The Heart of Learning
What does this graphic say about the IB approach to developing internationally minded students? Clearly, at the heart of the program are the kids, each of whom brings a unique blend of experiences, ideas and beliefs about the world. The PYP is grounded in inquiry learning, through which students engage with each other and the various elements of the programme to challenge their ideas, develop enduring understandings and construct new learning. Such is the IB philosophy about how students best learn.
As an IB School, students are similarly at the heart and core of everything we do at CDNIS. Nowhere is this more evident than in the purposeful design and delivery of our learning programme. While the PYP curriculum framework provides the structure, and our teachers determine the direction, it is student curiosity and questions that drive the teaching and learning.
Learning through inquiry begins as teachers tap into students’ prior knowledge through “provocations” that stimulate thinking and curiosity. Teachers then draw out questions that help determine how best to build on student interest, passion and understanding in subsequent learning engagements. This approach motivates students through “the natural hunger to find out” that we are all born with. Australian author and education consultant Kath Murdoch further defines the value of inquiry in her short video “What is Inquiry Learning?”
We see evidence of this student-centered approach throughout our school. To launch an inquiry about the value of goods and services as they relate to our wants and needs, the Grade 2 students arrived at school recently to find their cubbies cordoned off with tape, and rent due for their desks and supplies. “The point,” said one of the teachers, “is to get them to start thinking about what they value, and what their wants and needs are. It will also build excitement, draw out some questions and spark curiosity, so they begin to engage in their learning.”
Grade 3 teachers began a recent unit on expressing ourselves through arts and culture by bringing various artifacts, tools and art supplies into different classrooms to create a “living museum.” As students rotated through the rooms they were asked to consider “What can you discover about culture and art?” Afterward, students offered up questions such as “Why do different countries have different traditions?” and “How do people choose to make art in the styles that they do?” These curiosities and others helped the teachers plan learning engagements so as to maximize interest and student learning.
While these provocations are deliberately open-ended, the PYP transdisciplinary themes, learning outcomes and concepts provide the structure and targets for student learning, with a focus on developing enduring understandings. The power of the student-centered inquiry approach is that it enables the teacher to guide students beyond their current understanding with high engagement and motivation, because student interests are driving the process. For a deeper look into this powerful learning dynamic, and how it creates wonder, promotes reflection and the “passion for learning” that we strive to impart in our students, Kath’s 2014 Vancouver TedXeducation talk is well worth listening to.
Though different from the way many of us adults learned in school, this approach is rigorous and demanding of students. It is hard work to question deeply, and as Warren Berger, author of “A More Beautiful Question” has stated, “Knowing the answers will help you in school. Knowing how to question will help you in life.” Parents can support student learning at home by asking questions about what their children are investigating, what they are interested in, and what they are curious about. We know that motivated, engaged students are able to think deeply, understand important concepts, and develop rich meaning through the dispositions that inquiry learning develops in them as people. Those are our learning goals for the students of CDNIS.