At the end of the last academic year, my colleague and I sat down to design a new unit for year 7 that would inspire and empower them to feel that they can do something about the global issues they worry about.
Before we sat down to create our unit, I’d already discussed the idea with some of my year 7 students and they helped me to formulate a few ideas. By the end of our collaborative session, I had a brief outline to take to my colleague for exploration and discussion.
Main points from my students included: - they worry about global issues but feel they have no involvement in dealing with them - they felt they didn't have a voice in the issues that WILL affect them (climate change and the consequential problems primarily) - some knew enormous amounts about particular environmental issues but never got to make use of their understanding - they wanted to feel empowered - they wanted to learn about the solutions as much as the issues
MYP Unit Plan
It’s pretty lame, but I was really excited about creating this unit as it would be the first one I’d had the opportunity to create from scratch. I’d started as Subject Leader in September 2016 and inherited the MYP plans already in place. In the first few years, the departmental focus was on developing the new GCSE course & the new IB ESS course initially, followed by the new IB Geography course. MYP would stay as it were until the new exam courses were in place. Instead with the help of the team, we updated the existent MYP units.
Now however is the time to improve the MYP curriculum, to make it the foundations for future geographical study and to make learning, assessment and feedback fully integrated through the 3 years so that everything builds on what has come before.
Year 8 and 9 (MYP years 2 & 3) are functioning well thanks to the changes and developments over the last few years, however year 7 (year 1) needs quite the overhaul to make it truly fit for purpose. So this is where the ‘new’ department and I have started.
An MYP unit plan looks something like this (please note however that I added SDGs they are not a common feature):
Designing our unit
The first part of designing a new unit is to decide upon the final outcomes – what do we want students to learn and take away from the unit of study?
There are three areas of the unit plan we needed to explore before we could decide on these outcomes, these were
a) the content to cover
b) the objectives of the unit
c) the summative assessment
We started by writing a brief outline of the content we thought appropriate whilst at the same time formulating a few key objectives. Once we had a rough idea, we discussed the summative assessment and how the three would connect. This was all rough and nothing was set at this point.
Once we had a rough idea, we went back to the core elements of an MYP unit; the key concept, relate concepts, global context and statement of inquiry. The aim of these are to establish the purpose of the unit.
From there we created the inquiry questions for the unit, these are broken down into factual, conceptual and debatable questions. These questions guide the learning and are asked throughout the unit to check for understanding.
The next stage of developing a unit is going back to the objectives, content and summative assessment and fine tuning these so they integrate the inquiry questions.
We decided upon the following objectives and summative assessment for the unit:
The unit would develop student understanding of one global issue together – we selected the plastic problem. We would teach students about the issue, management (including responsibility) and a select few solutions to the plastic problem. Student will then use this outline to structure their own awareness raising campaign, which makes up the summative assessment.
Our next focus for discussion returned to the content. We had our objectives and summative assessment decided we now needed to align the content, approaches to learning and formative assessment to these.
We started by breaking down the content and working out the sub-content.
Once the sub-content was determined we explored the approaches to learning that could be developed through the content delivered. Students would cover the AtL – Research (information literacy) in unit 1, so we wanted students to build upon this and selected a further two as shown below.
Now that we had our objectives, summative assessment, AtLs and content sorted we could consider the formative assessment – these are pieces of work that are assessed by the teacher and feedback is provided to the student. These are the only pieces of work teachers are expected to assess. All other work can be assessed through book looks with feedback provided via whole class feedback, assessment for learning strategies or peer/self assessment.
The aim of any formatively assessed work is that it should feed into the summative assessment and future work. Thus meaning that any feedback provided ought to be transferable between topics – thus developing the learner not the work.
We decided upon the following:
And added in where the formative work fitted into the content.
The final stage involved completing other elements of the ‘learning process’ section which include the learning experiences & teaching strategies along with differentiation (scaffolding).
After this unit, we created two more units using the same process. However the one difference being ensuring that content and approaches to learning developed through this unit, fed into units 3 and 4 of year 7 (MYP year 1).
Assessment for Learning and Feedback
In order to reduce the workload of assessment, teachers and students are provided with a feedback sheet prior to the task. These sheets outline the success criteria for the task. Here’s an example for formative work 2.
Teachers are encouraged to live mark whilst students work, pointing out the next steps the student could take before completion of the task.
My classes do a lot of what I call ‘messy progress’ , this means they are encouraged to add to their work, this can be in the margins, as footnotes or through the use of edit strips, encouraging them to self-assess their work and look for their own potential improvements before submitting as complete. It may end up looking something like this:
Once a formative piece is completed the teacher simply highlights the successes achieved and any relevant next steps. If teachers have any specific feedback for individual students they can either write it in or speak to the individual during the lesson in which they receive their feedback.
Summative feedback looks very similar, except an MYP grade is provided for the criterion assessed.
The key part of producing feedback sheets is that you have to know what you want your students to achieve through the task. This therefore requires an element of planning backwards.
From unit planning came lesson planning. During my gained time I created a set of outline lessons to cover the content of the unit. These are just outlines for the class teacher to amend to suit their approach.
Hope you found the post of use, feel free to share how you go about planning a new unit or SoW.