, and I’ve labelled it as “enabling” in the image below.

Quick questions and known answers that have little need to expend mental energy (or valuable time): there are more efficient ways to learn about or find out simple content. The expert inquiry teacher knows which tools to select for the job.

So here’s a little planning mantra I like to hold in my head:

“Is this an inquiry with an ‘I’ or an enquiry with an ‘e’?”

How could you use/adapt some of these questions/provocations to classify your inquiries? (I’ll add/edit over time, I’m still tinkering with these ideas):

  • Does it require significant new learning to me, or is is re-presenting known content? Am I really learning?
  • Am I truly engaging with the content, skills and concepts or am I transcribing items from one place to another? Am I really learning?
  • Am I building tenacious new understanding or storing temporary thoughts? Am I really learning?
  • If I learn this this way, will I learn this best for its purpose? Am I really learning?
  • Am I “just Googling” or am I sorting, evaluating, synthesising? Am I really learning?
  • Is this the equivalent of a deep investigation (or creation), or a “helpdesk enquiry”?
  • Will I be spending my time on thinking, investigating or creating, or will I be clicking, copying or pseudo-creating? Am I really learning?
  • If I’m working with a group, are we in dialogue, discussion and collaboration or chatting, partitioning and time-wasting? Am I really learning?
  • If I’m using technology is it amplifying or transforming the learning, or replacing a simpler (possibly more efficient) process? (RAT model) Am I really learning?
  • Am I learning authentically in the discipline (e.g. “as a scientist”) or about the topic (e.g “about science”)? [Thinking from the perspective of supervising extended essays, developing inquiries, etc)]
  • Could my learning give rise to newer, stronger questions, or will it end there?
  • What am I doing in this inquiry that is more sophisticated than a student younger than me? For example, if I’m an MYP student, how am I asking a question that is more sophisticated than in PYP?
  • Is this experience a moving force that will create a drive to know, leading me into learning more, or is it a gimmick that gives the illusion of learning? Am I really learning?

InquiryEnquiry@sjtylr

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Shifting the Questions

making20thinking20visible

Project Zero: MTV Routines

Some strategies for taking a question from enquiry to inquiry:

  • Question Starts (Making Thinking Visible) is a very simple set of question stems that can force a student to think about a topic from different perspectives. Importantly, students need to classify and evaluate the questions.
  • Think, Puzzle, Explore (Making Thinking Visible)… but insist on quality. Similarly with See, Think, Wonder, run the routine until the observations and ideas are exhausted. This can take questions beyond the surface.
  • Creative Questions (Making Thinking Visible). A simple routine for interrogating proposed questions for quality and depth.
    • Similarly, Options Explosion can be used: students list all obvious options, questions or ideas and then find the hidden options or new questions that arise.
  • Predict, Observe, Explain (NSTA). Great for working with data of any kind, or thinking about cause/effect and correlation. This can generate many points of questioning, and can be extended into Predict, Observe, Explain, Investigate.
  • “How else can this be used?” Visual organizer for accessing Webb’s DOK4 from different domains.

Enquire, Inquire, Perspire, Inspire: a distillation of many ideas:

Generate ideas, get the easy stuff out of the way and used it to create better inquiries. If something needs to be learned, learn (teach) it well and check it is understood. Use it to inform stronger lines of inquiry. Put in the hard work of inquiry authentic to the disciplinary/interdisciplinary investigation. Evaluate the learning, communicate and put it to meaningful action.

EnquireInquirePerspireInspire

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Post-script: The Journey of a Thought

ADayAtThePark

“A Day At The Park” (excerpt), by Kostas Kiriakakis. Read the whole strip, it’s great.

In the ‘enquiry’ sense, one could just look up a definition and be done with it, but I’ve been wrestling with ideas around purposeful, pragmatic inquiry for a long time (since ULL at Bath), connecting it to recent posts about DOK4 and Transfer, the ‘buoyant force’ of continuum learning and the “quest for learning”.  More fundamentally it builds from the pragmatic definition of inquiry (IS Magazine) and investigating effective teaching and learning practices that allow for students to become knowledgeable, reflective, open-minded thinkers and clear communicators.

There is no need for an ‘either-or’ approach to inquiry learning (in the progressive vs traditional sense); a strong inquiry experience develops the modern trivium of grammar (knowledge), dialectic (questioning) and rhetoric (communication).

Trivium21C_iBiologyStephen

Diagram by me, based on Martin Robinson’s Trivium21C

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If you’ve been thinking about this too, let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter.

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Edits/Clarifications

*The British vs American usage in the general sense might hold to enquiry vs inquiry (thanks Des O’Sullivan on Twitter), though here I’m trying to distinguish ‘weak’ vs ‘strong’ question-driven learning. Where enquiry might be more common in general use in the UK (Oxford), the ‘i’ form is still used for ‘a formal investigation’ and this is closer to the heart of what we’re trying to achieve in deep learning, authentic to our disciplines. British media will still tend towards ‘inquiry’ for investigation (examples at the Guardian), with ‘enquiry’ for simpler questions (examples at the Guardian). An “inquiry into…” vs “helpdesk enquiries“, if you will. To me, ‘enquiry learning’ is looser, less purposeful and (possibly) ineffective. ‘Inquiry’ in this sense is focused, purposeful and powerful, as intended the IB context (all IB docs use the ‘i’).

 

 


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What does this look like in the classroom?

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John Catt has a two-fer offer with Tom Sherrington’s “Learning Rainforest

This post is a quick recommendation for a very practical resource for teachers, coordinators & learning coaches. “What Does This Look Like in the Classroom? Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice”, by Carl Hendrick & Robin MacPherson, with illustrations by Oliver Caviglioli, is available in paperback from John Catt (and Kindle). This review is written from the perspective of an international school educator and coordinator.

Make sure you visit the “What Does This Look Like?” website for more posts on these topics, colour images and discussions. It’s a great resource.

The authors have designed a very useful text that can be read in a single sitting and/or dipped into as a reference. I would recommend it in teacher training, and it should be read by anyone responsible for professional learning. Each chapter is written in a Q&A style, with introductory key points, and practical questions each answered by two experts in the field of the chapter (it’s an impressive and credible lineup). They wrap up with a summary of the ‘streamlined classroom‘, with six key practices to create flow. More on this below.

Overall, I found this text accessible, conversational and practical. I really like the format of the chapters and there is a strong focus on what teachers really need to know (away from fluff and distraction). I hope they continue to develop their blog, and look forward to a future edition in a few years’ time. It would be good to see more on international/multicultural classrooms, or even additional chapters for different disciplines.

I’ve listed the chapter and contributors below, with a few of the key issues addressed in the chapter and links to the authors’ Twitter profiles. This book in itself is a great example of the power of Twitter as a PD tool – I have followed many of these contributors for a long time and have a learned a lot from them as a result.

Feedback Summary: Wiliam & Christodoulou

Sample Summary (click to enlarge)

Assessment, marking & feedback: Dylan Wiliam & Daisy Christodoulou

  • Student ownership of and engagement with feedback
  • The testing effect, past papers and strategies
  • Efficient marking & feedback practices
  • Using student data

Behaviour: Tom Bennett & Jill Berry

  • Classroom culture: relationships, expectations, communication
  • Managing low-level disruption and poor behaviour
  • Engaging students (and keeping them engaged)

Reading and literacy: Alex Quigley & Dianne Murphy

  • Reading comprehension and sustained ‘deep reading’ (in a technological society)
  • Building vocabulary and shared roles in developing literacy
  • Reading for pleasure

SEN: Jarlath O’Brien & Maggie Snowling

  • Supporting students with behavioural and learning difficulties (including the role of tech)
  • Challenging students who find it ‘too easy’
  • Supporting EAL learners

Motivation: Nick Rose & Lucy Crehan

  • Extrinsic vs intrinsic, and motivating non-academic students
  • Growth mindset & independent learning
  • Testing anxiety, resilience
Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 10.40.47

Learning Scientists Site

Psychology and memory: Paul Kirschner & Yana Weinstein

This whole section is packed with fantastic stuff, and I highly recommend leaping out to the Learning Scientists’ website, with some printable resources (also illustrated by Caviglioli).

  • Strategies for effective learning (spacing, interleaving)
  • Remembering, forgetting and strategies for developing long-term memory
  • Working memory and cognitive load theory (as “the single most important thing” for teachers to know (Wiliam))

Classroom talk and questioning: Martin Robinson* & Doug Lemov

  • Student-active vs didactic techniques (and teacher talk)
  • Questioning styles and encouraging quality conversation
  • Generating balanced, quality discussions where all students contribute

From here, I’d recommend teachers also have a look at Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart and The Best Class You Never Taught, by Alexis Wiggins.

Learning myths: David Didau & Pedro de Bruyckere

  • Multiple intelligences vs learning styles
  • Creativity, critical thinking and 21C skills
  • Taxonomies
  • Learning in the digital age (Google & remembering**)

Technology: Jose Picardo & Neelam Parmar

  • Impacts of mobile technology and balance
  • Academic honesty
  • Making the most of available tech

Independent Learning: All contributors

Perspectives on developing independent learners from various contributors. Worth reading and comparing to your own experiences. Creating independent learners through strong development of the approaches to learning skills (in conjunction with solid disciplinary an interdisciplinary knowledge) is a touchstone of a strong IB education.

Conclusion: The Streamlined Classroom (Carl Hendrick & Robin MacPherson)

Distilling their findings into the ‘honeycomb conjecture‘ below, the authors present an idea for an effective classroom to ensure solid foundations of learning and progress. This in itself would make a great introduction to the book as a PD resource, giving multiple entry points for teacher discussion.

I’ve written a lot on here about meaningful, effective, pragmatic inquiry, defining it as “Creative, critical reflective thought, built on a solid foundation of well taught/learned knowledge, skills and concepts that invites learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?” . This book and its advice aligns with this definition, giving more concrete practices that help enhance a high-quality IB education. ***

In thinking about how to integrate effective tech use into teaching and learning, I can see potential applications for a streamlined classroom tech toolkit.

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Footnotes & Blog Posts

* I reviewed Robinson’s very interesting “Trivium 21C” for International School Magazine, here.

** No, Google will not replace knowing: Content & Inquiry in a Google World.

*** International School Magazine article on defining inquiry here.

If you’ve read the book, continue the discussion in the comments below, or find me on Twitter:

 


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The Buoyant Force of Continuum Learning

If you’re new to this blog – welcome! Ideas on here often build on previous posts or conversations, so I hope this make sense. To find out more, please visit my about page, with posts by topic.

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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. 

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.

Backward Design, Not Backwashed Demands

Ireductiverubrics_sjtylrnterpreting 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 often 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?

In the older years, as we make changes or introduce new ways of thinking, are we surprised when it hits bumps? Or are we mindful of the possibility that that change might be a jarring experience for learners whose previous experiences have been very different? Do we expect the same to happen year after year or are we preparing for the younger learners to come up with a new energy, a buoyant force?

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?

If your learners were to “live fully, now” how would that create a moving force that drives them through the next stage?

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Animations:

Older version of the reductive rubrics gif:

Rubrics@sjtlyr


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The Tempered Learner (on self-regulation)

Going all the way back to my “MYP: Mind The Gap” session at IBAP 2013, I’ve been thinking about defining effective self-directed inquiry, the role of the MYP in “preparing” kids for DP, the approaches to learning and (more recently) building in ideas of Bold Moves curriculum, the Quest for Learning and Wayfinding (curriculum as a compass).

How far can we go with our frameworks to create truly self-directed, knowledgable and effective learners?

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.

TemperedLearner@sjtylr

 

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The TEMPERed Learner is Highly Self-Regulating


T
ime Mastery

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?

Edit (April 2018): I switched this from time management to time mastery, in the Cultures of Thinking sense: where we and our students become the masters of, not slaves to, time and in which we make purposeful choices on how we invest our time as a statement of learning values. 

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 Wellbeing

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

115013bI recently 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.

DOK is not a wheel of command terms

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Not a Wheel. [John R. Walkup]

Through one of the discussions about high-quality assessment, Marie dug into Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework. She asserted that it’s not a “wheel” of command terms as is often 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. DOK4 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 my rough teacher plansheet tool below.

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

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

So… 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 level 7-8 objective descriptors in the criteria (“correctly applying x in unfamiliar contexts”). This calls for some careful task design.

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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 (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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Personal Project Cycle Diagram

PPCycleGIFTaylor500

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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