Taking the PYP Forward - Communities of Inquiry

I don't know, this article felt disjointed.  It was hard to follow and seemed to bounce from place to place.  I struggled to keep the central thesis in mind while I was reading.  At times it was focused on the individual, at other times the collective, and at other times the environment.  I really enjoyed it though!

At it's core, I read it as a defense of the social and collective intelligence of a classroom.  Yes, the tools of inquiry are great, and becoming fluent in them is important for life in the 21st century, but there is a larger layer atop of this.  It is not just about the individual, but the sense of collective, or community.  This lays the conditions for inquiry, as inquiry is not an individual process, but a collective one.

one has to make to make inquiry and its learning processes visible (pg 29)

This is exactly what I have been trying to do with my Making Thinking Visible work this year.

Developing Tools (pg 29)

I have trouble separating the physical tools from the psychological tools.  They are nested.  You cannot have one without the other.  They did not evolve separately, they co-evolved.  The importance of these tools in our culture and society, that is another question.  We absolutely value one over the other, but we often lose sight of the forest by starting at the trees.  We are obsessed with the psychological tools, and schools have a propensity to just throw away the rest and, as Ken Robinson says, educate the top of the head and slightly to the left.

Jazz musicianship is not individual, but social (pg 32)

What is we viewed teaching this way?  What is schools were more free flowing and allowed kids to make things as they go, follow their collective dreams and minds?  What if all of education was like a big game of improv drama?

Community of Readers (pg 32)

This is something I have been working hard at this year.  Trying to move the reading process away from the individual and into the realm of the collective.  Have you really read the book if you have not shared your thoughts on it with somebody else?

a class has shared purposes and values; shared classroom routines and activities; shared talk; and changing roles (pg 33)

A classroom is a culture.  It is like an ecosystem.  It is not a simple matter of opening the top of the container and pouring in the knowing.  I am glad the author is taking from Jean Lave, because she is a wonderful writer.  What this quote basically means to me is that a classroom is a complex adaptive system (and it is not just me and the books I read, it is becoming more mainstream, even Ken Robinson referred to education as a complex adaptive system).  Their is a host of research into the elements of complex systems, but this is touching on some of the major themes.
Redundancy and Diversity
To me this section of the article is drawing attention to the diversity of a class, but also the redundancy.  A system needs to be very redundant in order to communicate.  Think of the kids in your class.  I bet you will find there is more in common among them than there is difference.  The diversity allows for that same redundant group to be creative and to react in novel ways to an unknown stimulus.  This links in with Kathy Shorts ideas of tension in the previous chapter.  If you creating some great tension in your class, but not developing a community of inquiry, it won't be enough.  The tension needs a diverse collective for inquiry to soar.

IRF, Initiation, Response, Feedback (pg 35)

Ah, the old guess whats in the teachers head game!  I have written about this before, and how listening is such an important skill.  Evaluative listening (the example from the book) has its place, but if it is the norm then not much creativity will emerge.

I also really liked the bottom of page 35, Why do you say that?  Another visible thinking strategy.

Experts (pg 37)

I love the authors sense of how this plays out in the class.  It is beautiful.  However, I have a problem with the phrase thinking like a mathematician.  When a mathematician is thinking, they are using a complete set of tools to create a new and emergent result.  They have honed their understanding of the rules of math.  A child, not so much.  The difference is this, a mathematician is narrowing down, compacting rules and numbers to make them easier to understand.  The are trying to make the box smaller.  A child on the other hand, does not have all those tools, and then shouldn't the goal of teaching math to be expanding the box?  To make it bigger and broader?  To understand more about the language and discipline, and then start compacting it?  I struggle with this.

PYP has a complex curricular model (pg 40)

Yes, it does.  Their are many researchers, curriculum theorists, and teachers out there who are using the developed science of complexity to explain these process in the world of education.  I wonder how the PYP would be different if it adopted those metaphors, instead of the ones they already use?  Should it?  Is there a point?  That is an entirely different post waiting to happen.


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