Some 300+ questions were collected over the 4 meetings we held, too many to address individually so my pedagogical leadership team and I have grouped the like questions together and have framed our responses to these below.
Some questions were not around the conversation we had about what collaboration looks like in our OIS learning environment and although they were great questions they will not be answered in this blog post. Some questions were related to curriculum and these should be directed directly to our PYP coordinators.
The main groupings of questions were around:
The majority of questions were around some classes being grouped together in collaborative, flexible spaces and some classes not. This is quite right. The spaces we have in the school are not all conducive to the way we can flexibly group our children in the variety of spaces we have. We are always looking at how we can purposefully utilize our spaces in a more flexible way. Teachers collaborate together across the entire grade and the spaces we have are used in the best way the building allows us to at this point.
Four questions were related to the professional development provided for teachers to ready them for a collaborative classroom. At OIS the approaches to teaching this year are the same as they were last year, to focus on the child and the next steps in learning for the child. This is not new. Our professional development programme, both our internal professional development and our external professional development – where we give opportunities for our teachers to attend workshops, courses and conferences provided by external providers, is tailored to meet the needs of our teaching faculty. Collaboration was our focus last year and continues to be this year along with a focus on learning environments. In short are our teachers ‘adequately trained to handle all the changes’ - the answer is that this is an ongoing challenge which we meet through planning according to the professional needs of our teams. A further question was asked, “I thought that the model focuses on a teacher’s strengths for e.g. same teacher teaches Math to both divisions. Is that correct?” The answer to this is no, this is not correct. Teachers work together, they collaborate when planning learning engagements and all home room teachers are responsible for teaching all subjects taught in a homeroom. We do not have numeracy teachers, unit of inquiry teachers or literacy teachers; a teacher is required to teach all subjects.
There were 5 questions around our future thinking for classes collaborating together.
The answer to these questions is that we are looking at how we will develop our models and approaches to learning and teaching for the future learning of our children. Right now all our classes collaborate across the grade in their planning for the units of inquiry. We are continually looking at how we can best use the environment to foster learning. In the second semester when we consider the staffing and organization for the following year we will review progress made and plan forward.
We continue to create flexible learning environments for all students within the available spaces. All students continue to be engaged in learning through whole group, small group and individual opportunities. These various grouping strategies allow for collaboration, differentiation and independence.
Class sizes at OIS, in the primary division, range between 12 and 21. There are some classes who share the same spaces this is true, but no teacher has more than 21 students in their home room grouping. Some questions were related to parental choice to come to our school because class sizes are lower than local schools; and yes this is the case. There was also a question relating to the class sizes that the IB recommends; the IB does not and would not state a class size that is optimal for learning.
Some statements were written around the posture of our children in different learning environments. This is a topic we talk about with our children. Learning breaks are built into our day and children do not spend long periods of time in one place or in one position. We do find, just like we do as adults, that if children are uncomfortable that they move to a more comfortable position. Use of technology and safe use in the learning environment, is incorporated into our units.