Honouring Agency in IBEN Professional Development

This summer break I was priviledged to facilitate 2  of the new IB workshops.

  1. Buidling for the Future (Regional workshop)
  2. Making the PYP Happen – Implementing Agency. (In-School workshop)

IBEN Workshop leaders are supported by the new workshop guidelines and slides  – but the guidelines very much put the workshop leader in the driving seat and encourage a focus on the learners and their needs.

As Workshop Leaders, you have flexibility to choose learning engagements that develop the workshop understandings taking consideration of the workshop cohort and context as well as making connections to the IB programme standards and practices and any new materials that are published by the IB.

Please consider how the learning engagements you select reflect the aspirational aims of PYP workshops, in particular how they:

  • meet functional, emotional and social needs of participants
  • support multiple ways to engage in learning
  • promote professional capability development
  • recognise the diversity and experience of its educators
  • recognise and promote that everyone is an architect of his/ her own learning
  • support collaboration through local and global learning networks
  • focuses on praxis; providing practical application and an evidence base “

(Building for the Future – Guidelines) 

In the lead up, I had some time to review, plan and think about the best way forward for these new workshops. I am a huge believer that we as educators should always be striving to model our beliefs of constuctivism, inquiry and, now, agency,through all adult professional development opportunities.

I have also been very priveledged to have worked with Taryn (@makinggoodhumans) and the Studio teams at ISHCMC  (www.ishcmc.com) for the past two years. Taryn and the studio teams also have very strong beliefs that learning is first and foremost about the individual learners and their needs.

When running some adult Professional Development sessions last year Taryn took some time to reflect on her process as facilitator of professional development and then took a risk and introduced the  ‘self-directed’ model in her workshops. Taryn blogged about her experience here.

Whilst planning for these workshops,  I reviewed the conceptual understandings and realised that each of these conceptual understandings were a workshop in itself –  especially at this time of the PYP review and the new documents.


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concept 3

So how best to ensure that the conceptual understandings were introduced to a diverse group of learners – all with individual needs?

I took some time to let my thoughts percolate. I revisited the IB guidelines and slides, and went back many times to Taryn’s model of Professional Development.

As the list of participants was published – I began to design a pre-survey / questionnaire to try and get as much information about my learners as I could, hoping this would give me some direction.

Q1: Where are your school in their PYP Journey?

survey 1

Q2: Who are YOU as a learner? How do YOU prefer to learn? 

survey 2

Q3 – 6: Using Compass points – NEED to know, STRUGGLES as your school implement the Enhance PYP,  What are you EXCITED about for the workshop, WHERE are your school in their journey in reference to the Enhanced PYP and WHAT would you like support with as a leader? 

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I was fortunate in that my workshop participants and learners were so responsive to the survey ( often this does not happen!)

The survey told me that, as it was a regional workshop, there was a mix of learners;

  • Principals
  • Coordinators
  • Authourised schools
  • Candidate schools
  • Private schools
  • State schools.
  • Australian schools
  • International schools.
  • Some who had spent time unpacking the Enhancements
  • Some who had not yet begun to explore the Enhancements
  • Some who were new leaders in their school and,
  • Some who were experienced leaders in their school.

So – where to start? How could I ensure that all learners would be able to access the workshop and, at the same time, have all their wonderings and concerns met whilst also ensuring they had some ‘take back’ for their school communities?

Thw workshop guidelines and slides also had the Action Question focus:

action q

Thus, it was an expectation that time and space were to be provided for reflection and formulation of action plans. Reviewing my list of  participants,  I also noticed that we had some ‘teams’ attending who would be learning together.

So, inspired by Taryn’s risktaking and motivated by my beliefs on what a adult professional development model should reflect I came up with a plan.

Over the 3 days, we would move from a more ‘guided’ inquiry to one of  ’empowerment’ .

Day 1 – Would focus on tuning in, building community, connecting to the new documents and formulating an action plan by reflecting on both our own personal and our school needs.

schedule as

So Day 1 pretty much looked like most other Professional Development experiences as we learned a little about each other and took time to build a learning community, acknowledging our experiences, our contexts and the expertise in the room and sharing our struggles and questions.

Session 1 (PDF Slides):  Building a learning community – using ADOBE Creatives to meet and mix (lots of fun!)  and using the compass again to develop visually our Needs, Excitements, and Struggles.

In  Session 2: Dive into the Enhancements We took some time to visit the WHY. (Simon Sinek)




Why were changes to the PYP needed?









And what of those changes provided a deeper focus or more explicit guidance than before and what elements were new and different than before?

group 1

group 2

We then took some time to explore the  ‘stages of concern’ model  (CBAM)






and reflected on where our schools were on their understanding of these changes and their willingness to change and explore.

All this to try to identify where in the room were the experts and where were the learners.









As we closed Session 2 of Day 1, we introduced the OSCAR action plan template. Now that we had tuned in and had begun to unpack the new documents – what were our continued questions and own goals for learning?


Session 3 of Day 1 focused mostly on Collaboration .  if we believed in the power of collaboration (and could define it!) then how were we ensuring that all members of our learning community were honoured and included in our communities?


And, through the 8 Cultural Forces (Ron Richhart)   how were we providing opportunities for collaboration for our different community groups and members?


Day 1, Session 4: – we begun to unpack the New Standards and Practices and the idea of writing ‘motifs’ to develop our school narrative around the 4 pillars of  Culture, Purpose, Environment and Learning.  (seperate blog post coming on writing ‘Motifs’).


This is the documentation / video from some of our learning through Day 1.

So on to Day 2….

day 2

This is where I was now stepping out of my comfort zone, taking a risk and didn’t quite know how the day would go. How would my learners respond?  How could I support and facilitate for all learners throughout the day?

I had a constant internal struggle worrying about whether if I was trying something new for the right reasons. Was it just it was just something I wanted, or was this truly about my learners?

Revisiting my beliefs about learning and the premise that this workshop was not about me – but my learners and THEIR learning and THEIR needs rather than mine and that as empowered learners they needed to own, not just the content, but also the process.


I was also very priviledged to be able to take some strength from Taryn’s lead and able to dive into some of the tools that our Studio 4 and Studio 5 teams at ISHCMC use to support their learners each week.

So Day 2, I introduced the premise behind agency and the overall plan and message for the day.

We revisited our OSCAR  goals first as both individuals and as teams to set the tone for the day. What were our needs? What were our intentions? How could we best meet these needs over the day? What also was our preferred vehicle for learning? For ourselves and for our team?

Once the intentions for the day had been set, I introduced my learners to the MOSCOW. We use this at ISHCMC to help our young learners plan their schedules and their day.  The MUSTS at school, include conferencing with teachers, completing an assignment or a routine task or a skill based task.

In the workshop the only MUSTS were to network, connect, manage time and reflect and revisit their OSCAR plan.


The OSCAR and MOSCOW together supported my learners in setting their intentions for the day and providing some direction for their learning.

We then moved on to the CAR Model (Choose, Act & Reflect) .  Taking time first to choose how to complete their schedules and highlighting the opportunities to learn that were available throughout the day.


The individual schedules were blank – leaving the responsibility to the learners to fill their day as THEY best needed. Including a premise that they may wish to use some of their lunch as learning time (or not) – their choice.


So how did they know what opportunities and who was available and when?

We created a large Schedule planner which summarised the learning opportunities of the day. On the schedule included opportunities to skype with experts around the region, opportunities to have experts on campus pop in and chat, opportunities to read, to chat as a team, to visit learning spaces, to unconference.

As well as having a paper schedule, we also had a soft-copy available for those that preferred the ‘tech-path’.



As we had also taken time to identify the expertise in the room, some of our learners had also volunteered to run a session or an unconference during the day to share their school’s journey and highlights.

As I approached these brave souls ( who I thank profusely) to present, I highlighted to them that THEIR learning and THEIR schedule took priority. However, once they had planned their learning for the day, then to please find a 30 minute slot that they were free to present / chat on to the master schedules so others could learn from them.

I also made sure that I was available for unconferences, for more formal chats throughout the day. I scheduled myself every 30 minutes so that if time ran over this would not impact others and also gave me a chance to have regular check-ins and monitor the learning and learners needs during the day.  However, I left the choice open to learners as to what they wanted to chat about. They indicated their wishes on the master schedule so that others, also interested, could also join in.

To ensure we had enough space, technology, time for learning, I also had learners indicate what sessions they were interested in attending so we could have an overview of the learning thoughout the day.

Once set up, we moved formally into the “ACT” part of the CAR cycle.

Standing back and overviewing the day there was a buzz of learning eveywhere. All learners were engaged, connecting, learning, as they needed. There was a steady flow of people in break-out spaces and in our main learning area. There were discussions, interactions, and sharing  –  some choosing to have team chats, others taking time to quietly read and reflect.  

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As an added bonus, at the Regional workshop we had two Building for the Future workshops side-by-side. The other workshop leader (Kate O’Connell) and I had been collaborating throughout, but her learners were a different group of learners and mostly from candidate schools. Kate was also brave enough to jump in with two feet and join us on this journey of agency.

However, understanding the needs of her learners, Kate went a slightly different path. Her learners had full choice of

  • staying with her for the day and following the planned schedule
  • attending the sessions on offer in our room.
  • OR a combination of both.

I thought this was brilliant – a true reflection on how important it was to understand your learners and also provide opportunities for agency.  Kate also shared her schedule with our learners – so there was now DOUBLE opportunities to learn and choices available.

I am so greatful for the generosity of the educators that volunteered their time and expertise to support our learners, both by Skype and in person.

Thank you all for your time and professional generosity.

  • Kathy Saville – In person – Revisiting Motifs and New Standards & Practices
  • Marcia Behrenbruch ( Reshaping Schools)  by Skype – Victoria Standards & the PYP
  • Stephanie Thompson (@traintheteacher) by Skype – Student Leadership & Exhibition to Expedition
  • Vandana Parashar – By Skype (@vandysays) – Developing a learning community
  • Yuni Santosa – By Skype (@YuniSantosa) – Flexible Units
  • Tamarisk Low – (@TamariskNZ) by Skype – Honoring Agency in younger children
  • Madison Cooper (@maddicooper27) – in person – Play & 3-6 Year olds
  • Helen Morchel – In person – General Q&A PYP- E.
  • Kate Mancarella – @klmanc) By Skype – Leading change, Creating own planner
  • Kate O’Connell – (@innovatecreater) – in person – Leading a candidate school
  • Monita Sen – ( @Monitasen) – By Skype – Q&A for Candidate Schools

The end of Day 2 and Day 3 of the workshop – moved into the final phase of  the CAR Model and REFLECT.


Day 3, Session 1: We took time to pause and reflect and share our learning with each other, revisit our action plans, to plan next steps for ourselves and our schools and to also reflect how this model of agency could be adapted within our schools for all our learning community.

We centred our conversations and learning around our ‘So What?” and our action question “How might YOU re-envision the PYP at YOUR school?”

action q

For Day 3, Session 2 we considered our educators on our teaching staff – how well did we know our staff? What were their strengths and areas to develop?  How could we support them through the PYP Enhancements?

We reviewed the new  IB Teacher capabilities .  How could they support our educators? Rather than using the individual personas introduced to the new workshops, we explored our teams through the concept of  personas – each table group developing a persona of a ‘team’ that may need support as they moved forward in their PYP journeys.


For Session 3, we turned towards ourselves as leaders – From our new understandings and connections we reflected on our Leadership Capabilities   and how we, as leaders, could best support our school communities?

Honouring the concept of “assessment capable learners” we used the Gradual Increase of Independence (GII) and the graphics developed by @OrenjiButa  to reflect on our own strengths as leaders.


Overall, the 3-day workshop was designed through the inquiry cycle, the research cycle and design thinking model.




We did not quite get to developing protypes as such, but as a group we definitely took time to develop new ideas and to share these with each other and use the ladder of feedback to tweak these ideas and take them further.


From this experience, what did I learn as a learner and a facilitator?

  • Build a Professional Learning Network
    • There is no way this would have been as successful is it had not been for the generosity of educators worldwide – both in person and through Skype. Thank you again to those who gave up their time to share their expertise.
  • Be honest with your learners
    • Vunerability is a strength – so share your vunerability with your learners, and acknowledge the fact that you are not the expert on everything and that there is expertise all around us.
  • Respect your learners 
    • Your learners and their needs MUST come before anything else. It is their learning and their time to be honoured and respected.
  • Trust in yourself and your instincts and be brave
    • I knew deep down this model was the best way forward to respect the needs of my adult learners and all I had to do was trust in myself, the process and the WHY behind why this model was best for them and their learning.

Anf finally – have a go. If you don’t try you will never know. But with that, fail fast – and be prepared to adapt when things don’t work out as planned. Your role as a facilititator is to be responsive and provide resources – whatever they may be.

But – have a go – because when you do – you never know when and where the magic might happen.



To wrap up, a couple of thank yous:

Thank you to Taryn for being braver than all of us and leading the way with this model for professional development.

Thank you to John Spencer & James Nottingham or permission to use their videos, images and blogs during the workshop.

There’s a gift in everything….

giftFor Northern Hemisphere schools, May and June are very busy times of the year.

At ISHCMC (www.ishcmc.com) we follow the American school calendar and so finish the academic year in early June.

Thus, May is mad. Mad busy, Mad full of events, to-do lists and end of year tasks.  Just Mad!

Being a PYP school, May is also the month, we host our PYP Exhibition, a Lower primary Art Exhibition, Student Led Conferences and a POI review.

As a school in the last legs of a 5 year refurbishment, we are also beginning plans for the summer construction, and in the last few weeks of school have had to move some classrooms, share some spaces and put furniture and resources in storage…… Mad.

And all of this on top of a busy school year, 670 energised learners, celebrations of learning, end of year Evaluations of Learning . All of this is enough to get any committed teaching staff down / exhausted.

I happened to be skyping with my network colleague, Angela, (@ang_meikle) on skype and retelling our busy afternoon of the G3 classrooms move, but also reflecting on how proud I was of the team attitude and in awe as they linked the move to a provocation for their learners. The team had framed the classroom move as a gamificiation challenge through their Sharing the Planet unit; they were ‘leaving the Island” and what did they need to continue their learning and ‘action’ focus?  Angela, responded with a phrase that has since resonated with me…”There’s a gift in everything“.

To reframe some of the challenges we all face at this time of year, as an opportunity and a gift would support and encourage us all to pause in the middle of the busy-ness and madness and to appreciate all that we have , all that we do for others and all that others do for us. 

So – we had to move classrooms – with only 3 weeks to go of the year. An opportunity to have a real -life provocation for our learners, to bring new energy and experiences to our learners. The gift was being witness to how our young learners embraced this move with positivity and ease. The long term gift, will be a new learning hub purpose built over the summer for our learners.

We hosted a thorough and deep reflective vertical and horizontal dive into our POI. An opportunity for vertical connections, for perspective, for many voices to be heard, for others to advocate for their area of learning, for reflections. The gift is a learning community that is honest, candid and focused on the learning in a whole school environment and the year ahead.

An intense lead up to the PYP Exhibition with 120 individual symbols of learning. An opportunity for our learners to express who they are as learners, their progress, their achievements and their journey. The gift is having the flexibility in our curriculum framework to honour this, a team that empowers our learners and puts learners first and a community that is commited to supporting learners outside of their own learning hubs.

End of year Evaluations of Learning. An opportunity for learners and educators to reflect on progress and celebrate the growth of  our learners this year. The gift is having the time, space and place to celebrate our learners and the year gone and show pride as their teachers.

A EY/LP Art Exhibition. A KG Mini-X. A Student Led Conference.  An opportunity to invite our parent community into the learning, to celebrate our learners and their learning. The gift watching our energised learners confidently sharing their learning with their parents. To see the smiles, wonder and laughter from our parents as the revel in the wonder that are their children.

Packing boxes, moving classrooms for the end of year.  An opportunity to sort, declutter, redistribute and plan forward. The Gift  is time to reflect, the promise of new purpose built learning environments, the hope of  new opportunities and new year ahead.

Graduations and Completion ceremonies, Award Dinners. An opportunity to honour all the hard work and acheivements of our learners, to invite families into celebrate their children. A gift to be, even a small part, of these learners and their learning.

Leaving parties and staff farewells. An opportunity to show our appreciation and gratitude to those members of our learning community who are moving on to new adventures. A gift to have had the time to learn with them and from them.

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Reframing the May Madness, as an opportunity and a gift  shifts the mindset from  ‘countdowns’ and ‘tickboxes’  to a time and place that we can  pause  and appreciate the moments  and all members of our community.





Through the eyes of a child

I have had two goals since Christmas but the busy life of school means that it has taken me this long to have the time to put them into action.

Goal one:

Our Mindfulness and Well Being Coordinator (@mindheartteach ) attended a weekend retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand over the Christmas break. Part of this retreat was carried out in silence. Her reflections from this retreat were that having this time of silence gave her an opportunity to honour her other senses and she was overwhelmed with the power of observation, appreciation and wonder as she tuned into the world around her through the senses of hearing, sight and touch.

“It’s really the space between the notes that makes

the music you enjoy so much.”

(Wayne Dyer)

Katie’s reflections made me start thinking what would we experience, observe, notice, if we had a day of silence at school? As a coordinator, attending planning meetings, working in classrooms and supporting learning, what would my day look like if I was silent, and took the opportunity to just observe and listen? What would I see and hear that I may have missed by talking and actively participating through these engagements. How would my perspectives change? What would I observe?

Goal two:


My second goal for the year has been to spend a day shadowing a child in every grade level to see what their day and their learning looks like.

Last week, I had the privilege to spend the day shadowing one of our younger Early Explorers. This day also gave me the opportunity to see learning “through the eyes of a child”.


When I began the day, I had no goal or agenda except to observe his day as a learner, so not knowing what to expect I took photo records and minute by minute notes documenting his play, his conversations and interactions and his learning.

I was amazed that as a silent observer how much data I collected.

“aha moments that spark brilliant, unexpected solutions tend to crop up when our minds are quiet.” 

(David Rock & Josh Davis)

I literally ran out of pages in my notebook and my ipad worked overtime. This day of silence as a sideline observer provided me an opportunity to remove myself from the midst of the ‘doing’ and participation, but at the same time created time for just ‘being’ and focusing on this young learner and his day and his learning.

I have shared my observations with his teachers, and they are just that, observations.  Educators are free to reflect and use these observations as they wish to support their forward planning.

I believe that if leadership are looking to be more visible, to spend time in classrooms whether it be to be part of the learning, shadow a child and see a day through their eyes, or to observe learning, it is paramount that the educators in the room have developed a culture of trust with their educators and it is clear that the focus is on learning and the learner and not a time for appraisal or reflecting on the educator.

I am working on how best to collate and present my observations in a way that supports our school, that documents the learning and that supports the learner. Working out how best to find the ‘signals within the noise’ (Nate Silver).

I have booked in my next day to observe our learning “through the eyes of a child” and I can’t wait to learn from, with and alongside our young learners.

Redesigning the Design…

We are about to head back to school for Semester 2. A new semester, a new zodiac year.

Time to reflect, to recharge, to re-energise, time to look back, breathe and re-evaluate.

In August this past year, the Studio 5 team took advantage of the fact that they would now have an extended space for their hub of learning which would be dedicated to Studio 5 students. The team also reflected on some of the successes and challenges of their pilot year. One of the past year challenges was guiding both learners and advisors to break out of  classroom walls and “live” the studio style.  (August 2019 – Trying to break the homeroom mould). Moving forward, the goal was to use the extended space in true studio style that would reflect our beliefs about agency and provide learners with voice, choice and ownership of their learning, their spaces and how they used them.

Taryn BondClegg (@makinggoodhumans) has already documented and shared with her readers on Makinggoodhumans, the thinking, the planning and the journey of the advisors and the learners that took place back in August.

Handing over the Studio spaces to our learners to design as they best thought they needed for learning, was a great success. The studio design culminated in a ‘Chill-ax’ room, a reading nook, a recording studio, a fitness room, a town hall, a science and maths centre, a tech space and a town hall.

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From Studio 5 files & Makinggoodhumans

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Now their ‘stage was set, the Studio 5 team and learners turned their focus to developing a Studio 5 community and planning their first Student Designed Units of Inquiry.

As the term progressed, we started noticing that our learners weren’t really using the spaces for the purose that they had first designed them for.  There were learners attending maths courses in the drama space, completing blogs in the fitness room, learners using the townhall for DIY projects and Art work, and reading in the recording space, and of course, there were learners (and advisors) using tech everywhere and not just in the tech room.

So what had gone wrong?

The Design Cycle:

downloadWe reviewed the Design Cycle and stepped back to look at our process.


Taking time to explore what needed to be done, taking time to research, discuss and explore possible outcomes compiling and analysing the data and information and even going so far to begin the process of  identifying possible materials that could be used. 

Design and Plan:

Begin to list options, idea and possible plans.  Drafting a number of possiblities, bringing materials into the plan, going deeper and with more detail and considering all options. Drafting several plans – going back to INVESTIGATE by collecting opinion and feedback and ultimately choosing one plan forward, creating a more concrete ‘blueprint’ and formalising details.


Taking action and turning plans into reality. Stopping to reflect, check back, update and adjust the orignal plan, and record those changes and thinking behind them. Honouring the process – testing along the way and making adjustments to optimize and improve the original plan.


Taking time to ask for feedback, reflect, test the product, living with it and using it for a while and continually evaluating its success against the original investigation and within that the purpose of the design itself.  

So, as Taryn’s blog post (August 2019 – The magic of a student designed Studio.  ) records both the Studio 5 team and the learners HAD followed the design process, so why were these purpose-fully designed spaces no longer being used for the purpose they were designed for?

Through reflection and discussion ( the team’s own investigation in the Design cycle) there was a realisation, that although, the Studio had been purposefully designed by the learners and, there certainly had been many opportunities for learners to use their voice, make choices and have ownership of the spaces, our learners had designed and set these spaces up without really understanding what spaces they would need as learners.

The learners’ purpose planners and student directed units of inquiry were created after the design and set up of the studio spaces.

So, although we had a fitness room, most of the more active purpose units needed the dance room or the field for their inquiries. Although we had a creative arts space, most inquiries focused on arts and creativity were drawn to the Fab Lab and expertise of Mr Nhan (@NhanNgu38386685  ) and Mr. Frank (@PhuHua ), and although we had a reading room, it proved to be a great space for quiet reflection, blogging or skyping with experts.

Following the winter break, we had, as a school, invited Duane Smith (http://earlylearningineducation.com/ ) back to work with our learning community. Duane had worked with our Lower Primary and Early Explorers teams during our 3E Conference to create purposeful learning spaces that invited learners in to engage and connect with their environment, and to do this through vision of ‘shared responsibility’.

One of my personal beliefs in schools, is we should be taking full advantage of the ideas, the creativity, the problem solving and the incredible practices within our school and our colleagues.  We have so much to learn from each other and I am constantly encouraging Studio 4 & 5 to visit our Early Explorers, our Kg team to visit the Arts space and our teachers to celebrate and learn with and from each other.

So, for Duane’s January visit, we asked him to not only extend the work he had done with the younger year groups to the upper primary, but also to see if he could encourage, support, connect and celebrate vertical learning opportunities within the school.

When Duane met with the Studio 5 team, the discussion and reflection centred around their studio spaces. Duane is an advocate of ‘shared responsibility’ and so his values of agency and the design of spaces belonging to the learner and the community very much aligns with ours.

Duane’s discussions focused on the learners and their needs:

  • the need to feel respected,
  • need to be free to express themselves,
  • need to be safe to take risks and make mistakes.
  • need to have spaces for individual and collective learning
  • need to have access to spaces, resources and experts as and when they need them.

And then, as a true community, taking shared responsibility: the teachers and advisors:

  • the need to feel a sense of belonging for the place they work,
  • the need to have community space
  • the need to have private space

Returning after the winter break, Studio 5 learners took some time to reflect and decide whether they were going to ‘pivot or persevere’ for their second student designed inquiry.

Now, as we go into Semester 2, plans are in place and learners now have a more of an idea of who they are as learners and what they would like to acheive through their second unit. They also have a more informed idea of what tools, materials and spaces they might need as they embark on their second student designed unit of inquiry.

Taking some of the learning from time spent with Duane, the team decided a ‘re-do’ was needed and thus, prior to the Tet (Vietnam New Year) holiday, the studio space went through a big ‘ clear-out’. For the second time this year, shelves were cleared, cupboards emptied, materials collected in a huge studio-sized spring clean (in true Tet style). As you walked through the studio, this is what you saw. A provocation to engage and invite the learners in (again!)

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Once cleared and stacked, learners were then asked to sort their ‘trash from the treasure’ , negotiate with each other re: needs and wants and make informed decisions as to what might be needed to support their learning, both individually and collectively.

They have ‘reset’ and are back to zero.….. and that’s OK.

But are they really? There’s been an incredible amount of learning, reflection, thinking and discussion throughout the past semeseter and this process. Taking the time to reflect, ‘revisit their why’ and  whilst appreciating the successes of August not being afraid to go back to an ‘almost’ blank slate, but this time with  more intention to ensure their ‘why’ was still true.

Tomorrow we begin Semester 2.

Studio 5 learners will be asked to consider and re-consider the purpose of their collaborative learning spaces and, using the design principles reflect on the impact of those spaces on their learning both as individuals but also through the collective lens and maintaining the concept of “shared responsibility”.

I can’t wait to see what they come up with!


Making Better Teachers

making better teachers

Last week, I was interviewed by Kevin O’Shea who is currently working in Beijing, China as a PYP/Nature/Outdoor educator.

Kevin it the host of the BRAND NEW Making Better Teachers Podcast 

From following Kevin on Twitter and listening to his podcast it is obviousl that Kevin is a learner – and has this thirst for wanting to know more. Through his podcast his has explored a number of issues with regards to education and the different perspectives in varying contexts in education.

He contacted me to talk about our #ISHCMCIB model of self-directed learning in our #ISHCMCIB Primary PYP setting.  It was a pleasure sharing some of the great work our educators are doing at our school, and an honor to talk to Kevin and his followers.

If you would like to follow Kevin on Twitter, his handle is @MadForMaple

His wordpress site is:  https://makingbetterteachers.com/ 

“What does student centered learning look like? Where is it going? In this episode we speak to Tania Mansfield, PYP Coordinator at International School Ho Chi Minh City about their Studio model of student centered learning. What is it? How was it developed and where is it going? “

Following the podcast, I realised that there were so many more educators and schools exploring the concept of AGENCY and pushing the boundaries of education, that I had failed to mention. So I have begun to compile a “Connections for Change” list for others to connect to.

There are also a number of ever growing educators on Twitter that I have begun to save in “Twitter Lists” and you are welcome to add to these lists.

This is not an exhaustive list and I ask that if I have missed some amazing blogs, educators, schools, twitter feeds that you please add to this so that we may all continue to learn.



Vietnam Tech Conference 2019

On January 26th & 27th January I attended the Vietnam Tech Conference hosted by Saigon South International School. Their Conference website is HERE  


Their Tagline this year was “Agents of Change”  and highlighted the conference mission of:

  • Providing  a venue for educators to inquire and explore how they can effectively integrate technology within the classroom.
  • Creating  a community of educators pushing the boundaries of educational technology
  • Promoting Digital citizenship and awareness throughout our learning communities.



The Keynote this year was by Warren Apel (@warrena ) who is currently the Director of Technology at the American School in Japan. Warren opened the conference with the provocation “Becoming an agent of change” highlighting that schools are notoriously averse to change”.   Warren shared his personal stories of change, along with research from economics and psychology, to start us thinking how we too could be an “agent of change”.

It was refreshing to be attending a conference as a learner, someone who had some knowledge but was looking forward to meeting experts, to hearing stories of change and also to celebrate our #ISHCMCIB colleagues who were presenting and sharing their own learning and successes.

One of my personal goals this year has been to explore sketchnoting and digital notetaking so I used the conference as an opportunity to ‘have a go’ in real-time during the conference.

I attended 4 workshops during the conference:

David Lee (@davidleeedtech  )









Adam Torrens ( @EvolvedToMrAdam ) & Meryn Rainey ( @MerynRainey  ) spiderwebsDx6j-aQUUAInx9z








Chris Smith ( @SmithRChris  )










Luke Dyer (@dukelyer  )







All of these workshops introduced me to something new, as well as some revisiting of ideas and affirmation of what our educators are practicing at #ISHCMCIB.

Chris Smith’s (@SmithRChris ) workshop was my first time exploring Keynote as a tool for sketchnoting and it was a great opportunity to ‘play’ whilst there were experts and other learners in the room to learn with and from.

I took advantage of the ‘quiet’ time over the Vietnamese Tet holiday to take some of Chris’ tips and tricks and apply them to my notes from his workshop.

So I went, from this….








.to this:


My next step was to play with the animation features and see if I could recreate the workshop in ‘animation’ style.

It was easier than I thought… and with a few glitches to still iron out… this is what I ended up with.


I have also been, for a whilst now, hovering over students’ shoulders as they have been playing with Procreate,  sketching, drawing and painting.

However, this is a paid app, so rather than spend the money before I have developed the skill level, I decided to test my creativity a little further and try some ‘sketching’ with Keynote.

I chose a photo of my boys and began to play:

IMG_1123 IMG_4745.JPG

Far from the talent of some of our students, but a start……


So I continue to learn, to play and to ask experts…. and to find ways to document my learning in creative ways.

Always learning….






The signals within the noise…

For a while now, we have had this on going question thrown at us from different directions. “How do we know our model of self-directed learning is successful?“. The question is constantly present – being asked by stakeholders, our board, our Head of School, our parents, and ourselves.

Our discomfort has been in that we continue to struggle with the definition of ‘success‘. We are opposed to defining success of learning and the success of a child through one time and place statistics or data points, on standardised assessments and on what can be measured through numbers and graphs. We constantly battle with the question – ‘how do we measure what matters?’

In our model, we see learners living the PYP, thriving, growing in confidence and becoming more reflective and self-aware whilst developing skills to motivate themselves and their peers. We see learners, who although on our radar as students of concern, fly because in our environment of self-directed learning,  no one is putting them in a box or pre-planning their path for them – but rather allowing them time, space, freedom and, most importantly developing respect and relationships within the model to support them and their learning.

So we struggle – to answer the question “How do we know our model of self-directed learning is successful?” as we continue to resist against the needs of others outside the model, and advocate for the needs of our learners within the model.

In September this year our principal, (@peterson_kurtis), provided us with a provocation to help us unpack our struggle:

“Our gut says its good – but how do we KNOW?”

He introduced our Studio 5 team to a text by Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise.

noise3As a team we collaborated to record all the data we had collected last year, and compared it to the data we were planning to collect this year.

As you can see – we are not short of data.

We are literally drowning in evidence and data. Some of  the data is qualitative, some of it quantitative. Some collected and curated by advisors, others by learners. Some of it standardised, some of it subjective and collected through conferences, observations and conversations.


Data Summary – HERE – Our gut says it’s good but how do we know?


But look at it – there is what Nate Silver calls, just too much ‘noise’. There is too much for us to decipher, streamline and present….. so Kurtis challenged us – so where are the signals? 

This began more conversations and reflections, how could we decide on the signals if we didn’t know their purpose , how were these signals to be used?  

There has been alot of time and energy invested in this pilot of self-directed learning so we are a little hesitant to move forward without purpose – a little wary of agendas and resistant to feeling we’re being pushed back towards traditional thoughts and ways of  measuring success, assessing and collecting data…. so we hesitated… and reflected. 


A few meetings later, our Head of School (@rebelleader18) added to the conversation.

He introduced the short video Adaptable Minds –  which questions whether we are focusing on what matters in learning? 

He also sent out follow up clips for us to reflect on which included development and celebration of the character strengths from www.letittripple.com



purposeIf our gut did believe that this model was successful – and we had all this ‘noise’ – could we, as a school, a group of determined educators who were committed to change, could we come up with  “an authentic system that shows growth of our learners in a self-directed model.”  

The challenge was set, (and at this stage, my head hurt!) .  

Next meeting, we brainstormed some criteria for such a system:

A system that: 

  • was applicable from our youngest learners through the PYP and MYP to our eldest learners in the Diploma programme.
  • showed growth of the learner over time
  • allowed next steps and goals to be set.
  • would be transferrable and valued across age groups
  • would be transferrable and valued in other schools
  • authentic and embedded in real life context and learning 
  • was suitable for all learners
  • meaningful to all
  • manageable 
  • simple, effective and purposeful for all stakeholders

We then went to the research. There were so many conversations globally, so many schools working towards change, there must be something we can use as starting block to give us some direction.

So we went to the research, took time to read, reflect, dig deeper, discuss and then sort what could work for us, and what would align with our criteria?

Our research included:

Through all of this research, we liked alot of the pieces, but some were more secondary based and thus not applicable to our early learners, and some were still driven by ‘subjects’ and curriculum needs instead of the learner needs.

atlsWe eventually came back to our PYP ATL skills. Sometimes time and space to explore and gain perspective leads us to appreciate what we had in front of us the whole time. 

These 5 skills were what we believed learners needed…so how could we incorporate these into a system that fit all the criteria we had set for ourselves?


We continued to look at some of the tools and resources out there that could support us in our tracking of the ATL skills – but they were more about tracking rather than the learner….so we kept exploring.

In the weeks between meetings, 3 things happened. 

  1. The IB officially released the 3 documents making up the newly enhanced PYP Principles to practice.
  2. Our Former Studio 5 colleague, Suzanne (@OrenjiButa ) updated her wonderful graphics incorporating the new PYP ATL skills.
  3. Our student success team shared with us their student developed learning portfolio for student reflection, goal setting and action.

These 3 events helped us move forward in our purpose: 

atl 5

Fig. ATL01 – Pg 27 Learning & Teaching

The document “Learning & Teaching” from the IB PYP included this graphic on Pg 27  to represent the 5  interrealted Approaches To Learning Skills.  

It was so similar to our Studio 5 graphic, we were encouraged to move forward. 




Suzanne’s graphics helped us review and reflect on the changes to the ATL Skills in the PYP and compare and contrast to the MYP ATL Skills (graphics developed by @ndbekah) 


ilp templThe template that our student success team have been using for our learner led ILP conversations gave us a format that was already proven, that gave our learners ownership of their learning and gave them a voice to set their own goals. 

And this all helped us in formulating an idea…. however, if this idea was to meet all our criteria we needed to start a conversation with our MYP colleagues to see if our plan would be: 

  • applicable for our older learners in the MYP through to our eldest learners in the Diploma programme.
  • would be transferrable and valued across age groups 

So we presented our plan…..

  • to develop a system orientated around the ATL Skills that gave learners choice, voice and ownership of themselves, their learning and their next steps.
  • to develop a continuum using both the ATL PYP Skills and MYP Skills that guided learners in their reflection and assessment of their learning and inform their next steps.
  • to have this system directly feed into the learners’ Evaluations of Learning as they reflected on who they were as learners. 
  • to develop a system that followed our students as they advanced through to the MYP & DP. 

This is what we presented to the MYP:

Learner’s Journey – Self-Directed Model

The MYP team, were very supportive and positive in response to our thinking and plans to move forward.


They reflected that they had been working in Grade 6 individual google sites designed for students to develop reflective practices and had also come to the conclusion that the ATL Skills were the direction to head in, but they’d not yet got to discussions about an ATL continuum. 

So this is where we now are: (December 2018)

  • We have our purpose and the criteria to meet support that purpose.
  • We have our signals – the ATL skills 
  • We have a plan that this will feed directly into the learner Evaluations of Learning, so that learners will be reflecting on themselves as learners through the ATL skills and not through the traditional subjects in PYP & MYP. 
  • Evaluations of learning will reflect learners as ‘Researchers’, ‘Communicators’, ‘Self-Managers’, ‘Thinkers’, and ‘Socialisers’ and will include next steps and goals to be shared with others. 
  • Evaluations of learning will not have grades – we believe the power is in the narrative and the conversatsions leading up to and following the development of the learner reflections. 

Our next steps moving forward are: 

  • To revise and review the ATL continuum that our ATL committee developed using the new enhanced PYP ATL Skills descriptors
  • To explore the use of a google site for students to use that will follow them through their ISHCMC life and can be transferred to new school contexts. 
  • To explore and play with the potential with our learners and get their voice and feedback whilst assessing the best way to ensure the format is  manageable  and simple, effective and purposeful for all stakeholders (as agreed in our criteria) 
  • To introduce to our lower PYP grades levels and begin the conversation with them is this something they could adapt and use developmentally?
  • To follow up plans to silence some of the other data that is creating ‘noise’ so that the data we collect continues to be learner owned.

We’d be interested in hearing from anyone who may be on a similar journey, or have found ways to manage student digital portfolios of learning for a whole school ( K – 12 system)  or have maybe found alternative ways to develop  “an authentic system that shows growth of our learners in a self-directed model.”