Twitter, Professional Development and MYP

This has to be the best weekend for all-around professional development – bar my MYP Workshop Leader Training – that I’ve ever had. And the best part: I very rarely left the comfort of my house. With the 21st Century Learning (#21CHK)  conference taking place in Hong Kong and the MYP Workshops (#MYP) taking place in Bangkok, I had my two main areas of interest covered. Add to that the webinar given by Dr. Helen Barret on e-portfolios, sponsored by Classroom 2.0, and I was set.

The MYP Octagon

This is by far the liveliest Twitter discussion on MYP I have ever seen. One aspect stood out in particular: How does MYP prepare students for Theory of Knowledge in the Diploma Program? Eric MacKnight weighed in with his feelings on his blog and he bring up some very good points about the implementation of TOK. A major concern is that “students have little or no experience thinking about the sort of issues that arise in TOK.” His solution:

So let’s solve two problems at once. A weekly or biweekly ATL course in the Middle Years program would provide an opportunity to address learning habits and skills explicitly, and to engage in the kind of age-appropriate discourse that would give students invaluable practice thinking about how they think, so that when they arrived for their first TOK class in Grade 11 they would resemble fish in water, instead of deer in headlights.

This is a very logical solution for the TOK issue except, as my friend and (ex-) colleague Adrienne pointed out “the idea of ATL as [a] separate course is directly in opposition of philosophy of MYP’s AOIs.” (emphasis added)

The MYP, when practiced conscientiously, is a very good program. It has taken me years to be able to write that sentence – when I first laid eyes on it in 2002, I hated the MYP. Part of the problem I had, I realize now, was that I was looking at it from a Diploma Program point-of-view. There were too many things that I felt it didn’t do to prepare my students for the content -heavy IB Diploma. I didn’t buy in fully to Interdisciplinary Units (IDUs). I didn’t fully understand the importance or centrality of the Areas of Interaction (AOIs). (In my defense, neither did very many other people. With the recent release of the document “From Principles to Practice” (.pdf 1.26 MB) it has become much clearer. This is a must read – cover to cover – if you are an MYP teacher.) In short, I was teaching my MYP courses like they were Diploma courses.

The MYP is not designed to be a pre-IB Diploma course. It’s organization and structure do not explicitly follow from or lead into the Diploma Program**. The only thing that seemingly binds them is the IB Learner Profile. But if you teach MYP for the sake of MYP, if you use the AOIs to give focus to your units, if you use significant concepts to forge links between subject areas, if you strive to integrate the Approaches to Learning skills into every lesson, students will be well prepared to tackle any content-focused Diploma course, including Theory of Knowledge.

Thanks to @melanievrba, @krea_frobro747, @BrianLockwood, @ericmacknight, and  @amichetti for a fantastic discussion. I hope we can do this again!

** – While the organization and structures of all three IB levels (including PYP) are all explicitly different, I would like to see the introduction of a common vocabulary between the three programs. That would make everybody’s life so much easier!