On Building Quality Curriculum

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” (Yogi Berra)

This post stems from the insights I have gathered while working for the MYP on their new Building Quality Curriculum initiative, one which involves schools receiving feedback on selected unit planners. As someone who spent a good chunk of time writing that feedback (and teaching the MYP), I’d thought I’d collate some key aspects about what is required to get the inquiry stage of the planners right, both in MYP planners and elsewhere.

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Key and Related Concept(s): ENGAGE WITH THE INTENDED CONCEPTS 

Common problems:

  • Too many for the length of the unit (no more than one key concept and three related concepts).
  • Only lip-service paid to the concepts in the actual learning experiences.
  • Key and related concepts confusingly overlap, e.g. “point of view” and “perspectives” in English Language and Literature.

Global context: STAY IN CONTEXT

Common problems:

  • No specific exploration is identified, with a real event, circumstance or situation in mind.
  • The real life event, circumstance or situation is not used as a lens throughout the unit.
  • It’s an afterthought, not a raison d’etre.

Statement of Inquiry: CRAFT A MEMORABLE STATEMENT OF “SO WHAT?”

Common problems:

  • A collection of jargon words with little meaning.
  • Insufficient use of modality (e.g. might, may).
  • Missing key ingredients (concepts and/or contexts).
  • No student would want to think about it.

Inquiry Questions: LEVERAGE THE POWER OF CURIOUSITY

Common problems:

  • Are not “factual”, “conceptual” and “debatable”.
  • Are not creative and engaging.
  • When considered alone, or together, fail to unpack the statement of inquiry.
  • Questions wouldn’t lead to success on the assessment(s).

Approaches to Learning (ATL): IDENTIFY THE SKILLS THAT ENABLE SUCCESS

Common problems:

  • Too many skill indicators suggested. As an upper limit, perhaps a limit of one indicator for every three hours of teaching.
  • Not directly supportive of student success on the assessment(s).
  • Are not accompanied with specific, explicit learning experiences.

Assessment: POWER UP ASSESSMENT AS PERFORMANCE

Common problems:

  • Would not produce reasonable evidence of performance on the stated objectives of the unit.
  • Not a performance of the students’ understanding of the statement of inquiry.

FOR AN MYP ENDORSED VIEWPOINT, SEE HERE

6-questions-for-better-myp-planners

 

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On the Blindingly Obvious

I’m all for conceptual learning, and understand its importance in enabling students to retain the knowledge, understanding or skills that we believe we are teaching them. Back in early 2012, I re-mixed a video that captures the essence of a keynote speech made by Lynn Erickson at the 2011 IB conference in the Hague on this topic.

The trick, however, with any educational theory is putting it into practice. Last year was the first that the new Middle Years Programme (MYP) Key and Related Concepts were making the rounds in my class. Dutifully, I covered my walls in them, plastered them over assessment documents and unit overviews, and… well, I don’t know, I’m not sure it really came to life.

However, at a meeting before the end of the last school year with my Language and Literature colleagues, it suddenly occurred to me that the MYP Related Concepts, in particular, could work as a great lens to unpack any text, regardless of context. It’s hardly an earth-shattering revelation, and one I’m sure many, many others have already had and acted upon before me, but it felt good to finally catch up with the blindingly obvious. So, for this year, I’ve created a Language and Literature Related Concepts inquiry grid, as you can see below. I’m also going to use it with my IB Diploma Language and Literature students too to act as a point of continuity across language and literature studies in the MYP and DP.

By Phil Bruce. Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
By Phil Bruce. Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA

Creative Commons License
Language and Literature MYP Related Concepts Inquiry Grid by Philip Bruce is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

For some further blindingly obvious ideas with this resource, why not:

  • Divide up squares around the class, jigsawing responses by row, column or colour, as appropriate.
  • Cut up cards with the related concepts, distribute at random or differentiated for readiness (e.g. intertextuality might be trickier), and have students play just-a-minute or, more simply, think – pair – share.
  • Re-mix the inquiry grid to fit your own needs, e.g. to analyse a source in MYP Humanities or an artwork in MYP Visual Arts. Start by going here.