Since the release of “PYP: From principles into practice”, IB World Schools around the world have been engaging with the content and planning for implementation. Four schools at different stages of their IB journey will share their approach to understanding and implementing the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) enhancements in their own context. Follow each unfolding story over the coming year. Here is the third story in the series that features an IB World School in India and illustrates how the school began exploring the enhanced content.
I will share our school’s journey with implementing the PYP enhancements in a series of blog posts over the next year. In each post, I will be focusing on one of the pillars of the new enhancements and, in my final post, I will be reflecting on our development so far. Below is our story about how Stonehill International School has explored the learning community—one of the three pillars of the curriculum.
Community of learners
Stonehill is a continuum IB World School (providing three IB programmes) in Bangalore, India. This year has been a busy year for us with all faculty focusing on re-accreditation and our ten-year celebrations. We were selected as a pilot school for a joint CIS/NEASC/IB visit, with a focus on the new IB programme standards and practices. We decided to prioritize our accreditation process and we encouraged our teachers to hold back on implementing the PYP enhancements. Our self-study helped us to focus on and define what is important for us as a school, and how and where we need to develop. We now have a common language and a shared understanding of our school priorities—a great starting block as we begin our journey into the PYP enhancements. As an additional unexpected bonus, by the time the accreditation was completed, teachers were very excited to implement the enhancements in their classrooms having seen so many great examples online. Teacher agency already actively existed in our learning community but was happening in classrooms without being shared beyond. Now it has a name and a clear purpose so teachers are more confident to voice and share the good work that is happening in our school with a wider audience. Teachers are blogging, tweeting and making connections with other educators. This creates a process of inquiry for our teachers who are reflecting more deeply on their own practices. This process is happening internally across the school as well through our communities of practice. Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, 2015). Teachers formed groups around the themes such as differentiation, the use of technology, learning environments and learning and teaching.
This year saw a new primary principal starting at Stonehill International School and with this an influx of new ideas. The Primary Leadership Team works to ensure that there is a consistent understanding of the PYP enhancements as well as providing practical tools for their implementation. Leaders at Stonehill lead by example and by establishing a shared purpose, so there has been an increase in collaboration time within the Leadership Team and with the primary faculty through staff meetings and professional learning communities (PLC).
This year has seen a raised awareness of the learning environments we have at Stonehill, both inside and outside the classroom. There have been many discussions about bringing the culture of India into our classrooms and breakout spaces and ensuring that there is flexibility in the spaces that we provide to our students. There have been staff meetings on colour palettes, learning about what colours work best together; grade level meetings on the types of furniture that would work best and discussions with students regarding how best they learn, and what they would like to see in their learning spaces. There have also been some controversial conversations about whether we even need tables and chairs in our classrooms.
At the end of last year, students from grades 2 and 4 designed and created a Collaborative Host Culture Warli Art learner profile display that is the pride of place in our hallways. There have been discussions about the integration of the attitudes into the learner profile and how these, along with the approaches to learning, help to provide the skills required for the development of international-mindedness. Student agency is front and centre in our classrooms, with a focus on voice, choice and ownership, and an understanding that an internationally minded learner has the capacity to take action for positive change. As a staff, we are also looking at ways we can ensure that other languages are valued within our working documents and displays. Students have opportunities to learn about the host culture, but there is also the understanding that some international students also need time to inquire into their own cultures to have a better understanding of who they are.
Collaborative planning has changed a little since the introduction of the collaborative planning process for learning and teaching. We have structured our planning time within the headings given, beginning with ensuring that all teachers of the unit of inquiry (including specialist subject teachers) have a shared understanding of the central idea and are moving into opportunities for transdisciplinary learning. This is not too different from what we were doing before so it was great to have confirmation we were on the right track. As part of our PLC in the primary school, we go through the process of articulating standards and practices of the PYP, as well as reviewing our scope and sequence and essential agreements documents. This enables us to build common understandings and continue to ensure that the learners stay the focus.
Technology in the PYP
The Makerspace at Stonehill is still in its infancy, however there have been many discussions about how to not only ensure students have access to the Makerspace at all times, but trying to bring appropriate aspects of the Makerspace into each grade level environment. This includes the use of virtual technologies such as VR headsets and Green Screen, but also students creating their own Seesaw e-portfolio recording booths during the “cardboard challenge”.
We are just at the very start of our journey. As always, the learner remains at the very centre of our practice, and more on that in the next post.
Anthony Hamblin is the PYP Coordinator at Stonehill International School in Bangalore, India. In his 7 years of IB PYP teaching experience, he has also worked in Azerbaijan as an early years teacher and leader. He is passionate about student and teacher agency, collaboration and encouraging performing arts in all aspects of a student’s learning journey. You can follow him on Twitter @stonehillPYP and his school @Stonehill_SIS.