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.

Tech Savvy Parents (VTC21)

As educators and as learners, we are immersed in the world of tech, all the wonder, and possibilities. We are well-versed in the language of apps, add-ons, and acronyms.

But, how are we supporting our parents? How can we as tech leaders ( and school leaders) support our parents as they navigate the world of technology and support their children at home in their learning, in keeping them safe online and in the digital world?

Designed as a discussion this workshop will encourage the sharing of ideas, pathways, and strategies that we can transfer and adapt to support our parents within our learning communities.

This was presented through Virtual means at the Vietnam Tech Conference 2021.

Credit also to @JenniferWathall for her graphic and previous work – her cycle of Survive, Strive, Thrive, Arrive was the frame for our discussion and presentation.

Special Thanks to @iteachoverseas for supporting me from the ‘other side’ with zoom, breakouts and timing. #bettertogether

Please reach out if you would like a copy of the original slidedeck and notes.

Developing a culture for agentic learning within schools.

Recently, I was asked to present about the role of a leader as schools work towards developing a ‘Culture for Agentic Learning’. This is a summary of my presentation.

The word Culture comes from the Latin “colere,” which means to tend to the earth and grow, or cultivate and nurture. It is the combination of collective beliefs, values and norms, which shape how people think, feel and act and something that we as a community have a responsibility to care for. 

From a leadership perspective, a school working towards developing a culture of Agentic learning first needs to pause, reflect and review the school’s Mission, Vision and Values. Does your school, as a community, believe in agentic learning? Is this reflected in your whole school beliefs and values? What is your community’s ‘image of a child’? Why is this important to your community and is this reflected in your school philosophy? Once these conversations and discussions have been had, then is the time to take a quick audit of your whole school practices. Where might this already happening within our community? How can we support, nurture and learn from these current practices?

These initial steps are the springboard towards creating conditions for change (Kotter) and ensures all stakeholders have been included in these initial conversations towards ‘increasing urgency’ as a whole community conversation.

Kotter’s 8 steps to change

Developing a culture and bringing about change in a community involves Adaptive change and requires new learning, new skills, new thinking for problems, and working towards creative solutions, that are sustainable, and have a positive impact on all members of the community.

This is also a time to acknowledge – that Adaptive change is hard, disruptive and creates uncertainty – but it’s worth it – because it’s what we believe to be the right thing to do!

As we move through Kotter’s model, our next step as leaders is to enable action and do this by identifying our early adopters, our teams that are inspired to take action, who are driven to lead this change – and committed to the vision. For us at ISHCMC, this was our Studio 5 team.

As we bring our team together, our role as a leader is to facilitate, oversee and set the pace and the sequence of the process of implementing change and taking action. 

With this comes the assurance that we are all working towards success but we need to establish clarity across the team and set the clear expectation that all decisions will be focused around the learner and their needs. 

As individuals, our community they may all believe in the vision, but adaptive change means there are no right answers, no models in place, and we are going to need creative ‘out of the box’ thinking for success and that will involve cognitive and constructive discourse and discussion. 

As leaders, our role is to ensure that we have a collective understanding of what the vision means to us, it is important that we co-construct a collective understanding of the WHY. (Simon Sinek)

Studio 4 WHY – 2019 – 2020

This was our Studio 4 WHY – developed collaboratively by the team, reviewed and refined over the past two years.

Once the team have their collective WHY, we move to developing our HOWs.  The Hows bring the Why to life….And then to our WHATs – refining and defining what we will actually do to support our Hows……..

Once established – this WHY becomes our North Star, bringing us back all the time to the WHY ,  supporting each other and keeping each other accountable to the agreed vision. 

Although facilitated by the Leader, the process  is owned by the team, it creates a shared language, and opportunity to discuss, debate, disagree and work together towards a shared understanding.

The WHY made be different in each team  – and that is OK – as there is unity in the vision and end goal is the same, but how they get there may be different – again modelling Agentic Learners – handing the ownership of the process to those that will be living it, learning it, and providing opportunities for Voice and Choice. 

So we as Leaders, as our teams begin to take action, what is our role to ensure that this culture of agentic learning is nurtured, and given time to grow?

I see our role as leaders is to Support, to Advocate and to be their Champion:

  • Acknowledge that this process of change will bring stress and uncertainty to teachers, Parents and Students and be able to pre-empt this with support. 
  • To honour the time and energy that it will take for our teams to Unlearn, to research, to connect and to discuss and to dream…and create…
  • Communicate – often and with Clarity – this includes the WHY and the VISION to our parent community, our students, Alumni, and college as a whole – bringing it back to our values.
  • To encourage cognitive discourse – posing questions for constructive conversations, pushing our team to think, to defend their position, to articulate their ideas and always bringing it back to the WHY.  Our role, as leaders, is to push people out of their comfort zone but also to ensure we are listening, probing for clarity and supporting the process leading towards creative ideas but always with the “balcony view” the big picture in mind – bringing that perspective and feedback to the team.
  • Create a “Permission of YES” – we are working towards an unknown, all with positive intentions, so permission to  “Have a Go” – “fail fast” – always with the learner in mind. 
  • Developing a culture of reflection that honours a continuous feedback loop – involving ALL stakeholders – including learners and parents.
  • Steer the course – Protect and Oversee the Process – be steadfast and stubborn but at the same time be open minded and open to process and thinking
  • Make it visible – co-construct an Action plan – that tells our story – where we are, what we’ve achieved and where we are going.
  • Assure our teams that baby steps are OK – prioritise what we can do NOW to implement change – leading to those small wins. At ISHCMC, we built the vision up slowly – always designing for success – Opportunity time, Agency Day, then Studio Week towards full Studio.
  • And finally, CELEBRATE – celebrate the small wins, share with the community – give credit where it’s due and make this hard work matter. Share with all the community so they can see and feel the benefits fast!!! Create stories of success and share them with the world!

As leaders, our role is to protect the process – put in a structure for change – remove obstacles, and ensure that any barriers to change are removed to ensure success of the vision and our teams.

These barriers maybe logistical or organisational such as: 

  • Timetables
  • Institutional routines  
  • Classroom layout and design including how we use the furniture, 
  • How we see the different roles in learning, and  how we see learning itself.

As the team identifies obstacles, it is our responsibility as leaders to work to support the removal or adaption of some of these barriers. 

When developing Agentic learners we need to put scaffolds in place that will support our learners as they find success in their agency. We as leaders need to be supporting teams as we consider what systems need to be inplace to drive this change and build this culture of agentic learning:

They could be: 

  • Technology, 
  • Resources
  • Conditions for learning….
  • Scaffolds to support learners and teachers as we move from compliance to engagement and empowerment 

For us at ISHCMC these Scaffolds included:

  • MOSCoWs
  • OSCAR Action Plans
  • Pivot or Persevere protocols….
  • Learner designed Daily, then Weekly schedules….
  • Student Driven Unit planners….

In designing these systems and scaffolds – always driven by the question  “What decisions are we making for students that they can be making for themselves?”

And which of these systems and scaffolds would have:

  • Minimal student input – as they are introduced to the scaffold
  • Some input student, or be
  • Student driven….

And how can we move from minimal student input to student driven? 

Credit Allison Zmuda

As the community moves into the next phase of Kotter’s model – we need to maintain momentum for the vision in developing this culture of agentic learning. 

A leader’s role is to find the balance between moving fast enough for momentum, but slow enough to ensure that it ‘sticks’ and becomes very much a part of our embedded culture. 

Along the way we need, as leaders, to consider our people, our context – remembering we respond differently to change – and that our ultimate goal is success because this is what we collectively believe.

We need to be the advocate and spokesperson for this vision and this culture – working, modeling to inspire all stakeholders, but also to be the voice of assurance and confidence in the vision. 

In summary a leader supporting and leading to develop a culture of agentic learning needs to be : 

Committed, Honest, Passionate to the vision and the development of a culture of agentic learning. They need to be: 

  • Compassionate
  • Open to change and ideas
  • Communicate often, and clearly
  • Build trust in their community, in themselves and in the process and respect all of these
  • Be brave and vulnerable as we navigate the change and challenge together with our community . 

And always…..Keep bringing it back to your why and the ultimate vision for the benfit of your learners.

Courage, Compassion & Creativity

In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson gave his now infamous, TEd talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity”. He provoked us and challenged us questioning the purpose, structures and systems within our traditional schools and education model as we know it. Over a decade later, we continue, as educators, to grapple with his provocation and continue to reflect on the ‘how’ of school as we prepare our learners for a future of uncertainty, of constant change and challenge, and thus will need the skill-set to adapt, to grow, to learn to learn, to collaborate and corporate and to be creative problem solvers. 

For years, educators have been challenging the more traditional model of school, and reimagining education, transforming schools from those that have a ‘one size fits all’ model to places that honour our learners as individuals, with different interests, strengths and ways of seeing the world. With this focus, there has been a shift towards developing a more personalised learning model, creating learning environments in which we provide opportunities for voice, choice and ownership of our learners and where their natural talents can flourish whilst building those ‘21st Century’ skills of creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking. 

As educators, our priorities have shifted from being purely academic, to focusing also on the social and emotional growth of our learners, and educating the ‘whole child’. We now recognise that education is social, it is about people and supporting growth through a personal learning process, and we have re-framed education as ‘learning how to learn.’ 

The PYP defines Agency as voice, choice and ownership of learning, and over the past five years, PYP educators have been exploring Albert Bandura’s work on Agency, providing learners with space, time and opportunity for them to take ownership of their learning, their learning process and be able to reflect on themselves as learners. With this change, from teacher-driven to learner-driven, educators have had to make a shift in their thinking, needing to consider their role in the learning and at times to reinvent their pedagogical practice. 

As educators, we have had to be brave as we challenge the norms of education, taking time to reflect on our own beliefs about education, being open to learn and relearn and taking risks so that we may put our learners and their needs first. We have had to collaborate to redesign curriculum, reinvent pedagogy and rethink our roles in the classroom. We have had to upskill ourselves, become creative problem solvers, and learn to unlearn. We have had to reinvent our craft, moving from the role of ‘sage’ and ‘expert’, to one of ‘partner’, as we learn alongside our learners, creating democratic learning communities and pathways for teaching and learning. We have had to be courageous, compassionate and creative so that we can support our learners, their families, our colleagues and ourselves through this paradigm shift. We have had to learn to let go, to not own the learning and to support and trust in our learners and in their process. We have had to support each other through our new understandings and have had to be kind to ourselves as we stumbled, took risks and relearn.

The events of this past year have brought even more challenges to educators worldwide as we were thrown into the world of remote teaching and learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the world educators prioritised compassion for their learners and their families, establishing first a culture of care and of community by continuing to build relationships and listening to the needs of their learners. Once again educators rethought and redesigned their approaches to teaching and learning, considering first their learners and what scaffolds and support may be needed to support them in their learning. They proved themselves to be creative thinkers and problem solvers, upskilling themselves, learning new technologies and pedagogies that would support their learners and provide choice of when and where they might learn. They dug deep, were brave and resilient and once again redesigned education.  

Our educators also took on further responsibilities as they listened to parents and guardians and recognised a need to support and educate parents, so that they could take on the role as partners in teaching and learning. 

Educators continue to face insurmountable challenges and stress levels that seem never ending, and there have been, understandably, times of frustration and exhausted tears. However there has also been a great spirit of resilience as colleagues have supported each other through these times as a learning community, being kind and understanding, before all else. 

As educators, we continue to innovate and to redesign learning and teaching. By revisiting belief systems, re-structuring the organisational structures and reinventing pedagogies, we continue to re-imagine education and the idea of  ‘school’, but we have still only just begun to address some of the challenges and questions that Sir Ken Robinson asked of us in 2006.

We are, however, driven to be better, to continue to grow our craft and advocate for change whilst challenging the norms of education. We recognise that change takes time and that there are still many steps to take, but with forward thinking, courageous, creative, and compassionate educators dedicated to re-imaging education, we will continue to move forward towards a more authentic, relevant, engaging and significant learning experience for all our learners where they will all thrive.

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  ( 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.


concept 2

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? 

North surveysouth surveyexcited-survey.jpg

survey w

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 ( 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.