Evolution Starts Here, Part 2: The Language of Learning


Nothing irritates me more than teachers saying that educational terminology is “just jargon”. I work in PYP schools, and I hear so-called PYP teachers referring to the language of the PYP as jargon very often. I’ve noticed a pattern – its always the ones who don’t actually know the language, the ones who don’t know what it says in the documents… the ones who are not fluent in the language of learning in their school. Its a type of defense-mechanism, I guess. A front to cover for laziness, or perhaps the fact that they don’t really believe in what they’re doing.

In order to bring about sustainable change, to create the conditions for innovation and to develop a culture in which teachers play with possibilities… everyone in a school needs to be speaking the same language of learning. Once they have that shared language, and they all understand what each other is talking about, there is more room for manoeuvre. Once they are all noticing learning, naming it using the same terminology, they start to see it everywhere… they become liberated from their previously limited views of what learning is, or could be.

This breeds change.

A school needs to actually have a shared language of learning. Then, steps must be taken so that all teachers are fluent in that language. In PYP schools, that language is contained in Making the PYP Happen. Use it! (I’ve written more about this here). In other schools, there are equivalent documents, frameworks, written curriculum, scope and sequences etc… Use them!

Become fluent in the language.

Use the language.

Question the language.

Only then can you really say you know, understand and recognise learning.

Only then can you go deeper into what it all means.

With the fluency comes creativity.


  1. Judy

    Thanks Sam for sharing your pet peeve. I can really sense the emotion in your post. It’s a valid point you’re making and pare for the course when you decide to be an IB educator. However, I also think there is a degree empathy and patience you must exercise with teachers. The PYP does have a lot of special language that makes it unique and like any language, it takes time to develop. Making the PYP Happen is a dense and thorough document and every time I read it, I discover something new in there that I hadn’t really appreciated before. There’s a lot of genuis that went into those documents! We should honor the journey of understanding the quality and design of our framework.
    In the other hand, if educators are disrespectful and resisting the tenets and values inherent to the PYP-such as inquiry based learning and International mindedness- then they really should move on to a more suitable school for their pedagogical approach. The PYP isn’t for everyone! And that’s okay.

    Well thanks again for sharing your ideas. I always appreciate your passion and insight.

  2. Darcy Dufresne

    Thank you for your brave and somewhat ‘politically incorrect’ post. I agree that every teacher of the PYP (and ANY approach, for that matter) has the obligation to live and breathe and talk the talk of that approach. There are good reasons for doing so – consistency in messages, culture and goals – for better learning. I am always baffled by how many teachers of the PYP, I’m talking about the ones who by virtue of accepting a position in a PYP school and who have been in such schools for over 5 years, rarely talk the talk of PYP.
    This means, as you state, they don’t fully understand it. This also means, that these teachers are, as Fran Prolman eloquently suggests, drilling a hole at the back of a boat.
    To be able to be a PYP educator, you MUST be a PYP learner; an inquirer, a thinker, a communicator, a reflective person. Otherwise, what are you modelling to your students? This isn’t to say you have to be perfect, far from it. But to have awareness of and the drive to fill in one’s holes of knowledge and practice is paramount.
    Keep on sharing those uncomfortable, but necessary, ponderings! 🙂

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