This article is about a professional development event that encourages collaboration among teachers, enables agency by the use of choice and provides access to best practices from different countries by the use of resources such as Sharing PYP Blog posts.
By Ceni Alpanda
I have always believed that sharing best practices and thinking together are enriching for everyone who is involved. In this post I would like to share our professional development event and how we used the best practices shared in Sharing PYP Blog as a resource to think, share and collaborate at Istanbul Education and Culture Foundation (ISTEK Schools).
PYP is being implemented in 13 different campuses of ISTEK Schools. The schools are in different phases of PYP implementation. Currently, we have 8 IB World Schools and 5 schools in the candidacy phase . I am responsible for supporting and guiding ISTEK Schools in their PYP implementation processes. Each school is unique and has different needs. However, as the schools implement IB Primary years Programme (PYP) they have many things in common, as well. We often plan in service training programmes that bring all the teachers from different campuses together and create opportunities to think and discuss together and share. These are really valuable opportunities for the teachers. We see that collaborating with colleagues from different schools helps teachers grow and make them feel more comfortable about reflecting on their own practices and trying the new ideas they get in their own school settings.
In our recent professional development event, we decided to create focus groups where teachers chose and joined according to their interests. For each focus group, our goal was to encourage teachers:
- to think deeper about what the PYP believes and aspires to in that particular key area
- to share about what they are already doing about this key area in their own schools
- to find out different ways schools around the world focus on this area and learn about their best practices
- to collaboratively create suggestions for an action plan that focuses on this particular key area
Together with the PYP coordinators of the schools we planned 15 focus groups. These were on “inclusion, inquiry, concept-based learning, transdisciplinary learning, assessment, agency, learner profile, action, international mindedness, approaches to learning, early years and exhibition”. With these focus groups, we aimed for each school to have volunteer experts on key areas of the programme. After the event, like a jigsaw, all the expert groups would come together and share their new learning. This way, each school would be able to set goals and create an action plan by considering all the new ideas the teachers got as a result of the event.
To put this plan into practice; we organized reading resources that we would share with the teachers before the focus group sessions. These pre-event reading documents included the following:
- For learning more about IB’s stance and aspiration on the particular key areas we used sections from PYP: From Principles into Practice and teacher support materials on the Programme Resource Center.
- To find out about what different schools around the world do and learn about their practices we used Sharing PYP Blog posts. We made a list of the posts that our teachers could read for each focus group and provided them the links to the related Sharing PYP Blog posts. What an amazing resource this blog has been for us, I cannot highlight this enough.
Before the event, all the teachers selected the focus groups and the language that they wanted to work with. We had focus groups in Turkish and English. Google Chrome translation function was very helpful as we used the posts through translation in the Turkish group sessions; this worked very well. By this way; we also wanted to model that access to resources is possible and language is not that much of barrier anymore.
All the teachers were sent pre-event reading documents related to the focus groups that they chose. There they found sections /posts that they needed to read and also several posts that they would select and read. These options enabled teachers’ agency and enhanced the productivity of the event.
We called the event ISTEK PYP Forum as this was for us a platform for teachers to think, discuss, share and set goals for further development. Our focus was development where 760 teachers from 13 campuses took part. The focus groups met via Google Meet links and the collaboration was impressive. All the teachers had lots of new ideas to bring back to their own campuses both from their colleagues and from around the world by the posts that they read from Sharing PYP Blog.
After the event we wanted to get feedback from all the participants to feedforward our next plans for professional development. In the survey the big majority of the group shared that they:
- found the event inspiring
- learned a lot about the “what, how and why” of many practices
- felt empowered and experienced teacher agency
- were actively involved
- gained new ideas to put into practice
The follow up sessions at each school, that was led by the PYP coordinators, focused on setting goals and considering possible actions for each key focus area were also productive. We will use the feedback we have gotten to identify the needs of the schools and continue creating opportunities for the teachers to share and learn together. The teachers learning from teachers format, both among campuses and via blog posts from around the world, was successful for our school. I wanted to share this different way of professional development event and I can say that it is definitely worth trying. I would like to thank all the IB educators for their contributions. This platform has become an open door to a global teachers’ room for us and we truly appreciate it.
Ceni Alpanda is the PYP Coordinator (Overall) of ISTEK Schools in Turkey. She is an IBEN member; with roles of PYP workshop leader, school visit team leader, consultant, online workshop facilitator, reader and IB Education workshop leader. She is passionate about PYP and feels privileged to be a part of a large network of PYP educators that helps her learn and grow every day.