Ripples & Reflections

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

design-cycle


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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

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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“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.

……….o0O0o……….

*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.

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 – perhaps too aware – 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.

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.
  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.

……….o0O0o……….

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.

……….o0O0o…………

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

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.

……….o0O0o……….

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.

……….o0O0o……….

*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.