#PYPx – low floor, high ceiling

How often in planning meetings is a new idea often met with phrases such as:

“That will never work for student X”


“What about so and so, they’ll never get anything done.”

This is particularly the case as we move towards more personalised inquiries.

Let’s take some time to unpack some underlying assumptions.

What’s the purpose?

PYPx is often used as a showcase by schools – look how socially conscious, well-researched and action-packed our exhibition is. But if the only thing the children get to choose is ‘the topic,’ have the children really engaged in a personalised inquiry? Being clear about the ‘why’ of your exhibition will help guide actions.

The Central Idea is too difficult for many of the children to understand

During the exhibition, learners are supposed to be “identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems.” The problem is that can be interpreted to mean that it’s not a real exhibition if children aren’t solving climate change, gender inequality and other ‘big issues.’ For some kids, this might not be what they are ready to inquire into independently. However, for some children developing communication and social skills might be just as important to them, particularly as those skills are often used to help them interact with those ‘big issues.’

Groups can lift children up, but they can also be places for kids to hide. 

One of the decisions we made early on was not to put children into groups based on teacher-percieved interest. These groups are often used as a way to give children support and to ensure that everyone has a final product. However, for those children who might not have strong social and/or academic skills groups can easily be a place to follow other children’s lead.

But will the children showcase?

This is the beauty of the symbolic piece – something that children can build or create to stimulate conversations about their learning.

Look for leverage points

Education deals too much in false dichotomies. It’s either direct instruction or inquiry. Grouping of some sort or everyone on their own. Most teachers know that there will be a range of support needed for each child. So let’s look at the kids with high needs first.

What might success be for them?

What support might they need to get there?

Where might learners be able to take this idea?

What limits might they need to challenge?

The concept of low floor, high ceiling is not something we should restrict to just maths classrooms.

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