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Student initiated action in the PYP

Gareth Jacobson

Gareth Jacobson, American International School Dhaka, Bangladesh

Over the years I have seen PYP teachers grapple with the concept of cultivating student initiated action.

One common misconception is the idea that student initiated action needs to happen within the tight 6/7 week frame of a unit of inquiry. However, like the development of the learner profile, student action needs to be nurtured and given time to flourish.

I was privileged to witness students taking self initiated action well after their unit of inquiry,  under the transdisciplinary theme of ‘how we organize ourselves’, had completed.

The central idea “people collaborate to find solutions to help those in need” was really driven  using the related concept of sustainability and involved students inquiring into the different NGO’s based in Bangladesh and learning how they create sustainable solutions for those in need.

As a result of their collective inquiries, a context was created for some deep evaluative thinking and the students developed their own criteria for taking meaningful action. As part of their summative assessment, the students chose to publicize their work within the school community and persuaded our student council to adopt their criteria. However, for some students the action did not stop there. They also wanted to apply the criteria for taking meaningful action themselves.

Following a visit from a French NGO working on supplying clean running water to the area, students made contact with a nearby school in one of the deprived areas of Dhaka.

For their action, the students creatively used their academic knowledge and communication skills to make a public information film and create visual leaflets in Bangla about the importance of hand washing. The students even managed to procure a donation of soap tablets.

In order for this action to evolve, the students needed time and space to think, imagine and create. Their motivation to make a difference created the action and I imagine they will remember this learning experience for a very long time; it was authentic and personalized.

I think one of the ways we can authentically nurture action is not to overload our units of inquiry and, importantly, not to consider action complete when the unit is over.

Gareth Jacobson is  PYP coordinator/IT Facilitator and  taught the PYP for 7 years, in Thailand, Sri Lanka and the UK. He shares his passion for learning by leading IB workshops and Gareth’s professional interests lie in the areas of conceptual inquiry, assessment, reflection and visible thinking.

Highlights from:  Making thinking visible

This article was submitted by Gareth as an example of his own practice and does not necessarily represent the views of the IB.

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One Response to Student initiated action in the PYP

  1. Magic Years 18 December 2015 at 1:40 am #

    Following up with action after such a visit from the NGO allows students to make connections and see first hand what was discussed. Great work!

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