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Out of acorns, grow mighty oaks

Welcome to the first stage of the ThinkIB CP website! Access free teaching ideas, resources and advice on the reflective project. This autumn, the focus is on developing resources for the Personal and Professional Skills part of the Core. Whether you are new to the CP or are an experienced centre, join in and help make this a really supportive, open-minded and creative community. It has been fantastic to know this is starting to help teachers support the CP in their school. Fantastic to see the subscriptions growing and thank you for the positive feedback.

January and February 2021

Feb/March 2021: Exercises in Empathy is a new set of resources and exploration now available in the Personal Development section of the Core: Personal & Professional Skills section.
Here we break down exactly what we mean by empathy and use multiple perspectives of different academics such as Jamil Zaki, Paul Bloom and Simon Sinek to explore its definition and role in society. However the emphasis is on the students' own personal development and explicit reference to the ATL skills they are exploring through these ethical, critical and creative thinking activities.
February 2021: Reflective Project supervisors As centres launch the reflective project for their CP1 cohort, it is a good plan to think ahead to giving supervisors the confidence they need to help students in their RP.
A good supervisor has a range of attributes but being an expert in the field of their student's reflective project topic area does not have to be one of them! Being a good questioner and listener is definitely far more important. For more activities and advice, see Supervising  and Giving feedback pages as well as advice on how to spot really good Ethical Thinking , Reflective Thinking and Critical Thinking. Also see Planning and process management and Self assessment for ideas on giving students the autonomy they need.

NEW: Responding to Change

The ongoing global pandemic has brought to the forefront of young people's minds that change on a mass scale can happen seemingly overnight.This series of critical and creative thinking exercises explore this context but also the implications it has for our mindsets and mental health. Practically good for reflective project research skills, reflection on processes and problem-solving as well as considering any one of PPS themes - especially Intercultural Understanding and Personal Development
NEW: Understanding 'Truth' is a new set of resources in the PPS hub with very close ties with the Reflective Project. Here we explore the concept of truth. post-truth and misinformation (fake news!) in the context of 2020 and 2021 and activities to help students navigate this tricky landscape.

COMING SOON: A spotlight on Option 2 of the Reflective Project and how you can utilise PPS to give students confidence in choosing this route.

January is a busy month in the life of a CP student whether they are CP1 or CP2. For the first year CP student, this is often when schools choose, in their own individual ways, to launch the reflective project which is a huge strive towards students taking ownership of this project; the focus goes from group exploration of ethical issues and critical thinking skills, to forging out an individual inquiry. Check out Creating a Research Question for tips on getting this crucial stage right.

Centres are becoming more confident in choosing perhaps the more dynamic of the two options for the reflective project - option 2 - but there is still a long way to go. The more ways you can embed a variety of methods of formative assessment in PPS and, when viable, their CRS and DP subjects, the more students will make the truly right choice of format for the reflective project for them. Do look at The Options and Starting the project as a launch point if you are concerned students are in a fixed mindset and Option 1 is 'the easy option'.

For the second year student, their reflective project process will have finished or very close to final submission (pity the poor supervisors biting their nails waiting for a late submission before marking and moderating!). If submission is imminent then take time to share with students ways to check their final draft with proof reading. Self assessmentGiving feedback  and Assessing the reflective project: exemplars are great places for tips on helping them with the difficult polishing at the end of the process.

The CP: October to November 2020

COMING SOON: Approaching ... ATL.

As a way of tying together our approach to PPS, we consider the ATL that is at the heart of every IB programme. What tools do the students need? How do you get students to recognise the skills they have? And what role do you take as a teacher? We look at different levels of teacher regulation that can lead to students using skills autonomously in an authentic way. Adapted from Vermunt and Verloop's Learning and Instruction[1] , we look into strong, shared and loose teacher regulation and consider the strengths and weaknesses in each model; how can we use an amalgamation of all three to empower students with a skill toolkit? Each PPS page will be updated to consider which ATL skills are being explored. There will also be new ways to consider implementing for the authorisation and evaluation stage for teachers to collaborate; Can they appreciate just how much their students' learning experience are being enhanced by the skills they are exploring in their lessons and being used elsewhere? 

NEW: Career skill: Interviews 

What happens when you ask one of the world's most successful men typical job interview questions? And what can you learn from this. Take a single lesson and a simple idea here to explore the most predictable but important interview questions. Bill Gates demonstrates how keeping it simple and clear is the way forward.

NEW: Starting Discussions and Debates as part of the PPS programme

Saying that discussion is important throughout the PPS and CP course is somewhat pointing out the obvious. However, where do you start and how do you structure it so students increase in confidence and can identify chart their progress in specific areas? Here, as part of the PPS resource, we start with the basics of debating so students can identify which skills are either needed or will be developed over time when they take part in a debate. This is not only useful for an individual's own personal development and confidence building but also an effective and enjoyable way to explore the parameters of the reflective project and build understanding of ethical dilemmas and multiple perspectives in an authentic way. This area of the site will develop

NEW: Thinking Processes for PPS

The focus this week is understanding the significance of Thinking Processes and the way it weaves its way into every aspect of the student's experience of the Career-related Programme. This page is an overview of the way Thinking Processes can play a part in every aspect of the PPS course and ultimately each individual student's CP journey. We start out by considering the ethics of thinking responsibly and its links with being an active member of the global community. For the unit plan, we consider thinking routines that go hand in hand with specific theme exploration; the emphasis here is not merely students using the routine but then following up with a reflection that allows them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of using such a process; critical thinking about critical thinking! In 'Quick ideas, plenaries and reflections', the focus is students starting to make those links between their experiences of the DP and career-related subjects and start recognising the tools that can be transferable to multiple disciplines.

NEW: Applied Ethics for PPS
The focus this week is establishing an understanding of ethical behaviour in PPS through discussions and debates of personal and professional ethical dilemma scenarios. There are plentiful resources within the reflective project resources that develop a deep understanding and application of ethical frameworks. The focus here is very much about the real world relevance of this theme and demonstrating to students the practical application of the IB Learner Profile.
NEW: Effective Communication for PPS

This is a comprehensive introduction to the theme of Effective Communication with multiple resources to help students really understand what might make an effective communicator.

There is also more detailed analysis on the Learning Outcomes and how one activity might have multiple outcomes. This focus will be built into future pages as the feedback so far is that it is really useful.

NEW: Blog 4th September. 5 minute snapshot on... Effective Communication 

As part of a series of blogs this autumn, we take a step back to consider aspects of PPS, questions to ask when establishing your course and effective short activities that work for your context. It introduces key questions such as: What are my students’ needs? What role does context play here? What does effective communication mean for the educator as well as the student? What does an effective communicator look like in 2020? What is our ultimate goal?
Key questions that will be explored in detail in new resources coming soon on Effective Communication. 

Blog 4th September 2020: 5 minute snapshot on... Effective Communication
 

‘Life is not how high you fly, but about how well you bounce...It’s about how you encourage and propel yourself, letting the fear of failure become a barrier standing in your way’.

These are the words of one headteacher in the UK this week as they introduced themselves to their new staff. What could be more fitting as a response to 2020 than to take this as the mantra behind the PPS course that is already designed to be the place to do just this. Where does Effective Communication play a part?

What might be the questions to ask to shape Effective Communication?
What are my students’ needs? What role does context play here? What does effective communication mean for the educator as well as the student? What does an effective communicator look like in 2020? What is our ultimate goal?

What role does context play in developing effective communication?
A hugely important role – the individual, family, school, community, national and international context play both a fixed and fluctuating role in young people’s lives and influence their identity as a communicator and ability to communicate. The teenage years is the time where young people characteristically shift away from primarily parental influences and gravitate increasingly towards peer company and interaction with other adults such as teachers. And with the disrupted schooling and isolation that 2020 has brought, this natural communicative process has been disrupted. Developing a course that can respond to the fixed and fluctuating needs of students who possibly do not fully realise the impact this year has had on them until they are back in a school environment is a sensitive mood. Build confidence in communication slowly with plenty of small group interactions where students feel safe to express ideas.

What are my students’ needs?
Exploring visible thinking tools that can help students become more confident communicators. For example, when a student has used a thorough decision-making tool and is comfortable with the outcome, they feel vastly more able to communicate their thoughts. Ask students to carry out a ‘forcefield analysis’ and you take a simple pros and cons list to the next level; it is an effective process that helps students employ ethical, reflective and critical thinking in their decision making. However, it is not just for them. A quick forcefield analysis to help you weigh up the forces acting for and against young people becoming an effective communicator can make your PPS course bespoke to your context.

What does effective communication mean for the educator as well as the student?
It should come as no surprise that as part of the attributes of the lifelong learner, what motivates you will be mirrored in your students’ response. Ask yourself what is expected of you as an IB educator in terms of communication? Can you communicate with passion for what the IB is about and place international-mindedness and the learner profile as a priority. In short, do you use communication to impact, influence and inspire?

What does an effective communicator look like in 2020? What will an effective communicator look like in 2030? 2040? These can be the very first questions you ask of students. A short exercise for them to explore what they know and their own needs before branching out into creative thinking. Furthermore, a carefully designed reflection where students audit their strengths as a communicator can be revisited throughout the course as part of their personal development. How far do they see themselves as emotionally intelligent, clear, confident, empathetic, respectful, open-minded, inquisitive and a good listener?

What is the ultimate goal? Ultimately we all want to help young people articulate themselves as confident, considerate, creative and critical communicators who can ‘bounce’, ‘encourage’ and ‘propel’ themselves through life.

NEW:  August 2020: New resources on Intercultural Understanding now join the PPS family here. Explore the key stages of recognising personal culture, cultural differences in others and exercising empathy. Lots of food for thought and use of different media to promote rich discussions with your students.

NEW: August 2020: In keeping with the development of the PPS resources over the summer, The Core: Personal & Professional Skills and Personal Development are now available to help support your planning for the start of the new school year, whether face to face or remote learning.

The Personal Development page is well worth a look for detailed discussions, exercises, full lessons and worksheets not only in keeping with the general theme of personal development as outlined in the PPS criteria but because they are specifically designed with 2020 in mind and the unique struggles our students have had to endure.


Blog July 6th 2020: Using PPS to find balance in a new world 
Creating and reviewing a PPS course: Utilise PPS to help students and teachers transition out of lockdown

In an article for The Guardian on 5th July 2020, Peter Hyman states 'our school systems are broken. Let's grab this chance to remake them'. A laudible call to arms in itself through what has been, and continues to be, the greatest test for our global education systems in generations. However, what is really fascinating are the conclusions he has comes to as a result of British schools operating under lockdown since March; they are many of the conclusions that CP schools have come to as to why the CP works as a framework. As you read this, you may very deservedly be feeling a degree of relief and immense pride at coming through this unprecedented assessment period but teachers do not rest for long. If this article serves a reminder for anything, then it is to keep things moving. And the Personal and Professional Skills core element is not just the place to create or reinvigorate a dynamic course that balances the fixed and the flexible; it is truly a place to care for the diverse needs of students that have been put under immense pressure in 2020 and create a fresh start.

Hyman succinctly recognises the need for a 'new normal' where students can flourish with 'a balance between what we call 'head, heart and hand' - knowledge, wellbeing, problem-solving and creativity'. He also warns against the temptation with so many children missing formal schooling for more than 4 months and experiencing very different home schooling success, to give in to the urge to 'catch up' frenetically in the new school year. I like the intention here but think the reality of the pressures school face soon takes over. Could there be a compromise? Certainly in an IB context, careful and clever utilisation of thinking processes and well timed reflection can enable the student to recognise where there is commonality across their subjects. This is something that is at the heart of the CP framework anyway; however, post lockdown, students are probably at their most receptive to appreciate truly how helpful and reassuring these commonalities are. Furthermore, use PPS not just to identify similarities but actively to utilise and transfer creative, critical and problem-solving thinking processes and inquiry. Suddenly, a mountain range of individual subjects becomes one challenging peak; still an intimidating obstacle but with the sense of being approached with a full support crew and a common purpose.

This might sounds like a lot of work and preparation. Not necessarily if we transfer existing assessment strategies into different contexts and we also listen to what the students feel they need. I have long been a supporter of encouraging students to respond to topics using the multi-modal choices available for the reflective project. This way the student who would not even consider creating a playscript as their Option 2 reflective project outcome, exercises quite an admirable degree of risk-taking as a quick, spontaneous response to a Tuesday afternoon PPS lesson. And likewise for creating a podcast or a film - why not? In addition to this, Hyman's call for 'smarter assessment and intelligent accountability' as well as 'skilful use of technology' to inspire 'flipped learning' is a reminder to the CP teacher to keep pushing the boundaries of how students can respond to tasks. The more the PPS course asks students to respond and reflect imaginatively, autonomously and dynamically for their portfolio, the more this will encourage an imaginative and open-minded approach to their CRS and DP subjects where  summative assessments may not be as varied.

Hyman's final point is the biggest lesson from learning under lockdown; the extent to which 'in-depth curriculum discussions and the ability to spend proper time collaborating' promotes increasing use of imagination. In 2020 I would add collaboration does not just increase the imagination but also empathy, resilience and communicaton skills. Whilst this piece is not about the dispensing of formal examinations as the writer of the Guardian article might be purporting (another blog for another day), it is about realising the true potential of a core element where formal external assessment has been intentionally dismissed and collaboration can take precedence.

Whether you are a CP coordinator starting the course from scratch, reviewing your existing course or new to PPS teaching - the advice is the same: Take advantage of a course that exists to prepare students for the challenging unknown of future contexts, to help them meet the challenging unknown of their school context right now.

New resources for June, July and August 2020

22-29th June - NEW RESOURCES: Option1: Close up on marking criteria and exemplars unpacked

Finding familiarity with the criteria is the first step; being able to differentiate between the bands and find the best fit for a reflective project is the next. Guided annotated exemplars can help your own understanding of the criteria as well as be a great resource for students and supervisors too. This will be continuously added to as exemplars that pose thought-provoking points are added regularly. The Quick Ideas on these pages are there to promote putting theory into practice; so whatever has been scrutinised in the exemplars will translate into activities for students to apply to their own work. They are also intended as collaborative work though do take care to keep up the academic integrity and not have students working together who are exploring similar fields of ethical issues and dilemmas.

NEW RESOURCES: Option 2: Close up on marking criteria and exemplars unpacked

These resources focus on the 'complementary' nature of the two elements of Option 2 and judging the balance when applying the criteria. This is often one of the factors that puts students off (and supervisors alike) taking on the multimodal choice. Use these resources in addition to The Options which goes into detail on Option 2.

July and August - NEW RESOURCES: Planning ahead and Personal and Professional Skills
Planning for the new academic year ... whatever that may bring! 

One thing that never changes in July and August is the planning that takes place ahead of the new academic year. This year, teachers have been called on to be more adaptable, technical, risk-taking and organised than they ever thought they could be with the increased pressure on creating successful remote learning.

With that in mind, all new resources released over July and August are created keeping remote and face to face learning in mind. And in the true nature of PPS, resources will be designed topically with the view to promote authentic discovery of more than one of the 5 key themes. Resources will also be created to promote reflection on the whole CP and the role PPS has to draw together all the different elements and how they interlink.

Available now

8th June - NEW RESOURCES: Starting the Project and Ethical dimensions, issues and dilemmas

Both Starting the project and  Ethical dimensions, issues and dilemmas explore the ethical and cultural dimension in detail which leads to more adept Critical Thinking

Use these resources to prepare ahead or review students current understanding, sharpen the reflective projects' focus and help out supervisors. Many teachers are looking ahead to the new school year and a new cohort of students to settle into PPS. Equally,  if your current students are in the process of receiving feedback on their draft, this often calls for a reflection on their original investigation and investigating more perspectives on the ethical dilemma in question.

Starting the project

Students need to take ownership of their reflective projects; this page is about kickstarting the reflective project and establishing the Researcher's Reflection Space with recognising the usefulness...

Ethical dimensions, issues and dilemmas.

Finding a suitable ethical issue and dilemma to analyse critically is at the centre of the reflective project process. However a student also needs to be able to understand the ethical ramifications of...

1st June - NEW RESOURCES: Supervising and Giving Feedback

In our continuation of supporting the reflective project process, we look at how the supervisors play a key role in keeping up the momentum of the reflective project. This week's focus is on the supervisor and making the most of the process; how to approach and facilitate the key milestones along the way as well as provide effective feedback on the draft reflective project. For coordinators this can help to provide a consistency for the student and how they receive and experience feedback.

Supervising

Supervisory sessions can be made more dynamic with user-friendly activities and tools to support discussions. Students can receive up to five hours of supervisory support throughout the reflective project...

Giving feedback

This is the most asked question when it comes to the drafting stage of the reflective project. Perhaps it should come as a relief to supervisors that they are not there to correct spelling, punctuation...

Highlights available NOW

Creating a Research Question

The importance of the research question cannot be underestimated but it is often rushed. Here are some tips on students becoming question and criteria experts to take ownership of their project.

Advice on Option 2

Both teachers and students can feel intimidated by taking on the additional format because understandably they do not know where to start. Try this for resources and questions to help shape planning and build confidence.

Skills for the reflective project

This can be the time students are in the early stages of drafting their reflective project. Whatever stage your students are at utilise criteria and skills focused advice and teaching ideas. Find advice and activities on ethical, reflective and critical thinking, research and writing skills, process management and self assessment

Discover and Use

The Core

The Career-related Programme core makes the programme unique. It is a substantial course designed to focus on the individual students' needs and personal and professional development. It is also a place...

Core: The Reflective Project

The reflective project is one of the four elements that make up the core programme unique to the CP. Focusing on the process as much as the product, it is an independent piece of work that focuses on...

Writing skills

Irrespective of which option the student chooses to take, they will have to utilise writing skills for the reflective project. This can be daunting to anticipate; however educators can take advantage...

Footnotes

  1. ^ Vermunt, Jan D,; Verloop, Nico,( 'Congruence and Friction between Learning and Teaching', in Learning and Instruction, v9 n3 p257-80 1999 

Selected Pages

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CP news 24 March 2021

Here you will find updates on the CP that may well be relevant to your context as well as spotlights on key areas of philsosophy...
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