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Redefining collaboration in the PYP exhibition

Tracy Wnek, PYP teacher at Renaissance College in Hong Kong

Tracy Wnek, PYP teacher at Renaissance College in Hong Kong

One school shares the various factors influencing the collaboration for their PYP exhibition.

During the 2013/14 academic year, the Year 6 Exhibition at RCHK took on a new look. Each student was able to authentically follow their passion and share what they had learnt with a wider audience within the school community.

• All students to carry out their specific, chosen inquiry, rather than being grouped by a vaguely connected area of interest
• Increase motivation and engagement
• Flexible groupings
• Varied modes of collaboration
• Increase school community access to the exhibition process and product

Threats of traditional model of collaboration
• Student motivation was threatened by vague interest groupings
• Personal learning preference – intrapersonal over interpersonal
• Students become ‘passengers’ in their team
• Students were only able to work with others from their own class

Moving forward
Each of the 168 children explored their passions and developed these into a potential Central Idea (CI), identifying the issues connected to their area. They then explored how a connection with the transdisciplinary theme ‘How We Organise Ourselves’ could authentically be made.

Students began their inquiries individually but opportunities for collaboration were offered throughout the process:
• Issue based sessions for sharing and collaboration (environment, technology, animals etc.) across the year level (some groups with common CI formed across different Year 6 classes)
• Groups within the class formed and reformed naturally as all students had access to a Google document detailing the CI
• Collaboration via flexible mentoring rather than one mentor per group
• Collaboration with subject experts (secondary teachers)
• Students collaborated with regards to presentation style, offering feedback and tips
• Collaboration with outside agencies in person or through technology

• A broader variety of exhibition issues and presentation styles
• More student-driven
• Motivation was high as students were focused on their passion and issues
• More authentic collaboration as it was organic and developed as part of the process, rather than being set at the beginning
• Fewer social issues; students were motivated to solve problems during collaboration as the group effort was purposeful

• Challenge to organize space for sharing 145 different exhibitions, some individual and some group
• Managing so many different exhibition groups from across six classes
The end result was an exciting and diverse exhibition and fulfilling learning experience for all students. The reward was definitely worth the effort and risk-taking on the part of the teachers. In removing the expectation of students working in fixed groups for the length of the unit, collaboration was enhanced and more authentic.
How do your students collaborate when they do their exhibition? Share with us your PYP exhibition story!

Tracy Wnek began teaching at the Renaissance College in Hong Kong 8 years ago. She has taught P2 and P3, and is currently teaching and leading P6. She believes that we learn best through discovery and developing our curiosity, and by making connections between ourselves, what we are learning, and our daily interactions.

9 Responses to Redefining collaboration in the PYP exhibition

  1. Sana Noor 27 January 2015 at 11:34 am #

    You guys have collaboratively achieved what initially sounded like a far-fetched idea. Running 145 mini inquiries must definitely have required loads of support in terms of teachers and specialists from across the school. Kudos, Tracy! A very well written article.

  2. Alexandra Francesconi 27 January 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this idea.
    I used to work at a school where we worked with students inquiring into their own passions, with moments for collaborating group work. I feel that this process gives students a better ownership and understanding of their inquiry. This allowed students to find connections for action and reflection naturally and ongoing.

  3. Edna 30 January 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    That’s the approach we have taken in the past few years too. So much more authentic than forcing kids into random groups or having them pick inquiries according to available groups. Each of our students is encouraged to explore something they really care about. There are plenty of opportunities for colaboratin during the process in a range of different ways.

  4. Anna 11 February 2015 at 4:47 am #

    Hi, I´ve been looking for information about planning a PYP unit…I got a job at new IB school and we started planning our units. The question I have is regarding the indicator and evidence required for the summative assessment, prior knowledge assessment and lines of inquiry. The way I understand both terms (indicator and evidence) is that the first is the what the student needs to do and the second one is the final product. For instance, if the unit is about a 5 paragraph essay, the indicator would be the statement saying the child writes the essay following “xyz” criteria….and the evidence would be the essay itself; in other words, the paper. Am I right or wrong? I would like to have some insights about it. Thanks!

  5. Aloha 11 February 2015 at 11:15 pm #

    Thank you, Tracy, for this enlightening post! I appreciate the implications for collaboration as a way to get all the teachers to learn, reflect, take action as well during the process of supporting the 145 inquiries! What an effective way for each teacher to focus with colleagues around understandings, skills, attitudes, and pedagogy you have described here. I really also appreciate the insight about ‘forcing’ students into inauthentic groupings rather than giving them a choice whether they might collaborate or work independently. It makes the inquiry process approach authenticity in ways that the students experience rather than perform in a structural script imposed upon them as an approach.

  6. Kirsten Loza 13 February 2015 at 11:58 am #

    Hi, Anna, congratulations on your new job! It sounds like you have a good understanding already of planning the assessment for your unit of inquiry. I will add to your understanding of indicator to include description of things that are observable and measurable.
    If you have further questions about planning for units of inquiry, you can also directly email IB via or join the PYP LinkedIn group to meet your colleagues near and far.
    All the best

  7. Shanaz Ramji 15 October 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    Wow, I echo the same comment, 145 inquiries, amazing! We have also wondered about groupings and providing students with enough opportunity to delve into their personal passions. This year, we tried something different. We formed small groups based on personalities and social and emotional characteristics rather than forming groups right away for the issues. We then had the group under a particular theme choose their area of passion over a series of sessions. We found that this worked so much better as there was more buy in and ownership. We also spent more time coming up with our issues and passions and didn’t rush the process. The group had to write a proposal and go through a small interview process convincing the PYP coordinator and the teacher librarian why they wanted to study a particular area. This worked really well! I always love hearing more about what is happening in other schools!

  8. Danielle Henry 25 August 2018 at 10:52 am #

    Thank-you for sharing your ideas. I am really interested in what you had to share – especially as our exhibition this year is also focusing on passions. I thought it was a really innovative idea to have flexible collaboration with groups of children forming and reforming groups according to their needs. I’ve never heard of this before!
    Naturally, I have a few questions:
    Did your student’s present individual exhibitions? If not, how did your student’s decide the final groups in which they were to present their exhibition? With fluid collaboration, I wonder how you guided students into choosing these groups?
    Could you explain a bit more about how your flexible mentoring worked?
    Thanks so much!

  9. Jeremy Knowles 28 August 2018 at 3:07 am #

    This was a great post and helpful for me to read. I have a class of 20 students and it helps me feel comfortable with allowing smaller groups or even individuals work on the exhibition so that those passions and motivations can flourish.
    Do you feel, after looking back, that the pros outweighed the cons with this strategy?
    Following that question, have you since continued to have students collaborate in this way with your exhibitions since then?
    I would be eager to hear your input. Thanks.

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