Assessing Understanding: Looking for feedback (Pt. III)

I have come a long way from the first post and the second. I see now how the conceptual understanding has evolved. I knew that the first unit was topical, but I was hoping to get to the concepts through the topic. Usually I do not do this, but since this topic is right outside our window, in our everyday life, I was hopeful (more on this later). Still, I find the latest incarnation to be the most effective and gives us the most room to play.

Pt 1

Pt 2

Pt 3 (latest)

The topical-ness of the unit is gone. We can still look at the Danube in regards to all these, but it also gives us room to branch out and look further. I like this, even though I am still partially in love with the idea of place based unit of inquiry. It gives them more room to navigate and leaves space for self-directed inquiry.

As for the rubric (which was the point of all this, and goes to show how the overarching structure is so important) is much more conceptual.

This time I focused on the verbs in each box. I am still thinking about a comment on the second post about how four boxes is better than three, as people will tend to be themselves in the middle one, and having a fourth requires a bit more thought. I agree with this, but for the time being I am following the schools assessment framework. I actually think that this would be a great activity to do with students, but for my first go, I wanted to hash it out myself. In the future, I may try to develop these with the kids.

Thanks to my wonderful PLN and sorry for those whose comments got lost. I still have no idea why that happens but am looking into it.

This wheel helped me to develop the markers in the rubric. I used this to focus on what the thinking skill behind the assessment will be. Using this language, the kids can now create and define their own assessments. This is exciting, as I am very curious about what they will come with, and how this artefact will help them (or not). The learning is just beginning.

Something I am still curious about...

As much as I love this, and I do, I am still curious about the difference between a unit such as this (one that is completely conceptually planned from the outset) and one that is topical (not in the dirty word sense, thematic units masquerading as inquiry, but more in relational to Place Based Learning). I think in both units, we have the potential to focus on concepts, but we are doing it from different directions.

Concept Driven - obviously the concepts are the ideas that drive the inquiries. I can use the Danube and our local environment as provocations to understand the given concepts. Start with the concepts, connect with the topic and beyond. This is the way most (if not all) PYP unit of inquiry are structured. It has worked, and continues to work. We start big, zoom in, then connect elsewhere, and zoom back out to focus again on the big ideas. It is fluid, yet guided and organized. The teacher is searching for data about how well the students understand the concepts.


Place Based Unit - What if we start with the place, and then zoom out, connect with the rest of the world, and discover what concepts we are really looking into. I don't think this is a terrible way to inquire, as often the things we are most curious and passionate about are the things that are around us. We can still focus on concepts, but rather than define the concepts at the beginning, we are mindful of what concepts are emerging and we focus on them as they come into the students questions and inquiries. This is more fluid, and more unknown. Sometimes you don't know the road to take until you step into it. Here the teacher is supporting students and drawing attention to the concepts that they find themselves in. Then, we assess and search for data.

Of course there are risks and benefits of either. It all depends on how in control of the inquiries the students are. I think in a structure like PYP, the first is obviously better, as that is the way it is designed! Yet, I wonder what it would look like if there was less structure and more freedom to let the ideas and concepts grow and expand with the students. Which is more real? Which allows students to better develop questions, follow their curiosity and passions, and focus on concepts and learning?

I have no idea.


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