I See, I Think, I Wonder

I see, I think, I wonder is a visible thinking routine, designed to stimulate curiosity and inquiry through careful observations. The routine stresses the importance of inquiry-based thinking through close observations following a three-step process. It can be adapted for both young and adult learners and is a simple critical-viewing strategy to guide students’ analysis of any visual media. By prompting students to slow down their thinking and simply observe before drawing conclusions and asking questions, the routine supports a deeper engagement and time to analyze more thoughtfully the media they are viewing.

The See, I Think, I Wonder routine encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations and helps to simulate curiosity and set the stage for inquiry.

I See, I Think, I Wonder….

This past month our Grade 2 students have been connecting with a Grade 3 cohort of students at the International School of Mozambique as both grade levels are inquiring into the concept of climate and how it impacts our environment – planned and natural. Due to time zone differences the two groups of students have been connecting and sharing thier environment and their questions for each other on FlipGrid.

What did I See?

I saw two of our Grade 2 students sharing about their school and climate in Thailand.

I saw two students in Mozambique sharing their school context and climate.

I saw teachers from Thailand and Mozambique connecting through email.

I saw a Flip Grid being created.

I saw two groups of students inquiring into the same concepts of climate & environment but through different contexts.

I saw two groups of students across continents on similar paths of inquiry.

I saw two groups of students across continents take their inquiries in different directions.

I saw students proud to share their school campus and playgrounds with each other.

I saw children using appropriate vocabulary and language to their inquiries.

I saw teachers communicating and navigating time zones and holiday breaks to problem solve and ensure their learners connected.

I saw teachers and students using flip grid to share videos across timezones.

I saw Grade 2 students asking further questions to their new friends in Mozambique.

I saw similarities in the two school campuses and climates.

I saw differences in the two school campuses and climates.

I saw children from two different continents, of different ethnicities, sharing in English.

I saw children – naming each other as “friends” .

I saw diversity in the students sharing their context and their questions.

I saw teachers supporting the connections and supporting their student questions.

What did I think?

I Think

I thought that our children were very confident and comfortable in sharing.

I thought that flip grid was a great collaboration tool for connecting students.

I thought that these teachers were committed to supporting their student inquiries and providing connections.

I thought that some of the student questions were factual and could have been “searched’ up.

I thought that some of the student questions went deeper into helping develop an understanding of how climate has an impact on our environment how we live.

I thought that this was relatively easy to set up and connect our two groups of learners.

I thought that, in retrospect, we could have put the flip grid directly into students hands.

I thought that our experience with remote learning has helped developed competence and confidence online.

I thought that this was a valuable experience for both groups of students and educators.

I Wondered

I wondered what would have happened if we had connected these two groups of students earlier on in their inquiries?

I wondered if there had been any inquiry in the physical classroom centred around our new friends connection?

I wondered why we didn’t naturally put the flip grid straight into the hands of the learners?

I wondered if the questions asked had been answered?

I wondered where the motivation for this connection had originated from ?

I wondered how we could make this happen more often?

I wondered if the differences in campus design and environment were solely dependent on the climate or if there were other factors?

I wondered how we could support our young learners to move away from surface and factual questions to deeper wonderings?

I wondered if we could next time connect small groups of students or create a buddy system using flip grid rather than whole class / grade connections?

I wondered whether this connection had changed the direction of the unit of inquiry in either context?

I wondered if, instead of sharing just information, whether this could be extended to collaborative learning engagements?

I wondered if the teachers involved in both continents had thought this connection to be valuable?

I wondered if this connection, now made will go further and become a more natural ‘friends across’ continents relationship?

I wondered if we could extend this connection to book clubs, learning celebrations, art shows etc?

I wondered what magic might happen if we go one step further than connecting our learners – what if we as teachers actually planned the unit together? Two schools, two continents, two grade levels, 50+ students, same conceptual inquiry, one Unit of inquiry – and a whole load of collaboration ? Anyone interested ?


I See, I Think, I Wonder….

I see, I think, I wonder is a visible thinking routine, designed to stimulates curiosity and inquiry through careful observations. The routine stresses the importance of inquiry-based thinking through close observations following a three-step process. It can be adapted for both young and adult learners and is a simple critical-viewing strategy to guide students’ analysis of any visual media. By prompting students to slow down their thinking and simply observe before drawing conclusions and asking questions, the routine supports a deeper engagement and time to analyze more thoughtfully the media they are viewing.

The See, I Think, I Wonder routine encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations and helps to simulate curiosity and set the stage for inquiry.

I See, I Think, I Wonder….

This week I was out on recess duty with our Grade 5 Students. Grade 5 is our eldest year group in the Primary School.

What did I see?

I saw the Grade 5s running playing a game of tag.

I saw boys and girls playing together in a number of ways – playing tag, on the climbing equipment and on the trampoline.

I saw individuals reading quietly in the shaded area.

I saw a small group of individual reading quietly in the shaded area.

I saw small groups playing together on the zip line, on the ball court and on the climbing frame.

I saw children climbing on the climbing equipment. They were climbing up & down, climbing across the climbing zone and in and out of the climbing structure. I saw children testing limits. I saw children taking risks.

I saw a football game happening on the small field. I saw boys playing football. I saw uneven teams. I saw two boys leave the game, and the others adjust the game to half court. I saw the boys self-monitoring their football game

I saw two girls walking the perimeter – deep in conversation.

I saw children challenging each other on the zip line. I saw them collaborating to work out how to go faster, further – how to get the biggest “bounce back” . I saw them trying to work out if they could get two children on the zipline at the same time.

I saw children move from one play area or engagement to another. I saw children join new groups of friends with ease. I saw children welcome others into their space, their game, their play.

I saw children developing rules and structures to their games and play – and adapting and changing these as new ideas or environments were explored and accepted.

I saw no one using the hopscotch, the four square and the painted games on the concrete area.

I saw two children looking at the “Kelso’s choice” posters.

I saw the sand pit covered up.

I saw children laughing. I saw children playing. I saw children self-directing. I saw children making choices for themselves. I saw some natural leadership skills coming through in the play. I saw children negotiating for themselves and for others.

I saw children taking ownership of their play, of their time, of their social circles.

I saw play.

What did I think?

I Think

I thought that this was a very natural and comfortable setting for our Grade 5 learners.

I thought that these learners knew each other well, had taken time to build relationships and to know themselves and each other.

I thought that some of the play, especially the climbing / tag game was a little risky – possibly dangerous.

I thought the time of 20 minutes recess was not long enough for some, but it was too much for others.

I thought that the children probably were familiar with the strategies introduced by Kelso’s choice.

I thought that there was choice in types of play, who they played with and where and what they played.

I thought that at this age, there was not the issue of gender when playing games together.

I thought the football area and ball court were very male dominated.

I thought that there were so many opportunities to use the playground in our inquiries – especially Maths and Science for example measurement, data collection, forces, speed, probability and mapping

I Wondered

I wondered if the types of play changes over the academic year as these learners get to know themselves and each other?

I wondered if the play would change as the heat of the Thai summer began?

I wondered if morning recess looked the same as lunch recess?

I wondered if we are catering to those who prefer quieter forms of recess play such as reading, board games, creative engagements?

I wondered if play itself helps normalise and balance the gender relationships and interactions?

I wondered why we don’t consider often enough our playgrounds as perfect ‘invitations’ for inquiry and exploration to extend our classroom learning?

I wondered how we can girls more involved in ball sports?

I wondered how many of our educators stopped or halted the ‘risky’ play?

I wondered why the sand pit was still covered up? I wondered if this was Covid related?

I wondered why these spaces and this ‘play’ equipment was not also available in Middle school or High school?

I wondered why the ‘play conversation’ is only happening in our lower primary school?

I wondered why we don’t prioritise play through our school for all ages?

I wondered where these 10 year olds will play next year?

I See, I Think, I Wonder

This term was the first time in nearly 20 months that I was able to learn alongside children face-to-face in the classroom. Although I have, in my role as coordinator supported teachers, and collaborative teams, and also facilitated student inquiries, assemblies, read-alouds and maths challenges this has all be through digital means.

To celebrate the fact I could finally get into classrooms and be part of the learning, although be it through social distancing, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to be more intentional with my observations and take notes through the lens of I see, I think, I wonder and celebrate this through my weekly blog writing.

I see, I think, I wonder is a visible thinking routine, designed to stimulates curiosity and inquiry through careful observations. The routine stresses the importance of inquiry-based thinking through close observations following a three-step process. It can be adapted for both young and adult learners and is a simple critical-viewing strategy to guide students’ analysis of any visual media. By prompting students to slow down their thinking and simply observe before drawing conclusions and asking questions, the routine supports a deeper engagement and time to analyze more thoughtfully the media they are viewing.

The I See, I Think, I Wonder routine encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations and helps to simulate curiosity and set the stage for inquiry.

SO…. over the next few weeks, I will be framing my blog writing through the lens of I See, I Think, I Wonder.

Update: Feb 8th 2022

Well, the Covid Gods had their way, and there was a little more disruption to our best laid plans, with teachers caught in last minute border restrictions and flight cancellations after our winter break. However, this meant that instead of my plan to spend time in all our KIS Primary school classrooms, I would be covering in EY 3 for 5 weeks.

These past 5 weeks have been exhausting, exhilarating, joyful and so much fun. I have loved collaborating with the EY 3 team to plan for 33 young learners as they have come back to campus, have loved getting to know our learners, their personalities, their passions, and who they are as young humans. I have loved having to ‘ditch all plans’ as our 5 year olds had better ideas, loved taking the time to pretend and play, and have loved co-constructing learning environments and engagements. I have loved being reminded, of why I became an educator.

What did I see?

I saw a group of boys diving into the science corner. They were pulling out torches, headlamps, compasses, magnifying glasses, and walkie-talkies type toys.

I saw them share the materials out, negotiate ownership of the shared materials and proceed to dress up, wear and attach the materials as best they could.

I saw one boy decide that they needed belts, pockets and hats to carry all their things and he went to find suitable materials in the role play area.

I saw one boy take his friend’s idea and make a paper belt with a rolled up tube of paper and some tape. I saw another take this idea and make a cross chest harness using rolled paper and tape. I saw this idea fail as the paper roll would not hold the equipment. I saw someone try two cross harnesses in an x shape – I saw this work and others follow suit.

I saw some of the boys taking on leadership roles, and others taking on the role of follower.

I saw this group of boys preparing for an adventure, taking on each other’s ideas and building on them. I saw them all going out the classroom into the outdoor play area.

What did I think?

I Think

I thought that this was such a natural interaction between these boys. They were very comfortable with each other and were energized by each others’ enthusiasm and ideas.

I thought they negotiated well between each other – using language and social hierarchies already established in the classroom.

I thought that they had some prior knowledge and were role playing something that was familiar to them.

I thought that they were confident with their own ideas and in testing their theories.

I thought this role-play and pretend play was so much more natural than something we as adult facilitators could have set up.

What did I wonder?

I wondered where this idea had originated? I wondered what or who had provoked this play?

I wondered where we could support this role play further as adult facilitators? I wondered if we should?

I wondered whether the set up of the science corner had contributed to this role play?

I wondered how far the boys would take this role play?

I wondered how long this play would go on for? Would they revisit this tomorrow?

I wondered if others would join their role-play?

I wondered if the ‘preparation’ for the adventure was more important to them than the actual adventure?

I wondered where the boys might take it next?

I wondered how we as adult facilitators could continue to support and encourage this type of role play?

I wondered how we could intentionally design our learning spaces to promote this type of role-play?

Heading off to Explore

#OneWord 2022

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind”

Rudyard Kipling

In 2018, the Twitter community introduced the concept of #Oneword to support my intentions and goals for the year ahead. One word that will help to support you in all dimensions of your life – a prompt and mini mantra of how you would like to chose to be and how to live through the year every day, all year long.

In 2018 – My #Oneword was EMPOWER – Myself, others and life. It was at this stage in my career that I began to develop my professional focus to support colleagues and students in building capacity in themselves, their skill sets and their actions – and the #oneword Empower seemed to align beautifully. As a focus, it also supported my own professional growth, empowering myself to step into the challenges, the opportunities for my own growth and giving me courage when needed and some intentional direction.

#oneword 2018

In 2019, my professional goal in leadership remained in supporting others in their own professional goals and growth. #buildingcapacity

It took me a little time to find the right word for my 2019 #Oneword – I knew I wanted something related to ‘growth’ – but this didn’t seem to say all that I needed it to. It wasn’t enough to have something grow, it needed to be nurtured, to be supported and also to provide a sustainable environment for all. After many potential #oneWord – I finally settled on CULTIVATE . The image on the right was my desktop photo for the year.


February 2020 was the beginning of COVID for us – with campus closures happening after our Tet holiday. Although a late choice for me, I found that what mattered the most within our learning community was connection. Connecting with ourselves and others was our priority. To support not only our own learning and wellbeing, but also that of our teams, and our learners

Connect” was my mini mantra for #Oneword2020.

My #oneword for 2021 was also focused on people. My role as coordinator is to provide leadership and curriculum guidance to our teaching teams in their design and delivery of the PYP curriculum – and although back on Campus for January 2021 – our community was experiencing continual change and uncertainty, many restrictions including social distancing and masks in the classroom and planning, replanning and planning again for scenario upon scenario.

I took a while to choose my #Oneword2021 – reflecting back I think this was in response to the time and the changing needs in both myself as a leader and learner, and those of my teams’.

I considered Foundation – as we were all craving some sense of normality, of being grounded and secure. I considered Flexibility – for the same reasons – realising that to thrive, both I and the community needed to welcome and build skills in adaptation and flexibility.

I considered Time – as this is a precious resource that all of us needed. TIme to heal, time to connect, time to be off screen – time for self, time with others…

And then, I was reintroduced to the beautiful poem by the great Maya Angelou – “Continue

Into a world which needed you
My wish for you
Is that you continue


To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness


To allow humor to lighten the burden
of your tender heart


In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter


To let your eloquence
Elevate the people to heights
They had only imagined


To remind the people that
Each is as good as the other
And that no one is beneath
Nor above you


To remember your own young years
And look with favor upon the lost
And the least and the lonely


To put the mantel of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless


To take the hand of the despised
And diseased and walk proudly with them
In the high street
Some might see you and
Be encouraged to do likewise


To plant a public kiss of concern
On the cheek of the sick
And the aged and infirm
And count that as a
Natural action to be expected


To let gratitude be the pillow
Upon which you kneel to
Say your nightly prayer
And let faith be the bridge
You build to overcome evil
And welcome good


To ignore no vision
Which comes to enlarge your range
And increase your spirit


To dare to love deeply
And risk everything
For the good thing


To float
Happily in the sea of infinite substance
Which set aside riches for you
Before you had a name


And by doing so
You and your work
Will be able to continue

This so resonated with me at the time… and seemed to encompass all that I was thinking, feeling and needing for the year ahead and thus my #oneword2021 was CONTINUE


Since 2018, I have introduced the concept of #oneword to faculty and students on our January return – to help focus our intent for the second half of the academic year and to support goal setting. We have used video, picture book and our PYP Learner Profile as provocations and there are resources available such as (https://www.fillingthejars.com/word-for-the-year/ ) to help guide oneword choice. Below are some examples from our #oneword2018 class.

#Studio5 ISHCMC #OneWord2018

I do find that I find more success and focus if my #oneword is visible every day – thus creating a desktop photo, or a cover page in my calendar or notebook.

@tishrich on twitter currently is promoting the use of CANVA to celebrate #oneword2022 and has included a couple of templates to use

Selecting a word to shape your year allows you to orient yourself – and although is takes intentionality and commitment but if you let it, your one word will shape not only your year, but also you. It will become the compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps.

For 2022, I am in the midst of consideration – looking ahead, planning goals for myself both personally and professionally. My professional focus continues to be on my own leadership development and building capacity in others. Earlier this year, I participated in a Leadership course with the PTC ( https://www.theptc.org/) and was introduced to Ken Blanchards’ article (Situational Leadership ® II: The Article – Developing Competence Gaining Commitment Retaining Talent) which begins with a quote from Ken…

I think people want to be magnificent.
It is the job of the leader to bring out that magnificence in people
and to create an environment where they feel safe and supported
and ready to do the best job possible in accomplishing key goals.
This responsibility is a sacred trust that should not be violated.
The opportunity to guide others to their fullest potential is an honor
and one that should not be taken lightly.
As leaders, we hole the lives of others in our hands.
These hands need to be gentle and caring and always available for support.

Taking inspiration from Ken Blanchard – I am considering “Magnificence” as it allows a focus on myself and my goals, and also reflects on supporting the growth and goals of others.


Resources to support you as you consider your #oneword

What will your #oneword2022 be?

Developing a Programme Development Plan

Schools are learning communities that are on a journey of continuous improvement, valuing the concept of life-long learning and reflection, and working to improve our pedagogical practices as both individuals and as whole learning communities for the betterment of our learners and their learning growth.

Through accreditation processes such as WASC, CIS and IB, schools have developed strategic plans that may span 5 -10 years, and action plans or short to medium term goals that support the success of these strategic plans.

For us as a school – part of our strategic plan is a focus on Student Programs and Approaches to Learning and Teaching and under this area of focus is one of the short term goals for us as a PYP Primary school which is to review our mathematics curriculum.

Part of the IB new process for Evaluation is the presentation of a Programme Development Plan (PDP). As stated in the document Organising Programme Development in your school, the Programme development is the “intentional and focused development of the school’s IB programme(s). Schools engage in a continuous cycle of inquiry, action and reflection that reflects the school’s context and strategic goals. Schools are likely to have multiple programme development plans between programme evaluations.

As with most schools we have a number of PDPs that are ongoing.

Below are the curriculum based ones for KIS International school that we are currently focused on:

Whole School:

  • Global Citizenship
  • One-School : Building a continuum across the 3 (soon to be 4 programmes)

Secondary School (MYP & DP):

  • Approaches to Learning
  • Feedback to Feedforward

Primary School

  • Maths Curriculum Review
  • Learning Environments

In practice , each of these PDPs should follow an intentional planned process, and although the IB has provided a template for presentation of the PDP, schools do have choice as to how they plan, document and evidence their PDPs. We as a school have used the template to guide us through our process as we plan forward.

PDP Template provided by IBO

Below I have articulated how we at KIS International School, Bangkok have begun to develop, our (PDP) for our Primary School focus on Maths Curriculum. Please note this is not IB sanctioned, just an example of how our learning community have begun to plan for our PDP.

As an IBEN and Evaluation Leader, I also have the benefit and privilege of supporting other schools in the Asia Pacific region as they have gone through their journey and I have been able to learn from these schools, their own process and been able to bring this back to my school community to support us in our journey. This is one of the elements I have always loved about being part of the PYP and our networks, and how we, as learning communities, continue to learn from each other and sharing best practices so that we can all find success in our journey.

This is one of the documents my IBEN partner ( Richel Langit-Dursin) and I developed to help guide us as we were supporting a school through their Evaluation process.


My Maths Coordinator and I first sat down and mapped our what we hoped to achieve over the next 18 months. (Extended due to COVID Closures) Through previous experiences, we were aware that a review of a curriculum area often leads to a review of the written curriculum alone and we wanted to ensure that our year of review also included developing a shared understanding of teaching mathematical concepts and thinking skills in the classroom and ensuring a balanced approach to assessment of maths throughout the school.

Always keeping our final goals in mind, we articulated what we hoped to achieve by June 2023 ….

And then took our brainstorm and scribble of ideas ( or visible thinking) and developed a timeline and articulation of the different focuses as we review our maths curriculum ( The How, The Who and The When)

Once we had our thinking articulated and scoped out we then turned to the IB documents provided, and those Richel and I created to guide us during Evaluation visits, and co-constructed slides to map out the S&P and guide us as we aligned our thinking to the IB PDP template and process:

  • The school identified a clear focus and/or clear rationale for programme development based on for example, student data, their strategic plan, the authorization report, the evaluation report.
  • The area of focus is aligned with / attuned to the school’s strategic plan

We ensured that our rationale for programme development was aligned to our Strategic Plan, our IB PYP Action Plan and from feedback from our CIS accreditation processes.

  • The school clearly identified a question and achievable goal in the area of focus for programme development.
  • The plan clearly outlines the impact the school wishes to achieve and the strategies needed/the activities to undertake/the actions to take to do this. The school team identified a range of resources to support the work.

We then spent time to reflect back on the big picture and organise our initial thinking re: the S&P around the questions asked through the IB template:

  • What conditions that would be required for success?
  • Who would be responsible?
  • How our goals in our PDP would be achieved and evidenced?
  • And the intended outcomes for this PDP – and Why? What impact would this have on student learning?
  • The school chose practices from the different dimensions of the framework to cluster into an area of focus. 
  • The school identified IB practices that supported the achievement of their goal.

We reviewed the IB PSP 2020, and highlighted all the Standards and the guidelines in the Organising Programme Development and considered.all those the may support our PDP.

  • The school chose practices from the different dimensions of the framework to cluster into an area of focus.
  • The chosen practices articulate what the school wants to develop within the programme and the impact being sought.

From this we then worked to align both our big picture articulation with the specific Standards and Practices that we had selected/ highlighted S&P under these questions….

As we go back into Term 2 of the 2021 – 2022 year, we are planning for a full back to campus model after 18 months of either Hybrid or Remote learning.

This Programme Development Plan and timeline will be presented to our PYP Primary staff in January and we will be looking for interest from staff to be part of a Committee of 5 (including the PYP Coordinator and Maths Coordinator) that will start to formally review the written curriculum.

We will also be seeking interest from members of grade level teams to start thinking about the ways they are using manipulatives in the maths classroom and begin to document the use of these across the maths strands.

Our other focus from February – June 2021, will be registering our staff for the You Cubed PD sessions which will support a shared understanding on building the foundation of mathematical thinking in our classrooms.

We are at the beginning of this PDP, and have taken time to plan, share, discuss and document to ensure its success over the next 18 months. We will continue to use the IB Documents and reflection document as we make progress, refer to the data collected and adjust, when necessary our plans moving forward.

This is our PDP plan as it stands at the moment – We are at the beginning of this process of continuous improvement. This is ONE way we have found to support our thinking and also ensure the alignment with the IB S&P 2020 and the guidelines provided by the IB for developing a PDP. I do want to thank the PYP schools that have taken those first bold steps and shared and helped us find our way – so far – through this process.

We will be, as a school, moving towards both our CIS and 3 IB Programme Evaluation in March 2023 and will be presenting to the IB, a PDP as is now the requirement. However, we have agreed to present a whole school plan to the IB and thus will be presenting our PDP on Global Citizenship so that we can ensure members from across our whole school can have the opportunity to be part of this process.

Please do share how your school are planning your PDP and your school have approached this in a different manner so that we can all continue to learn from each other. We look forward to the continuous improvement for the benefit of our learning community and our learners.

Reverse Mentoring – A PTC Pearl (July 2021)

A tradition of the PTC courses is the “Pearl of Wisdom” given at the start of each day by one of the participants. The “Pearl’ is a chance to share, within 5 – 6 minutes a lesson learned, a great resource, or a ‘pearl of wisdom’ with our peers.

In July this year, I was honoured to be invited to give a “Pearl Of Wisdom”. I chose to present my lessons through Covid, of the power of ‘Reverse Mentoriing”

Visual from https://jamybechler.com/pearl-of-wisdom/

One of my professional goals over the past 2 years has been to explore ways to build capacity in others, and provide opportunities for our teachers to develop not only their own passions and expertise but also their  leadership skills. Through this professional goal, I stumbled onto the concept of ‘Reverse Mentoring’ .

Tricia Friedman has asked “how are we, as pedagogical leaders and the role models of learning, ensuring that we not only continue to learn ourselves, but we are visibly modeling this value and mindset of ‘life-long learning’ to our communities?’

As schools,  we have available to us one of the richest resources to support learning – and that is our youth. 

We are surrounded by youth – our students, yes, but also our younger generation of teachers. 

  • Those that are recently qualified and still actively studying in further education – and thus have the latest research at their fingertips
  • Digital natives – able to manage multiple platforms and devices
  • A whole generation that think differently from those of us born in the 70s, 60s and before – 
  • Those who thrive in problem solving, creative thinking and delight in a little disruption and out of the box thinking. 
  • Those that bring a fresh perspective and are politically aware, responsible  ethical citizens.

And If we recruit well our staff body also brings the benefits of having diverse backgrounds, and life experiences.

Jan Owen, from the The Foundation for Young Australians, has been quoted to say: “If you’re over 45 and you don’t have an under 30-year-old mentor —you’re going to miss some of the fundamental shifts in thinking that are happening” – she highlights the need to honour our youth as an asset and a resource.

In a recent ted-talk, (Nov 2020) given by Patrice Gordon, she talks about her role as a mentor for her CEO in reverse mentoring – she highlights that our current workforce now consists of up to five generations, which is wonderful for the diversity of experience – but also means there is the potential for a growing gap between leaders and their people which will, in turn, impact potential policies, systems, curriculum design and priorities.

So, I encourage us all, as edu-leaders to be curious, to be prepared to unlearn and relearn and to explore this idea of finding a younger mentor, someone within your learning community that you can learn from.

Over the past two years, through reverse mentoring, 

  • I have learnt new tech skills, working with a younger teacher to explore apps such as keynote, clips and seesaw to better understand how we can use these in the classroom. 
  • I have joined staff book clubs as a ‘quieter’ participant to listen, connect and be part of the professional learning conversations. 
  • I have had a young mentor to help me better understand through a series of deep discussions, the big issues such as black lives matter and anti-racism especially as an expatriate living in Asia, and I have had guidance and support from younger staff members to better my own skill and understanding of mindfulness and its benefits to our young learners in regulating their emotions and stress levels. 

Reverse mentoring – is a win-win for our learning communities – it not only develops a more inclusive environment, builds relationships and connections, and models a learning mindset, but also opens pathways for communication, and allows for more perspectives – and more voices.

It also provides opportunities to build capacity in our people – developing leadership skills as our younger generation take on more roles of responsibility and has developed, for us, a continued culture of learning within our staff. 

If you are one of the ‘younger’ generation, then I urge to find a way to introduce this concept to your leadership – and possibly also consider your student body as potential mentors for you – I know, I often go to my teenagers as an educator and a parent to gain perspective, and insight from them. 

So my Pearl to you today is to explore this concept of reverse mentorship –  find a younger mentor – someone you can learn from and see where it takes not just you and your learning, but also that of your people and your learning community…….”

(Tania Mansfield, Pearl of Wisdom, PTC, July 2021)

Reflecting on my entry plan.

In July this year, I was registered in a PTC (Principal Training Centre) course on Effective Leadership. If you are an aspiring educational leader, I would highly recommend these courses!

As part of the 7 day learning, we are asked to create an application task, an action plan, or application of our learning from the 7 days.

As I was joining a new learning community, here in Bangkok, I chose to create an entry plan for my application task. We are now just on the other side of our October break and I am preparing for asking my learning community for some feedback to feedforward both my practice and my own learning growth as a coordinator.

Below is a summary and a video recording of my entry plan, developed in July 2021.

All images taken from The Gaping Void – Culture Design Group

I am heading into a new school environment, but taking on the same role I currently have; PYP Coordinator. KIS International is a community based school and half the size of my current school and a number of teachers and leadership have been at the school for 14+ years.

Educators at KIS International emulate lifelong learning and welcome any opportunity to learn. Connections I have made with the educators within the community reflect that they are looking forward to being challenged in their practice and growing in their understanding of the PYP.

I am very aware of the pitfalls of rushing in and imposing myself and my past experiences on the school and the teachers and wish to take my time to form relationships, to connect with the community and to explore perspectives – my own personal inquiry into the school, the people and the learning.  

I am aware of my ‘influencer’ (DISC) and having my natural instinct to dive in, enthusiastically and ‘fix things” and that I need to take on more of the ‘Steady and Dominance’ – bringing some balance to my approach. 

I also want to avoid any assumptions – and take time to investigate, spend time in classrooms and with the school community outside of formal meetings and situations.

My Application task is focused on my entry plan as I join my new learning community in late July.  My entry plan is future orientated and supports not just my growth as a leader but also the growth of those in my learning community and is focused around the first 6 weeks as I transition into a new city, country and learning community. 

Through the PTC I have come to understand that I am an influencer and that my tendency to be ‘flowery’ and a little too ‘big picture’ can lead to a lack of clarity for my teams. 

Thus, I have chosen to guide me and keep me accountable throughout will be “intentional’ and ‘magnificence”.  

Using these two words as my anchors will support me to  ensure that my actions and interactions within the first six weeks are intentional and purposeful and designed to support everyone in their quest for magnificence. 

My entry plan reflects my own value of ‘people first’ and ensures that tirelationships is honoured and so, in my action plan I have intentionally reserved time to meet with individuals and teams prior to the work zone so that we have the opportunity to get to know each other as people first. 

For these one to ones, and those that follow I will be focusing on my active listening skills and listening to understand. 

My role as coordinator is to support others in their understanding of our programme, to help teachers  in their own professional development and classroom practice. To meet this goal I have intentionally planned to spend time in classrooms, teaching and working with students. 

My learning through the PTC highlighted the importance of developing EQ and this will be one of my own goals as I develop self-awareness and social competence.

Through the first 6 weeks of my entry plan I will be leading by example, modeling for my teams and staff the inquiry model, the attributes of the Learner Profile and the ATL skills. I will also be modeling reflection and setting up personal habits for success such as daily journaling. 

One of the expectations and standards in the IB, is collaboration, so working together with GLL, individual team members and the team itself I will be referring to the elements of what makes an effective team to guide us through our first 6 weeks together. 

Although designed with the best intentions in mind, I am aware that there will be things out of my control and to keep in mind, like learning, that leadership is not linear and thus will at times be messy.

Thus, I will have to be flexible and adapt whilst letting go of my ego and plans and remember that it is not about me – but rather my people 

I am committed to taking a breath and resetting in the October break and using the reflections and the learning from the first 6 weeks to help plan the next, 

And remember to breathe, to have gratitude and to enjoy the learning journey. 

Please find my video recording for the PTC Application task HERE

My next steps are to reach out and invite my learning community to support my own professional growth by inviting them to complete a google form for “Feedback to Feedforward” ….

More than a team…

Those that know me well, know that I have always been involved in competitive team sports. At a young age and as a teenager, I played netball and field hockey, at Uni I played field hockey and rugby, both of which I was heavily involved in on and off the pitch up until my mid-30s when we had children

So, never in my dreams would I have believed that at 52 I could get back into playing a competitive team sport – and an Irish one at that!

This weird, wacky game called Gaelic Football

A game where the ball is the wrong shape, you can move with the ball, in any direction, you pass with a punt and in any direction, have to count to 4, can bounce but not dribble, can kick and dribble, can’t tackle (when the referee is watching) but can slap, is apparently non-contact (yeah, right!) and can solo – but with others….. 

Week after week I was harrased and encouraged to come train. So finally, I did. I turned up on a Thursday night, not quite sure what to expect. Fast forward 6 weeks later when I put my hand up to go on tour. Again those that knew me in my more ‘adventerous days’ know how much I love a tour. (shh… Kai Tak rules). We flew as a team to compete in the Asian Gaelic Games in Kuala Lumpur – teams from all over Asia including Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. There were all some more wacky Irish sports with names we couldn’t pronounce and resembling something from Harry Potterm, and a weekend of camraderie and competition.

With only 6 weeks training under our belts, we took the KL tournament by storm, with team kit, team songs, Non Las, and a rocking playlist, we ran, we played our socks off, we laughed and enjoyed a few beers and were celebrated by the pilots announcing our ‘fabulousness’ over the PA on both inbound and outbound flights! 

And that was just the beginning…. this team, Na Fianna. More than a team, a family, a sisterhood, and a band of warriors. These fierce, passionate and committed women & Coach have been my sanity over the past 24 months. 

In a mad COVID year, when our families are so far away, our tribe of warriors have come together to celebrate birthdays, the big 0s and those in the middle, to toast engagements and support those nursing injuries or worse – in quarantine!  We’ve trained together, ran half-marathons together, and cheered from afar. We’ve danced and dined at balls together, and marched through the streets wearing green. Na Fianna has become our Saigon family and our sanity. 

For myself, Covid aside, the past 24 months have been tough. There have been professional and personal challenges and these warriors have been there for me and my family no matter what.

They have been there with me for the celebrations on and off the pitch, and when things have gotten tough, they have provided opportunities to laugh, to create fun and remind me that life is not always meant to be serious.

They have supported me through some of my darkest moments, and have always had an open door, a listening ear, a full bottle to share and a ball to kick around. They have picked me up when things have gotten tough and been there with hugs, carrot cake and tequila. Warriors, you have been my sanity. 

They have reminded me what it means to be part of something, and to be surrounded by those who are always happy to see you. These compassionate and caring warriors – accepting, and welcoming – happy for you to just be yourself, be where you need to be, to do as you need to do and to just be – a warrior. They have reminded me how powerful it is to sometimes just say yes – and just turn up – that is sometimes enough.

As we leave Saigon, I will miss these women, these warriors, the most of all.

I will miss the friendship, the banter, the camaraderie, the community and the fierce competitiveness. I will miss the never ending stream of what’s app messages, gifs and memes.

I will miss the energy and commitment to the sport, our club and the community. I will miss the love. And I will miss Thursdays, my favourite night of the week where I get to regain my sanity. 

My heartfelt gratitude to our most committed and competitive warrior of all, Laura, who was relentless in convincing a kiwi, rugby playing old girl to join this weird, wacky sport. Because of you and all that followed – I have my sanity. 

A warrior – always and forever. 

And as the wonderful warriors they are… this is the farewell gift they created for me…

So much LOVE

And this is how they delivered it… I do not know what I am going to do without these wonderful, strong, caring women.

Learning outside of the Box

Moving from traditional classroom models to a more collaborative model of learning

Presented at SAIBSA Job Alike March 2021, hosted virtually.

This workshop was designed for 500+ virtual particpants and was under the title of “Moving from traditional classroom models to a more collaborative model of learning”

The workshop was designed to encourage participants from all parts of the globe to talk, discuss, debate and wonder “What if?” and record their thinking on different platforms thus providing a plethora of thinking for them to take back to their learning communities.

The structure of the workshop was:

  1. Provocation – “What if?”….
  2. Using De Bono’s Thinking Hats – Black & Yellow to guide thinking
  3. Sending into ‘break out rooms’ for discussion and recording of thinking
  4. Come back to the collective whole to share thinking
  5. Review case studies, examples and share.

Below is the overview of the workshop:

COVID-19 has presented our learning communities with an opportunity to re-evaluate, recreate, and re-thinki our pedagogical practice and approach to teaching and learning. It has been a time for unlearning and relearning for all of us – Leadership, Teachers, Students and Parents and taught us all how important socialisation and collaboration is to us and to our learners. So how can we use these lessons as an opportunity to reimagine our practice and to think outside the box?

Learning Outside the Box is about using our collective creativity to re-imagine, re-think and design ways that we can use the provocation of COVID as a catalyst to creating more collaborative classrooms.

Participants will be directed into break out rooms to have smaller group chats and record their thinking on a number of collaborative platforms including padlet, slides, google forms, flipgrid and Miro. The end goal being the creation of a bank of resources, ideas and thinking to take back to our own communities and spark a drive of “out of the box” or “what if?” thinking. 

Beginning by considering our education systems, structure and routines as they stand at present. Referring back to the words of the late Sir Ken Robinson and view a clip of his famous 2010 RSA talk – Paradigm of Education. (6’31 – 7’40)

To summarise Sir Ken’s words and thinking …. The problem we continue to face is that we continue to meet the future by doing what we did in the past and so much of our current ‘ traditional’ practice goes against our beliefs and our values.

We KNOW – through research that most great learning happens in groups that collaboration is the stuff of growth – and yet we insist on separating our learners, making individual judgements and scores. 

We KNOW that learners best learn in authentic, real world learning environments – and yet we create divides, have all learning within 4 walls of the SAME classroom all year long – the opportunity to connect with nature, the real world, each other is restricted to field trips

We KNOW we learn best from those that inspire us, have similar passions, variety of perspectives – and yet – we have 1 teacher – 1 Adult working with up to 30 children each time.

We VALUE inquiry and understand that inquiry is messy and takes time – and yet we insist on timetables, on dividing our day, on switching disciplines. ….on bells!

We KNOW that learning is not linear – that it happens across phases / stages and that we all learn in different ways / different paces – and yet we insist on organising our schools in batches… organised by as Sir Ken would say….by our age of manufacture.

In his book, A Brief History of Tomorrow, (2015), Harari states that

“As the pace of change increases, “most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations.To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need not merely to invent new ideas and products – you will, above all need to reinvent yourself again and again” 

Harari, 2015

We as educators – supporting our learners and ‘preparing them’ for what tomorrow may bring – have a responsibility to reinvent ourselves through our own practice .

So this through this workshop, we will together be exploring the idea of “What if….?

What If?
  • What if we thought outside of the box?
  • What if we reconsider our practices?
  • What if we took a chance – if we were creativity, brave, and collaborative?
  • What if we truly put our learners first and revisited, realigned with our beliefs and values as IB PYP Schools?

So using some Blue sky thinking – I’ve designed some provocations for us to consider as a group. Some radical and some not so radical ideas that may help us to “think outside the box” and consider “what If?” 

To support this Blue Sky Thinking we will be using De Bono’s hats to frame our thinking.

De Bono’s Hats

De Bono’s hats have been used in PYP classrooms for many years and does need to be explicitly taught to children but really helps the discussion as the protocol frames the thinking and ensures the focus of the conversation.

For the workshop we will be using two hats – The Yellow hat and the Black hat.

Yellow Hat – Benefits

  • Positives, plus points
  • Why this will work
  • Why this is useful
  • Give logical reasons
  • Who this idea will benefit and why
  • What’s the BEST thing that could happen?

Black Hat – Caution

  • Difficulties, Weaknesses, Problems
  • HIghlighting the risks
  • Who will this affect – and how
  • Give logical reasons
  • What could go wrong?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?

To support discussions, we will use protocols for both time management and discussions and ensure we have time to document our thinking

  • 8 Minutes Total
  • Head to Breakout room – Remember your Breakout Room number (You will be in the same Breakout room for each conversation) 
  • 1 Minute: #1 – Quick introductions – who, where, what
  • Consider the provocation Question
  • 3 Minutes: Focus on the Positives….”What If”
  • 3 Minutes: Change Tack to a critical Lens – “What if”
  • 1 Minute: Document your thoughts and thinking for others to view
  • Return to the main room.

The different platforms we will use to document and share our thinking…. 

  • Google Forms
  • Google Slides
  • Padlet
  • Flipgrid
  • Slides
  • MIro

“It is time for us to rethink who we are educating, how we are educating them, and why we are educating them the way we are. We need to rethink the outcomes we expect” 

Dr. Charles Chen Yidan, Founder of the Yidan Prize.

 Provocation # 1: What if we took away the teacher desk?

We will record our thinking on Google Forms:

Our thinking was captured HERE.

As we came back together – we reviewed some of the research and articles re: The Teacher Desk

What if we removed the teacher desk?
  • Provides more space in the room for the student desks to spread out.
  • More space and opportunity for learning and for students. 
  • removes the barrier between student and teacher. 
  • creates opportunity and flexibility for the teacher to move about the room and engage in the learning with the learners
  • reflects the space as “our’ classroom rather than ‘my classroom’

Provocation # 2:

Moving on to our second ‘What If?” provocation. What if we took away the students’ desks? By this I mean not every desk, but us moving away from each child having a set ‘ place to sit’ and having flexibility to move, to learn and to move.

For this provocation we used Google Slides to record our thinking:

Once we came back together we shared our thinking and reviewed the work of David Thornberg – purposefully designing flexible learning spaces to provide choices in space, in collaboration, in time and in learning.

Based on the work of David Thornberg

We also reviewed some examples of schools who have adapted flexible learning spaces.

Provocation # 3:

For our third “What if..?” thinking we wondered ‘what if we removed the walls?’ Either metaphorically or physically? What if we stopped thinking about ‘classrooms” as 4 walls and what if we combined classes – instead of being restricted to 30 children : 1 adult we moved to 60 children : 2 Adults and had less barriers with less structures that defined a classrooms and thought more about creating a “learning community” ?

Moving from traditional classroom structure to a Learning Community

In our traditional classroom structures, students in each class are taught by the same teacher all year. Students learn all subject areas with the same class – the same peers – all year. They get little or no chance to collaborate with students in other classes. With this model, students’ friendships are frequently determined by being in the same homeroom, simply because they spend all of their time in there and social-emotional connections between teacher and student, which are so important for genuine learning to occur, sometimes don’t work out naturally, affecting the student for the whole year.

So what if we took down the ‘Walls”?

For this provocation we recorded our thinking on Padlet:

When we came back together we shared our thinking and took time to to review a TED Talk from 2014 – (2’54 – 5’47). that depicts a kindergarten with no walls.

Provocaton # 4:

For our fourth provocation – we asked the question; “What if we had multi-age classrooms?”

For this provocation we asked the groups to focus on just one of the Thinking hats and introduced MIRO to document and record our thinking:

When we came back together we reviewed a short video about multi-age classrooms

And introduced some further research and blogs:

I also introduced some feedback from students who are currently learning in multi age classrooms in New Zealand

Interview with Teacher and Students from Composite Gr 6 – 8 Classroom

Provocation # 5:

Our final provocation was the “What if…. instead of having our students go to Specialists classes we brought the specialists INTO our learning spaces as an embedded part of our learning?

Unforutnately, time was not on our side for this discussion – but the plan was to record our thinking through Flipgrid.

To close the workshop – we introduced further provocations and “What ifs ?” for participants to take back to their own learning communities.

What if we….

  • broke down timetables?  
  • included student VOICES in the planning and the assessment of their learning?
  • considered the different roles in the classroom?
  • valued passion and Interest drove learning and NOT curriculum?
  • rethought assemblies?
  • rethought community Interactions within and outside our classrooms?
  • reconsidered when and how we learnt throughout the day?

And what if…. we truly put the learner at the centre of our decisions making, our design of learning and our pedagogical practice?


Please note: Although the provocations through this workshop were deemed as ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ there are, in fact, many examples in schools worldwide who have successfully taken these challenges on and have found many benefits to their learning.

If we can, as a global collective of educators work together to shift some of these ‘provocations’ and ideas then they will become more the norm and we will be steps closer to honouring the thinking and ideas of edu-leaders such as Sir Ken Robinson and to make this shift in the paradigm of education.

Re-Thinking Assessment

This is a recap of the Plenary presentation recently given at the SAIBSA PYP Job-Alike Conference hosted by NEEV Academy through virtual Conference. (March 2021)

Rethinking Assessment

When considering how we as educators may begin to “Rethink Assessment” especially at this time, I think, we should first pause to consider how COVID-19 has affected our learning communities worldwide. COVID19 has been a game changer for all of us as it has presented a myriad of both challenges and opportunities to not just the world of education, but for business, for hospitality and travel and for those in the creative and technology industries.

2020 and now 2021 has been a year for learning, unlearning and relearning for all of our community….. leadership, teachers, learners and parents.

It has been a time where we have had to rethink the roles in education as home based learning and social distancing have meant that our families and parents have taken on some of the teachers’ role, and we as educators have had to support not just our learners but also our parents as we have had to take on role of techsperts, movie makers, performer, and counselors.

But these different times have brought us together and made us stronger learning communities full of care and compassion – developing an empathy and appreciation for each other, our situation, our individual and collective challenges, have also highlighted the strengths we each bring , leading to growing partnerships in learning – as true learning communities.

COVID-19 has been a time of re-evaluating, re-creating, and re-thinking our pedagogical practice and approach to teaching and learning and illuminated the necessity for this change as our learners have become increasingly more self-directed in their learning and with that more self-aware of themselves as learners. 

So, how can we use all we have learned through COVID-19 and apply this to our assessment practice? First, let’s explore what our shared understanding is of ‘Assessment’?

Beginning with a pre-assesment using Menti Meter to inquire into our shared understanding 

What are the first TWO words you think of when we say “ASSESSMENT” ?

From Menti Meter…

The root definition of Assessment – is To Sit Beside…….

As in: To engage, to involve, to share, to trust

This conjures up visions of team learning, of collaboration, and partnership, working together to discuss, reflect,and build community and a culture of coaching and support.

The definition Implies a presence of dialogue, discourse, one person trying to understand the other’s perspective before giving value judgements…..

(Breakamp & Ory 1994)

It aligns so closely with our values as IB PYP Schools – Putting our learners first….and our shared beliefs and our ‘image of the child’ as competent, capable young humans and able and through agency – have voice, choice and ownership of their learning ….

So, if we as PYP Schools believe this about our learners then, how are our current practices supporting these values?

And the big question …. Are they? 

I believe that we have somehow, as educators, got lost – and instead of something we do with our learners, as in “Sit beside” we somehow have gone down the pathway to viewing assessment as something we do TO our Learners, something we as adults control and plan assessment in isolation from our learners. 

I wonder if we have maybe got too caught up in the cycle of planning, teaching,and assessing and that possibly we have forgotten to pause, reflect and consider our learners and ‘learning’ rather than teaching.

Have we caught up in the ‘noise’ of edutalk and the cycle of doing and been blinded a little by the flood of Edu myths and edu sales that we have in fact lost our way and rather than ‘rethink’ we maybe just need to actually take time to pause, to consider and to revisit the original purpose and thoughts on assessment? 

So, as we pause and consider WHY we assess? 

What is the purpose of Assessment?

Using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and referring to the IB Documents:

The purpose of Assessment:

  • is to inform learning and teaching. 
  • involves the gathering and analysis of information about learner learning to inform teaching practice. (Please note this is about  the learner’s LEARNING and not about the learner as an individual- which is an important clarification to make)
  • supports educators as we track progress and plan next steps
  • supports educators in reporting

And most importantly, supports our learners and informs students of their progress. 

Assessment should identify what learners know, understand and can do at different stages throughout the learning process.

If our learning communities do not work together to ensure we have a shared understanding of Assessment and that these values are reflected in our practice, we can actually be doing harm to our learners – having an impact on their motivation to learn, their passion for learning and their ideal of school…. To be honest… 

This quote from Stiggins and the potential for doing harm to those we are entrusted to care for and support is very actually quite scary

Somewhere along the way we may have blurred the lines between what is Assessment and what is EVALUATION.

Quality of Learning and Teaching
Quality of Learning and Teaching
Benefits the LEARNERBenefits External Stakeholders and Decision Makers
Monitors LearningAssigns grades
Leads to improvementAnalyses success in a finite manner
Provides AccountabilityForms decisions
OngoingProvides Closure
Positive Is at one moment in time
ValuableApplied against standards
Provides FeedbackShows Short falls and works on a deficit model. 

Think back to our own practice  and reflect… Are we sitting beside our learners? 

Are we taking time to understand our learners, and their perspectives? Have we got a little lost ourselves along the way? Have we become a society obsessed with measuring? With ranking? With metrics?? With EVALUATING?

At the moment we seem to be obsessed with assessing everything…

We actually have so much data – we don’t quite know what to do with it. There’s Too much ‘noise’ and we need to identify the ‘signals’ – what is important to ‘know’?

Howard Gardner said that the greatest enemy to UNDERSTANDING is coverage” – I believe we’ve got too focused on ‘hitting’ all the standards that we’ve lost our way a little….. 

Home based / Remote learning created an understandable scramble for “keeping learners busy” and has revealed cracks in our assessment policies and practices and we found ourselves in danger of slipping back into what is easy to assess rather than what we need to assess.

When there are too many quizzes and tests, exams and summatives – learners come to perceive assessments as something that others – be it teachers, parents, test makers and administrators – people outside themselves – do to them. 

When we as the educators sit in the driver’s seat our learners feel insecure and stop trusting themselves and trusting their own judgment about the quality of their work and start believing that the opinions of  others carry more influence and power then their own

Those same questions are applicable to a discussion of assessment choices.

This goes back to our view on our role as educators – our role in learning and teaching. 

So where is our responsibility as educators? 

How can we ensure, as learning communities  that our assessment practices are reflecting our beliefs and values and at the same time are effective and provide valuable information to understand what constitutes learning. How we can support learning, and  ensure it is meaningful to all members of the learning community, and honours our learners and THEIR growth and THEIR learning?

The PYP approach to assessment gives the learners a vital role in the assessment process and engages the teachers in considering assessment as fit for purpose. 

Lets’ review our IB PYP documents:

In Learning & Teaching (Page 67) we read:

“As IB PYP Schools our goal is to thoughtfully and effectively support learners as they successfully acquire knowledge, develop skills and build conceptual understanding and this  requires that both teachers and learners develop and demonstrate assessment capability.

In The Learner – (Pg 2) we are reminded:

“When learners have agency, the role of the teacher and learner changes; the relationship between a teacher and a learner is viewed as a partnership.

Working within this partnership, learners become more self-aware of themselves as learners, are actively engaged in their learning and have ownership of their learning goals whilst being encouraged to take initiative, ask questions and monitor and adjust their learning as needed. 

It is the learners that take responsibility for their learning and collaborate with teachers and other learners to plan, present and assess learning needs.”

So – as educators, If we truly honour agency we need to reconsider our role as educators and shift our practice to ensure we truly are ‘Sitting beside’ our learners in a partnership. 

BUT HOW?  How can we work together to make this SHIFT, not just in our personal classroom practices but also in our school wide understanding and approach to assessment that honours our capable and competent learners? 

Continuum of Assessment (Harlen, Johnson 2014)

The Assessment Continuum reflects the beliefs of the IB PYP in that when we have effective PYP assessment practice we can holistically integrate assessment for, of and as learning (Harlen, Johnson 2014) to support effective learning and teaching.

However, again I think that we may have lost our way and need to renavigate and evaluate where we are spending most of our time and energy and who is involved in this continuum and when. 

When we look at some of our current practices, our continuum looks more like this,

when research – especially that with the learner as being a partner in learning –  should look more like this….

In 2012, Clark stated that “All members of the learning community develop assessment capability (Absolum et al. 2009) to make the “tacit knowledge that is ‘hidden’ within the learner transparent, explicit and available” (Clark 2012). 

This quote takes us back to the traditional sense of teaching where the adult was at the front of the room – the expert, the fountain of all knowledge and there was so much “Secret Teacher Business” – Again we must continue to shift our practice from top down, to one to a partnership in the learning process. 

Let us pause to define – Assessment Capable – 

When we, as members of our learning community are ‘Assessment capable”, we:

  • are aware of, and understand, why we are assessing and what we are assessing. 
  • have a shared understanding of what constitutes quality learning and the criteria for success. 
  • have a shared understanding of how to assess and what data is being collected, recorded, analysed and shared. 

All members of of the learning community are assessment capable when the assessment process is collaborative and inclusive of all members of the learning community. (Hipkins 2009; Booth, Hill, Dixon 2014) 

So how can we support our teachers in their journey to becoming Assessment Capable Teachers?

Learning & Teaching, Fig. AS02, Page 71

Our teachers are viewed as Assessment Capable when 

  • they have a positive mindset – When we believe in our learners and are open to developing partnerships and relationships with our learners 
  • they take time to monitor their learners’ knowledge, skills and understanding and get to know their learners and what they know and can do. 
  • they use assessment practices to reflect and self-assess their teaching practice as educators and adapt  as needed to support the learning and learners. 

This means a lot of “letting go” especially in planning as we need, as educators, to be adaptable and flexible, responding to the needs of the learners as evidenced in our assessment data.

Assessment Capable practitioners:

  • take time to co construct with our learners what ‘success’ might look like
  • provide multiple opportunities for learners to apply their learning and demonstrate their Understanding, Knowledge and skills. 

Now, let’s pause here to talk cricket. We are, afterall, the majority of us, in India. 

And what a great home series India is having under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, and with stars like Ravichandran Ashwin .

As I was watching the cricket, I watched how Kohli, as the captain, responded to what was happening on the pitch throughout the match and I was reminded of our role as educators and assessment.

When fielding, the captain and his team go out with a game plan in mind, but as captain, Kohli’s role is to continually monitor the game, assessing his player performance, analysing the batsmen – considering which type of bowler is going to be most effective against the batsman, and then adjusting where he needs to direct his fielders. 

As captain, he is continually consulting with his bowlers, adapting and adjusting to the conditions, to the wicket and to the opposition. It is a skill of ‘juggling’ many factors, many players and many options all towards a shared goal of minimising the success of the opposition batsmen.

Kohli, his bowlers and his team have a shared understanding of the game, their chosen strategies and have a shared language in which they continually monitor, document and measure their success and thus make informed decisions together that contribute to the success of their game. 

We too, as educators need to be ‘Kohli” continually assessing in partnership with our learners and adapting our plan towards a shared goal. We need to be continually monitoring the learning and using the data to adapt and adjust our teaching practice as best suits the learners and their learning.

This graphic below is from Page 76 of Learning and Teaching and represents the four dimensions of Assessment.

That is  

  • Monitoring, 
  • Documenting, 
  • Recording, 
  • Reporting 
The four diimensions of Assessment (Learning and Teaching)

Although the four dimensions of assessment are not weighted the same; each dimension has its own value. The PYP chooses to put emphasis on MONITORING and DOCUMENTING learning as these dimensions are critical in providing actionable feedback for the learner.

Monitoring learning

Monitoring employs a plethora of techniques that are centered around the learner and guide the teacher in planning next steps;

It aims to check the progress of learning against personal learning goals and success criteria. It is continuous and occurs daily through a variety of strategies be it through observations of planned activities that  provide a wealth of information produced in a more relaxed, informal environment. 

Through monitoring, It is entirely possible for a teacher to assess a child’s understanding even during a pair or group task, without the child being aware of it and can provide the teacher with an opportunity to assess a child’s social development by the way that they are able, or unable, to work collaboratively as part of a team.

We can monitor through conversations and conferences with teachers, learners and parents – providing our learners with opportunities to understand more about themselves as learners. 

Questioning is a skill that supports the monitoring of learning – as we ask questions to gauge understanding or to guide to a more detailed response. Questions allow our learners to clarify their thinking and can stimulate a response or further discussion from a peer. 

Monitoring learning and the reflections that follow – involves both the learners and the teachers using the data to then co construct feedback to feed forward for next steps in learning. 

As we can see from the graphic above, THIS is where we should be spending most of our time and energy – monitoring learning. 

Documenting learning

Documenting learning is the compilation of the evidence of learning, it can be physical or digital and is shared with others to make learning visible and apparent. 

It reveals insights into learning and provides opportunities to reconnect with learning goals and success criteria. Both our young learners and our teachers are involved in the documentation of learning along with reflections to support the evidence of learning. 

As well as the evidence piece itself, the learner may include the documentation tools that may include checklists, rubrics, or anecdotal records.

Documentation of learning is the second dimension where we should be spending time and energy.

Through both monitoring and documenting learning we can collect evidence of understanding and ‘check in’ with the learner .

I’ve included here some of the ‘check ins’ our ISHCMC teachers, under the guidance of our Pedagogical Coach, @fi_Hurtado have used to check understanding of the concepts throughout the unit of inquiry. 

Measuring learning

Measuring learning is to capture what a learner has learned at a particular “point in time”. 

This is what we seem to LOVE to do – as a society,  we love to measure, to mark, to grade. We love to compare – and our society full of social media likes and followers and streaks.

But we have to remember that not all learning can be, or needs to be, measured. 

Measurement tools can be teacher, school or commercially designed – and provide multiple data points to evaluate learner progress. 

Examples could be running records, maths interviews, independent writing samples and associated tools or MAP and ACER assessments. 

When we measure learning our aim is to analyse the data to support evidence-based decision-making – this could be decisions for individual learners, grade levels and across the school to identify patterns and trends in learner learning. 

While these results can useful to the teacher for planning and writing reports or as starting point for their next teacher, they are often of limited value to the learner themselves.

We no longer have this term ‘ Summative’ within our PYP vocabulary, on our planners or as part of our planning process. We may have a project or inquiry towards the end of the unit that provides our learners with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding or transfer of the concepts, but we have moved away from this paradigm of teach, teach, learn, assess. 

Although measurement can be completely teacher driven as in ‘pen and paper tests’ and ‘running records’ there are many opportunities that we could, with a shift in mindset, also be co-constructed with the learner and teh process itself used as part of the assessment.

Reporting learning

Our fourth dimension and the smallest dimension is Reporting on learning which serves to inform the learning community. 

Reporting provides opportunities to describe the progress and achievement of the learners’ learning and identifies areas for growth. Also important to remember here that “REPORTING LEARNING” is not just the written report and that reporting learning includes conferencing, sharing of portfolios, presentations such as our PYPx and also assemblies and learning journeys. 

So, as we Rethink Assessment as educators and learning communities this graphic is a great reference to use when considering current practices.

As a school, at ISHCMC, under the guidance of @fi_hurtado,we embarked on a self-audit of our current classroom practices. We began the audit with a brainstorm of all the ways we assessed learners and learning within the classroom. As a brainstorm – all ideas and reflections were encouraged. 

Our next steps were to sort this data – where would this practice sit within the matrix ? Would it be part of Monitoring, Documenting, Measuring or Reporting?

Once the data was sorted, we then worked out our ratios and proportions. If the whole was 16 (4 x 4) then what would be the proportion of each dimension?

As teaching teams, we then created visual models to represent our practice – where were we spending the most time and energy? 

As a school – this self-audit highlighted to us two things:

  1. That we were spending lots of time and energy on Measuring learning
  2. That we had so many different ways of assessing – there was more quantity rather than quality – we were ‘drowning in data’ but not taking time to analyse and use that data to inform our teaching and learning. 

Through our reflection process we also discovered that we did not, as educators or as a school, value Monitoring learning enough. As educators – especially our EY practitioners we are continuously monitoring our learners and learning and adapting and adjusting our practice in response to monitoring – but we were not as a learning community, valuing this data. 

So for us as a school – this audit supported us to rethink our assessment practices and also our understanding of assessment. 

Shifting our mindset to view our learners as partners in learning, partners in planning and partners in assessment, how can we support the development of Assessment capable Learners? 

Trevor Mackenzie asks similar questions ….

By taking an active role in their own assessment, learners analyse how they think and learn. They develop skills to move from being self-assessors to self-monitors, with the aim of becoming self-adjusters. 

As IB PYP Schools, our framework is conceptual, and our scope & sequence documents are organised over phases – designed with the learner in mind to support the individual and their learning – and not the curriculum.  Learner first always………

There are no year level expectations in a series of achievement standards. No one is at, on, above or below expectations. Every learner is simply at a level of development defined by what learning is developmentally appropriate.

Griffin 2009

When considering our practice, and our beliefs in agency and our learners as capable and competent – how can we ensure we are developing the independence of learning, of reflection, of self- assessment and that meta-cognition skill of being able to self-adjust? What scaffolds and support can we provide our learners with as they move along the continuum with the goal being to put the control back into the hands of the learner leading to independence and competence?

If we as educatorrs can work along assessment continuums we will be able to support our learners as they develop confidence in becoming assessment capable learners who can confidently state “I Can…..:” , provide evidence to support their learning and identify next steps in their learning.

Learners take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.

Malcolm knowles, 1972

This quote is from 1972, over 49 years ago – why has it taken us as educators and as schools so long to adjust and find our way back? 

We at ISHCMC have been using the Gradual Increase of Indepence for about 5 years now , where our learners are able to self-assess and provide evidence for their self- assessment and are able to place themselves long the continuum and discuss WHY they have placed themselves there.

Educators at Nexus Singapore have been working with their learner to provide opportunities for self-reflection and assessment and have their “Agent Awesome”. These criteria co-constructed by learners and teachers – leading to a shared understanding of expectations and quality. (Thank you to Aaron Dustow for the share.)

We as educators, in partnership with our learners need to be designing opportunities for co-constructed goal setting, and providing learners with opportunities to identify their learning needs and developing not only goals – but also who, what and how they will need to support them in reaching those learning goals.

We need to also consider our assessment tools and consider that, Instead of rubrics – which can be text heavy, difficult to navigate and subjective – and possible moving towards Single point rubrics where the expectation can be co constructed and agreed on and as learners self assess, identify where they are in their learning and what they need to do to take next steps. 

So action? What do we need to rethink? None of this matters if only one of two of our educators begin this journey – to benefit for our learners we need to ensure we are on a collective journey –  we need to develop – as learning communities – a CULTURE OF ASSESSMENT  and do as Sunflowers do…and move forward with a shared understanding and the same beliefs.

A school-wide assessment culture acknowledges the role assessment plays in informing the learner, learning and teaching, and the learning community about achievement, progress and in supporting decision-making. 

A shared understanding across your learning community that is clearly communicated  as to your the purposes of assessment and reinforcement of the value of assessment in the monitoring, documenting, measuring and reporting of learning, is important in building a shared assessment culture. As we develop a culture of Assessment we need to ensure that all stakeholders, our learners, our parents, our leaders and our educators are aware of what and why we assess.

That ALL are aware of expectations of assessment and value the four dimensions of Assessment – and are aligned… to the balance of Monitoring, Documentin, Measuring and Reporting across dimensions. 

To establish and foster a school-wide culture around assessment , we need:

  • to be developing assessment capability within the learning community 
  • to develop a comprehensive assessment policy that emphasizes assessment integration 
  • to be creating opportunities for teachers to plan, reflect and moderate assessment collaboratively 
  • to be providing school-wide professional development opportunities around integrating effective assessment 
  • to be reinforcing the role assessment plays in finding out what learners know and can do, and in identifying the next steps for their learning 
  • to be reinforcing the links between monitoring, documenting, measuring and reporting of learning.

So time to reconsider and reflect. If we as PYP practioners believe that assessment is integral to everything we do, we then cannot consider assessement without also considering Learning and Teaching.

As practioners, I encourage you to take time to reflect – on your personal practice, your grade level and your school practice and carry out an honest self-reflection and audit of your practices. 

  • How do you see our learners and our roles in the learning process?
    • Are you top down ? 
    • Teacher being expert in all? 
    • The ‘fountain’ of knowledge – 
    • Are you as teachers doing all the planning?
    • Are teachers creating activities or engagements? 
  • Are you working on a strengths based model – meeting our learners where they are – instead of where books, curriculum, companies state where they should be?
  • Are you providing opportunities for feedback that supports improvement and empowers the learner to make decisions in their learning? 
  • Do you have SYSTEMS in recording, reflecting, and have established collection practice where learners have ownership over the narrative of their learning?
  • Are you involving parents in the process? Providing a voice for families? Educating them in what learning looks like – taking the focus off the product and shining the light on the process?

Are you ‘sitting beside?

  • conferencing, talking, building relationships? 
  • Developing Assessment Capable learners? 
  • Are you supporting growth and agency?
  • Are you truly – putting our learners at the centre of everything you do?

The goal of assessment for learning is not to eliminate failure, but rather to keep failure from becoming chronic and thus inevitable in the mind of the learner. 

So let’s find our way back and “Rethink Assessment”……

The full recording can be found here on YOU TUBE

Thank you to SAIBSA and NEEV Academy for the opportunity to share my thinking with your educators.