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!