The article describes the experiences we had, while planning and undergoing the PYP Remote Verification Visit. It includes information about the various steps involved in the preparations for the visit and how to make it as authentic as face to face visits.
The Covid -19 outbreak has turned the world around and we all have our own struggles to adjust to new ways of doing things. We are a candidate schools which was awaiting a verification visit in the month of March but due to the prevailing pandemic situation, it was next to impossible to have any face to face visit as we all needed to safeguard ourselves by maintaining social distancing.
The visit had to be cancelled and so we asked the IB if it was possible to send someone from a safer zone in the world. IB officials said that if we were flexible with the date they could think of another possible way to make this visit a safer experience for the learning community. We were counting the days and I was trying to console myself, the PYP team, governing bodies and parents, that yes the school would surely become an authorized IB School soon.
We received a supporting document from the IB called ‘Remote candidacy support’. It is a protocol for a school expecting to have a consultant visit or a verification visit or mandatory in school workshop in case of launching (MYP and CP). It’s a well curated document which provides explicit guidelines to school opting for a remote consultation or verification visit. We finally decided to opt for the remote verification visit and tightened our belts to embrace this new change in our journey towards becoming an IB authorised school.
This type of visit has the same expectations as the face to face visit. It is the next best thing after the face to face visit in this challenging time. It requires the evidence to be provided one month beforehand to the visiting team members This was basically curriculum documents like program of inquiry, scope and sequence of Math, Language, Science and Social studies, completed IB planners and standalone planners.
The program coordinator needed to share evidence of collaborative meetings like minutes of meetings, photographs of meetings and agendas. This also included the school’s assessment philosophy and practices, assessments tasks and tools like rubrics, continuum exemplars and checklists. In addition, recent and older planners also served as evidence. Documents like reports cards, photographs of 3-way conferences, teacher parent conference and Student led conferences were collated and served as evidence.
Extra efforts were needed and there were certain tasks the school needed to do prior to the remote verification visit. In this case the school provided recorded evidence in the form of video, photographs and documents as evidence of progress towards Standard: A –philosophy, B2 – resources and support and C3 –teaching and learning.
To show the school’s progress towards meeting the expectations of standard A, the alignment of our school’s educational beliefs and values with the IB philosophy, we gave our website address, parent handbooks and recorded a video of a school tour to show that our education philosophy is aligned with IB and is reflected in the physical environment of the school as well. We also needed to provide a school map to help the visiting team in identifying the places included in the video. The things required to include in the school tours were clearly mentioned in the document, including a mention of the school’s geographical and societal position in the surrounding community. We also needed to capture the outdoor area of the school to provide information about the playground and sport facilities.
Other areas captured for the observation were the location of the library, staffroom and coordinator’s office and we also included areas such as the art studio, ICT Labs, STEM Lab and Science Lab. A clear overview of school displays in public areas, reception areas and corridors were recorded to provide evidence related to the display of the learner profile attributes and other essential elements of IB philosophy.
To provide evidence for standard B2 -which deals with resources supports, a library tour, hosted by the librarian needed to be recorded. There should be an explicit description of different sections of the library like fiction and nonfiction sections, the professional development section for teachers, collections of books and multimedia resources related to the program of inquiry and other disciplines. There should be mention of support provided by the library in nurturing the mother tongues, host country language and additional languages, and library displays that support and promote inquiry, academic honesty and information literacy.
ICT is used as a tool to support learning and teaching in PYP, so a video had to be recorded to show what facilities our school provides as IT resources. The video should have footage of students and teachers using these facilities. It’s good to provide photographic evidence of the SEN room and if there is a language support room that also can be added.
Next in line was evidence related to C3 which requires evidence related to the teaching and practices of the school and how the school is developing the IB philosophy in learners, learning and teaching and the learning community.
Do’s and don’ts of visit preparation
As the entire process is virtual so we needed to make sure that the school set up a meeting with the visiting team to discuss the agendas and to understand the expectations well in advance. The authorization manager organises this meeting along with the visiting team members, and the program coordinator should read the document to get an explicit understanding of the process.
We discussed with the visiting team before hand:
- What technology can we use?
- What needs to be sent in advance and how?
- Agenda and scheduling
In the case of a remote visit, the school should go on either virtually or physically. There are live interviews and live class observations of each grade level and specialist as well. We needed to make sure to use the technology which is best suited for the process and easily accessible by the users. We had already shifted to remote online learning and we were using Microsoft TEAMS for collaborative planning and meetings. The entire PYP school was using Google Classroom and we added the visiting team members to both the platforms so that they could understand how we collaborate and support the learning and teaching process.
The Don’ts are basically, no need to panic as it is a great learning experience for all stakeholders. We just needed to showcase our best practices and to be ready to take some constructive feedback to feed forward to become even better school.
Do check the technology in advance and be ready with plan B in case the technology ditches you. Help the interviewee to understand the procedure, what is expected, and it is better to inform them in advance that there will be live interviews with parents, the governing body and students as well. In our case we used Zoom meetings for live interviews for the staff, but for parents and students interviews we used Google hangouts.
A sample agenda is given in the guidance document, but schools need to see what works well in their context. In our case I just replaced the venue column title with links and added the links of all the zoom meetings and hangout meetings. It looked more organised and was easier to use. Do make sure that there are not more than 6 members in a meeting as remote meetings work better this way.
For submitting recorded evidence choose the tool beforehand as there are many options to transfer videos such as Dropbox, Google drive and We transfer.
Overall, it was a great learning experience and all the stakeholders got the opportunity to share their understanding of the IB philosophy and also the impacts of implementing the Primary Years Program. Candidate schools that are ready to dive into the IB world can take the opportunity to cross the milestone of the verification visit even in these challenging times.Asnaha Farheen is a former PYP coordinator and currently working as Head of Primary and PYP Coordinator at Abdul Kadir Molla International School (an IB PYP authorised school) in Bangladesh. Asnaha has 10 years of IB experience. She enjoys working with PYP facilitators to improve student learning through effective instructional support.