Taking the PYP forward - Actions speak louder than words

I very much enjoyed this chapter.  Davidson is one of the stronger writers in this book and his voice shines through his words.  At first glance, I am struck by the image of a power law distribution.  A power law says that small events will happen in greater frequency than large events.  For example, earthquakes.  There are hundreds of earthquakes every day, but the vast majority are never felt by humans.  When a big one happens, we feel it.  That big one however, is very statistically rare when compared to the number of small ones.  There is something in here that is relevant to education (this is part of our M.Ed research project, looking for realizations in the math class and seeing if they fit power laws), but I am not entirely sure of what.  Davidson alludes to it with his sense of big actions and everyday actions.  Kids are taking action on a daily basis, though in our analysis of action as a concept, we tend to focus on the big events, and miss out on the small bits that are so important to being in the world.

The next aspect that struck me is the power of talk, especially in regards to reflection.  I see power law distributions at play here as well.  If reflection is to become a part of the disposition of learning that we are striving for, then do we need to hold off on the written reflections and allow for reflection to happen more spontaneously during the course of a day?  Stop for a moment and reflect with your partner.  Sit silently and reflect with yourself.  No need to record it, just the act of reflecting itself is what we are after.  All too often the reflection is tacked onto the end of the learning cycle, often in a methodized way (blog post, template, Color Symbol Image or other strategy, etc.).  These are great, but is this really what we are looking for?  They are very important, but are these just the big events in our power law distribution?  Are we paying enough attention to the common events, those everyday earthquakes that nobody feels, or are we just searching for that big one?

This has me thinking about how this will effect my day to day life with my students.  Perhaps, I don't need to see all their reflections?  Just orient attention to the fact that they are being reflective, or I am providing a space for them to reflect in?

Anyway, this chapter was about Action, not reflection!  Still, is there a difference?  How much of the action is reflective practice?  The problems we are asking our kids to consider are huge, wicked problems.  They are complex, and by breaking them down into smaller bite size pieces I often feel that we are doing our kids a dis-service.  The problems of the world cannot be solved with bake sales, or charity drives.  Let's look at climate change.  As a general requirement, it need a massive change in the way that we live.  All the posters about saving electricity and the feel good slogans we come up with for a green future are not going to do anything as long as we keep living the way we live.  I


Maybe, the best form of action is reflection?  To be aware of ourselves, our thoughts, and our connection with the world around us.  If we are mindful of the little common events, perhaps this reflective way of being will allow us to spot and act on the big, life changing stuff.


  1. Love this post and love following you on twitter!

    I am so addicted to learning all I can about the importance of reflection in learning. One thing that I have pondered is that reflection is inquiry and inquiry is action, so reflection is action. I see reflection often as an internal inquiry into making sense, which we have done as an action due to imbalance. To make further sense, I believe balance plays an important role in action. An awareness of disequilibrium in understanding triggers action, where action could be reflection (thinking about what one knows), inquiry (wondering or searching for balance) or an act (a change agent for self, others, the world, or etc.).
    I believe that your post is so important. We do not have to have a written record of reflection, yet we do have to make sure that reflection is an important part of learning for students. It cannot be relegated to the end of a unit or the last 10 minutes of the day, as so often happens. Reflection has to be intertwined within the learning, a formative assessment of sorts for the student.
    Great post to get me thinking...
    Chad Hyatt

  2. Thanks for the kind words Chad. I am trying to get my head around ways to reflect as a group and individually at many points throughout the day. It is not the product of the reflection that I am interested in, but the act of reflecting itself. How do I act as a steward for that type of reflection (or do I?) and how do I orient attention to reflection in process? And finally, how do I take this and not make it a task, but rather a natural entity within the learning....

  3. Hi There
    Taking the PYP Forward is still one of my favourites - and like MPYPH, every time I pick it up I discover something new. We are currently struggling with what constitutes action. As we are preparing for our evaluation and completing our self-study, the question has come up a number of times. Of all of the 5 elements - this is the one we are still struggling with.

    However, I personally think it is because somewhere along the way, we have come to the misconception that action must be 'life-changing' or 'wow'. one of our teachers asked "is children asking questions and student generated inquiry not action?" Well - that got us thinking....if we were inspiring and motivating students to ask questions and wonder why, or to provoke and question....was this not a form of action?

    So therefore as you stated above "Kids are taking action on a daily basis, though in our analysis of action as a concept, we tend to focus on the big events, and miss out on the small bits that are so important to being in the world." Just getting our kids to think, wonder, question, defend and be accountable has to have the effect we are looking and hoping for - life long learners that continue to wonder learn - past the formal learning 'time'. Is this not the best 'action' we can hope for? If these are the children we are sending out into the World - how can it not be a better place? (OR am I being too idealistic here?)

    Through all of our own self-evaluations we have also been reviewing our reflections - we have started to now focus on the process of learning - and trying to get the children to document how their understanding has developed or changed through the unit. This is being experimented - and we continue to work on it using strategies such as " I used to think, now I know", adding to a mind map each week in a different colour to show progress. Sharing their thinking with a friend, defending their beliefs or understandings within a group. We are being amazed by the kids every day and at times are struggling to keep up! But I do believe we are on the right track....and with this questioning, development of understanding, reflection, we are leading to student initiated - inquiries...and action (?). This approach seems to be working so much better than just a reflection at the close of the unit, which we are still doing as part of our feedback or portfolio piece - but know it seems to have more essence and is deeper than it was before...because we now have evidence or the learning or change in thinking that the children can review themselves.

    I would love to hear your thoughts or insights. We are still unraveling the PYP Puzzle, but it is now beginning to feel that little more comfortable....(until we change it up again!!)


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