Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the more I dig into all of the resources focussing on “New Pedagogies for Deep Learning”, the more connections I am able to make to my own collaborative teaching and learning journey over the past four years. 

Looking through Dr. Monica R. Martinez’s deep learning planning resources really struck a chord with me; specifically, phase 1 – Establishing a Vision. 

Start with the Why

Simon Sinek‘s Golden Circle

Back in the Fall of 2015, the Leadership team at my school shared their vision for the future of learning. Teachers would work collaboratively in a flexible learning space to develop a new model of education. I was excited and intrigued, so I put my name forward and was selected to be a member of this new team of five teachers. (Copied from previous post to provide context.) 

That spring, we worked together as a team to develop a new teaching and learning model for the start of the 2016-17 school year. The school arranged time for us to be able to work together to start planning for the following year. All of us were new to this new way of teaching and learning, and so being productive in these meetings proved quite challenging. 

A lot of these early meetings focused on how we would organize learning – we discussed things like co-teaching models, pastoral care, and what our schedule might look like. These discussions proved very difficult and it was not until our deputy principal shared Simon Sinek’s video with us that we realized where we were going wrong. 

Link to full TED Talk

We had ignored the most important question: Why are we doing this? We had put the how and the what way out in front of the why. This discussion proved difficult, as we quickly realized that the philosophical beliefs about learning and the purpose of education did not align. Through much deliberation, and reference to our school’s own guiding statements, we were able to establish our vision:

To use the shared expertise of a team of teachers to create inclusive and flexible learning environments, and identify and target the individual needs of all students. 

An Evolving Vision

Since its inception, this collaborative teaching initiative has continued to evolve and so too has our team’s vision. For the past two years, this has been our new why:

To foster student agency through choice-based learning experiences in a flexible and inclusive environment.

The timing was ideal, as the IB released The Enhanced PYP in October 2018, placing agency (voice, choice, ownership) at the centre of the inquiry model.

As a team, we are always looking for new ways to inspire and challenge learners. We have come to realize the importance of creating a learning community that recognizes, encourages and values student agency. We have worked with learners to develop a personalized learning environment in which they can pursue their passions and take risks will support them in the future. 

We recognize that as teachers, our job is changing. In line with what Fullan describes, it is no longer necessary that teachers be content masters, but instead master learners. As a team, we are working to find ways to engage students in the learning process. Instead of focusing on specific content, we have focussed more on the development of the IB’s Approaches to Learning. These skills, as described by the IB, have clear overlap with Fullan’s 6 C’s.

Deep Learning in Practice

As a team, we are always looking for ways for students to be more active in their learning. We are lucky not to be bound by any specific curricular content outcomes. When planning, we work together to develop concept-driven units of inquiry. By developing our units in this way, students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the big idea in a way that honours their passions or interests.

@ISDFifthGrade students sharing their explorations into originality with the ISD community.

An example of this is our How We Express Ourselves unit in which students grapple with the concept of originality. Students become artists in a medium of their choice in order to inform their opinion of our central idea, “There are no original ideas.” This central idea is meant to provoke their thinking as they explore and create. Students have explored a wide range of mediums, and as teachers, it is very rare for us to be experts in any of them. Instead we engage in the learning process with students as they use digital resources to learn new skills. 

In the past week, we have been working to develop a new Sharing the Planet unit. In previous years (4+ years ago), the PYP Exhibition had always had an STP focus. For the past few years, this has no longer been the case due to allowing more room for student passions to drive the exhibition. 

As a team of teachers, we recognize that the issues we are hoping to delve into with our students are complicated ones. None of us feel like experts, by any means, but we hope that engaging in the inquiry together with students will help to make the learning more meaningful. 

In his paper, Fullan states that people don’t always find their passions by seeking them directly, but instead, through skill development and their experiences. We are looking to use Flipgrid as a tool to connect our students with individuals around the world who are making personal choices in their lives in an attempt to sustain the planet. 

It is through experiences like this that we hope to spark our students interest in a particular issue. We hope this will lead to a deep learning experience in which students are creating and using new knowledge in a way that will lead to them taking action.