Friday, January 18, 2019

A Transdisciplinary programme of inquiry

In January 2018, the elementary teachers in our district's two PYP schools set out to explore the enhanced PYP content that make up the document "PYP: From principles into practice." Many thanks to elementary teachers and guest bloggers, Paulette Spafford and Dianne Spannbauer for authoring this post on a transdisciplinary programme of inquiry.

A Transdisciplinary programme of inquiry

Through the use of a transdisciplinary programme of inquiry, students in a PYP setting will be offered a balanced learning experience rooted in conceptual understanding and given opportunities to explore human commonalities. Teachers will work collaboratively to develop and continuously improve the six transdisciplinary themes in their programme of inquiry. The goal being that students will revisit the six transdisciplinary themes throughout their years in school and be provided an opportunity to extend their understanding on the themes.

Teachers in a PYP setting should be familiar with the six transdisciplinary themes. They are:

Transdisciplinary themes
Who we are
An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships, including families, friends, communities and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.
Where we are in place and time
An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between, and the interconnectedness of, individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.
How we express ourselves
An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.
How the world works
An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
How we organize ourselves
An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.
Sharing the planet
An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.
Figure POO1: Transdisciplinary themes

Our Recommendations:

1. In planning and preparing for the units, teachers and stakeholders in the community, should reflect on their current community of learners to better plan units that will meet the needs and honor the experiences of the learners. The teachers must also plan the units collaboratively, either vertically or horizontally.

All six units in the POI need the following:

  • Transdisciplinary Theme 
  • Central Idea 
  • Key Concepts 
  • Related Concepts 
  • Lines of Inquiry

2. Teachers must know that they are required to review and adjust their units at least annually. During the annual review process, teachers should be prepared to refine the central ideas and find ways to make them more balanced and  interconnected to the scope and sequence documents or to the local/national curriculum.
While planning and revising units, keep in mind that units should try to make connections with a global perspective. Consider finding connections in the following ways:

  • Culturally 
  • Ecologically 
  • Politically 
  • Economically 
  • Technologically
3. It is recommended that specialists and other members of the learning community are included in each step of the planning and review process.

4. Teachers need to help students understand that there is a connection between all subjects and teachers can support that by:

Moving from
Moving towards
Subjects as collections of related facts and isolated skills
Subjects as collections of key and related concepts, skills, theories, methodologies and examples that contribute to an understanding of how a subject connects to the central idea
Stand-alone subjects as the sole driver for learning
Subjects as part of transdisciplinary learning
Teaching subject-specific lessons in isolation from the unit of inquiry
Making connections between one subject and another in planned, spontaneous or incidental ways through units of inquiry
Subject-specific knowledge, conceptual understandings and skills viewed through the lens of age-specific development
Assessing prior knowledge and the needs of students before the selection of subject-specific conceptual understandings, knowledge and skills
Measuring students’ abilities within a subject only
Monitoring, documenting and measuring students’ capacity to understand and apply subject-specific knowledge, conceptual understandings and skills within authentic contexts
Figure POO6: Transdisciplinary learning across, between, and beyond subjects

Our Actions:

After reading through, “A transdisciplinary programme of inquiry” of the IB Document, “PYP: From principles into practice”, our personal action steps will be to:

  • Continue to meet regularly with our team and PYP Coordinator to reflect upon and plan for the units of inquiry 
  • Look for ways to integrate the new math curriculum (possible start date of Fall 2019) into our six transdisciplinary units in hopes of creating a better balance and understanding of connectivity for all students 
  • Advocate for more vertical planning and planning with specialists to better serve our learners
In summary, we wish you well on your journey of collaborative planning and reflecting as you attack with vigor and courage the new, enhanced PYP.


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