Susan is an avid believer in the inquiry based process of learning, having taught mostly within the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme. She believes that by teaching children to wonder, and how to find out the answers to their questions, we are creating lifelong learners with a global outlook.
In response to your questions, Susan has shared below some wonderful insights which would help any educator progress in their own learning journey. Happy reading! A link to her blog is shared – some wonderful resources and ideas for questioning strategies, provocation, relfection
1. As a lifelong learner yourself, where do you go to find resources to keep up to date with the latest in education?
I have my ear to the ground with the continuing updates and changes, strategies and tools for our profession. I largely use social media and also a few blogs, including the IB blog, ” Sharing PYP”, SonyaTerborg, Making Good Humans, IB Matters etc. Our global community is a fabulous resource for sharing ideas and we are so open to recycling ideas from others, adding to them and sharing the results. Its wonderful to see it all in practice across the age groups and across the world.
2. Any tips for IB teachers just beginning in their journey?
- Find a mentor; whether this mentor is someone in school or someone within the wider community in our PYP world, its important to be able to have someone who can relate to your journey, guide you and to share ideas with as you learn the ropes.
- Understand the key concepts and how conceptual understanding plays a part in our inquiries.
3. Get to know visible thinking routines that will work with the students you are working with and how to use them as part of developing thinkers and inquirers.
3. Reinforce the effectiveness of a concept based curriculum and its role in inquiry
It is important that we don’t get bogged down with the idea that the key concepts are simply a continuum of questions. When we focus on 2-3 key concepts within each unit, we are able to bring the focus of the children’s thinking to a deeper level rather than shallow and broad. These key concepts can be brought together smoothly within our transdisciplinary teaching, allowing the children to learn authentically and across the disciplines, carrying the big idea into each subject area smoothly and conjoined. The key concepts are constantly visited and revisited as the children’s understanding develops and deepens as they progress through the PYP. We want to make sure that we refer to the concepts across the disciplines and not only within the context of the unit of inquiry.
I am sharing below some sample questions related to each key concept – this amazing resource was created by Sonya Terborg and has helped me a lot in my planning
4. Please share some practical tips/strategies to enhance learning using the key concepts and related concepts?
I’m going to share this strategy that I use at the beginning of the school year. Its copied from my blog. To begin with, an activity that helps the children to think conceptually, brings them to the very basics of the key concepts and to the questions that are connected with each concept. These are commonly found on your classroom posters that are displayed with each PYP classroom. These can also be created by the children AS they learn about the key concepts, moving progressively through the POI.
By cutting out pictures in magazines, the children are forced to become aware of their thinking as they look closely at those pictures and begin to become aware of their metacognitive thinking that is going on within. In other words, what are they wondering?
The pictures that draw their attention are then cut out and glued into notebooks with their question or observation noted. They then have to categorise their thinking under the heading of each key concept. The thinking becomes much deeper than you would ordinarily expect to begin with. It is GREAT to reflect afterwards as the children share their thinking and the process of their thoughts. I like to have the children share under our document camera. It becomes particularly fun when we chat about different perspectives. Reinforcing a great key concept already! You can find more ideas in this article in my blog.
5. How do I choose the appropriate reflection strategy for different subject areas – language, unit of inquiry, math?
I think its important to recognise that reflective thinking is a skill in itself and is included throughout the ATL skills. And so I begin by teaching the children what it means to BE reflective. We spend a lot of time practising and developing this attribute of the Learner Profile and it is applied across our TD inquiries. I have a journal that I use with the children as part of our daily routine. By developing an awareness of who we are as learners and also what it means to be reflective, the children are then able to bring this reflection cycle to all areas of their learning and not just the academic. ( I’ve created one for early years, little kids and big kids too). Specifically, I will involve the children in developing a bank of reflection questions that we can use throughout the year; we create checklists and graphs/charts to monitor and record our progress and we have lots of time for feedback. The real value comes from actually using this feedback (from the charts, graphs, conversation) and involving the children in taking the next steps, co-planning the inquiries and making it all very transparent that their reflections are being used meaningfully within their learning plans.
6. I often wonder if social and emotional self-regulation should be added as part of skills taught. How would you advise inculcating this in the next generation?
With mindfulness having been added to the ATL Skills within Self-Management, I feel that the IB have acknowledged that this is in fact something that needs to be addressed with more consistency. There is a growing awareness of this thing we call ” mindfulness” and I feel confident that it is taking place in our planning far more than it ever has before. As we continue to embed the Learner Profile and recognise the connection between the ATL Skills and the profile attributes, we, as the facilitators, will be better equipped to bring this area of personal, social and emotional learning to the children’s attention in a more active manner that allows the children to make those connections with their immediate world as well as the world around them. As with all of the skills, we need to take time to explicitly teach the skills in order to enable implicit practice.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu
As committed educators, we are always on a learning journey, with the only goal being to improve the learning experience for our students. I consider myself fortunate to have equally committed mentors to guide me along this journey.