Wednesday, November 21, 2012

PYP and the Learner's Profile

I recently took a PYP course to help me understand what it was all about.

One of the things it introduced me to is "The Learner's Profile," which I think is an excellent way to think about education and development.
Um, I think we're talking about two different things...

Quickly, the profile is broken-down in this way:
(From the IB document, "Making the PYP Happen")

IB learners strive to be:
Inquirers They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry
and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this
love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.

Knowledgeable They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so
doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and
balanced range of disciplines.

Thinkers They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize
and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.

Communicators They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively
and willingly in collaboration with others.

Principled They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect
for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for
their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.

Open-minded They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open
to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are
accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow
from the experience.

Caring They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others.
They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the
lives of others and to the environment.

Risk-takers They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought,
and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are
brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.

Balanced They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to
achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.

Reflective They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able
to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

Since I've never worked in a PYP school I got to ask myself if what I do as a classroom teacher fits into each category of the IB's vision of a learner profile.  Asking myself that question allowed me to think of what could I do better to make sure that each of these areas is as fully developed as possible. Here is what I came up with how I answer each of the profile's attributes:

Inquirers: I guess science would be the easiet way to illustrate this. We are currently learning about the Scientific Method by investigating the death of a fictional body I found while walking to school. 
Thinkers: We use Scratch to explore various subjects, including principles of geometry. Some sample projects are listed Here and here.
Communicators: Our class uses our class websiteEdmodo, and school emails to extend the classroom beyond its walls. We learn how to have an appropriate online presence in our communication with each other. 
We believe that writing can be an effective tool of change. Last year we wrote essays and presented them to the school board asking to change the constitution to allow teaching assistants, who are Nepali, the right to vote for school board members. Teachers at our school have long enjoyed the right.
Risk Takers: Every day students take turns leading the class through our morning routine. The class learns how to be comfortable with themselves and with each other, and not be afraid of trying things they normally wouldn't in front of each other.
Knowledgeable: There's an emphasis on knowing our host country at our school, and as a result the children have double periods of art and Nepal Studies. Here's an introductory video of this that I made with my brother.
Principaled: I use Lawrence Kohlberg's 6 levels of moral development, rephrased as the 6 levels of good choices to create a common language with the children that encapsulates the choices we make. We try to live at a higher level, and reflect on the reasons for the good choices we do make.
Another example is that last year we noticed that a lot of food was being wasted during lunch time. We started a campaign of awareness that will carry over to this year. 
Caring: Our elementary school uses the Responsive Classroom approach to building character. Our children are well versed in Apologies of Action and other ways to handle conflict.
Open-Minded: We collaborate with a sister school that is nestled right in the heart of Kathmandu's trash dump, and 90% of the time we go there for our collaborative projects. Most of the children at our sister school are indentured servants, sold by their families at an early age.
Balanced: I understand this to be a balance between mental and physical exercise, as well as being an effective collaborator and valuing sportsmanship. As a class we learn to play with everyone all the time. What are school is working on is a rubric for play in team and individual activities.
I divided our after school activity program into the following 8 threads so that parents have an easier time choosing a balance of different activities for their children:
- Creativity, Strategy and Innovation activities
- World Leader activities
- Movement activities
- Team Sport activities
- Music activities
- 21st Century media activities
- Brain activities
- Imagination and Performance activities
It is the goal of the elementary school to offer activities in each of these strands for each of our four seasons, and we encourage children to involve themselves in a variety of strands.
Reflective: My students maintain e-portfolios (last year I used Posterous, but this year I'll use Weebly) to continually reflect on their projects, events, and goals. All of our conferences this year are with both the parents and students to reflect and refine their hopes, dreams, and goals for the year.

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