Building teams that can effectively collaborate takes time, effort, communication and self-awareness. Within the PYP, collaboration is an essential aspect of learning and teaching. It occurs on a daily basis both within and outside of the classroom; between students, students and teachers, teachers and parents, and students and parents. So how can we ensure these relationships are developed, maintained and even grown as the school year progresses?
At GJS this school year, we are making a conscious effort to support our teaching teams and assist them in developing effective collaboration capabilities. This began on our first professional development day. It was the first time our new teams came together, and for some, the first time they had met their new colleagues! Nevertheless, we dove straight in, starting with personal reflection and individual needs of each teacher in regard to their ability to effectively collaborate and contribute to the learning and teaching process. Yes, tough stuff for the first day back! However, it is vital to identify what we need as collaborators, to be self-aware and communicate this with our teams. By understanding each other’s needs, including preferred communication methods, information requirements and preferences for collaborative formats.
Over the past few weeks, teachers have begun to utilize the information they had identified and learned about each other and started to build their collaborative team/s. To develop collaborative relationships with other community members we have also conducted a new parents meeting, year level parent teacher meetings, and induction programmes for our students. This is in addition to the sharing of year level expectations, the development of essential agreements by students and teachers, and the establishment of this year’s student council. However, these cannot be ‘one off’ initiatives to simply establish collaborative expectations, this must be a commitment by all to continue to evolve, develop and extend our collaborative capabilities. As a result, ongoing education, workshops and practices will be facilitated at Global Jaya throughout the school year.
By working as collaborators in all areas of the community we can work together to ensure the progress and success of all.
On Wednesday, February 28th the first Kindergarten and Reception Parent Reading Workshop was held. Parents participated in a discussion about the Kindergarten and Reception reading programmes and how they can become reading partners who help foster reading skills and a love of reading at home.
Learning to read is a skill that must be mastered; to teach and support this skill requires
patience and techniques that must also be learned. As such, this workshop was brought about by parent interest and was designed to help deepen parent understanding of the reading programme for early ages, as well as how to help children of varying abilities with their nightly reading.
The workshop also included a visit to the Library where Pak Ahmad shared information about how to access the Library’s online catalogue, then concluded with Kindergarten parents reading to their children and Reception parents listening to their child read to them. This gave the parents an opportunity to practice some of the techniques they had learned with the comfort of knowing that the teachers were there to answer questions or to give examples of how to help children learn to read.
It was a successful morning for all!
School to School is an annual event hosted by Sekolah Ciputra and dedicated to educators who are willing to learn and share their professional learning with colleagues across East Java. This year, it was held on February 25th. Ms. Hestya and I took led a workshop about math misconceptions in the primary years. This area intrigues me, as I believe all Math concepts can be investigated and explained in a simple way and we don’t need to say “this is the procedure, formula, or theory that you need to remember” to our students, which is the way I was taught. If our students understand how math works, rather than memorize formulas, they will love it.
We started the activity by giving a pretest to the workshop participants to identify misconceptions they had. It was surprising to me that no one answered all the questions correctly. Then we followed up with an activity designed to accommodate the needs of the participants and to refine their misconceptions. We discussed and investigated the following topics:
(1) What is a concept, a conception and a misconception?
(2) What forms of misconceptions occur in primary school?
(3) How do teachers respond to student misconceptions?
(4) What techniques are there to eliminate misconceptions?
To refine the participants’ understanding of Math concepts we did a gallery walk. One important thing that we shared is how Math pre-conceptions leads to further misconception. One example is:
- Students get confused with the alligator/Pacman analogy. Is the bigger value eating the smaller one? Is it the value already eaten or about to be eaten? Do I add what it has eaten?
- In helping students make sense of subtraction they are told to always take the smaller number away from the larger number.
4 – 8 = ?
From this workshop, I have learned that effective teachers understand that mistakes and confusion provide powerful learning opportunities. I believe the quote below reminds us that misconceptions hinders inquiry.
“The worst thing about mnemonics is not that they almost always fall apart, they don’t encourage understanding, and never justify anything; it’s that they kill curiosity and creativity – two important character traits that too many math teachers out there disregard.” -Andy Martinson
PYP 6 Teacher and Year Level Coordinator
As part of our school’s commitment to create a community of lifelong learners, we held two induction sessions, for parents new to the IB programme and for teachers new to our school and to the IB programme as well.
During the session with parents, we discussed the pace of change in the 21st century and the challenges our children have to face. The first/morning session was for pre-elementary parents. Mr. Dylan Braithwaite, one of the expat teachers in the pre-elementary unit, with a strong background in play-based learning, shared how the IB programme is implemented in the pre-elementary. He explained that Inquiry in the early years is framed within three basic principles:
- Curiosity comes first. Curiosity comes naturally to young learners and should be encouraged and supported through learning daily experiences.
- Embrace the mess. Embracing the mess here means that early-years learning happens in various ways of exploration, trying things out, making sense of how things work out or not, observing what’s around them and so on. This learning doesn’t come in a neat and clean environment, instead students need to have more opportunities to ‘play’ it out.
- Practice reflections. Practicing reflection means making reflection a regular part of learning to make sure we can make the connections within ourselves, with peers and with the world.
The next session was set up to give the participants ‘real’ learning experiences. We started with a test, the kind of test we did when we were young. Everyone was familiar with the ‘test’ and knew that it would only require the correct answers of factual information they could memorize.
An interesting thing happened in the next stage of the session, when these parents were asked to come up with their ideas of what a good learner looks like. At this stage, a new learning experience was obvious as this task required a whole set of thinking and communication skills. The participants started to show creativity, to show courage in expressing individual thoughts/opinions in the form of a diagram/picture and communicating ideas with others.
One of the questions coming from parents was about how to access all these IB terms and words, and how they can use them at home. The link here provides all the 5 Essential Elements used on a daily basis with brief explanation for each and suggestions on how parents may use it to have conversations with their children at home: https://goo.gl/fplPM6
To summarize the session, the parents felt really positive about the IB programme and how Sekolah Ciputra has implemented it in day-to-day teaching and learning. They realized that it is important for us to keep a strong partnership between home and school so that the students can benefit from it.
The other induction session was for the new teachers. Having had the opportunities to immerse themselves in the day-to-day planning, teaching and assessing, these new teachers were ready with the new learning and brought questions they wanted answered and issues they wanted to clarify and understand better.
A good practice in an inquiry approach is to start with prior knowledge, which basically means that the learners try to make connections with what they already know.
We used blob figures as one media of choice for a reflection. These blob figures are really helpful for any reflection purposes, each with its own action so the learner can choose which blob represents his/her reflection.
The main discussion throughout the sessions is based on this PYP Curriculum model:
This model summarizes what the IB PYP curriculum is and how it underpins planning, teaching and assessing for teachers.
Our school is committed to professional development of all staff. We will have in-school IB PYP workshops on January 20th – 21st, 2017 to further develop our understanding of concept-based teaching and learning, inquiry and assessment approaches.
Building a collaborative culture is no easy task and building a collaborative culture around professional learning in a school is a particularly challenging task. The typical day in the life of a school finds teachers’ time constantly being monopolized by the demands of students and parents, and the myriad administrative and extra-curricular duties that they routinely perform. While most teachers will readily admit that ongoing professional learning is not just a necessity for them to ensure that their practices are current and relevant, but essential to their well-being as professionals. Most also admit that not enough time and attention is given to professional learning for teachers in schools. Yet, professional learning and collaboration are essential in any organization that seeks to renew and re-energize its members on an ongoing basis. The need to belong to a group and to connect with others is not only a human instinct, it is through connections with others that we grow and learn in our professional as well as our personal lives.
As a school leader I am all too aware that my vision of the kind of school we aspire to be is nothing without the collaborative efforts of a strong and dynamic team. To articulate a vision, to garner support for that vision and to engage others in working collaboratively to realize that vision, requires four essential components – a clear understanding of what collaboration means and why it is useful to an organization, structures that allow people to come together around shared interests, providing the resources necessary for people to explore their interests and flexibility in terms of what form the collaboration will take. Within these four essential components there should also be a common thread of connection. At Sekolah Ciputra, our school’s action plan was that common thread. We had identified formative assessment, differentiated instruction and concept-based teaching and learning as areas of focus in our school’s action plan.
Vision of Sekolah Ciputra
Students of Sekolah Ciputra are proud of their national identity, embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship, celebrate cultural diversity and possess the skills, integrity and resilience to participate in a changing global society.
Armed with a newly revised vision and mission and a focused action plan, our leadership team set out to build a shared sense of purpose among staff by developing structures that would allow teachers to have a voice in designing their professional learning and to actively contribute to each other’s professional growth. The consensus on our team was that the traditional Tuesday afternoon PD sessions were becoming sessions where teachers were passive recipients of learning that had been planned for them and delivered during sessions where attendance was mandatory and participation was typically less than enthusiastic.
We began by surveying teachers about what format they would like to see their professional learning sessions take and what specific aspects of formative assessment, differentiated assessment and concept-based teaching and learning they wanted to explore in greater depth. In addition to being asked questions about format and topics of interest, teachers were also asked to choose whether they intended to participate as a facilitator, a co-facilitator or an active participant. The intention behind those questions was to tap into the expertise and passions that we knew existed on staff but which went largely untapped and unrecognized in our traditional PD sessions. We also emphasized the word ACTIVE as an implicit expectation that participation in the groups would not take the form of “sit and get” learning and that everyone would be expected to contribute to the learning.
Teachers had no shortage of ideas about what they wanted and needed in terms of professional learning. Everything from book studies and coaching clinics to demonstration classrooms were identified as suitable formats. In terms of topics of study, teachers gave suggestions of specific book titles and posed questions such as “how do I document and track student learning effectively and efficiently?” It was clear to us that teachers were very much aware of what they wanted and/or needed to learn and that our traditional one-size-fits-all approach to PD was not meeting their needs. What was very exciting was the number of teachers who were willing to step forward as facilitators or co-facilitators of learning.
With a staff of 104, it was not easy to narrow down the range of interests indicated by our teachers; however, with the focus on our action plan, it became a little easier to narrow the choices down and still give teachers the opportunity to engage in learning that is relevant and meaningful to them. We also agreed that while the initial groups will be formed according to the survey results, participants would be allowed some flexibility after the first meeting to change groups if they felt that another group better met their needs, whether in terms of format or topic. In the end, the shifts were minimal and teachers have settled into working through their chosen area of learning with their colleagues.
As our leadership team considered giving teachers more autonomy over their professional learning, the issue of accountability arose. How would we account for the time spent in learning groups and ensure that everyone was contributing to the learning? The answer came in a fortuitous suggestion from one of the teachers. The suggestion was that we should not only use this opportunity to work in small groups, but we should let our students and their parents see that we embrace and model lifelong learning. Out of this suggestion arose the idea of placing bulletin boards in our hallways with brief summaries of what we were learning, along with teachers engaged in collaborating with each other. We currently have three bulletin boards in our hallways to which teachers are adding snippets of their learning, along with pictures.
It is still too early in the process to declare this a resounding success but early indications and the displays show much promise in terms of collaboration and engagement among teachers. Teachers are learning from and with their colleagues on a range of topics and are proudly declaring their learning to the entire school community.
Our leadership team is engaging actively with this process and our plan is to continue to monitor, to support as needed and to be open to changes where teachers feel there is the need for change. The groups that have been formed are not intended to remain intact all year. As learning goals are met, teachers can move on to form new groups focused on different or deeper levels of learning. The key is to give teachers the professional respect, autonomy and support to collaborate with each other as professionals in determining and meeting their professional learning needs. By nurturing this spirit of collaboration and engagement with each other, we are confident that we will thrive and grow as a learning community.
PYP Coordinating Principal
Sekolah Ciputra Surabaya, Indonesia
We are, by nature social beings who are constantly trying to make sense of the world through our interactions with others. It is therefore no surprise that we learn best when we learn from and with others. As educators, taking an active role within a professional learning network can be beneficial for our professional development. Below are some reasons why networking with fellow teachers in your region or around the world would be beneficial and some suggestions on how to begin.
Professional learning networks are important to educators because:
- we can share each other’s practices and hear each other’s stories to avoid local blindness
- we keep up with change, innovation and technology as we use technology to enhance our networks.
- we have a place to reflect on our practice and improve it. Feedback from others will be helpful for reflection to improve our teaching and learning practices
- we can build shared understandings of concepts and topics that are being discussed within the network.
To start networking and to maintain your network the following platforms are suggested for you:
- Blog: The most ideal platform to share current practices, not only for your inner circle but also to wider audiences (unless you prefer to set it up to be private)
- Twitter: Create a special hashtag for your community conversation which will empower communication or join a conversation on twitter using some popular hashtags e.g. #edchat, #pypchat etc.
- Facebook: Great for keeping in touch with others since many people have Facebook accounts. Create a Facebook group for social bookmarking and for sharing resources in your network.
- Google+: Follow famous people, join a community, keep updated on popular topics using the power of Google apps including Google hangout, Youtube, Blogger and Google drive.
- Flickr/ Instagram/ Pinterest: Great visual galleries for your network use.
- LinkedIn – professional learning network platform which provides a more formal look and context.
Personally, I’d suggest a blog as a good starting point for a professional learning network. It’s one of the reasons why we started this PYP Dunia Blog…how about you?
Yan Yulius – PYP Coordinator at Sekolah Ciputra