Course 4 Final Project | Unit Design

As COETAIL course four draws to a close, participants were asked to draw up a proposal/plan for course five’s final project – designing, teaching and reflecting upon a unit incorporating the learning from the previous four COETAIL courses.

My Teaching Context

I teach and lead the grade four team at an IB PYP curriculum international school in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The team is comprised of mostly new homeroom teachers with varying degrees of experience with the PYP.

These perspectives provide a great opportunity to design and construct new, contextual units that are relevant to the learners that are “ours” and not just “this is what we did previously.”

So whilst this assignment asks for a unit of teaching that is self-designed, it is not that simple in my context. This is a good thing. Whilst I will do my best to persuade my team to use some or all of these ideas, here are some factors that may shift the outcome/trajectory of the unit:

  • PYP units are planned in response to what the learners are telling us. Planning stems from initial provocation data, then evolves to thinking about the first line of inquiry, which leads to more listening and observing what our learners are telling us, which informs the next learning sequences. Yes, units of inquiry are planned with intentionality, but planning is never black and white in an environment that honours student agency (ie respecting voice, choice and ownership).
  • We are a large team – Six homeroom teachers and more support staff. No unit is ever the sole idea of one person. It must include all, including our learners.
  • The pandemic: We’re still not face-to-face. Parents like some sense of uniformity in the experience across classrooms, which is particularly transparent through an online context. Therefore, more than ever, all members need to be similarly on the same page in terms of curricular instruction.
  • The pace of learning online is slower; therefore some of the unit’s aspirations may need to shift to more realistic expectations.
  • The pandemic, in terms of cases, may improve and there’s a possibility of children returning to face-to-face learning. If this happens, the most important “learning” will be that of re-socialization, setting new norms and relationships first. Therefore, the proposed unit may not go to plan. This is okay as relationships and well-being always trump curriculum. Maslow before Bloom.

COETAIL Learning Transfer

Key learning from COETAIL that I have intentionally embedded in this proposed unit are:

  • Co-construction of success criteria with students
  • Student agency in personally meaningful guided inquiries and in the way to demonstrate knowledge at the end of the unit via the brochure medium.
  • Incorporating the ISTE Standards – particularly Knowledge Constructor and Creative Communicator
  • Collaborative planning, teaching and learning
  • Thoughtful and intentional design to make learning engagements more accessible and aesthetically pleasing for the intended audience.

The Proposed Unit

Link to the original document

A Guiding Precept for this Unit

It’s important to address that a key desired outcome of this unit is for students to understand the shared or collective responsibility piece in terms of how humans can be actionable at taking steps towards climate change. Since this unit has the potential to be “doom and gloom” for our students, I always like to lead any “Sharing the Planet” planning with this excellent quote from environmental educator and author, David Sobel.

Some leaving questions

  • Is there anything above that I have not clearly communicated?
  • After reading the above, do you have any suggestions to make this unit better (e.g. resources, ideas, etc)?

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