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As usual, I am undecided about what I want to do for my final project in COETAIL, not because I can’t think of any but because I can think of too many! After some thought, I’ve narrowed it down to these… But even these are subject to change!

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Idea #1- Design Thinking in Grade 4

This 2-week stand-alone unit is focusing on cultivating the mindsets and skillsets of the Design Thinking process and will lay a strong foundation for the next Grade 4 unit on How The World Works, which is also their mini-exhibition. In this short unit, students will move through each phase of the design process to solve an authentic problem submitted by members of the community. The following section will outline the skills and standards for this unit:

Skills focus:

  • Gain and practice empathy for end-users
  • Generate solutions and ideas to solve the problem
  • Develop a plan with teammates for solving the problem
  • Collaborate with team members to design and test solutions
  • Build or create models/prototypes with groups for end-users
  • Revise and test designs based on feedback given

ISTE Standards for Students:

4- Innovative Designer- Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

  • 4a Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • 4b Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • 4c Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • 4d Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

6- Creative Communicator- Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

  • 6c Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
  • 6d Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

This project reflects a nice culmination of the learning I’ve experienced throughout my COETAIL journey, with special attention to student agency, frameworks for deep learning and educators as partners in authentic learning tasks. Although aspects of this unit will be similar to other project-based learning I’ve been a part of, it’s quite different in many ways. One way it’s different is that it is a quite condensed unit with only 2 weeks to move through the cycle from beginning to end. Another difference is that it is being intentionally focused around the Design Thinking Model with an emphasis on mindsets and processes over finished products. One final difference to highlight is the strong alignment with our school’s mission to embed 21st-century skills as a means to nurture future-ready individuals.  

AISG Website- Mission & Vision

This unit encompasses many of the elements from the COETAIL course and supports the ISTE certification work I’m currently undertaking to showcase learning in my role. It lends itself well to documentation and evidence collection for many of the ISTE Standards for Students and Educators, but also acts as an example of the dynamic, compassionate and connected learning experiences our school seeks to achieve through its mission and vision statements. As seen in the below descriptors, this project fulfills several of the requirements for ‘bold and transformative’ projects.

Evidence from this unit will come in many forms and may differ slightly depending on each group’s Design Thinking task and team needs, but all groups will complete the following that can be used for evidence of learning and formative assessment.

  • Client interview forms– students will ask questions and record responses to ensure they have a good sense of the end-user in the empathy stage of the Design Thinking cycle.
  • Planning sheet– students will work through the planning phase as they brainstorm and design solutions for their clients’ problems.
  • Anecdotal records and feedback forms from teachers– all clients are teachers at the school who are going to be recording their interactions, observations and feedback for design teams they’re mentoring
  • Iterations and final products– these can be used as evidence of learning, especially in the iteration phase of the cycle, even though they’re not the most important parts.
  • Individual and peer reflections– students will reflect in the format of their choice at each stage of the Design Thinking cycle. These are the most valuable pieces for measuring student experiences and learning.

My biggest concern about this unit is that the team has never done this before and that there are only 2 weeks to move through the entire cycle. Additionally, there will be 8 student groups (5 students in each group) to mentor and oversee which seems stressful. Also, the risk of failure is higher than other units, but that could also be seen as an exciting part of the process, not merely a concern.

The pedagogical shifts for me and the Grade 4 teachers are mostly around increasing student agency and taking risks as educators to try things that are likely to may fail. The learning tasks designed for this unit also require that we give control and power over to the students more than in other units I’ve seen. This unit will also help students develop a variety of different mindsets and skillsets, specifically as they relate to the PYP Learner Profile, Approaches to Learning and the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices. These include the following:

Learner Profile Attributes– Open-Minded, Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, and Risk-Takers

Approaches to Learning– Social Skills, Thinking Skills and Self-Management Skills

NGSS Science & Engineering Practices– Asking questions and determining problems, planning and carrying out investigations, and designing solutions. 

Idea # 2- Personalized Inquiry & Passion Projects in Grade 2

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Under the new PYP Enhancements release last year, units of inquiry can now be stretched across an entire school year, and this unit is an example of that. The part of this How We Express Ourselves unit that will be redesigned is the added component of personalized inquiry (also called iTime or Passion Projects). The second-grade team is interested in trialing this in the 2 weeks between Christmas and Chinese New Year breaks. To me, this is a good amount of time to try a new endeavor like this because the consequences of failure are lower than with a longer unit and, from what I hear, many students will be absent in these two weeks, so it seems best to not start a new unit. 

Students will be given a greater amount of agency by pursuing their own passions, but this will connect to the work done in their unit over the last 3 months, so it stands to be more successful and meaningful. By the end of the 2-week mini-unit extension, students will be able to choose a purpose for creating (to inform, to entertain, to solve a problem, to help others, etc.) and then create something that achieves that purpose. Additionally, students will be tasked with explaining their creation and its purpose in writing or verbally. They should understand that creativity takes many forms but always has a purpose. The skills that will be focused on in this part of the unit will be thinking skills, communication and self-management. Determining which ISTE Standards for Students will be used in this unit is difficult because of the amount of student agency given. Students may or may not elect to use digital technologies in the creation and/or reflection of their project, and each student’s topic and ideas will differ. If pressed to select the ones I think will be targeted most, I would say the following:
1- Empowered Learner- Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

  • 1a Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
  • 1c Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

3- Knowledge Constructor- Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

  • 3a Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

4- Innovative Designer- Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

  • 4a Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • 4b Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.

6- Creative Communicator- Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

  • 6c Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
  • 6d Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Several of the ideas explored throughout the COETAIL course connect seamlessly to this unit. From applying theories and becoming designers of deep learning tasks to empowering students to become contributors and facilitating learner-driven instruction, the unit provides ample opportunity for showcasing 21st-century learning and depth of student agency. This unit is similar to others in that it has been planned with the PYP elements in mind and that students will be familiar with the central idea, lines of inquiry and key concepts because the unit is really just being extended. However, it is different from other units because it’s a free inquiry model as opposed to the guided inquiry that’s generally seen. This is exciting because students will have a lot of voice, choice and ownership in their learning, but it’s also unpredictable with lots of potential for failure. 

After re-reading the project requirements for Course 5, I decided this would be a good option for the final project because of the collaborative work done together with the Grade 2 team with the goal of empowering learners and challenging the status quo to reimagine what the unit could be. 

All of these things are important to consider when thinking about the amount of evidence and documentation of student learning that will be needed in order to complete the project. Evidence of student learning in this portion of the unit can be collected in many ways:

  • Co-created learning goals- students will help develop their goals for the passion project as well as contribute to defining success
  • Planning documents- students will be empowered to plan their learning and tasks
  • Student reflections- these reflections will be done daily and will be varied in their format
  • Self-assessments and checklists- students will help generate success criteria and assess themselves against these multiple times in the unit
  • Final products and presentations- students will be sharing their creations with other classes, their learning buddies in Early Years and with parents. There are feedback sheets for each audience category. This will act as feedback for their final product and presentation.

I have a few concerns regarding this unit, but none that I don’t believe would be disastrous. Time is the biggest concern and constraint when evaluating this unit as an option for the Course 5 final project. With only 2 weeks for students to select a purpose and move through the creative process, it’s a lot to get through in such a short time. Another concern I have is that I haven’t yet made strong relationships or connections with all members of the team, so the interactions sometimes seem tense or forced. This could hinder the success of the project because I don’t have my own classes and am left to depend on a team that will collaborate with me.

The pedagogical shifts will be different for everyone on the team for many reasons. For myself, I still feel very new to the IB PYP and all of its layers and complexities, so I will be in a learning pit. The giving up of control as the teacher is also a pedagogical shift that needs to be made for this unit to be successful. Additionally, the partnerships needed for this unit to be transformative and meaningful for students will require that I spend a lot of time and effort building relationships with the teachers and students in Grade 2. 

This unit will help students develop a variety of different mindsets and skillsets, specifically as they relate to the PYP Learner Profile and Approaches to Learning.

These include the following:

Learner Profile Attributes– Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, and Risk-Takers

Approaches to Learning– Social Skills, Thinking Skills and Self-Management Skills