PYP Candidate School: Student Skills

October 20, 2017--I’ve truly enjoyed our PYP coffee talks over the past month and look forward to continuing our discussions on the topics of home learning, assessment, and language. In earlier articles I addressed the following questions:

  • What do we believe an international education to be? (Learner Profile)

  • What do we want our students to know about? (Knowledge)

  • What do we want our students to understand? (Concepts)

Today, I want expand on our previous PYP curriculum discussions and take a look at skills. To do so, we must address this core question:

What do we want our students to be able to do?

Students in the PYP program construct meaning and develop their understandings. This process is complemented by opportunities to acquire a wide range of skills. The PYP program stresses that skills are best developed through authentic inquiry, rather than taught separately in subject-focused isolation.

When students learn through separate subject areas, such as math and language arts, they acquire literacy skills and numeracy skills. Though these skills are foundational tools for initial inquiry, they are inadequate-- they fall short of conducting the purposeful inquiry of a lifelong learner.

We are committed to developing internationally minded students who understand the complexities of multicultural social systems and can problem solve in order to creatively articulate a pathway to a better world.

Through the PYP program, our students master a range of skills that reach beyond what has been considered adequate in traditional subject-based school systems.

Transdisciplinary skills, as taught in the PYP, are not only relevant to all subject areas but transcend the boundaries of learning and apply to the complexities of our students’ lives. Each unit of inquiry will provide opportunities to develop and apply a range of transdisciplinary skills. These skills fall under five domains:

  1. Thinking skills

  2. Social Skills

  3. Communication skills

  4. Self-management skills

  5. Research skills

Each domain has a set of specific skills that define the tools required to develop proficiency with regards to any given inquiry process and eventually lifelong learning experiences.

An example of skill development through authentic exploration in a unit of inquiry might look like the following 5th grade unit of inquiry. This unit provides opportunities for our students to transcend the traditional boundaries of subject based skill acquisition.

An Example Unit of Inquiry: Grade 5

Transdisciplinary Theme: Who we are.

Title: All you touch and all you see.

Central idea: Identity and perspective are founded in memories.

Key Concepts: Causation, change and perspective.

Exploration: Students will develop connections to the central idea through a variety of activities that build their understanding regarding the nature of memories, the past’s effect on the present, and how life experiences form our points of view.

Summative Assessment: Students will endeavor to create a timeline to visually express their understanding of the central idea and they will compose a five paragraph memoir to articulate their connections to the past’s effects on the present, as well as how their own life experiences create their current point of view.

Transdisciplinary skills: Transdisciplinary skills are valuable not only in the units of inquiry but also for teaching and learning that goes on outside the classroom. This unit’s transdisciplinary skills follow the five domains:

  1. Thinking skills: Students will utilize thinking skills as they evaluate the events in their lives and the resulting changes in their perspectives. This requires analysis, application, evaluation and metacognition.

  2. Social skills: Students will practice social skills as they take on and complete tasks with extended deadlines. They will listen to their classmates, recognizing other beliefs, values and viewpoints. This requires responsibility, respect, ownership.

  3. Communication skills: Students will hone communication skills by composing the memoir and creating the timeline. This requires listening, speaking, presenting, reading and writing.

  4. Self-management skills: Students will practice self-management skills while they compose, edit and publish their memoirs and create their timeline projects. This requires meeting deadlines, organizing data and developing academic stamina.

  5. Research skills: Students will develop research skills as they gather information for the memoire and timeline. This requires formulating questions, collecting, recording and organizing data, and presenting findings.

Next week we will discuss “attitudes” and address what we want our students to value and demonstrate.

Have a great weekend,

Brad Chumrau


The International School of Dakar

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