I get a magazine from the NEU (National Education Union) every two months and the January/February edition arrived this morning. There has been a lot of talk in the UK in recent months about "levelling up", a government policy that aims to reduce economic imbalances between areas and social groups in the United Kingdom. I was therefore interested to read a poem in the magazine by children's author Michael Rosen ("We're going on a bear hunt ...") called Levelling down. In this he addresses the closure of nurseries and other early learning places in the UK. Here are some words from the first verse of the poem:
I was listening to the radio the other day
I was sure I heard a woman say
in the year ending in March, 400 or more
nurseries closed. And there was more in store:
one third of these was in areas the most deprived.
Hold it, I thought, hasn't a new era arrived?
Are't we "levelling up", abolishing the "poverty trap"?
Isn't the boast, "We're closing the attainment gap"?
As Michael Rosen points out, Early Childhood education is vital as the foundation for all future learning - if there is a gap at this age, students will continue to be disadvantaged throughout their schooling.
So I've been thinking about teaching, more specifically about the approaches to teaching, which ensure that teachers across the IB programmes support and engage learners to achieve the aspirations of an IB education to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world. The IB's approaches to teaching are as follows:
- based on inquiry
- focused on conceptual understanding
- developed in local and global contexts
- focused on effective teamwork and collaboration
- designed to remove barriers to learning
- informed by assessment
Let's unpack the ATTs a little more in the context of the Early Years:
Based on Inquiry - Early learners are constantly interacting with others, inquiring and developing ideas to help them make sense of new experiences. Teachers participate in, observe and guide the children's explorations and investigations, and ensure that there are extended periods of time for uninterrupted play. They extend the students' learning with open-ended questions and provocations.
Focused on conceptual understanding - teachers use the key concepts and their associated questions, as well as the related concepts, to support student-initiated and educator-facilitated inquiries. Provocations and challenges will stimulate critical thinking, and teachers can support the connection and transfer of knowledge and understanding to new contexts. It's also important to expand students reflection to generate further questions and inquiries and to support the deepening of understanding.
Developed in local and global contexts - Students should be inquiring into real-life issues through the transdisciplinary themes. In the Early Years this may include an inquiry into identity, culture, imagination and creativity, constructing theories about how the world works, systems that help the community to function effectively and how they connect with the natural environment.
Focused on effective teamwork and collaboration - teachers regularly and systematically develop and review the units of inquiry through a collaborative planning process. They also collaborate with students as they listen to and document wonderings which can inform planning. Relationships with families are also important for building trusting and positive partnerships and for providing a strong basis for learning and well-being.
Designed to remove barriers to learning - learning spaces should reflect the students' home and family languages, and children should be encouraged to use these languages to support and enrich their learning. Acknowledging student agency will also create a learning environment that nurtures belonging, including social, emotional and physical well-being. Interventions to support social, emotional, behavioural and psychological barriers to learning is essential for supporting students' development. Personalised plans need to be developed in collaboration with families to consider student language portraits as well as the adaptation of learning goals, routines, self-management strategies and so on where needed.
Informed by assessment - assessment is integral to learning and teaching to ensure that it is responsive to individual students' development. Learning goals and success criteria can be co-constructed with the students as the focus is on individual progress rather than on performance in relation to others. Monitoring and documenting the learning is important in providing feedback and feed forward for students. Assessment also builds a clear picture of the students and their interests and helps track the development of skills and dispositions.
The six approaches to teaching are evident in all the IB programmes. Teachers have the flexibility to choose which of these to employ to best reflect their own context and the developmental needs of their students.
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