Stretching learning through action

The IB Global News, recently emailed to Coordinators and Heads of Schools, held clarified definitions of action in the continuum. Key to the MYP definition is this statement, “Through responsible action, tightly connected with sustained inquiry and critical reflection, students can develop the attributes described by the learner profile” (IB Global News, 2(7), 2014).

This statement holds many implications for an MYP programme. Attitudes or dispositions inherent in responsible action continue to impact how students manifest the learner profile in the MYP. (These dispositions might be more visible in PYP programmes, and perhaps might need to become more explicitly revisited in MYP programmes.)

Attitudes for the PYP Minion by Yuri Halushka.

Attitudes for the PYP Minion by Yuri Halushka.

Here are a few suggestions.

  • To perform responsible action, MYP students need curiosity to spark and sustain their inquiry into a need in a community.
  • Students need commitment and enthusiasm to plan a course of action to address a discovered need in a community.
  • They need to practice the attitude of cooperation so they might work with the community as they take action.
  • As they take action, they manifest respectful and tolerant attitudes. They might also experience empathy and exhibit integrity in their decisions as they take action.
  • Certainly taking action requires independence and confidence.
  • They may also gain confidence and strengthen their commitment as they reflect on learning.

In the above definition of action in MYP, a key to independent inquiry in MYP seems to hinge upon how opportunities for action are “tightly connected to sustained inquiry and critical reflection” (IB Global News, 2(7), 2014).

Service as action in the MYP gives students open-ended opportunities to pursue both sustained inquiry and critical reflection. When students are given an open-ended opportunity to inquire into service as action, they might naturally follow pathways to sustained inquiry. Curiosity is personal, and personal curiosity fuels itself, driving the manifest creative and critical thinking processes that learners might necessarily draw upon to investigate a problem that does not seem to have a readily apparent answer.

Beginning a line of inquiry for "healthy choices," MYP3 student.

Beginning a line of inquiry for “healthy choices,” MYP3 student.

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Questions from MYP3 students.

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Service personalizes learning. A question from MYP3 student.

Service learning presents opportunities for students to engage in cyclical, iterative  learning; critical thinking and reflective practices within the inquiry cycle manifest as student sustain authentic inquiries. Service learning personalizes a student’s learning, presenting the student with a key to sustained, meaningful engagement.

The phrase “tightly connected” deliberately prompts reflection for MYP educators. “MYP has a lot of moving parts,” our MYP-DP librarian Kelsey Hedrick once said. Implementation for us means taking all these moving parts in MYP and co-constructing their integration.

Perhaps we might witness this integration within the students’ inquiries into service as action. In the photo below, we see students classifying their questions according to ways of approaching research.

Ways to approach research in service learning by MYP3

Ways to approach research in service learning by MYP3

They rehearse their understanding of research approaches collaboratively as they classified their questions into a whole-class chart.

Ways to approach research by MYP3.

Ways to approach research by MYP3.

Service as action is “tightly connected” to approaches to learning. A few ATL skills made visible in these photos might be research skills, collaborative skills, thinking skills. But we also anticipate the rehearsal of many more skills that students might draw upon as they pursue their inquiries into service as action. These anticipated skills that students might draw upon hinge on their attitudes or dispositions.

They must persist (ATL skill) and commit (attitude) to be inquirers (Learner Profile attribute). They need to be mindful of others (ATL skill) in order to be tolerant and respectful (attitudes) as they demonstrate principled action (LP). They practice academic honesty (attitude) through sound research skills (ATL skills) in order to continually be the critical thinker (LP) they need to be in this protracted, authentic inquiry.

MYP 3 students stretching in the middle of their service learning workshop.

MYP 3 students stretching in the middle of their service learning workshop.

Service as action and the ways we give students these learning opportunities allow us to stretch learning in the MYP. Perhaps our students find continuity as they engage in the language and action expressing attitudes and dispositions. Maybe it’s following a sustained inquiry into something they discover holds creativity and passion for themselves. Certainly it stretches the reach of each element in the MYP, allowing our students to design learning that rehearses their skills in ways that nurture lifelong attitudes; creates tangible manifestations of how personal learning might become significant and meaningful to others; and expands the learner’s physical and cognitive learning environment beyond the text, the paper, beyond episodic performance into the possibility of sustained action.

Many thanks to Melinda Henson and her Community Project team for inspiration triggering this reflection, and  to Concordian MYP3 students for permission to use their work to illustrate this post.

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