Saturday, April 9, 2011

Covering -v- Discovering

Today I'm thinking about something I hear a lot: "we have so much to cover" is something I hear in many, many meetings and "there's not enough time to cover it all."  I'm lucky as I work in an international school and we do not have the demands of a national curriculum with exams or standardised tests at ages 7, 11, 14, 16, 17 and 18, yet I still hear teachers talking about how much they have to cover and how little time they have.  In our school these conversations appear to be happening more frequently as we draw up learning outcomes for each area of the curriculum and only a couple of weeks ago I was having a discussion with a colleague who claimed that even if we just addressed each learning outcome for 2 days, we wouldn't have enough days in the school year to cover them all.  What I'm hearing more and more both at school and at conferences I attend is that less is more - we don't want our students to skim the surface as that is not meaningful - we want them to go in deeper.  We don't want to cover the content, we want them to inquire, to discover what is below the surface.

Reading Tomlinson and McTighe's book I came across the following question:  If the content we study represents the "answers" then what are the questions?  They write that one way of uncovering the content is to frame the content as answers to questions or solutions to problems.  In the PYP we talk about coming up with provocations - questions to stimulate the students' thinking which will lead to them inquiring and constructing their own understanding.  These questions need to be open ended, with no right answer.  Currently our Grade 3s are starting a unit about exploration and discovery.  This is really what inquiry is.  Our provocations are the launching pads that will send our students out on their own journeys of exploration - to discover, understand and learn.

Photo Credit:  Discovery, Wonder and Amazement by Arturo Sotillo


  1. Appreciate this post Maggie. I frequently hear the same things at our school. Unfortunately, some of the pressures we place on teachers regarding testing doesn't do much to alleviate this approach toward education. I like the idea of "provocations" as a stepping stone to inquiry and exploration. Thanks for sharing!

  2. A discussion I just had yesterday. Here in New Zealand, we seem to have more control over what we cover within reason, so when planning, we put all the AO's we want to cover (and do cover), but only assess the key ones we want more in depth coverage of.
    That conversation keeps coming up though!