Reflecting on PYP Planners

I have rarely found the process of reflecting at the end of a Unit of Inquiry via the PYP Planner (sections 6-9) an informative or productive process – as a teacher or as a coordinator. Don’t get me wrong, reflection is an important approach to teaching that all lead learners must use. Taking aside the often debatable, reflective questions asked in these sections of the planner, personally, there is something missing…something that makes the process inauthentic…

Most of this reflective process is done solo by the teacher, collaboratively with teachers on the same unit or with a PYP coordinator. Although this should take place, there is one stakeholder, the most important in all schools, that does not get any input for these sections of the reflective process – the students! Teachers and coordinators should make room for students step in the reflective process on the PYP planner. They should involve the very people they planned the unit for!

Why don’t teachers ask the set reflective questions with their students? With support (and modifications for age and language), students should be able to answer all of the questions.

Section 6  – student understanding of the Central Idea….

Students should be able to give feedback on how you designed assessment tasks. They should actually be architects of the assessment tasks. Therefore, they should be given to reflect on their effectiveness.

Students should be able to give evidence of how they showed an understanding of the Central Idea. After all, isn’t this the purpose of a summative task?

Students should be able to draw links between the Central Idea and the Transdisciplinary Theme. This allows the teacher to see if students actually have an understanding of the Transdisciplinary Theme they are inquiring into. This would allow students to see how their Unit of Inquiry is linked to a larger picture. It would push teachers to actually ‘unpack’ the Transdisciplinary Theme.

Section 7 – the development of PYP elements…

Students should be able to identify the Key Concepts, Approaches to Learning, Learner Profile attributes and Attitudes from the unit and cite evidence of their development with these PYP elements. Teachers should be making these PYP elements explicit in their daily teaching. Students should see what PYP  elements they are trying to improve.

Section 8 – student initiated inquiries and action…

There would be no better way than having students fill out this section. It is often hard to recall or collect all the inquiries that happen over 6 or so weeks. Students should be able to show what questions they developed from the unit and explain what actions they took that were initiated from the unit. It will come straight from the source

Section 9 – often used for keeping notes on success or areas to improve…

Students should have a large voice in this part. They would be able to tell you what worked for them and what you need to improve as an teacher.

All this would require teachers to be open minded and open to criticism. However, this would be a valuable and crucial method of reflection. Providing students with opportunities to have their voice present on PYP planners would give a true reflection on the learning that actually took place. It would make these sections of the planner more authentic. It would also reduce the subjective view a teacher could make.

It is time to put planners in the hands (or minds) of our students! It is time to put students in the centre of the reflective process!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. James
    Mar 25, 2015 @ 11:33:23

    Hey Adam,

    We’ve been discussing here in Phuket the idea of giant wall planners so that parents walking by or students (more importantly) can add to it. This way it’s not just the perspective on the reflection but in the planning. Language would clearly have to be adapted, especially for those in high ESL schools, but what a truly collaborative process that would be! Balanced and facilitated by the PYP Professionals (pypco and teachers)!

    It also puts it out there for the community to see and engage in.

    J

    Reply

  2. Brady
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 10:10:13

    Agree 100% on your assessment of the value of the PYP unit planner’s reflection section. There should indeed be a way to make it more authentic. Your suggestions of what students should be able to identify in their reflections sounds good too.

    That’s the level of reflection we expect of students during the Exhibition, and I know you know how challenging that is to draw out of them, so I do think there would be some real challenges getting reliable reflections from students that were also their authentic reflections rather than coached reflections.

    Teachers of course want validation, so I can imagine the temptation of a 3rd grade teacher to spend loads of time in the unit teaching the students to “identify the Key Concepts, Approaches to Learning, Learner Profile attributes and Attitudes from the unit and cite evidence of their development with these PYP elements”.

    I actually think that could be of great value. The focus on metacognition is my favorite part of the PYP Exhibition. There does, however, need to be some mechanism to create opportunities for authentic reflections rather than just parroting PYP jargon. This is a problem for the PYP already. Solve this first and the sky is the limit.

    Whether it be teachers or students, we have to be able to better than asking teachers to fill in a box at the end. I’d suggest that formal protocols could be implemented across a school for the reflection process. Part of it would include students.

    Reply

  3. @dwyerteacher
    Apr 19, 2015 @ 11:05:32

    “I actually think that could be of great value. The focus on metacognition is my favorite part of the PYP Exhibition. There does, however, need to be some mechanism to create opportunities for authentic reflections rather than just parroting PYP jargon. This is a problem for the PYP already. Solve this first and the sky is the limit.”

    I agree. At the same time, I find the current set up to be a bit confusing for kids (and some adults). There are too many words, attributes, models, for kids to get to know in depth. Sure they can have a surface understanding of the LP and Att, but it is hard to really get into depth with so many terms. Especially for EAL learners and our youngest learners. Personally, I would like to see it simplified, pared down. Less is sometimes more.

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Rethinking the Way We Plan | Making Good Humans
  5. Sailaja Vittaldev
    Nov 18, 2015 @ 04:22:16

    I completely agree with you, I started to reflect about my teaching and learning practices. I often add these elements in the reflection at the end of the unit. Students provide the evidence of their developing or gaining attributes/attitudes. In fact the whole unit was designed by asking their inputs in terms of key concepts/skills/learner profile. It’s always better to involve the students in their learning process as we are aiming to make them accountable for what they are learning in order to develop life long learners.

    Reply

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