16 October 2017

Primary Years Programme (PYP)

Looking at Central Ideas

Over the previous two Thistle articles I discussed the significance of transdisciplinary learning and the role of the Transdisciplinary Themes in ensuring a globally significant conceptualised program. We now pull down into the Units of Inquiry (UOI). These are 'transdisciplinary' (remember what that means?) units of work that run for from four to seven weeks. These units are driven by a generalisation know as a Central Idea. Below I have demonstrated an example of a Central Idea as well as some information about the formation of a Central Idea.

Example of a unit on a programme of inquiry

An inquiry into:

How we organize ourselves

An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.

9-10 years

Central idea

New digital media changes the way in which people access information and connect to each other.

Key concepts: function, causation, connection

Related concepts: networks, access, ethics, platform

Lines of inquiry

• How new digital media is used or organized

• Evaluating information

• Our responsibility in virtual environments

Central idea

Each of the units of inquiry has a central idea. The central idea should be written in one sentence that expresses concisely an enduring understanding. Each central idea will support students' understanding of the particular transdisciplinary theme it is connected to, and should challenge and extend students' prior knowledge. Central ideas should be globally significant and have relevance to students in all cultures and contexts, offering students the opportunity to explore commonalities of human experience as framed by the description of the transdisciplinary theme.

Central ideas do not have to be worded in a complex way, nor do they have to be written in language appropriate to the age of the students. Words that students may not have come across before, but are essential to the understanding of the central idea, should be included. This means that the central idea may need to be "unpacked" by the teachers or students and discussed in language that the students can understand. By the end of a unit of inquiry, it is reasonable to expect students to be articulate about the central idea and to explain their understanding in their own words.

Mr Warwick Norman

Junior School Dean of Teaching & Learning