Ripples & Reflections

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

Areas of Interaction Workshop: A Quick Reflection

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Tomorrow we’re back to work, after a long weekend for Golden Week, preceded by a long weekend in Singapore on a Category 3 Areas of Interaction workshop with a colleague. With a ton of work to shift and the faculty play coming up this week, I’d better reflect on the experience before it goes! This post is likely to read more stream-of-consciousness than structured, but treat it as a personal brain-dump, rather than the word from above.

First up, as a school new to the MYP (though I’ve done it before), there has been a lot for CA to adjust to over the last couple of years. Not least, is the concept of the Areas of Interaction. With the MYP heading for big improvements with the publication of the Next Chapter in 2014, my colleague and I were hoping for more solid information regarding the role of the AoI’s as they become the ‘Global Context’. It quickly became apparent that this information would not be forthcoming, though the workshop itself was a very useful experience. Although I had been to a couple of regional conferences as IBDP Co at Bandung, it has been six years since my last focused IB workshop, and the quality this time was excellent. Kudos must go to our leader, Gary Green, who was in a tricky position yet was able to lead us through three very useful days of workshops, discussions and tasks. He also introduced a number of useful routines from the Harvard’s Project Zero: ‘Making Learning Visible’ programme, which were a useful taster of some new starters or plenaries. He was very warm and approachable, knowledgable and happy for us to focus on what was important to our school.

It is clear that the ideas behind the AoI’s will remain, with the emphasis on Student Learning Expectations. Through some of the tasks we completed in the workshop, we were able to reaffirm the value of the AoI’s in teaching and learning – and it seems the use of them as ‘lenses for inquiry’ has come back into vogue. Through and understanding of the AoI’s, we are able to write better unit questions and enduring understandings, opening up student inquiry.

The Approaches to Learning remain, being pared down to five: communication, social, self-management, research and thinking. These are the same as the PYP, and we suspect that they will be unpacked and defined very much like the transdisciplinary skills in the document ‘Making the PYP Happen‘ (available from the OCC, page 20-23). The ATL’s are given their own part of the planner for a reason, and I have always felt that including them as an AoI was a mistake (and choosing it as the AoI for a unit a copout). I see their role in developing the skills of the learner as analagous to the Learner Profile’s role in developing the learner as a rounded human being. The AoI’s are more about developing the unit of inquiry itself – providing that ‘lens’ which allows for construction of context and meaning.

Cameron Hall's AOI diagram

Cameron Hall’s AOI diagram (OCC)

In one of our sessions, we were asked to unpack an AOI for a student audience. Cameron Hall, of I-Shou International School, has already done a wonderful job of this with Environments, Health and Social Education, Human Ingenuity and Community and Service, with SLE documents arranged as very clear concentric circles, placing the inquiry cycle at the heart of the issue. These can be downloaded from the OCC and are great graphics to use or adapt. As the ATL’s had not been done, we decided to have a go. Using the PYP transdisciplinary skills, we pared it down to look at a tools for ‘resolving conflict’ as an aspect of the Social ATL. Here it is embedded below:

One great thing about being at the workshop was the chance to work on issues of importance to our school, and my colleague and I spent a lot of time on looking at where we need to focus over the coming couple of years. With the initial thought that inquiry could be a tool to differentiation, we came to the realisation that differentiation itself would drive quality inquiry. With the school’s focus on differentiation in 2012-13, this was fortunate timing. Some of the other fruits of our labours are in the SlideShare below:

Inquiry Cycle & Differentiation

Inquiry Cycle & Differentiation

Some other ideas and take-homes I got (or though about) during the workshop:

  • Differentiation is a tool for inquiry.
  • The Inquiry Cycle must be embedded more centrally in our teaching and learning. It does not always have to begin with Knowledge & Awareness.
  • I think ‘Active Learning’ is a more appropriate title for part of the Inquiry Cycle than action (which generates confusion with the A in IBDP CAS).
  • Regardless of the state of freedom/ restriction of the curriculum and its requirements, there is always room for inquiry and differentiation. The parameters change, but the opportunities remain.
  • Inquiry, differentiation and AOI’s/ SLE’s are where students can construct meaning related to what they are learning. Where else do we give the opportunity for this?
  •  Is the Personal Project the only ‘true’ inquiry of the MYP and if so, how can we build on that experience in the classrooms?
  • Environments as an AOI is not ‘The Environment’ – it includes all thinking and learning environments, such as virtual.
  • Social Issues might be a better name for Health and Social Education to pull it away from the misconception of being just about ‘health class’.
  • Communities and Service would have been a better name.
  • By planning the AOI for a unit, are we restricting a student’s formation of meaning? Based on a student’s own context, they could reflect and create meaning on the content in a very different way. That is partly why I loved Cameron’s diagrams and plan to adapt them for my own classes.
  • Some further ideas of the future of the MYP and the planner can be gleaned from careful reading of the Humanities subject guide and the work of Lynne Erickson.

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Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

2 thoughts on “Areas of Interaction Workshop: A Quick Reflection

  1. Pingback: Unit plans? But we have a subject guide! « i-Biology | Reflections

  2. Pingback: An Inquiry Crossfader: Authentic vs Effective Learning? | i-Biology | Reflections

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