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Going beyond the action plan

Cynthia Blackburn, PYP coordinator, American Pacific International School, Thailand

Your school has gone through authorization and received an official report. What’s next? This article explores how one school has used the authorization report to create a clear and actionable 3-year timeline that is shared and reviewed with the learning community.

As PYP practitioners we are constantly striving to grow and learn. For schools, the process of accreditation and evaluation presents itself as an opportunity to receive precise feedback on where we have come from and the directions we should take moving forward. So, after submitting paperwork, welcoming the visitation team and receiving our formal report…what’s next?

I began working at American Pacific International School the year after their evaluation visit. Within my first month, I received our formal report that outlined the strengths and areas of need the visitors saw. Using the provided template, I moved forward with making our 5-year action plan, but after completing it I was still at a loss. How could I share all this information with my school community in a way that was clear and concise? I wanted an action plan that could be shared with the entire learning community without overwhelming them. After attending the Role of the Coordinator training, my workshop facilitator gave me the advice to create a personal three-year plan, but I still struggled with a format that would communicate the IB Programme standards and practices that would be accessible to my entire school community.

I decided to create my own method for how to sort, simplify and present our yearly goals to my team. As a PYP teacher and learner, I am very visual and learn best through hands-on experiences.  I began by cutting apart our action plan and separating the standards that needed to be addressed. I did my best to physically group standards with a similar theme and gave each group a heading.

I then divided these groups among my three-year timeline trying to put similar goals together (see image below).

I used the headings to create concept-based yearly goals which are expressed similarly to a central idea. Our three-year timeline goals became:

  • 2017-2018: The APIS community and leadership will work to collaboratively align our programme of inquiry with grade level curriculum standards, and we will plan for and support integrated transdisciplinary learning.
  • 2018-2019: The APIS community and leadership will work to ensure that learning and teaching utilizes resources to promote differentiated, constructivist and inquiry-based instruction.
  • 2019-2020: The APIS community will work to design assessments that support understanding of the PYP essential elements, grade level curriculum standards and individual student needs.

By having our yearly goals structured as a central idea, I have found planning professional development to be far easier and more goal-oriented. We can unpack the big concepts and focus our attention on specific actions we can take to improve.

I began by sharing the 2017-2018 goal with my staff and asking them to highlight the areas that were confusing or where they would like more development. They also wrote goal statements including one way they could personally help the school meet the goal and one way administration could support them. As a community, we are now familiar with the expectations of the IB and feel a sense of ownership about working towards meeting our goal, and we review which standards are addressed during our weekly professional development.

We also check in regularly on our progress towards meeting the goal and brainstorm action steps, including future professional development sessions, which would be helpful. Our action plan is now a living, breathing part of our school community. Students and parents see goals posted on the walls, teachers are active participants in reaching the standards and administrators are held responsible for providing the support we need moving forward.

Cynthia Blackburn is a PYP coordinator currently working at American Pacific International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She has worked with the Primary Years Programme for five years in various teaching and leadership roles. She is passionate about helping her school to be knowledgeable about the PYP and aligned with Programme standards and practices. You can follow her on Twitter @MsCindyPYP.

10 Responses to Going beyond the action plan

  1. vandana 13 February 2018 at 2:01 pm #

    Very well thought out action plan Cynthia! I liked the prioritization of your annual goals. All the best for the next phase.

  2. Jason Hanslo 13 February 2018 at 4:59 pm #

    wow great idea

  3. Katina Seymour 13 February 2018 at 5:04 pm #

    This article was very helpful since my school has recently completed the same process. We are awaiting the official report. I will reach out to the author.

  4. Cindy 14 February 2018 at 9:06 am #

    Thanks for the awesome feedback! If you’d like to see how the action plan was organized, you can view it by following the link below:

  5. CATRIONA TUIMAKA 15 February 2018 at 12:24 am #

    Great way for informing, connecting and including all, particularly staff.

  6. Abhishre A G 21 February 2018 at 1:37 am #

    This action plan is so well sorted ! Though I’m just 3 years into the program, I’m able to understand this. All the best for the coming years !

  7. Sanjana 3 August 2018 at 4:51 am #

    Hello Cynthia,

    I liked your idea of breaking down the goals and taking yearly steps. I too have done something similar but missed out on this kind of documentation.It’s more visual and SMART.

    Thanks for the idea!


  8. Steph 14 September 2018 at 1:55 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing! Such an inspiring way to inform, organise and meet the needs of your community!

  9. Salman Ali 25 September 2020 at 2:28 pm #

    Hi Cynthia,
    thanks for sharing your learning and experience, i am very new in IB programme although having some experiences in school management and program management. I will follow the pattern to plan short term, mid term and long term by defining goals and objectives for each step, which will be helpful for monitoring and assessment,


  10. Deepa Devarakonda 25 May 2021 at 7:39 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this Cyndia! Our school just received the report and we are in the process of reviewing and formulating further action plan…I too am thinking to break the action plan into short, mid and long term goals… your ideas are really helpful and give us a direction to start off.

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