In the past five years as an MYP teacher, and the past few as MYP Coordinator visiting other teachers’ classrooms, I’ve noticed that even though the MYP is a curriculum framework designed to support student-led inquiry, for the most part curriculum units seem to follow a 80%/20% rule. For the first 80% of a unit, the teacher uses various strategies to have students inquire into a teacher-generated unit question, with only the final 20% used for a truly student-driven inquiry-based summative assessment. As described by graingered two posts ago, “we define the list of what kids should know, and then we make up questions to teach to the lists” which tends to result in “artificial inquiry” instead of truly getting to the essence of “limitless inquiry.”
In my Grade 10 Humanities class this year, we’re trying something new. We’re flipping the ratio described above so that we start with 20% of laying the foundations of content, just enough to get the students intrigued and enthusiastic. Then we leave the remaining 80% for them to generate their own paths of inquiry, where they set the number of assessments, the types of assessments, the due dates and even the assessment criteria that will apply. The unit is focusing on the concepts of ideologies, government and effect. We went through 5 classes of learning about various political ideologies and brainstorming their effects on individuals and communities around the world. Now they have 20 classes to apply those concepts and the inquiry statement to whatever content they choose.
So far the results have been very intriguing, and the level of engagement has sky-rocketed. This used to be the “Nazism, Fascism and Communism” unit, which only tended to appeal to a certain number of male students. Now those boys can really delve into whatever ideologies they choose, while all the other students come up with what they’re interested in. They’ve truly impressed me a number of advanced inquiry statements that I never could have dreamed of – “How has conservatism affected the rights of LGBT people globally?” “How has Confucianism affected the governments of East Asia throughout history?” “How does Islamic feminism compare with Western feminism?”
The student-driven inquiry (80%) part of this unit is just beginning so I’m curious (and a bit nervous) to see how it all plays out. As Brian (my partner in this inquiry experiment) mentioned in his post a few days ago, it can be somewhat daunting to give up control to the students when it comes to setting the assessment parameters.
For now I can definitely feel a more palpable buzz to the classroom than I have in previous years. One of my students said the other day that Humanities has become her favourite class. When I asked why, she said it was because she got to teach herself what she always wanted to learn about.