Here’s something you could try with upper elementary students and any PYP unit planner – get them to help you reflect on the inquiry!
I just had the pleasure of leading a group of students through reflecting on the PYP exhibition planner. I chose a small sample of six students and worked through the most accessible stages of the planner. The students gave some incredibly insightful contributions (sometimes more probing than the teachers:-). In summary this is what I heard:
Students value the reflective process and appreciate how it helps them as learners. They stated they would have liked more frequent, shorter reflections.
Students value assessment that helps them improve. They identified opportunities where peer assessment could be better utilised to inform conceptual understanding and not just skills. Students noticed when the teachers’ feedback was not equitable – some kids got more teacher attention than others.
Students care about their learning and the actions they take. They talked about a couple of activities that did not help them learn. They asked to be given more time to work on their action; regrouping with their plans after the exhibition was over. They also wanted to revisit their passions and interests and explore the extent of these new learnings.
Students found the research process a challenge. Interestingly, some were a little bemused that they did not use all the data they collected. They also felt a little hurried by the competing demands of other tasks while researching.
Students value the importance of learning how to learn. They commented on how they would like more strategies and time to break down research findings and synthesise within the context of their guiding questions.
Students value their independence. They do not always want to be told what to do and when to do it, but wanted to have more autonomy to make decisions for themselves about their work habits.
I believe these student reflective insights are equally as valuable as the ones that teachers produce. Ultimately they should make us question the what, how and why of our practices. Unearthed within this reflective process were issues relating to differentiation, skills teaching, research, independence, autonomy and reflective learning to name a few.
As teachers we all have hunches about learning that we attribute to success or failure, the problem in schools is that feelings and pre-conceptions can evolve into undeniable truths with little evidence to back them up. I envision a place where students themselves can have a legitimate voice in what constitutes the best learning. In turn, this student voice represents a type of evidence that can frame a context for authentic teacher inquiry and action research, so that the distinction between teaching and learning becomes seamless.