PYP Exhibition: To Group or Not to Group

The PYP Exhibition is off and running, and it’s already intense. As a teacher, I do love the Exhibition. However, it’s a lot of work, and it was nice to have a year off last year from the Exhibition as I taught 4th grade.

This year, as it’s a new school and new environment, it’s been challenging. Among many “issues” that have come up regarding the Exhibition, one of them is grouping. The IB Exhibition guidelines state that one of the key purposes is to engage in an in-depth, collaborative inquiry. It’s listed first in a list of 8 key purposes and usually ends up as the focus for Exhibition. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s easiest or we all get lazy and don’t read the other purposes. The list goes on to talk about the following:

  • independence
  • responsibility
  • multiple perspectives
  • synthesize previous learning
  • authentic assessment
  • action
  • uniting students and school
  • celebration from primary to secondary

In the past, we ended up going down more of an individual Exhibition, collaborating around concepts, shared experiences, reflections and of course the final product. It worked well.

This year, in a new school, we are back to the traditional model of grouping. However, due to my past experience, I’m resisting.

Students have started by thinking about the theme: Where We are in Place and Time. They then focused on interconnectedness and started brainstorming ways we are all connected across place and time. Collaboration, right?

Then, they thought about which of those ideas interested them.

From there, we were able to make “groups” around common topics like education, basic needs, technology, culture, and sports and entertainment.  Students’ interests naturally led them to toward a certain “group.”

They then individually thought about issues important to them and the world within that topic. For example, under culture, students are concerned about religion and conflicts causes by that…important globally and seen directly in Bangladesh.

They discussed their issues, got ideas from each others, Skyped with a class in Laos and shared ideas there. More collaboration.

Many students are engaged and passionate already. I have one student thinking about action she can do, and it makes sense. Another student keeps bringing in websites that will help others in the class. Another student was musing over her questions to explore during a recent assembly (outside of class).  Students told their buddies today in Laos they already think the Exhibition is fun.

Next week, they start meeting with their group. I want to keep the Exhibition fun and to ensure that their “group” doesn’t way them down. Today, when the students in Laos asked my students if they preferred to work in a group, the majority of them said “individual.” They have experienced the “group” here, and they know that some members do their share and others don’t.

So, moving into our groups next week, we need to think about how the students want to work together. They should set up expectations around that. I’m thinking of these questions:

  • How can your group help you?
  • How do you want to work together?
  • What experiences should you share? What should you do on your own?
  • What ties you all together?
  • What are some expectations of everyone when we meet together?
  • What help do you need from your facilitator?

Hopefully we can steer clear of having a “group” project where everyone has to do a small piece of the puzzle, and then frustration happens when many aren’t doing their piece of the puzzle. We can also differentiate and recognize everyone as an individual inquirer.

I’m pushing to make this happen but it’s feeling like a bulldozer right now against a system that’s been in place for a while.

Change is never easy, is it?


2 thoughts on “PYP Exhibition: To Group or Not to Group

  1. Great read- thanks for being open and honest in your thinking. Am in both camps regarding grouping as we start thinking of our Exhibition as well. Wish I had kept it, but came across an article or blog(?) a few months back saying how PYP teachers often misconscrue the collaboration aspect as meaning ‘must be grouped’. The writer explained your perspective- that we can still collaborate around concepts etc but inquire individually. It made me reshift my thinking as does your blog post. Last year our kids had a choice between being in a group or individual. The key importance was the passion with your topic and then they could choose to buddy up if others also shared same topic passion. It worked well and reflected our classroom practise where the kids can usually choice independent or group. Maybe this could be a happy compromise for your delema too? Choosing alone or group also values the introverted and extroverted children’s characters. Could be the selling point you might need to help with your thoughts. Anyway, this message is really about saying thanks for helping to think more about this.

  2. Like always, this is an interesting post and very timely for most in the Americas region. We have just had this conversation today as a team and we thought about a couple of things and it led us to thinking about ‘breaking the mould’.

    Usually we would group via common topics – global warming, child soldiers etc’ but I felt that this led to more concentration on facts rather than deeper concepts and also there would always be a few students who would ‘have to fit in’ to another group topic or they would end up on their own. So what change to make? Well, I think we thought about grouping through related concepts so conceivably a students who want to inquire into deforestation, pollution and war could all collaborate and inquire into the concept of impact. We will see how it feels when the process gets started but the main thing is we understand the reasons behind the decision to do it this way!

    Hope that sounds clear and would love feedback!


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