In last week’s article, steps to leading your IB school’s unit planning meeting like a boss were provided alongside a proposed plan of action – the Transdisciplinary Framework, as shown below:
While the previous article focused on the educational framework in its entirety, and on the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (the 9-frame on the left), this week’s article will concentrate on the individual teacher planners depicted on the right side of the diagram, because as mentioned, in order to cure the “brainstorm hangovers” your team may be suffering from, these planners must link to the ones in the 9-frame Team Transdisciplinary Planner. The simplest way to depict this is in the diagram below, which illustrates how the planners could connect to your team’s brainstorming session:
Here are links to the detailed Team Transdisciplinary Planner and individual boxes that were discussed in the previous article:
The Transdisciplinary Team Planner – General Overview
The Mainstream/Specialist Teacher Transdisciplinary Planner Box in Detail
The ESL Trandisciplinary Team Planner Box in Detail
Let’s say it’s the Performing Arts teacher who is planning their week. As you can see in the above diagram, the first column requires them to refer back to the brainstorming session where team members shared what they will be teaching for the upcoming week, and draw connections from the ideas for use in their future lessons, thus ensuring transdisciplinary planning. The above diagram provides you with a general idea of the concept, but what could the actual teacher planners look like? We have provided you with three different samples, each catering to a specific teacher’s individual needs (specialist, mainstream, and ESL), along with explanations of how each team member would go about filling it out.
Specialist Teacher Planner
The first planner would work for a specialist teacher who teaches a subject such as Performing Arts, Visual Arts or Physical Education (PE).
COLUMN 1 – Transdisciplinary Links – Week 1
Starting from the left, the first column begins with Transdisciplinary Links – Week 1. It is this column that requires the specialist teacher, in this case Performing Arts, to refer back to the Transdisciplinary Team Planner (9-frame) and note all the links they could potentially make in their class. Things that could be jotted down are Standards, Provocations, Learning Experiences, etc., from other subject areas.
COLUMN 2 – Planning - Week 1
The second column is for Week 1 planning, which should be easy enough since most of the required information would have been discussed during the brainstorming meeting and documented within the boxes of the 9-frame (Team Transdisciplinary Planner).
COLUMNS 3 & 4 – Repeat the Cycle for Week 2
For the second week, columns 3 and 4, the Performing Arts teacher would follow the same steps as Week 1 – starting by listing Transdisciplinary Links from Week 2’s team meeting, and continue planning from there. Imagine the planner extending sideways, and the same planning cycle repeating itself over and over again for the duration of the unit.
Mainstream Teacher Planner
The second planner we have designed is for a mainstream teacher who teaches Language Arts, Math, and Unit of Inquiry. Instead of creating three separate planners, we have opted to go with one so that the teacher can easily make cross-connections between these subjects, but there is no need for you to do the same.
COLUMN 1 – Transdisciplinary Links – Week 1
Similar to the specialist teacher’s planner, this planner also starts by requiring the mainstream teacher to refer back to the brainstorming session and make connections to as many other subjects as possible.
COLUMNS 2, 3 & 4 – Unit of Inquiry, Language and Math – Week 1
The subject area columns all follow the same pattern for planning, and rely on information from the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (9-frame) completed during the brainstorming session to begin.
After the first week, the mainstream planner would extend sideways allowing the teacher to continue planning following the same pattern – Transdisciplinary Links Week 2, Unit of Inquiry, Language Arts, Math, etc.
ESL Teacher Planner
The last sample planner we have designed caters to an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher – your school may have chosen an alternate name for this department – EAL, ELL, etc. This planner is made for an ESL teacher who is assigned to one specific class, and not someone who is a floater offering support to students from multiple classes.
COLUMN 1 – Transdisciplinary Links – Week 1
Like both the specialist and mainstream teacher planners, this planner also starts by requiring the ESL teacher to begin by referring to the brainstorming session (9-frame) to see in which areas they could offer support.
COLUMNS 2 & 3 – Unit of Inquiry and Language Arts – Week 1
Like the mainstream teacher planner, all subject areas follow the same steps in planning.
COLUMNS 4, 5 etc. – Week 1
This planner only shows Week 1 Unit of Inquiry and Language Arts; however, it can be extended horizontally to accommodate other subjects, such as Math, PE, etc.
For every week, the ESL teacher would continue in a cyclical fashion, beginning by indicating Transdisciplinary Links and then planning for the week based on this information.
No matter which way you choose to design your planners, and what information you would like to see in them, as long as there is a clear connect between your team unit planning meeting and your individual teacher planners (as we have shown), you will be able to eradicate “brainstorm hangovers” and the symptoms that accompany them. By requiring your team to refer back to ideas organized within a team planning template like the Team Transdisciplinary Planner, and then providing them with the proper tools to implement those ideas, there is nothing your staff can’t accomplish!
Are you wanting to get started on your own framework and planners but feel you need a little more guidance? Contact us!
Where is the IB's Transdisciplinary Framework?
The Transdisciplinary Framework
How to Run Your IB Team Planning Meetings Like a Boss
Thoughts on ManageBac
Hands up if you can relate to being in an IB team-planning scenario that goes a little something like this – you, as the coordinator, start a meeting by having everyone reflect on their week, which most are happy to do, and then you move on to the planning portion: “Ok team, what are we all doing next week? How are we all going to connect to the Transdisciplinary Theme? What links will we make between subjects?” Teachers stare in silence at first, then someone breaks the ice, a brainstorming session starts, some notes are jotted down to be shared, perhaps in Google Docs, and at the end everyone walks away feeling like things are great because verbally everything made sense. And then the next day reality sets in as teachers sit at their individual desks trying to figure out what they are actually supposed to do for the week … and you, as the coordinator, are left wondering why the teachers are lost because wasn’t it all just discussed – like, yesterday? Sound familiar? If so, there is a term for the after-meeting letdown your team is experiencing that has been brilliantly coined the “brainstorm hangover” by Rohini Venkatraman, a business designer, and she explains it as follows:
“Too often, teams spend quality time coming up with bold ideas only to return to their desks after the session and forget it ever happened. This is the dark cloud that looms over the post-brainstorm frenzy. I call it the brainstorm hangover.” – Rohini Venkatraman - https://www.inc.com/rohini-venkatraman/so-you-led-a-brainstorm-now-what.html
Although these “brainstorm hangovers” may sound dismal, the good news is they can be avoided all-together by following the simple steps below:
Step 1: Create Your Plan of Action
According to the International Baccalaureate programme, it is through “its inquiry-led, transdisciplinary framework” that students are challenged to take responsibility for their learning – albeit as mentioned in previous articles, they have failed to provide this framework, which means it will be up to you to create your own plan of action. Not to worry though, it’s simple enough once you know your end goals, and we have provided the Transciplinary Framework geared for the Primary Years Programme (PYP) below to give you an idea of what a plan could look like:
The key to the above educational framework is the Team Transdisciplinary Planner, which is shown in the form of a 9-frame (the number of squares in the 9-frame can vary depending on subjects at your school) on the left of the diagram. This 9-frame is where all the information from your team planning will be noted, and as you can see, each teacher gets their own box(es), yet all subjects are linked together. After every team meeting, each teacher will start their own personal planner (right side of the diagram) by referring to information in the 9-frame, thus ensuring everyone has a clear starting point that will allow them to plan in a transdisciplinary manner – which is the goal of the IB. See below for example:
By designing a framework like the Transdisciplinary Framework, you will have a clear and focused plan of action based on your desired outcomes before leading your meetings, and in doing so you will be well on your way to eliminating the “brainstorm hangovers” your team suffers from.
Step 2: Visualize Your Initial Unit Planning Meeting
In order to run your initial meeting like a boss, you must be able to visualize how the unit planning portion of the meeting should go with all its moving pieces. How do you see everyone interacting with the framework you’ve designed? What information will be required from each team member? How would you like the information to be organized? It would probably make the most sense to begin unit planning by discussing the Transdisciplinary Theme, Central Idea, Lines of Inquiry, Key Concepts, and Dates as a team so that everyone is clear on where they are headed, as we have illustrated in the top section of our Team Transdisciplinary Planner:
Then from there, think about which order you would like your team members to share their ideas on your planning template. Using our model, you would start in the center with the Unit of Inquiry, then move to Language Arts (LA) and Math, from there proceed to the specialists in the top row [Performing Arts (PA), Visual Arts (VA) and Physical Education (PE)] and end with Modern Foreign Languages (MFL). Once everyone has shared their Standards, ideas for Provocations, Connections, Learning Experiences, etc., loop back around and discuss ways that everyone can connect. Perhaps, for example, after hearing the Visual Arts teacher’s ideas, the Language Arts teacher sees a way the two subjects can link together. After everyone’s thoughts have been noted during the brainstorming session, have the ESL and Learning Support/SEN staff communicate the ways they are able to support the learning happening in different subject areas.
You could leave the brainstorming session very general as above, or you could opt to give it more of a structure and create detailed planning boxes for staff to fill in, such as in the sample below.
In the above Team Transdisciplinary Planner, each mainstream and specialist teacher (minus the MFL teacher) must provide their Standards for the upcoming unit, Prior & Global Connections that could be made, and list Vocabulary & Grammar that will be covered throughout the unit first. The Vocabulary & Grammar section provides invaluable information for the MFL and ESL teams as their planning will center around this knowledge – the MFL teacher will use the information to direct the language taught in their classes and the ESL team will use this information as a base for prepping their scaffolded materials. The ESL and Learning Support/SEN boxes look different from everyone else’s in order to accommodate their needs in planning support for the other subject areas. In the above planning template, you will also notice that space has been provided to prepare for 7 weeks – the duration of the unit. The purpose of this is two-fold – first, to ensure that teachers across all subjects areas have a general idea of what teaching/learning will occur over the duration of the unit from start to finish (some standards must be covered regardless of changes in the direction of the unit), and second, so that throughout team meetings revisions can be made on a weekly basis without losing track of what was already covered – because as we all know, student inquiries and interests can change the trajectory of the unit.
Opened up even further, below are some examples of what subject planner boxes could be like within the 9-frame:
Again, whether you choose a more general brainstorming approach or a more structured approach is up to you; what’s important is that you have gathered all the required information and organized it well enough so that when teachers refer to it, they aren’t confused.
Step 3: Run Your Initial Unit Planning Meeting Like a Boss
You’ve visualized it, you’re equipped for it, now it’s time to run your initial unit planning meeting like a boss! Start by sharing your educational framework and the procedure you will now be following during subsequent planning meetings. Stick to your strategy and follow the order of teacher sharing you mapped out. Make sure everyone has documented their section of your team planner during the meeting (in our case the Team Transdisciplinary Planner) adequately. If you are collaborating on a platform that allows team members to coordinate simultaneously, it should be easy enough for you to keep track and offer guidance. At the end of the meeting remind your team members to refer to your team planning template before starting their individual planners, and if you have prepared these properly so they link to your 9-frame, then voila – “brainstorm hangovers” cured!
For ideas on how to structure your individual teacher planners see our next article,
The Transdisciplinary Planners.
Step 4: Run Your Subsequent Meetings Like a Boss
It is important to refer back to the initial brainstorming done using the team-planning template you have designed as part of your educational framework during every subsequent meeting. If you have allowed space for seven weeks of planning to take place, like we have modeled in our design, it will be very easy to recap what happened in the week prior and plan for the upcoming week based on new inquiries that may have arisen.
From there it will be easy for staff to continue preparations using their personal planners the following day in the same manner as after your initial unit planning meeting.
Step 5: Reflect on the Unit
At the bottom of our Team Transdisciplinary Planner, a section has been left to reflect on the unit, as shown below:
This can be modified to your liking; however, what is important to note is that this section is at the bottom of the 9-frame so that at the end of a unit it is easy to scroll up and reflect on the Inquiries, Learning Activities, and Ongoing Assessments, etc., that took place over the course of the 7 weeks.
Step 6: Repeat the Cycle
Now that you have a solid plan of action and framework in place, it will be simple to repeat the process for upcoming units. And what’s more, if your team planning template matches up correctly to your individual teacher planners (see next week's article), those annoying “brainstorm hangovers” that once plagued your team will be a thing of the past!
Do you want to create a customized version of our Transdisciplinary Framework for your IB world school, but are not quite sure where to start? Contact us, we would be more than happy to help you achieve your goals!
In last week’s article, I asked whether or not the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme provided schools with a working model of a transdisciplinary framework, and the conclusion drawn was no, it did not – there is no plan of action. We are all talking about a unicorn that everyone believes in, but no one has seen. And that right there explains why so many educators struggle to figure out how to implement the IB programme – because although in a general sense people understand what it means to make “connections” between subject areas, no one really knows for sure how to go about doing this, and all the individual planners being designed worldwide won’t help unless you have an over-arching educational framework tying the transdisciplinary vision together, such as the example below.
In the above Transdisciplinary Framework that we have designed, there are two distinct sections – The Team Transdisciplinary Planner on the left-hand side containing individual subject planners arranged in the form of a 9-frame (this number could vary depending on how many subject areas your school has), and the individual Teacher Planners depicted by the grey boxes on the right-hand side. Simply put, the concept behind the above framework is that the information on the left-hand side is used to inform the individual planners on the right-hand side. How would this work in practical terms? To begin with, your teams would run their unit planning meetings normally, but instead of brainstorming in a haphazard way, each teacher would be required to fill out their own individual box within the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (9-frame) with required information. Each planner within the 9-frame would necessitate that teachers not only think about their lessons, but also about how they plan to link them to every other subject as depicted by the white connectors in the above Team Transdisciplinary Planner. This forces the team to act as one cohesive unit and serves to ensure seamless transitions between subject areas for students. Once the information is documented during the meeting within the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (9-frame), then it becomes the point of reference for individual teachers when planning their lessons, because as illustrated by the rainbow of rectangles within each one of their planners, the first thing a teacher will need to do is indicate how they will be connecting to all other subject areas during the upcoming week. Here is a diagram depicting what this would look like for the Performing Arts teacher:
As you can see, the Performing Arts teacher’s first step is to look at the Team Transdisciplinary Planner and copy relevant information into their personal Teacher Planner. Step 2 requires the Performing Arts teacher to continue planning their unit based on the possible links noted, thus ensuring cross-connections are being made between subject Standards, Learning Experiences etc. The arrows go both ways to demonstrate that during weekly team meetings, the Performing Arts teacher can note reflections and inquiries that transpired during their lessons within their box in the Team Transdisciplinary Planner, which will ultimately influence the direction all other subject areas go in. Therefore, what you end up with is a living, breathing set of documents that are based on real-time learnings happening across all subject areas, and that are tied together as tightly as possible. And this is how you implement an inquiry-based program that centers around the concept of a transdisciplinary framework – which is the goal of IB, is it not?
Now of course it can be noted that this Transdisciplinary Framework has been laid out in a very general sense, and is tailored to the PYP (Primary Years Programme). As we all know, it’s not that easy because no two teachers will be approaching their personal planning in the same manner – specialists see multiple classes within a day, mainstream teachers plan multiple lessons for the same class, and ESL/Learning Support staff must look at their objectives from the point of supporting learners during their lessons. In our upcoming articles, detailed suggestions for how to design both the personalized planners within a team transdisciplinary planner (9-frame) and each teacher’s individualized planner will be made, alongside tips for running effective team meetings. To learn more, see:
How to Run Your IB Planning Meetings Like a Boss Using a Transdisciplinary Framework
The Transdisciplinary Planners
* Article below will be coming soon!
Tips for Creating Transdisciplinary Rubrics
Interested in a customized version of the Transdisciplinary Framework for your IB school? Based on your needs, we can adapt this framework and its accompanying planners so that it’s a perfect fit your school. Contact us, we look forward helping you achieve your unique vision!