Increasing program coherence toward quality independent inquiries

One of the best outcomes of systems building in schools is the capacity to sustain a program even when all the people in the room at present have long left the school.

Building a program using systems takes time and concerted, collaborative effort. One of the pressure points of creating a system is that individuals must make the connections between what each one does in individual classrooms to the whole program. Forging those connections can happen at classroom, subject group, and whole-school levels, and the system endures which takes each teacher on its enactment toward a unified and coherent whole.

Forging connections between subject groups and the personal project creates coherent, enduring programs. #MYPChat Click To Tweet

The current Standards and practices (2014) names 13 practices that directly impact the implementation of the Personal Project in Year 5. Indirectly, the work which learners undertake in each subject group and classroom shapes their capacity to carry out an independent inquiry at the end of their MYP experience in the form of the Personal Project.

Providing that all other variables are considered, we could say with confidence that the quality of personal projects in year 5 is a reliable representation of all the experiences in the entire program, combined.

We can say with confidence that the quality of personal projects is a reliable representation of the learning experiences of the entire program. #MYPChat Click To Tweet

That’s a huge task. So how do we create a program, which assures the quality our students deserve to gain as they travel through each year of the program?

One of the ways is to create and make visible connections between what individual teachers design as learning experiences in their classrooms, and the overall expectations of the final year.

We can make visible links between subject group objectives, which are our learning targets in each classroom, each year, and the learning targets of the personal project.

What if we mapped out all the objective strands to the objective strands of the personal project? Which learning engagements in individual classrooms would create conditions for students to rehearse the knowledge, understanding, skills and dispositions essential to successful culmination of the MYP?

What might we gain if:

  • All teachers understood the learning in each other’s subject groups?
  • All teachers had an overview of the students’ learning experiences?
  • All teachers are able to specify task specific clarifications that made connections across subject groups and to the personal projects?
  • Each teacher is mindful of how each learning engagement or task in his or her course/year level/subject group contributes to the entire program?

Imagine the coherence of the entire program to teachers and learners, if we built a system for teachers to gain an overview.

The objective strands of each subject group describes the learning and performance provided in that subject group, and they also correspond to the learning and performance in the culminating experience of the entire program.

If we spent collaborative planning in ensuring these learning experiences are rehearsed intentionally each day, every day, imagine what our learners might know, understand, and do at the end of the program.

Featured photo by John Lockwood on Unsplash


I’ve developed a resource, a Toolkit for personal project implementation which involves every subject group, and I’d like to share this resource with users of this website.

The resource aligns the personal project with all the objective strands of each subject group and is a startup document for programs looking for a way to increase coherence for teachers and students.

A model of the system for gaining an overview of how subject groups contribute learning experiences toward successful completion of the MYP.

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Author: alavina

Cognitive CoachSM and professional development leader at large. Writer and editor at http://learnertoolbox.com.

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