Collaborative planning in the PYP

by | Mar 2, 2024 | Leadership | 4 comments

This blog can be read anytime in connection to a previous blog, “Stand-alone or Integration”.

We hear a lot of the following questions related to collaboration in the PYP:

  1. When do we meet? What is the frequency of the meetings?
  2. Who needs to attend the collaborative planning meetings?
  3. We don’t have enough time to meet, what to do?
  4. The specialist teachers don’t attend the collaborative planning meeting, what should we do?
  5. What do we do in these meetings?

I will refer to the IB publication again to answer these questions and situations:

Let’s start with the PYP requirements taken from the learning standards and practices:

PYP 1: The school allocates adequate resources to support collaborative planning amongst subject specialists and classroom teachers for transdisciplinary learning. (0201-05-0111)

Teacher support 3.1: The school allocates dedicated and scheduled and/or timetabled time for teachers’ collaborative planning and reflection. (0203-03-0100)

Coherent curriculum 1.4: The school provides collaborative planning time for teachers to incorporate IB philosophy into the curriculum. (0401-01-0400)

PYP 1: Teachers use the PYP planner template(s) or otherwise document the way that they use the PYP planning process to collaboratively design, plan and deliver the programme. (0401-02-0111)

Coherent curriculum 2.2: Teachers plan and reflect collaboratively to consider connections and relationships between different areas, and reinforce shared concepts, content and skills. (0401-02-0200)

We will add to the above section some important points about collaboration taken from the document the learning community:

PYP schools commit to and support collaboration to improve the transdisciplinary learning experiences and student outcomes.

Teachers collaborate within and beyond year-level teams, the school and the learning community about learning that takes place both inside and outside of the programme of inquiry.

Students demonstrate agency, and their capacity to take action for their own learning, by collaborating with teachers and peers.

Collaborative teaching practices between year-level and subject-specialist teachers come in different forms, and include co-constructed, supported and stand-alone learning experiences.

As you can see, the IB doesn’t refer to any number of meetings or frequency. It’s about good practices and what works best for each school, and it’s about the positive impact on learning and teaching. Let’s not forget that collaboration is one of the 6 pillars of approaches to teaching in IB education.

Our role as a leadership team including the IB coordinator, is to make sure that we are committed to this framework and we do our best to implement it, keeping in mind that each country and each school’s context and situation is completely different, and we can’t copy and paste what I will share with you to all the schools. What might work in one school may not work in another school. Also, keep in mind, just because we think it might be the best, it does not mean it will be suited for the rest.

Let me start by a very simple idea, that I am sure we can all put it in place regardless of where we are on this planet. The idea consists of starting each term or finishing each term with collaborative planning or a professional development day. The students might head to the end of term holidays one day earlier, or the teacher will come one day before the students. This day plays a critical role in team building and allowing for in depth collaborative planning meetings and activities. I used to divide this day into 4 sessions, each one being 1 hour and 30 mins.

Session 1: whole school meeting to work on any item that involves the whole community, like school policies or preparation for an IB visit

Session 2: a team building activity prepared by a depertment ( PE, Language, science…)

Session 3: collaboration and preparation for the units of inquiry

Session 4: work in the classrooms and learning environments

I know many schools have PD days during the year or they have half days, so this is a great moment to invite the relevant community member to the planning meeting.

Once a week or once a term, the student leave early and the teachers stay at school. In my previous schools, this was happening every Tuesday on a weekly basis, (the week started on Sunday and finished on Thursday), so Tuesday was the mid of the week, this day was selected on purpose because usually at end of the week, the teachers are tired. Per term, we had approximately 10 weeks and the calendar was as follows:

Week 0: before the start of the unit 1 – Rotation meeting, in this meeting all the specialists’ teachers would meet with the class teachers separately as you can see in the chart below. They check if they will integrate or no, and if they are not integrating what’s happening so all the teachers will be aware of what’s happening.  

3 years oldITLibrarianVisual ArtsLanguagePEMusicInclusionCounselor
4 years old CounselorITLibrarianVisual ArtsLanguagePEMusicInclusion
5 years old InclusionCounselorITLibrarianVisual ArtsLanguagePEMusic
Grade 1MusicInclusionCounselorITLibrarianVisual ArtsLanguagePE
Grade 2PEMusicInclusionCounselorITLibrarianVisual ArtsLanguage
Grade 3LanguagePEMusicInclusionCounselorITLibrarianVisual Arts
Grade 4Visual ArtsLanguagePEMusicInclusionCounselorITLibrarian
Grade 5LibrarianVisual ArtsLanguagePEMusicInclusionCounselorIT
All speacialist teachers meet with class teacher

Week 1: PD opportunity (it can be led by a teacher, the coordinator or the IT team)

Week 2: Collaboration between all teachers working on the same unit. This meeting brings all the teachers teaching the same grade level at the same time if they are collaborating on the same unit.  This chart shows how this meeting is structured.

Grade 3 years old4 years old5 years old  Grade 1Grade 2Grade 3 Grade 4Grade 5 5
Unit titlePlayTransportationShadows and lightEndangered speciesLanguagesArtsBody systemEvents
Teachers involved Class teacher Music Visual Arts PE Language IT LibrarianClass teacher Language IT LibrarianClass teacher Visual Arts Language IT LibrarianClass teacher Language IT LibrarianClass teacher Music Language IT LibrarianClass teacher PE Music Visual Arts Language IT LibrarianClass teacher PE Language IT LibrarianClass teacher PE Music Language IT Librarian
All teachers involved in same unit, they collaborate together

Week 3: Personal time for the teachers (during this time they can plan for report cards, work in the classes, provide feedback on students work)

Week 4: before the start of the unit 2 – Rotation meeting

Week 5: School event (it can be a parents meeting, it can be an art night, or anything else)

Week 6: Reflection meeting, all the teachers use this meeting to reflect on the unit

This is a sample of how these afternoons were spent. Everything was planned and allowed for a balanced approach between all the departments and the needs of the teachers.

Most of the schools have the following structure, the class teachers meet while the specialists are teaching in the classes. During these meetings, we look at the progress of the unit, the students’ questions, and the weekly plan. Some of the coordinators will teach and allow for the specialists to attend the meeting. I recommend this in a school where most of the team has experience with the programme.

It can be outside school hours, in a coffee shop, or during the school days in the teachers’ room or in the corridor. It might be via email or a note on the unit planner, or ideas shared on the POI posted in the collaborative planning room.

Let me finish this blog by saying the room where the collaboration takes place is very important. I have seen many schools where they don’t have collaborative planning space, or teachers sitting on KG chairs uncomfortably in a preschool class to plan, or the meetings are done during the teachers’ lunch break, which frankly speaking, is not fair. Let’s all remember, we come prepared for a collaborative planning meeting, and we need to provide allocated time, as well as a safe welcoming space to be able to participate and take the planning process from a simple discussion of activities to be done during the week to a deeper discussion about pedagogy, learning, transdisciplinary opportunities and real-life connections.

How do you collaborate at your school? Would love to hear from you.

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

I’m in a lucky situation which allows our teams to plan during the school day. We work on an 8 day cycle, and as we have 7 grade levels, there’s a meeting on 7 of the 8 days. The homeroom team come on their designated day, but PE, visual arts, performing arts, ELA, inclusion, library and local language come every day. We start the meeting by talking about student successes, concerns, or information. After that, those not connecting directly with the UoI leave the meeting, and we continue on to discuss the current unit, or do a reflection about the previous unit, or plan the upcoming unit. It’s a lot of meeting time for me and for the specialists and certainly not sustainable for years to come, but for now, the timetable allows for it!

1 month ago

Hi! What do you think about having a two year POI cycle? For example – having a Year A and Year B, so Grades 1&2 share, as do 3&4, (Gr5 is on its own!). We are a small school, one class per grade and are considering this for greater collaboration, more focus on differentiation/personalised learning for homeroom teachers, and benefits to specialist subject teachers as fewer units per year to focus on, so more depth. It would need to be carefully managed so as not to reduce richness/ diversity of our curriculum for students, as well as our communication to parents…. I have heard some schools have had success with this and that it’s been positively received by IB evaluators. Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this