When Demonstrating Skills Becomes a Habit: The Snowball Effect

What happens when schools create a forum to talk about the *invisible curriculum?What happens when schools stimulate students to consider learning that happens in scenarios other than the classroom?
What happens when schools devise time for students to speak about how they are learning?
What happens when schools create opportunities for students to contribute to the most significant learning experiences that could be lived at school?
What happens when students, slowly but steadily, commence to use their voice to share their learning, to make proposals, to contribute to others’ plans, and to lead?

I believe that witnessing these behaviors is an indication of students being the center of the learning process, and evidence recognizing their strengths and how they enjoy learning.

As I described in my previous post about our ATL-based advisory program, at my current school we wanted our mornings to be opportunities for students to begin to design their learning plans and, therefore, we created a space in which we could address as many aspects of holistic learning as possible. The planning that advisors/mentors took part in had one goal in mind: design scenarios that can serve as activators for students’ strengths and passions; devise opportunities for students to employ their skill toolbox; consider situations in which students will use their voice to contribute to the co-construction of experiences. And I am happy to observe that I feel we have done an excellent job.

The reason why I state that we have done a great job is because while students initially had the role of participants, gradually, as the year progressed, they were showing initiative to take responsibilities in the process: they started proposing ideas; they followed up by volunteering to lead an activity (individually or in groups); they began to encourage others to join their efforts; and so on. In a few words, their desire for being in charge had become contagious.

MYP and DP start each day with in ATL-based advisory program in groups. As a whole (secondary) school, we culminate each week with an assembly, in which we bring to life the IB LP attributes by acknowledging fellow teachers or students for their work; in which we engage in brief discussions about the key values in our mission statement; in which we look at outstanding examples of learning; in which the student council share initiatives; and in which we collectively reflect on how our learning process is changing us. The power of forums like this should not be underestimated, because this is a space where every voice counts.

The day that I received a message from a student asking for a time slot to share an initiative with the whole school I knew she was about to start a revolution. Confirming my guess, the following week a couple more students requested an opportunity to share the work they had done in a unit, which they were proud of; and after that, students asked me if they could use a few minutes to invite people to a club they had started. Now, most of the time is occupied by students, and there is very little that I have to plan. I do not doubt that eventually I will be sharing the organization process with students, and eventually letting go of it completely.

The journey that I am describing in this reflection is a demonstration of the way Approaches to Learning breathe and come to life in a school. More than ever before, I am fully convinced that mapping ATL skills in a document is solely a piece of paper with words in a specific format if there is no attempt to live the experiences in that plan; if there is no desire to engage in dialogue about how those experiences shape us; if there is no evidence of how we are allowing ourselves to be changed by these experiences, these discussions, and everybody’s contribution.

So far these are a few of the student-initiated activities, which found their birth in the secondary advisory/assembly forum that we created:

  • QAIS Ambassadors– A group of students that represent and lead activities based on personal passions. The following can be mention; Animal Rights Ambassadors; Well-being Ambassadors; Intercity Sports; Les Artistes.
  • QAIS student’s passion club: An after school activity organised and run by students
  • The Mix: a student founded story that operates during lunch time
  • The ATL Museum: MYP Student-led introduction to ATL skills in the PYP exhibition.
  • Beyond the walls and fences: A student-led club that focuses on outdoors life.
  • QAIS Community & Service Group: A student-led initiative to use existing skills in specific scenarios
  • Learning Buddies– MYP students supporting literacy and numeracy in PYP.

Below are a few images of the activities mentioned:

Approaches to Learning experiences should enable us all to reflect on the kind of intellectual and socio-emotional software that governs our schools; they should be a dynamic framework that invites us to revisit how we, as a community, are growing and evolving because of the learning that is happening in our environment. Most importantly, they should be a testament of how we have decided to make the most of the learning opportunities our school allows us to have… We must recognize that and own its impact.

Once upon a time, when it was an Area of Interaction, ATL were the ugly duckling. Luckily, it has become a swan; the backbone of the MYP; and the beating heart of our lives as learners.

The screenshots below show excerpts of the planning advisors/mentor collaborate in.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 11.31.40 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-04 at 11.32.05 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-04 at 11.32.42 PM

*Invisible curriculum= that powerful collection of learning experiences that emerges from the unique scenario that is created in a school due to the learning and community spirit: the evidence of learning that was neither included in the written curriculum nor considered as the curriculum was taught.


About Rafael Angel

Concept-Based Curriculum and Instructor Independent Trainer. Concept-Based Foreign Language Curriculum and Instruction specialist. Teaching and Learning Director; lives for traveling, reading, learning and tasting new flavours; culture and art lover; passionate about cinema and music. IB MYP, DP Workshop Leader. Mexican YouTuber and Soundclouder.
This entry was posted in ATL, Collaboration, IB DP, IB MYP and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s