Authentic collaboration in #PYPx – Part 2

We are officially into ‘Week 2’ of our PYP Exhibition Expedition and I’m trying to blog our experiences of the process.

For those joining the journey be sure to see Part 1

Breaking the mold of #PYPx – Part 1


We started this week feeling pushed for time. Public holidays, school events and other events gobbled up both classroom time and also collaboration time for teachers. Moaning about a lack of time is often an Olympic sport in schools.

Should it?

We need to be mindful that successfully implementing an innovation is just as much about saying ‘no’ as it is to saying yes.

Learning to talk to adults 

According to the IB the exhibition is an “extended, in-depth, collaborative project.” But there seems to be a number of misconceptions about what this entails.

  • Extended – should mean that the learning continues after the unit is over. What it often means for our learners is putting everything else on hold to ‘do exhibition’ for a few weeks and the experience is quickly forgotten once the boards come down.
  • In-depth – should mean that learners are engaging in deep thought and questioning during the exhibition process. What it shouldn’t mean is all research sources come from the passive screen-based activity.
  • Collaborative – should mean that learners are connecting with a wide variety of people to support their learning. What it often means is that learners get placed in groups an exhibition becomes yet another ‘group project.’


One of the joys of this week has been seeing how members of our school community – parents, teachers from other grades, general academic staff have been in our learning space supporting our children in their learning. Even visitors to our school have become part of some learners’ PYPx journey!

This level of interaction has been possible by being clear that genuine collaboration occurs when people are working together for a shared purpose rather than being assigned groups and meaningless titles. One of our staff members remarked that a short interview with a learner felt like a better use of time than traditional mentor role for both him and the learner because his interaction was focused on a specific area of his expertise.

A member of our student services team drops in to help with PYPx

This process has also been eye-opening – many of our learners found engaging with adults outside of their comfort zone challenging. PYPx shouldn’t be the first time learners contact adults that aren’t the teachers or parents to support their learning. Being able to connect and effectively engage with experts is perhaps one of the most critical skills we all need!

Where’s the maths?

The children spent some time reflecting this week on ‘where’s the maths’ in their PYPx inquiry. The answer is plenty – time, budgeting, measuring, data handling, scoring.  Yet there is not the same level of concern by both parents and teachers to the potential loss of reading, science, the arts or PE during PYPx as there is about potential maths loss (or more specifically the number strand). Why does maths seem to be the subject lens that becomes the road block to innovation?

Lots of maths in PYPx

The power of the ‘do over’

This week for many learners has been about capturing first attempts and look for areas to improve. Yet the pull to share a perfect product still persists. I watched a learner who was practicing her public speaking keep re-recording a speech she was practicing on Flipgrid. “Why did you upload just one,” I asked? “It was the one where I didn’t make any mistakes,” she replied.  Even with an explicit focus on ‘the journey, not the destination’ of our exhibition, it was disheartening to see that the student did not see the value in her unsuccessful attempts as evidence of her learning.

Learning to ride a bike

Many more learners who wished to improve their public speaking skills have spent large quantities of their time researching speeches full of facts while paying scant attention to their body language, intonation or most importantly engaging in situations where they use the skills they wish to develop. Being able to name a bike’s inventor, all the different parts and the relative benefits of different bike brands aren’t very effective behaviours in learning how to ride a bike. Eventually, you need to get on the bike and take it for a ride!

The pressure of the ‘wow’ factor redux 

Last week, I talked about the ‘pressure of the ‘wow’ factor of PYPx on teachers. This week I found myself wondering about its impact on students.

PYPx is an opportunity for learners to engage in massive levels of personal and academic growth. But this heightened expectation can lead also lead to heightened levels of anxiety for our learners if we aren’t careful.

More importantly, what does it say about our approach to other units that teachers don’t have the same level of expectation about the learning and personal growth for our students as they do in the PYPx?

Perhaps its time dial down the ‘wow’ factor of the exhibition by making it a whole year process rather than just a small intense chunk of time? More importantly, we should be upping our expectations for our learners in other units.

checkpoint 1.002

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