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How will you make the new Primary Years Programme (PYP) happen?

Leah Magana

Leah Magana, Primary Years Programme (PYP) Building Quality Curriculum (BQC) reviewer, shares her experience with the BQC as an active member of the IB Educator Network (IBEN) and IB Workshop leader.

Q: Why did you become a PYP BQC, reviewer?

I got involved in the service because I thought it was an excellent way for schools to get feedback on their written curriculum at a moderate cost, without having to send their teachers away to do it. The reviewers for BQC do all the work from their own homes, so the service’s footprint is right-sized.

Q: What do schools say about the experience following their coordinators’ participation in it?

We get a lot of positive feedback. Coordinators remark on the amount of collaboration and rich professional discourse that their teachers engage in through the self-evaluation segment. Participation in BQC allows schools to overhaul their curriculum and improve in ways they didn’t foresee because the feedback we give is specific to one unit plan. That one document provides so much information that it can be applied to all other unit plans throughout their whole programme of inquiry.

PYP students from IPS Hilversum Violenschool.

Q: Are you saying the reviewers’ feedback document is ‘evergreen’?

Exactly. The feedback documents we provide to schools can be used across different units within the programme of inquiry. We give feedback on the programme of inquiry itself, so that really helps the school look at where they can make adjustments and improvements in terms of vertical and horizontal alignment.

Q: How do schools interact with the PYP BQC reviewer?

Typically, we work with the IB coordinator only. The IB coordinator uses our guidance to facilitate discourse among his/her entire staff. In a single PYP Building Quality Curriculum package, the school receives feedback on its programme of inquiry plus six unit planners. The entire PYP faculty can be involved in the service, which cascades through the person they know and work with regularly. Some coordinators like to have each grade level work together to evaluate their units of inquiry, while others like to have more vertically diverse teams look at planners to build an understanding of IB documents.

Q: How do schools manage the information in-flow?

A variety of documents are sent to the school. One is the summary, an overarching document that discusses what the reviewers saw consistently across unit plans and the programme of inquiry. This helps a school see that their central ideas look a certain way and may need adjustment. Or maybe all their lines of inquiry need improvement. That helps the school prioritize where to focus their efforts and clears up misunderstandings about IB documents. Some schools report that teachers meet during regular grade-level collaboration times to look at feedback together. Others schedule after-school meetings in which the entire faculty looks at the feedback together, just as they would for an IB site visit report. Both are valuable. But it’s the clarifying questions we get from schools that really show that schools take this seriously and want clarification and complete understanding of the feedback they receive. Schools get four weeks to look at our feedback and to pose clarifying questions in areas they may have concerns about.

PYP students from Southbank International School.

Q: Are there common themes in the clarifying questions?

Often schools look at the specific wording of their central ideas or lines of inquiry and want more clarification. The feedback is completely customized for the school’s unique unit plan. Some schools like to submit all-grade-levels unit plans within a transdisciplinary theme. Other schools like to submit just one grade level for review. Everything is customized to the school’s needs. We find there is a preference for IB feedback because it’s unbiased, based solely on how the unit plan can be improved to support student learning. Our reviewers take six weeks with the documents, which go through a tiered system. It’s not just one set of eyes on these documents, but different reviewers looking at them and providing feedback.

Q: Any preview available about the upcoming and renewed PYP programme of inquiry?

BQC is going to be hugely important for schools that don’t want to send their teachers out to workshops or have a consultant come in directly to present a workshop. PYP BQC is going to be your best value for money when the new ’making the PYP happen’ comes out and we see what the new unit planner looks like.