Oakham School became a candidate school for the IB Middle Years Program in September 2018, which was an exciting step because it confirmed and cemented the School’s philosophical commitment to move towards a more inquiry-based educational paradigm. There is a lot of new terminology to get to grips with in a move like this, such as: Key and Related Concepts; Global Contexts; Factual, Conceptual and Debatable Questions; and Approaches to Learning (ATL). If you are not careful it is easy for the jargon and the paperwork to become overwhelming and mask the important shift in educational thinking that needs to take place.
Lucy, our Lower and Middle School Curriculum Librarian, has done an amazing job in getting to grips with the language and supporting some of the early adopters through all phases of their first MYP inquiries (see, for example, Year 7 English Inquiry and Year 7 History Inquiry). One question that has come up frequently from teaching staff is “How does this integrate with FOSIL?”. Our challenge is to demonstrate how FOSIL, which is a powerful tool for understanding and supporting the inquiry process, is fundamental to effective support for MYP inquiries rather than a competing (and complicating) model. It isn’t a ‘bolt-on’ initiative – a set of boxes to tick after you have planned your inquiry to show that you are ‘doing FOSIL’ as well as MYP – but rather a tool that can help everyone to plan and support inquiries more effectively and efficiently and, critically, to get to grips with some of the MYP terminology.
In helping teachers to fill in the MYP planning paperwork, we found that one aspect that was particularly difficult was selecting which ATLs to focus on during each unit – whether an inquiry or inquiry-led. This is not surprising given there are more than 130 to choose from, divided into 5 categories, and 10 clusters within those categories.
In order to help teachers to get to grips with the new skills more easily, we needed to align them with the FOSIL skills. We had to demonstrate that these frameworks are not just two different versions of the same thing, but that they can work together effectively to support learning and make planning easier. The FOSIL skills are generally more concrete, they show how students progress as they move through the school, and have linked resources (that students are already used to) showing what that skill might look like in the classroom.
We were aware that there was a HODs’ horizontal curriculum planning day coming up on June 11th and were keen to put something together before then to help to demonstrate how the two frameworks could be meaningfully integrated to make their jobs easier. The main challenges we faced were:
Some of the ATL skills encompassed a vast range of skills in a single sentence, so we mapped several different rows of FOSIL skills to the same ATL skill.
Because of the way they were arranged, several skills were repeated worded in slightly different ways in different categories, so we mapped several different ATL skills to the same row of FOSIL skills.
Some ATLs relate to social development and have no specific analogue in the FOSIL framework, either because they are developed over the course of a whole inquiry (e.g. Demonstrate persistence and perseverance) or because they do not relate to inquiry skills at all (e.g. “Practice strategies to prevent and eliminate bullying”). We decided to categorize these as either “whole inquiry” or “PSHE” skills.
Chris, our Head of Student Research, began the process by identifying which stage of inquiry he thought each ATL skill was most suited to, Lucy continued it by matching individual ATL skills to specific FOSIL skills, and I pulled everything together into a spreadsheet (see images, above). My first task was to rearrange the FOSIL skills into separate rows showing how a single skill progresses up the school, something we have been meaning to do for a while, then I could match each ATL to one or more rows.
Although still a work in progress, we presented the spreadsheet to the Director of IB, MYP Co-ordinator and Deputy Head (Academic) on Monday (May 20th), along with examples of a concrete set of FOSIL resources that had been used in inquiries to support particular FOSIL skills – and therefore could now be matched to ATLs. They were excited enough by the prospect of a resource that could help HODs to link the ATL skills and FOSIL – and, perhaps more importantly for them, to help HODs to understand what the ATL skills might look like in the classroom – that they have invited Darryl, our Head of Library, to lead a session at the upcoming HODs’ horizontal curriculum planning day on June 11th. This is an exciting and important opportunity, but doesn’t give us long to complete, polish and refine the integration so that it is ready for use!
We know that several of you will be on the same journey and would love to hear where you have got to and what you have learnt so far.