Timetables – The Enemy of Creativity

I’m writing this while sitting next to two students who are editing a short film. One just turned to the other, and in an expression of pure joy, exclaimed, “OMG! I literally have goosebumps right now!”, in reference to her creation. More on this later…

Currently, the vast majority of my students are engaged in creative endeavours. My MYP Media students are finalizing short films to share with their peers, enter in film festivals and use as provocations for filmmaking workshops. My MYP Language and Literature students are crafting short stories – many of which students hope they can submit for publication. Even my DP Language and Literature students are engaging in a written task assessment – which, if you know DP Lang and Lit, is about as creative they are “allowed” to be over the duration of the two year course (kidding…sort of).

Perhaps the convergence of all of this creative energy is making this issue more apparent, but right now, my students are definitely victims of a timetabling system that is an antiquated practice and certainly an enemy of creativity and deep learning.

Would a real filmmaker, preparing her work for submission to her production company say to herself, “Ok…today I will work on my film from 9:00-10:30, but then at 10:30 I have to stop because then it’s time to do some math”? For that matter, would a real mathematician say, “I’m going to gather insights into this data, but only for ninety minutes because then I have to go edit a film”?

Of course not.

This  is the inauthentic world of timetabled learning that we have created in schools. A world where creativity – a slow process in any discipline – is cut short because…because a piece of paper you got on the first day of school says it has to.

So when children are trying to write a story that they have invested themselves in emotionally, or are completing a film that they are planning to show to a wide audience of peers and community members, they are forced to do so in these arbitrary, predetermined chunks of time – whether they want to or not, whether they feel like it or not. Have a great idea during a time not designated for that type of thinking? Too bad, you have a schedule to keep.

This type of traditional school-driven timetabling is as old as schools itself and is designed for logistical ease – not for student learning.

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Quick – be creative! But only for the next 90 minutes… 

What are the side effects of school-driven timetabling when students are involved in deep learning? On one hand, it forces children into the ridiculous need to shift their ability to be analytical, be creative, be physically active, at the snap of a finger. It perpetuates a, “good enough” attitude from students who end up creating not what they really wanted to, but a reasonable facsimile that satisfies the requirements of the time constraints that have been determined for them. It doesn’t allow for slow thinking of any kind – reflection, adjustment, seeking feedback and fine tuning – that all creators would say are integral aspects of high-quality products.

The good news about timetables? We’ve created them, so we can destroy them. We can leverage technology to offload the need for a lot of traditional “lessons”, which would free up time for teachers to move more towards the role of consultant, mentor and coach. We can create environments like this one, or this one where students create their own timetables based on need and interest, not based on arbitrary decisions from the timetabling robot that spits out a schedule for them.

What would the side effects of a student-driven timetable be? First of all, learning how to manage time. We often lament that time-management is a skill that is lacking in many students – of course it is, we manage the majority of their time on their behalf. Turning the timetable over to the students would allow them to take ownership over this process and free up teachers to support students with strategies on how to manage their short and long-term goals. Secondly, a student-driven timetable would support students in learning the key skill of prioritization. There are literally endless books and blogs dedicated to the art of prioritizing and managing one’s daily list of “to-do’s”; perhaps this wouldn’t be such a common stressor if we learned and used these skills as we were growing up. A student-driven timetable would give children the space and freedom to go deep, to truly sink their teeth into their learning, to “get it”, to have those moments of wonder and accomplishment and to learn that, often, the things we are the most proud of are the things that we really put our heart and soul into – often for more than 60-90 minutes two to three times a week. Finally and most importantly, a student-driven timetable says to children, “you matter”. It says, “you are able to be the driver of your own learning”. It says “your time belongs to you”. Empowering students to manage their time and projects is a kinder, more humane, more authentic approach to learning and creating – one that we should be advocating for on behalf of our learners.

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If they had the choice, they’d be at this all day. Shouldn’t they have that choice? 

This brings me back to where I started…the two students I mentioned at the beginning of this post? They are still sitting beside me, completely in flow and completely content. One  just said to another, “Wow, we’ve been here for hours…it’s nearly six o’clock”. They want to keep going, but they have to go home to eat dinner. I’m sure if they had the choice, they would have spent their entire school day perfecting their creation, so they didn’t have to spend their after school time doing so. If they were only given the time.

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Do we need assessment to “drive learning”?

I came across a quote from John Cowan that read, “assessment is the engine which drives student learning”. I have heard iterations of this same idea many times before and they have always made me feel a little uneasy. To be honest, the idea that “assessment drives learning” seems a little coercive to me. Don’t get me wrong, the practice of helping a student improve in the areas in which they would like to improve by providing guidance and feedback is a valuable form of assessment. I just feel that, often, the form of assessment we are typically talking about in education is one designed to help us assign a grade to our students. What happens next is that “assessment” and “grading” become synonymous and this is where the problem lays. 

So, in a traditional school setting, when I hear “assessment drives student learning”, what this really sounds to me like is “assessment is a way for us to encourage young people to learn about things that they are not really interested in learning”. By holding grades over their heads and creating, what are essentially, systems of ranking students based on performance, we create the conditions for students to feel social pressure to “learn” what is going to be asssesed. 

In education we get caught up in this idea that we need assessment to measure learning, but in most cases what assessment does instead is measure the learning that we have planned to happen, making assessment the engine that drives students to learn what they are being told to learn. 

Real, authentic learning is not driven by assessment at all, but rather is driven by curiosity, by interest and by the need to solve a problem. 

Let’s expand on those three areas: 

Curiosity: 

As humans, we are naturally curious. Through the simple (and complex) act of experiencing life, our curiosity is provoked, which encourages us to inquire further into the object of our curiosity. With the immense reach that the internet has, curiosity can be provoked today in new and amazing ways. Whether via a sentence, quote, story, film, diagram, game, tweet or photograph, educators can provoke their students’ curiosity in order to stimulate authentic learning. 

Interest:

When our curiosities become more fully developed, we begin to command some level of expertise in a certain area. This becomes, for us, an interest. We are drawn to and are interested in the things that are connect to our interests. Whether it be music, sports, whales, skydiving or yoga, once our students have developed interests we can nurture their authentic learning by encouraging them to pursue new knowledge and skills that contribute to a deeper understanding of these interests. 

Problem Solving:

Sometimes related to our curiosities and interests and sometimes not, problems are the ultimate catalyst for learning. Have a flat tire? Better learn how to put on a spare. Lights not working? Better learn about how to repair a blown fuse. Feelings overly stressed? Time to inquire into mindfulness. By presenting our students with authentic problems and having the patience to allow them to work through the problem-solving process (which often is much messier and much more time consuming than traditional school encourages) we can engage their inner innovator and activate true, authentic and purposeful learning. Or, we can harness their interests and curiosity by asking them the question, “what are you going to do with all that you have learned?” then sit back and watch as their innate problem-solving brain goes to work figuring out ways to apply their learning in order to serve the world around them. 

Where does the role of assessment fit into all of this? I think what we, as educators, can do is continue to support our students along the path of developing their curiosities into interests and honing those interests to the point that they can use them to create solutions to real problems. Along this journey we can support our students by providing feedback, encouragement, modelling new skills, pointing them in the direction of new resources, helping them make social connections and empowing them to see themselves as competent, capable and contributing learners. 

In order to provoke curiosity, nurture interests and allow problem-solving to take place, we don’t need traditional assessment – let’s let the natural processes of being human be the engine that drives learning instead. 

The Power of Student Voice at the Planning Table

Climate change is a big deal.

This is an issue that the whole world should be talking about, thinking about and planning for. They are at the Paris Climate Change Conference, and they are in the classrooms at my school. Recently, Ministers from Kuwait committed to help in combating climate change – a pretty amazing step for a country whose economy is based primarily on fossil fuels. This action, like most significant actions have the tendency to do, has galvanized our students around what they can do to help the environment in our school community. Here is the story of how our MYP 1 teachers invited student voice to the planning table…

Students in an MYP 1 Science class reviewed the article about Kuwait’s commitment to battling climate change and brainstormed a list of over twenty possible actions they could take to have a more positive impact on the school environment. In fact, what they essentially created was a two year plan for the implementation of a recycling program, campaign against plastic water bottles and eventually the installation of solar panels. Further to this, they broke down what disciplines would be needed to help them in facilitating their goals – not bad for a group of ten year old students on an average school day in late November. Their Science teacher, sensing something awesome was in the works, contacted me with the plan that her students generated, excited to bring this to the rest of the MYP 1 team.

Now, the MYP 1 team was currently in the throes of developing a pretty awesome interdisciplinary unit, but when student voice is your priority, you can’t be shy about pressing the pause button on your “teacher business”. One of my favourite sayings is that students should be working on the same type of problems adults are working on and this fits that criteria perfectly!

I went to the class that generated the list, and we held a quick and impromptu election of student representatives who would be willing to speak on behalf of the entire MYP 1 year at an upcoming interdisciplinary unit planning meeting. While these students were excused from class in order to attend the meeting, I would argue that the skills and IB Learner Profile traits they are developing by representing their peers at the planning table is a unique opportunity that cannot be passed up.

Today the meeting was held and I was reminded how powerful student voice is and how inspiring it can be as an educator to plan alongside your students. Here are some of the moments that really stood out (remember all of these quotes are from our ten year old MYP 1 students):

“I think the work that we are doing will serve as an inspiration to other schools in the community and maybe even the government of Kuwait.”

“It’s not just about putting a recycling programme into place, it’s about brining awareness to environmental issues.”

And my favourite:

“For the Key Concept for this unit, I think we could go in three directions – we could explore Change because we are working to change peoples’ habits, it could be Systems because we are working to install a new system at the school, or it could be Communities, because this is a service that will benefit the whole school community.” 

At this point, the student looked at the group of nine teachers around the table and said, “What do you guys think?” – now that’s collaboration!

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Who better to plan the unit than the learners themselves? 

Our teachers were fantastic, involving the students in every facet of the conversation and really honouring their opinions. “How can Individuals and Societies help you learn more about this issue?”, one of our teachers asked. “Do you think you would be interested in…”, was a sentence-starter used by many of our teachers. Not once were the students talked down to, not once was a teacher afraid to disagree with a student and not once did the students feel intimated to share their opinion – even if that opinion was contrary to their teachers. How empowering must that feel to the learner? How inspiring must that be for the teacher?

Another benefit – the teacher engagement was off the chart. There was no idle chit-chat, no dwelling on classroom management issues, no getting distracted with lesson planning or grading, no talk of being busy or overwhelmed. When we invite the students to the planning table, we are reminded of why we do what we do. This is how we can make our work more significant, relevant and engaging.

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Student and teacher engagement was off the charts. 

I encourage and challenge you to plan your next unit in conjunction with your students. I have challenged our staff to do the same and will be sure to document their experiences in this space.

Do you have experience planning units with your students? How did go? 

Are we prioritizing the tradition of a report card over student learning? 

This week, a scary thing happened. 

Many of the teachers at our school are looking at our assessment calendar and noticing that we are in a definite time crunch before teachers will need to submit their grades for the first trimester reports. 

Traditionally, our teachers have been asked to submit a grade for each student in all four of their subject’s MYP objectives by this reporting date. Needless to say, with a truncated schedule due to holidays and valuable time spent building relationships at the beginning of the year (more on this later), many teachers are feeling short on time. 

“We’ll just give them a quick test to get a grade”. 

“Can we throw in a reflection to get a grade?” 

“This project sounds good, but let’s be honest, we just need to get a grade”. 

“The kids aren’t ready, but we need to get those grades in”. 

These are a few of the things I have heard during collaborative planning sessions this week. Teachers are doing their very best to accommodate our reporting schedule, but perhaps unfairly or inauthentically assessing their students in the name of “getting a grade”. 

It gets worse. I had a concerning enough number of teachers share this thought with me over the past week:

“I know we are encouraged to get to know our students at the beginning of the year and build relationships, and philosophically I support that…but practically, it seems like a waste of time. I wish I had gotten right down to preparing students for assessments instead of getting to know them, because soon I’m going to need to get my grades in”. 

This is not a verbatim quote, but it certainly captures many discussions I have had recently. Building relationships with our students a waste of time? Yikes. 

I know that none of our teachers believe this. I know they are saying this in light of reporting deadlines that are demanding and have them rightfully stressed out, but it’s still concerning. 

So let’s take a big step back: 

In the 21st century, is there a need for any school to still offer a traditional report card? Most schools have a live, online reporting system for student assessment, and even if a school doesn’t, it is quite simple for a teacher to leverage a shared Google Doc that can be updated with feedback, grades and all sorts of quality information to parents, as it happens. We often talk about relevant and timely learning, what about relevant and timely reporting of learning? As a parent, when am I more interested to see feedback on my child’s learning – as the assessment is happening, or at a predetermined “report card” date that may be months down the road? Even further, do I want my child engaging in assessments that have been designed solely with “getting a grade” in mind? 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for all traditional reporting practices to be revamped. On the contrary, I think student-led conferences with parents and teachers are amongst the most wonderful conversations that we, as educators, can have with the families of the children we teach. My concern rests with the seemingly dichotomous relationship between traditional “report card” structures and assessment that is learner-focused. Let’s not put our students in a position where “getting a grade” becomes the driving force behind how they share their learning – not only is it inauthentic, it does not honour the natural process of learning, which often does not fit with a predetermined schedule. 

How does your school handle reporting grades? 

Are report cards obsolete? 

Your class set up: to give students a voice, to help promote collaboration, or to elicit compliance?

This year during our staff orientation week, one of our colleagues presented on the dynamics of classroom set-up. He had just completed Masters work in how classroom design can impact student learning and with inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach, design thinkers and Starbucks, he shared a lot of great reserach to help our teachers prepare their physical spaces for the for the beginning of the year. 

When it comes to classroom set-up, it seems that there are three models often at play: eliciting compliance, promoting collaboration and honouring student voice. Since walking into your classroom is one of the first impressions students get about you, let’s take a look at these three models to see what the physical space of our classrooms might be saying to our students and what it might be saying about us as teachers. 

1) To Elicit Compliance

Usage: moderate 

Features: desks in rows, all students facing the front of the classroom, seats typically assigned by the teacher

This set up not only says to students, “I am in charge”, but it also says, “I own the learning”. By placing students in rows, all facing one location, we communicate that the teacher is the primary source of knowledge and that the majority of student learning will occur while they are looking at the teacher holding court at the front of the classroom. This also says to the students that they will be typically working on their own, on whatever business the board or teacher at the front of the room dictates. The assignment of seats tells students that the teacher owns their decision-making over where they work best and communicates to the student that they are in a particular seat for a reason. 

2) To Promote Collaboration 

Usage: high

Features: desks in groups, students facing a variety of ways, seats either assigned or chosen 

This popular set-up says to students, “You will need to work together!”. It also communicates that a majority of the learning will occur with one’s peers, rather than with one’s teacher. Students know when they walk into a classroom with groups that the class is probably going to be rooted in inquiry and discussion. This set-up tells students that they will be engaging in learning experiences, rather than lessons. Assigned seats typically communicates a strategic variance in groups based on skill level, while student choice of seats promotes autonomy and the idea of figuring out whom you best work with. 

3) To Give Students a Voice

Usage: low

Features: flexible seating, class set-up designed by students, students’ cultures are taken into account in classroom design, students chose where and how they work

This set-up, although rarely used, communicates to students “you know how you learn best and your voice matters”. In this type of set-up, teachers will hand the reigns of classroom design over to their students and allow them, through a process like the MYP Desgin Cycle, to figure out how to set up the classroom in order to meet their learning needs. What this often looks like is flexible seating – areas for group, partner and individual work; workstations on the floor, workstations made up from comfortable furniture like exercise balls, beanbag chairs and stools. This type of set-up can accommodate both introverts and extroverts, allows for student-friendly social groupings (not social groupings dictated by the teacher) and generally creates a comfortable, yet dynamic learning environment. By allowing students to chose where and how they work, the teacher is showing that they respect the voice of the students in their classroom and that the students are valued as important decision-makers in the learning process. 

Of course, seating arrangement is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to how we engage with our students. Nonetheless it is work examining the message that a teacher can send to his or her students via the choices they make (or don’t make) regarding the classroom space. 

How do you set up your classroom? 

What is your experience with these models of classroom set-up? 

A more student-centred MYP: Drawing inspiration from TEDed chatters 

A few days ago, I was able to participate in a TEDed chat that was inspired by this TED Talk from the venerable Sir Ken Robinson

Participants spent about an hour discussing the following four provoking questions, based on Sir Ken’s ideas: 

1) Linearity is evident in the K-12 education system. How can we revolutionize this? 

2) Do you believe education today dislocates students from their natural talents? If so, how? 

3) What are your thoughts on school reform? 

4) How can we transform what we’ve always done? 

The participation was robust, but throughout the chat I noticed one common theme – a call for schools to be more student-centred and more concerned with honouring student voice and choice. Here are a few sample responses from the chat (you can check them all out by reading this Storify couristy of @makingoodhumans:  


This chat got me thinking about the MYP unit planning process, at least in the way I am familiar with it, and how teacher-centred it tends to be. As teachers, we collaborate to select Key and Related Concepts and Global Contexts. As teachers we write the Statement of Inquiry. As teachers we decide how students will demonstrate learning and select the criteria by which students will be assessed. As teachers we create task-specific clarifications for our assessments. All of this goes on behind closed doors – albeit with best intentions – but behind closed doors nonetheless. 

I know at our school, our teachers work tirelessly through a rigorous unit development protocol to try to design units that are going to excite, engage and energize their students. We have also found great benefit in inviting students into the unit planning process. However, no matter how student-focused our unit planning sessions are, in the end, this is still learning being done to students, rather than learning that is a reaction to student voice and choice. In light of this, I wanted to make a few suggestions of how we, as MYP teachers, can shift our processes to honour our students’ autonomy, interests and agency. 

Please note, many of these suggestions run contrary to the MYP framework and are meant to challenge not only MYP teachers, but the programme itself.

1) Inquire into the MYP itself – both the what and the why: 

Starting in MYP 1, and scaffolded each year thereafter, students should have the opportunity to critically inquire into the MYP. What is the Middle Years Programme? Why was it created? What are its underlying philosophies? What are its strengths? Its weaknesses? How does the MYP unit development process work and why do we use it? Once students are able to construct their own understanding about why the programme is the way it is, they will be better equipped to take advantage of its benefits and understand the reasons behind what is going on in the classroom. This inquiry begins to shift the narrative from school as something that is done to the students to school as a participatory experience for the students. 

2) Have students create an ATL inventory that they monitor and take responsibility for throughout the programme: 

The development of ATL skills is something that is seen as a major asset within the MYP. By encouraging students to take inventory of their ATL skill development throughout the course of the programme, they can develop a personalized plan for developing the skills that are relevant to them, as they become relevant. This can look as simple as each student choosing an ATL skill they wish to develop during a certain period of time each year and creating a plan for monitoring their own progress, to students identifying their own ATL skills for development in each unit, in each subject. I recognize that this would mean a departure from the typical unit planning process whereby teachers choose the ATL skills for each unit, but I think if we are truly honouring our students as capable learners, we need to support them in making these decisions on their own, based on their needs and interests. 

3) Have students decide how they will be assessed: 

Along the same lines as having students identify their own ATL skills for development, we need to allow students to decide how they would like to have their learning assessed in each unit. I see teachers work incredibley hard to try and come up with creative and authentic assessment opportunities for their students. While they have the best interests of their students in mind, this type of planning is still external and does not honour student voice and choice. There is a body of research which points to the merits of students developing their own means of assessment – not only will this save teachers from the struggle of guessing what type of assessments will engage students, it puts the onus for learning onto the learners’ shoulders and shows our students that we trust them to demonstrate learning in a way that acknowledges their interests and strengths. 

4) Allow students to create individualized task-specific clarifications: 

If number three seems like too much of a stretch, having students develop their own task-specific clarifications for assessments is a great way to encourage student participation in the learning. Again, there is a body of research that suggests student development of assessment criteria to be beneficial to the learning process. At our school, many teachers work with their classes to co-develop task-specific rubrics that are used for each assessment. While this is an excellent practice, it still creates too much standardization to really be considered as honouring student voice. If we truly want to honour our students’ voice and choice, we need to move away from standardized one-size-fits-all rubrics and move towards individually created rubrics…or ideally, towards no rubrics at all – but that’s a subject for another post

5) Create units with your students, from top to bottom: 

If students have been given the opportunity to inquire into the MYP and its processes, a great way to honour student voice and choice is to develop a unit, with your students, from top to bottom. Not only does this involve students directly within the planning process (moving away from “secret teacher business“), but it allows teachers the opportunity to model and discuss democratic decision-making processes as students work together to plan the unit. We have tried this on a small scale, but I am interested to see how it might work on a larger scale. 

6) Have students create their own, individualized units:

My final suggestion comes with the acknowledgement that this runs completely contrary to the type of internal standardization that the MYP looks for in its unit planning process, however, I think it is a necessary step if we are serious about respecting and honouring student voice and choice within the MYP. I would like to see students given the autonomy to create their own individualized units. Using their inquiry into the programme, their own personal interests and curiosities, their ATL skills inventory and support from their teachers, students would certainly be able to create their own units that are based on their natural, intrinsic curiosity and creativity. For schools using state or national curriculua, this would mean further inquiry into the required standards prior to engaging in this process, which would again allow for incredible conversations surrounding the orgins of curricula, who creates curricula, for what purposes and why certain learnings are deemed “important” while others are not. 

This to me would be the pinicle of balancing the frameworks and goals of the MYP, with processes that truly honour our students as capable, independent and valued learners. It would require the IB to re-write some of its frameworks in order to make these processes possible, a step that I see as necessary in order to make the programme more inclusive. 

Right now, too many decisions regarding the what and how of the learning are in the teachers’ hands. If we are going to participate in the type of educational revolution that many are calling for, this will need to shift and students will need to be given more (and I would argue all) of the control over their own learning. 

The encouraging part of this conversation, is that much of this honouring of our students’ voice and choice starts with you, this upcoming school year and the decisions you make to involve your students in their own learning. Open up these conversations with your colleagues, administrators and students and see the amazing places you can go together. 

How are you planning on honouring your students’ voice and choice within your classroom? 

What else does the MYP need to change in order to be more inclusive? 

Caught between two worlds – An MYP Educator’s Response

Please note that these are simply my opinions and not those of the IB.

As she often does, my wife provoked my thinking this morning with her post regarding PYP assessment and strategies such as success criteria, exemplars and bump-it-up walls. It’s a great read, but to sum it up here in a nutshell, Taryn questions whether these three strategies actually promote learning, or if they instead simply assist students in “doing school”. Earlier this year, David Didau similarly provoked my thinking in his article “Why I struggle with learning objectives and success criteria”. I wanted to take the opportunity to weigh in on something that, like my wife, I continue to struggle with in an MYP environment.

Success Criteria: In the MYP, we are charged with creating task-specific clarifications for students with regards to assessment tasks. Often these come in the form of rubrics created by teachers. To this end, I feel that we are stealing the students thinking if we do not let them determine their own criteria for success on tasks. This is echoed by researchers (Tomlinson, 1995; McTighe & Ferrara, 1998; Yeshiva & Harada 2007; Kohn 2006), who advocate for rubrics to be, at the least, co-constructed by teachers and students and who point out that when rubrics are simply given to students, autonomy is lost and students become less focused on the process of learning.

Exemplars: I had a teacher come to me yesterday and exclaim, “I hate exemplars!”, as one of his students had recently submitted an assignment that was, essentially, a copy of the teacher-created exemplar. While this is surely not an isolated incident, I don’t mind exemplars if they are used correctly, because they allow students to develop a means by which to create their own success criteria. In fact, I think exemplars can be an integral part of the inquiry process – if students are given the opportunity to find their own exemplars, rather than always being presented teacher-selected exemplars. Which leads me to…

Bump-it-up Walls: I have serious beef with bump-it-up walls. I find them to be inauthentic and in no way indicative of the learning process. Learning is messy. Learning is trial and error. Learning involves making mistakes, and seeking improvement through inquiry. Bump-it-up walls give students too much opportunity to practice mimicry over learning. No one has ever provided me with an explicit picture of how to “bump up” my unit planner, or the collaborative planning meetings I facilitate, or the way I make Cesar salad. In real life there aren’t ready-made exemplars for you to follow to improve your personal or professional self: there is no way for us to bump up solutions to the type of novel, authentic problems we want our students wrestling with; these exemplars exist only the realm of “doing school”.

Aside from my own personal feelings, from an MYP standpoint, the biggest thing that makes me uncomfortable with these three things is the wording of the MYP achievement levels for students with an overall achievement of level of 6 or 7 in an MYP course: “Produces…ocasionally innovative” or “produces…frequently innovative work”. If provided with success criteria by their teachers and exemplars for “bumping up”, how can a student possibility innovate? Here we run the risk of celebrating students who are successful at “doing school”, rather than students who are exemplifying the IB Learner Profile traits of being risk-takers, thinkers and inquirers.

This thinking leads me back to something I am a huge proponent of – student developed assessment. When the students are the ones developing the assessments, they are creating their own success criteria, finding their own exemplars and devising methods for discovering how they can “bump up” their own work, in their own way. Herein lies the opportunity for innovation – through genuine student inquiry into the process of how to effectively solve problems and share learning with others.

I think we need to examine what our goals are for education. If our goal is student achievement, then certainly these three things are extremely helpful. However if our goals is to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect” as the IB mandates, I am not sure that these things help us achieve this mission.

However, to echo my wife, I am not sure and I’d love to hear different perspectives on this. Where do you stand on the use of these three elements within an MYP classroom? How can we make effective use of success criteria, exemplars and bump-it-up walls in order to reach the mission of IB schools? Can we?