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)

 

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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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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.

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Seven Reasons to be an #IBEN Site Visitor

Over the last couple of years I’ve started to get involved in #IBEN, the IB Educators’ Network, as part of the Middle Years Programme authorisation and evaluation process. After initial training as a School Visiting Team Member (SVTM), I was out on a visit as a team member for a synchronised visit (PYP, MYP, DP, CIS & NEASC). More recently I have been team leader (SVTL) for the MYP section of another synchronised visit, and have completed consultancy training, to be part of a process that supports candidate MYP schools in their journey towards authorisation. This has all been phenomenal PD – learning through authentic inquiry that can only help me in my programme leadership role at school. 

So… here are seven reasons you should join #IBEN

1. It’s a community

There are lots of venues to meet others in the same role – workshops, conferences, online – but this is one that has a special focus: to help the IB community grow around you. Someone has done it for your school, you can do it for others. Along the way, we realise that the community is human, that “the IB” is not a faceless auditor and that we can share the responsibility of bringing the IB’s mission to fruition in the region.

2. Bringing the Standards & Practices to life.

No really, wait, stop giggling.

The S&P’s are our quality-control guidance as a school, yet we probably don’t learn about them or engage with them as often as we could. Being in a room with a team of people picking through them and thinking about how they look and how they can be interpreted is powerful learning – and immediately applicable in your own context.

3. Being right up to date.

Training for these roles is delivered by the experts, with an oversight of all the most relevant challenges and updates. It’s a great opportunity to clear up misconceptions and to make sure your own approach is on point. Are we using the right guidance? Is our approach in line with the expectations? How have other schools taken on this challenge?

4. It’s a privilege

The Standards & Practices set the direction of a school and the feedback from readers, consultants and site visitors helps keep the school on course. To be able to do this effectively, we are given access to a lot of information about a school. There is a lot of trust and respect in the process. We all learn and we all work with the best intentions in mind: to give our students the best international education they could have.

5. Time to focus.

How often do you really get to focus on one job for your role? Being away for a few days, with a singular role, can be as energising as it is engaging and exhausting. Even the time in the airport can be time to clear some of your to-do list. IB visits are usually no more than three days, so they’re not going to set you too far behind (some other agencies are there a week).

6. It’s free.

If you’re invited for training or to go on a visit, it doesn’t cost you anything but time, so on the learning-per-dollar scale, it’s pretty high-impact for your school. Better still, you get a little honorarium. It won’t make you rich, but it will offset the guilt-gifts you buy your family in the airport on the way home.

7. It works for your school.

It is impossible to separate your learning about the process (or during a visit) from your own context. Are we doing this right? Would this work in my school? Hey, that’s a neat idea…

By taking a careful, analytical approach to the S&P’s, we are becoming more competent as coordinators. By finding out about a school from its many stakeholders we can be inspired to be better pedagogical leaders in our own contexts.

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So get involved! Find out more here. I’m not a workshop leader, but I hear those guys have a blast, too.


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Service Learning Cycle

A couple of months ago I was on a cycle diagram frenzy, using Google Drawings to make and customise cycle diagrams from the MYP guides, inspired by the Design Cycle. Meanwhile, the idea of Design Thinking in schools as a process for problem-solving and authentic inquiry has been gaining traction in education and we are starting to see more ambitious Design class projects surface here at school. It is an encouraging time – as we gain competence in the new MYP, more ideas are starting to surface from teachers about how we move forwards.

Buy it!

At the same time, I’ve been working with our super-inspirational Service Learning Coordinator on student learning expectations against the learning outcomes for service for each MYP stage. We got to the point that we figured we should gather what we know from various sources (including the MYP support documents and Cathryn Berger Kaye’s Complete Guide to Service Learning) and put it into a cycle diagram – to apply the Design Cycle to Service Learning. This might be something we adapt and apply throughout the school as a protocol for service as action. This is an early draft, but I welcome feedback and ideas in the comments below. The second image in the slideshow is a service learning cycle developed by Berger-Kaye, which is explained on the ECSL website here.

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In the greater context, we have been framing the value of the Global Contexts recently as the driving force in the MYP that makes a good backwards-designed curriculum into an authentic and explicitly international education. Through knowledge and skills students develop conceptual understandings, which the global contexts help us to shape into meaningful, pragmatic inquiry (critical, reflective, consequence-oriented thought), resulting in action (including service), leading to international mindedness (a state of mind) and global engagement (behaviours). Meaningful action arises in conjunction with cultural competence. Through all this, we hope to develop the IMaGE of our learners.

As the pieces fall into place through curriculum and professional development, as well as gradual cultural change, we are poised to put the service learning cycle in a more prominent central role in our educational experience.

This is an attempt to connect the elements of the MYP framework with Action (of which Service is a subset), leading to International Mindedness and Global Engagement (IMaGE).

This is an attempt to connect the elements of the MYP framework with Action (of which Service is a subset), leading to International Mindedness and Global Engagement (IMaGE).

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Here’s Cathy Berger Kaye presenting to the IB Americas’s Conference, in 2012.

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Update: 2016

Here we added some level expectations, based on ATL skills, connected to the Outcomes. The idea here is that as students plan and reflect on their Service Learning, they are addressing these goals in a balanced, sustained and meaningful way.

Service Learning Cycle & Expectations Poster [CA 2015]

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Edits & Corrections

[Dec 16 2014] Removed hyphens from Cathryn Berger Kaye’s name (apologies!) and updated her service learning cycle image with the current version, from CBK Associates (pdf).


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Global Contexts & Avoiding the ‘Single Story’

This last couple of weeks we’ve been busy preparing faculty PD on the Global Contexts and their role in developing International Mindedness & Global Engagement (IMaGE) in our students. It has been a lot of work, but as we kicked off the sequence (3 x 1hr PD sessions) this week, the discussions began on some real areas of interest.

Key to the discussion was an excerpt from Chimamanda Adichie‘s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” (thanks @LizDK for suggesting it!). We played the first 6 minutes, with the follow-up question “could her college room-mate have been a CA graduate?

So far, so interesting. I’ll follow up this post later once the sequence is completed. Next steps: taking action in the curriculum, teaching & learning.


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Making Meaning

In amongst a million other things I am taking part in an IB Educators’ Network up-skilling course (as part of my role as an MYP Site Visitor). One of the discussion questions asked us to reflect on a memorable learning experience from our own school days. Here is my edited response. 

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The local rag.

As an educator thinking back on my own secondary education, I am always amazed at how little I remember of the academics. I remember the heartbreaks, rejections, difficulties, funny moments with friends, teenage craziness. Inevitable injuries and rites of passage. But I remember very little of the actual experiences in my classes. It must have worked, though – I know and can do a lot, and can retrieve things I thought I’d forgotten after many years. There is some conceptual and factual foundation there, but little meaning to hang it on.

I do recognise a Year 9 food-tech project as perhaps the most memorable: we had to design a healthy-eating three-course restaurant menu, and connect it somehow to a local charity to support. I chose an otter charity (I think) and put a lot of effort into thinking about the nutritional balance of the meal and the design of the menu. I was proud of it when I submitted it. A few weeks later, the school was contacted and I was asked to cook it in a competition with other students, judged by professional restaurateurs – this was not mentioned at the start of the project. I went along, had fun, learned a lot from the feedback and the whole process felt authentic. My classmate Chris won – I came third and melted a spatula, but it still lingers as an experience I enjoyed. Had I not started working as a kitchen porter in a hotel soon after (experiencing the sweaty reality of catering), my life might have taken a different direction.

I had a good education, but no other experiences felt as immediately worthwhile or as authentic as that. It makes me wonder how much of our day-to-day lessons will be forgotten by our students and if, by really using the Global Contexts, we can create more meaningful and memorable learning experiences. That if by connecting our learning to the wider world, global issues and stimulating problems we can inspire more than academic engagement.

I hope so.