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Engaging student voice in the PYP: questionnaire

This is the last in a three-part series of blog posts featuring student voice and their reflection on their PYP learning experiences. This post summarizes the questionnaire responses completed by PYP students with the help of their teachers.

Kirsten Loza, curriculum manager in the PYP development team

Kirsten Loza, PYP curriculum manager

“Learning is so important to me. I think everyone should have access to education. Learning empowers students to contribute to the world and to others around them. It gives them their own ideas, opinions and perspectives. I think that is what makes the IB program special. We talk about using our learning and taking action in the world. Your learning will help you succeed in life and even thrive. Learning is the best gift we can have.” – PYP student

From April to June 2014, over 500 PYP students responded to a series of questions around how they learn and what they learn, in order to inform programme development. A select group of educators was asked to engage students in the last year of the PYP at their school in a reflection around the students’ experiences in the PYP to find out:

  • what students know about the PYP;
  • how they perceive their learning experiences, their learning progress, and their ways of learning;
  • what enables/disables their engagement in the learning process;
  • what they think a good lesson is, and what specific elements they find effective and ineffective;
  • what areas of the curriculum engage them in learning most and least;
  • what factors in their learning environment help them learn better; and,
  • how they demonstrate the IB learner profile.

Enjoyable lessons

Houtbay Edits (18 of 129)

Students were asked which lessons they enjoyed at school. More than 50% responded with Arts (visual arts, music, drama) and nearly 40% of the respondents indicated Physical Education (PE)/Sports/Gym. About 25% said Mathematics and 15% said Unit of Inquiry. Below is a quote from one respondent that sums up why the following learning areas rated highly with the students:

“I enjoy Drama because it gives us a chance to express our feelings through movement and facial expressions. I enjoy Art, because it is a great outlet for creativity and a great way for me to express myself with colours, words and feelings. I also really like P.E because I can exercise even more than I already do and I can stay fit.”

 What learning means

Asking students what learning means to them allowed them to reflect on the process of learning and the importance of learning. For PYP students, the process of learning means:

…exploring new knowledge
…using what they know, and expanding it further.
…becoming aware of the past and what has happened before.
…creating, imagining, inventing, understanding and investigating.
…working cooperatively with your peers and collaborating on larger ideas.
…gaining new perspectives.

They see learning as important because it means opening possibilities and gaining skills and knowledge that are needed for the future. It means getting an education to succeed in life.

Houtbay Edits (11 of 129)

What helps them learn

Students recognize that their teachers play a key role in their learning process, but equally important to them is being able to collaborate with others and getting information in a variety of ways such as through technology, hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Top responses to the question “what helps them learn”
Technology—computers, tablets, iPhones, smartboards, internet, websites
Working in groups / with peers / classmates
Hands-on materials and interactive activities, games, using tools and materials, moving around

What makes learning difficult

Responses indicate that learning becomes difficult to students when the topic is not relevant or engaging to them. They recognise that there are conditions that should be met so that the climate is conducive to learning.

Top responses to the question “what makes learning difficult”
When there are distractions such as noise, my classmates bothering me or loud music
When I don’t understand and the work is above my level
When I’m stressed / under pressure because I’m pushed too hard or don’t feel supported
When I am bored or don’t enjoy the topic because I already know the topic or I don’t see the point of learning it
When my teacher does not help me because she is distracted with other students or is not answering my question or is talking too fast

 When do you learn best

Responses indicated that students value relationships, as they said that they learn best when they collaborate with each other or get support from their teacher. Responses also show that student well-being is an important factor for them to learn effectively.

Top responses to the question “when do you learn best”
When we collaborate with each other in pairs or small groups
When I can focus and there are no distractions
When I am not tired or hungry
When I am interested in the topic
When I get help from my teacher
When I do a hands-on activity / do experiment / play games
When I’m happy


The findings of this questionnaire show that PYP students are articulate about their learning in terms of both the learning process and products of their learning:

  • They understand that learning is about finding out, gaining new knowledge, and problem solving.
  • They realise that learning is important for their future.
  • Their comments indicate that their learning in the PYP is enjoyable, relevant, and meaningful.
  • They see the power of learning with peers and working with others.
  • They appreciate that learning is effective with the support of their teachers, parents and classmates or friends.

We are grateful to all educators who helped us gather these responses from their students.

What do you think about these results? Do the results confirm your PYP practice and experience?

Kirsten works at the IB as a Curriculum Manager. She has more than 17 years of working in education in various capacities including as a class teacher, curriculum coordinator, and workshop facilitator. She is interested in dialogues around learning, technology, creativity, and building an effective learning network through social media. Part of her work in IB is managing the SharingPYP blog.

2 Responses to Engaging student voice in the PYP: questionnaire

  1. John Kolosowski 20 November 2014 at 1:08 am #


    I enjoyed your article. Thank you. It is these things that we need to be reminded of constantly. Something we concentrate on delivering the content without really thinking about the little minds and bodies that sit in front of us. In particular, I liked the ‘when do you learn best’ section. I think that I might make posters and put them up in the staff room!

    Thanks for sharing.
    John Kolosowski
    Teacher Librarian
    Tokyo International School

  2. Kirsten Loza 24 November 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Hi, John
    I’m glad you enjoyed the article–the outcome is a good reminder for us educators to think about students’ views when designing our learning engagements and their environment. Let me know how the staff (and students?) respond to the poster. Perhaps you can write a blog about it? 🙂
    Kirsten, PYP curriculum manager

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