Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: PYP Exhibition

PYP Exhibition is all the rage at our school at the moment. Morning, afternoon and night…We are breathing Exhibition. Students are busy interviewing guest speakers, conducting surveys, watching videos, working with their facilitators, sharing knowledge. It’s exciting. It’s buzzing. Exhilarating. Exhausting.

It’s not fair to use the expression: separating the wheat from the chaff…but Exhibition can be a bit like that. It’s an intensive, all-consuming dive into inquiry calling on all skills and attitudes. From 7 years of doing this, I’ve seen how some students thrive during Exhibition. They’ve been waiting for this freedom, the challenge to think more deeply, to direct their learning more freely, to gain knowledge that goes beyond a prescribed unit.

Some of those students today discussed war and peace and the role of the United Nations with a guest speaker in an intimate setting. They asked probing questions. And when the guest speaker left, they independently decided to get together to share notes and ideas about what they had just learned. They had a heated discussion about the UN and different wars. They bounced ideas back and forth. I didn’t need to be in the room. In fact, I wasn’t part of the equation at all. It was amazing.

And then there are students with learning challenges, language challenges, behavior challenges and some who have never learned independent skills by age 10 and 11. One student in my group is under surveillance for learning support but hasn’t received any and is new to the school. Within 2 minutes of watching a video about human rights, he has written the main idea, which is incomprehensible. When asked later about the video, he can only say it’s about human rights. He can’t read his notes. He asks questions of a guest speaker from a prescribed sheet but doesn’t write any answers, nor is he is able to tell you what the guest speaker said.

And he’s just one of many with special learning challenges. There are also students who sit with their teacher facilitator and wait to be told what to do. They don’t begin until someone tells them. If they’re online, they’re texting a friend. They’re distracted by others around them and spend a lot of time getting water or going to the washroom. A few have already lost their Exhibition journals.

To be fair, about 80 percent of the students can manage to complete Exhibition with minimal interference and come out with better skills, knowledge and independence. I love Exhibition with those students. They experience such growth. With the other 20 percent, we make it, but I’m not sure if a targeted 6 weeks (really more like 10-14) is worth it. Do we need to be separating the wheat from the chaff like this?

What have you experienced? Solutions? A revamping of Exhibition?



2 thoughts on “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: PYP Exhibition

  1. Hi Kristen,
    A valuable reflection for sure! We see the same thing at our school. But I do feel that it is still a valuable experience for all. Being immersed in an environment where there are a multitude of levels of independence and capabilities is reflective of the world outside of school. We try to be really mindful of the saying, “Fair isn’t always Equal” and so what we have those students with more challenges doing, doesn’t always look the same as their group members. We have been very careful this year to pair those groups up with mentors who are able to spend a little bit more time with the group, teachers provide more frequent check-ins, and I also pop in as much as I can to offer my support (I’m actually taking one of those groups on a site visit tomorrow).

    It is my hope that even if they may not experience the same level of growth that some others do, they do experience some form of growth in their own way by being immersed in the experiences. There is always SOMETHING that sticks, and if that helps them in their future endeavors, then I feel we have done something right 🙂
    Just the fact that they are exposed to having the opportunity to speak to and interview a guest expert, or interact with people (adults, peers, etc) they may otherwise have not had the chance, even if they don’t record anything from the meeting, I think the experience can be of value, in and of itself.

    All that being said, I’m always thinking of ways to revamp the Exhibition to make it as meaningful as possible for everyone. I think it would be such a valuable conversation to have as part of a #pypchat or even just a Google Hangout with a few of us to bounce ideas and challenges off of one another. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Resources – PYP Workshop Exhibition

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