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Leading an Interdisciplinary Week as MYP Coordinator

December 18th, 2023


Interdisciplinary learning, an MYP requirement, is a focal point for my school this year. Students will work through two of these units, off time-table over 4-5 days. This blog post is about the first of these Interdisciplinary units (IDUs) that took place in our final week before the winter holiday break. The MYP 1 - 5 students were split into groups that ended with about 10-11 students in each group, containing students from each year group. Assigned to the groups were 2 - 3 teachers facilitating and supervising the learning throughout the week as their PYP/DP schedules allowed. 


I have participated in a few IDUs as an MYP teacher. Still, as the first of two this year I am leading as the MYP Coordinator, our leadership and I decided to not assess it against the IDU Criteria, but rather focus on students explicitly reflecting and demonstrating ATL skills. The topic of this unit was “Building a Continent.” Students create a fictional continent that has them completing project tasks assigned by each subject department towards this one goal. Each group is led by MYP 5 students who help lead the learning, delegate roles, ensure work done by the group is at an acceptable standard, and promote resiliency and positivity as the week progresses. This blog post focuses on the implementation of this Interdisciplinary Unit from my perspective as an MYP Coordinator leading the learning.



Three Lessons Learned as MYP Coordinator

  1. The importance of organization skills

With MYP teachers coming and going throughout the Interdisciplinary week, and the subject tasks not (all) being explicitly taught, it was important to have standardization in what teachers create and support the students with, as well as ensuring the expectations of what each group created would be consistent and clear. For this I decided each of the 8 subject departments would create their project task on a document that had consistent sub-headings, explained how it was linked to the “Building a Continent” theme, the disciplinary content, and exactly what the students had to create. Through one-on-one meetings with each department, these task sheets were completed, and the uniform subject tasks were a major success of this week, both for students and staff.

On our school Google Drive, each of the six groups had their own folder to upload completed work as stated on these task sheets. Ex. mp3 recording of an anthem, Population Bar graph. This allowed teachers to monitor progress throughout the week as they came and went from facilitating learning. Our MYP 5 students were in charge of ensuring that the files were named correctly, and completed to a high quality.


A major focus was being organized myself, having a shared folder on our teacher drive that contained all my teacher meeting outlines, all the teacher-created subject tasks, an outline of the expectations for the final presentation, student groups, etc. See picture below. This proved helpful as I was busy throughout the week, and allowed the answer to most teacher questions to be found quickly.


    2. The importance of multiple (at least two) staff meetings

About a month before the Interdisciplinary week I held a staff meeting where I introduced and walked through the big ideas for our upcoming IDU. This meeting provided teachers with expectations of how their subject would be involved and allowed myself and others to share their vision for the week. Through this initial staff meeting, I gave an overview of what “Building a Continent” meant, responded to teacher questions, and gave a brief outline of what the week would look like. Leaving the initial meeting teachers had a clear understanding of their expectations, knowledge their teaching hours would remain consistent, and how they facilitate. It also allowed me to set follow-up meetings with each department in a couple of weeks to go through their subject task sheet.


The second meeting took place the week before the IDU was to begin. This meeting provided teachers with their schedules, and student groups, and provided a more in-depth look at how the week would go. Every subject department presented its subject tasks, providing all teachers with the ability to ask for any clarifications and ensuring the teaching staff would be able to facilitate each of the subject tasks their group would complete. I had cleared these in a department meeting between the first and second staff meetings. This second staff meeting was important to ensure all staff were on the same page, had a voice, and expectations for the week were clear.


   3. The importance of remaining flexible.

A third lesson I learned as MYP Coordinator, leading an IDU week, was the importance of remaining flexible, especially in my expectations of teachers, scheduling, and subject tasks. First, it became immediately apparent that some teachers had great ideas for how their subject would contribute to this IDU, while other teachers needed more time. Having a month from the first meeting to the IDU week, allowed me to work with some teachers, and be flexible on deadlines being met. 


Next, as with any week, there is always the potential for staff to need cover. By keeping myself and my secondary head off of direct group facilitating, it allowed us both to be flexible and deal with a few instances of the need to step in to cover groups for a teacher. 


Keeping the content of subject tasks flexible also proved to be important. Groups work at different speeds, so ensuring that subject tasks were open-ended and could be completed within 2-3 hours, but also could be enhanced with groups who had more time was another strong positive of this week. The MYP teachers took this IDU week to the next level and allowed students to demonstrate their learning in fun, creative ways.


The physical component of their presentation. Videos, and a slideshow not pictured.

Approach to Learning Skills and Criterion C Reflection


As stated in my introduction, this Interdisciplinary unit was not assessed on the official MYP criteria, but rather used as a way to formatively prepare students for another official horizontally aligned IDU week that would be assessed, and to improve student's understanding of ATL skills. Each subject task was linked to one of the following four ATL skills:


1. Thinking - Consider ideas from multiple perspectives

2. Communication - Organize and depict information logically

3. Research - Collect and analyse data to identify solutions and make informed decisions

4. Social - Delegate and share responsibility for decision-making


How students would explore the chosen ATL skill was included at the top of each subject task sheet. At the end of the week, teachers gave each student in their group a grade from D (Developing) to E (Exceeding). This will be included in a future MYP report.


Thursday afternoon, after each group put on a wonderful presentation of their continent and learning for the week, students completed a reflection that I created, based on Criterion C of the Interdisciplinary criteria.  These four questions provided a conclusion for the week and allowed students to demonstrate their gained understanding of how disciplines can come together for a united goal. These reflections will provide me with feedback on areas to improve and/or focus on going into the next Interdisciplinary week!


MYP Coordinator Reflection

The format of this week, my organization in the months leading up to this week, and the clarity of each subject task led to positive feedback from senior leadership, students and fellow teachers.


While the final presentations were well done, some groups could have used more time to prepare to present. I think building presentation skills should be a focus going forward, as some groups had difficulty taking the guidelines and preparing using their time efficiently.


On a Wednesday afternoon, as the PE teacher as well, I hosted a “Continent Olympics”. Students enjoyed the opportunity to step out of the classroom and be physically active while competing with their continent in a variety of field challenges. The field activities were a mix of challenges requiring 5-6 students or 1-2 students to represent each continent. I would have more 5-6 students per continent challenges next time as the communication skills were awesome to see in these events.


Overall, a successful week from a learning perspective, and a massive weight off of my shoulders professionally. Due to a large amount of preparation, things mostly ran smoothly and I can not wait to challenge myself and my students next time!

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