Tagged: Understanding

Learning Continuums

36-rectangles

In PYP schools there are six units of inquiry over 6 ‘grade’ levels from PREP to Grade 5. That equals 36 units of inquiry. That’s 36 opportunities to analyse and synthesize the learning at the ‘conclusion’ of a unit of inquiry. Yes, I’m fully aware that formative assessment is happening all the time. But as far as the summative assessment goes, we do this only once at the ‘end’ of a unit. This is a way to gauge what a student’s understanding of the central idea is after 6 weeks of learning and inquiring.

How can we effectively capture all that learning and understanding? 

For years we’ve been creating rubrics. They take a long time to design and develop. This process does allow the people in the same room to not only deepen their understanding of the learning and make connections to the central ideas and lines of inquiry…….this approach also creates a common language and sets clear expectations on the possibilities and the potential that may come out of those learning experiences.

Is the investment (time, effort and energy) worth it when developing a rubric to assess students’ understanding and knowledge? Does this process add value?

In short, yes. Taking teachers through this process requires a lot of constructing and it is through that process we are able to share, defend, explain and talk about student learning. That in itself is pretty exciting stuff. While it does take time in reaching consensus… only then can we achieve clarity. It helps us see how to measure progress of learning and evidence it alongside of the rubric. Students still can choose the best way to demonstrate their learning, it is the rubric that anchors how student’s represent what they have come to know and do.

We’ve changed the branding of ‘rubric‘ to ‘learning continuum,‘ which has created a positive spin on developing robust, relevant and authentic learning expectations.

Our goal as a school is to develop 36 learning continnums, just like a POI. We can critique these, challenge them, build upon them, just like we do with all central ideas, not only as a POI review, but at the start of each unit. We are finding that we are getting better at writing these over time too. Yes, at times we hit walls and get stuck, but it is the fighting through it that we have the best conversations which leads to better ideas, resulting in better teaching.

Personally, I feel that most assessments fall short and teachers end up doing another reflection as their summative assessment. This is not good enough and it touches on Sam’s previous blog post of salmon swimming up stream…. teachers just run out of time; therefore, well put-together, thoughtful and meaningful assessment tools take a back seat! The unit simply fizzles out and doesn’t become much for student’s to engage with it and look for way they can transfer this into other areas of learning.

So why am I writing this? Well, there are a few reasons… the main one is that through the self-study process, I’ve come to realize that section C4 (Assessment) is an area that we need to challenge. We don’t have a clear approach or expectation on what that is or can look like. If we are to be true to the teaching and learning then we need to honor it with a rich and authentic learning continuum – it is all in the feedback we give to our students. Finish the unit well by taking it all the way! Do more than notice the learning, embrace it and set goals with your students, so that the next unit is a continuation from the previous one. How can our students improve from unit to unit, not just wait for the next ‘Sharing the planet’ unit in a year’s time.

What do you do to capture your students’ learning?

Let me know if you want to take a look at some of our Learning Continuums. We need to share these more with one another, so we can adapt them and design powerful assessments – together.

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Bottom up

photo

I have been to many schools and have worked with many different people, mostly people from Western countries. Where I am working now, is totally different in every way. I am in Africa. A Kenyan school with international standards.

Above is a photo of my teaching partner. His name is Martin and he is a Kenyan. He is a true gentleman. Martin will always greet people and acknowledge everyone he meets. He really loves kids and he is great at what he does. Martin is an excellent mathematics teacher. He is consistent. Martin is a listener and observer.

I want to share a story with you about our relationship. It is worth telling. Martin is wise. He says things as they are (respectfully) and always asks, “how does this add value to learning.” Something I really admire in him. This post is actually more of a selfish post to record my own learning, because I have much to learn from Martin.

This story is an obvious one to tell. It’s a story where you will easily predict the outcome. It’s something we all know about, but may not practice it. It is a story that has allowed me to step back, take some time to think and clear some head space to reflect on how I approach things, in the African context.

Martin and I are totally different, in every way. Where we are from, our experiences, our background. Martin and I have had a very ‘bumpy’ start to our year. There has been frustration and tension between us for many reasons. Today, Martin come to my room and shared something really obvious, but I had not realized it myself.

Martin said, “You know so much about PYP. I cannot come up to your level. You need to come to my level if we are ever going to make this work.” He explained how I have come from a place and system that is efficient and effective. Things have always just worked well.

When you add these things to someone who is a ‘driver’ by nature it is really easy to become frustrated. Especially when things don’t work the way you see it and at the pace it should be. We were not seeing the same things, we were like two of the same magnets resisting each other.

This diagram best represents how we have been working together…frankly it hasn’t been working like it should.

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I was struck by lightening as Martin was sharing with me. I have been spinning so fast lately, that I did not see something I would of normally have been mindful of. Pluralism – is an AKAM strand and I had failed to see it, and it was right in front of me.

Martin explained how he has been to Europe and how he enjoyed the way things just flowed and worked there. Coming back to Africa was difficult for him as there is less order and organization. He could understand why I was behaving and reacting the way I have been.

He said “Chad, we need to go from the bottom up. It is the only way for us to move forward together.” His message was so wise, clear and accurate. It made complete sense of why things have been so challenging for us. We have been pushing from opposite ends.

Capture

This visual come to me as Martin was waving his hands from bottom to top. Here was an international teacher, imparting open-mindedness, appreciation, tolerance, respect….. to students, but had failed to recognize it myself.

Again, I realize how obvious this story is. In all of its simplicity, it brought me clarity and I connected with Martin today. I know that our relationship will be different tomorrow, because we shared this moment together. I may know a lot of PYP knowledge… Martin, taught me how to live it today. Thank you, Martin!