discussion on the PYP Threads Ning about whether we should give students the central idea at the start of a PYP unit of inquiry or whether we should encourage them to come up with the central idea as a result of their learning. A link on this thread led me to the video that was filmed at the IB Africa, Europe and Middle East Regional Conference a few months ago. Like many teachers at my school I wasn't able to attend this conference, however the power of technology is such that I'm able to "attend" this session by Lynn Erickson from the comfort of my own settee.
Lynn Erickson was talking about synergistic thinking. Synergy comes from the Greek word that means working together. It describes two or more things working together to produce a result that is not obtainable by each individually and in this case she is referring to facts and concepts working together. She talks about how great teachers prompt their students to think about the conceptual ideas but that they must use facts to support these ideas. The interaction between the factual and conceptual levels of thinking produces synergistic thinking which should be our goal as teachers for developing students' intellects. Concepts are the way we organize the facts - they are the way we prevent information overload of "in one ear and out the other", and only at the conceptual level do we have the transfer of knowledge.
Listening to this I'm definitely coming to the belief that we shouldn't always tell our students the central idea at the beginning of the unit. Perhaps we need to wait until nearer the end to see if they can come up with the central idea themselves. I'd love to try this out, though not having a class of my own it's not something that is very realistic. But I'm loving the discussion and I'm really interested in hearing more from teachers who are actually give the students the opportunities to come up with their own concepts, generalisations and central ideas.
Photo Credit: If it wasn't for the work of the weavers by Maureen Crosbie