During our staff orientation, we decided to look at building a common understanding about teaching and learning through the question of why. This approach to analyzing our beliefs, our school's belief and the International Baccalaureate's (IB) beliefs enabled us to write common belief statements and became a part of our staff essential agreement. Simon Sinek's idea of changing the order of thew way we sell things from the what we do to the why we do what we do is far more sellable (2011). This approach to building a common understanding strongly appealed to me for several reasons. When we, as educators, agree to work at a school, in essence we are agreeing to promote the mission of that school. In addition, when that school is IB PYP, there is an additional agreement to consider and that is the mission and vision of the IB. Finally, every educator has his/her own philosophy of education which is a strong influence on pedagogical decisions about teaching and learning. I saw this approach as the means of bringing the three ideas together.
We began this journey by using a Venn Diagram with three circles to collaboratively analyze the following:
MEF IS beliefs
IB PYP beliefs
The step was for the staff to discuss their personal beliefs about teaching and learning together in collaborative groups. These beliefs were recorded on the circle for personal beliefs. Then I asked them to read the MEF International School mission statement and vision to identify the beliefs of our organization. Afterwards, everyone read the mission statement of the IB. When all the beliefs were identified, I asked them to begin to find the common themes and write those in the center. From those ideas in the center, I asked them to write one big idea statement. These belief statements were recorded and posted in the center of our concentric circle under 'why.'
Throughout the remainder of our orientation we reviewed the school's expectations about teaching and learning, policies and procedures as well as the nitty gritty of teaching. Details about 'how' and 'what' were slowly added by the staff as an exit ticket each day. Below you can see how our draft appeared at the orientation as well as the Venn Diagrams. It was a worthwhile process from which we were able to create a printed version for everyone to post in their classrooms as a reminder of what we believe about teaching and learning as a staff. It strengthened our commitment to implement both the school and IB mission statements.
Sinek, S. [Tedx Talks]. (2011, April 6). First why and then trust [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VdO7LuoBzM
Tunguz, T. (2015, July 13) When selling, start with the why [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/when-selling-start-why-tomasz-tunguz/
It is the beginning of a new academic calendar year which fills us all with anticipation about the teaching and learning that will be taking place, the relationships we will build and the challenges we will face and conquer. As an inquiry school, facilitating the IB Primary Years Programme, we are currently asking ourselves the question, ‘how can we grow as an inquiry school?’ As a staff, we have begun to reflect on our beliefs about inquiry as well as our current understandings. We are considering our process throughout each stage of the inquiry cycle developed by Kath Murdoch. Our staff are acknowledging what we do well and looking at the areas that we want to improve. As lifelong learners, this should be an annual process and lead us to continuous process improvement at MEF IS.
To better facilitate this reflective process, we are participating in a staff inquiry into Turkey. As the PYP Coordinator, I posed the question, ‘what do you wonder about Turkey?’ This question has lead us into a free inquiry about Turkey to delve into any area of interest, be it historical, cultural, geographical, current events, fashion, economics, cuisine or entertainment. This approach allows for freedom of choice which makes the learning relevant to each teacher individually as all will be inquiring into their own questions about Turkey. As we find ways to answer our questions, we hope to rediscover the process of learning something new through the lens of the learner. If we become aware of the many ways we can inquire into answering our own questions generated through personal curiosity, then we can apply this in the classroom to improve inquiry at MEF IS.
You may be curious and wondering what I mean exactly. I would encourage you to ponder the same question we are considering. What do you wonder about Turkey? Identify your personal curiosity and begin to follow the stages of the inquiry cycle to not only answer your question but deepen your understandings about Turkey and act. Action can be a shift in pre-conceived ideas or it can be to share what you learned with others. Action takes many forms but it always brings change. Pay attention to process you follow to investigate.
What are the ways you inquire? Get to know yourself as a learner again. As educators, we watch our students to observe the ways they learn. This helps us to tailor our learning engagements to meet their needs throughout the entire inquiry process. How can we improve the teaching and learning cycle so that students find learning relevant and meaningful? I believe relevance is so key. It is like selling the why. Why are we learning this - how does it connect to reality and in what way will it help me later in life?
Recommended further reading
As an international educator, I work with colleagues in my local and global network regularly to implement inquiry through concept-based approaches to learning and teaching. It is a journey of discovery, learning and growing our own understandings about the ways children learn.
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