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When Statements of Inquiry (and other conceptual understandings) transfer

In the MYP we write down the important conceptual understandings that we want the unit to cover, we call these Statements of Inquiry (SOIs). Oftentimes they are seen as being difficult to write. I believe it is possible to write SOIs that both honour the discipline AND offer a path for transfer to other subjects. I don't however hold to the view that they accomplish this because they are universal generalisations.

The 6 TQs and how they aid the SOI

It was for this reason that I settled on the notion that 6 Transfer Questions can support a discussion between the disciplines through which students can compare and contrast the ideas each discipline brings to the table. This very act of considering the different perspectives and approaches is itself an act of transfer. I posted about the 6TQs here and their relationship to the MYP global contexts here.

The idea then is that subjects write their SOI but they consider which of the transfer question is the statement addressing. Here again is all 6 transfer questions (with a non-exhaustive list of potential concepts that might connect to these questions):

Part A - Making Meaning

A1. What do we understand about ourselves (personally and as a humanity)?

Identity, Culture, Empathy, Insight, Experience, Faith Compassion, Wisdom, Expression, Influence, Control , Confidence, Ideology, Needs, Bias

A2. Do our models, metaphors and theories explain what we observe?

Form, Structure, Representations, Behaviours, Inference, Patterns, Reliability, Belief, Opinion, Context, Paradigms, Confirmation Bias, Prejudice, Selection

A3. Do we grasp the workings of complex interrelated systems?

Function, Systems, Reductionism, Complexity, Relationships, Globalism, Connections, Networks, Communities, Diversity, Disturbance, Balance, Cascades, Tipping points, Components, Actors

Part B - Taking Action

B1. What motivates us to seek change?

Purpose, Values, Priorities, Ethics, Power, Authority, Privilege, Responsibility, Hubris, Problem solving, Fairness, Technology, Competition, Resolution, Curiosity

B2. How does change unfold?

Reasoning, Creativity, Necessity, Invention, Innovation, Decision, Critique, Skepticism, Adaptation, Evolution, Communication, Revolution, Viral

B3. Do we know / consider all the impacts of the changes we make?

Change, Causation, Consequence, Progress, Innovation, Development, Sustainability, Risk, Prediction, Complexity, Uncertainty, Conflict

Today I want to share an example of how this can work in practice. I have been teaching a unit on atomic stucture and bonding and how it explains the properties and reactivities of the elements in the periodic table. The SOI I chose was:

"Models that logically explain and successfully predict patterns often lead to a turning point in human history".

This is a conceptual understanding which explores how science comes to an understanding about how the world works. in other words is addressing the transfer question: A2. Do our models, metaphors and theories explain what we observe?

But this SOI expresses the way that science goes about it. Science is heavily reliant on models and the application of logic. Science looks for patterns and the success criteria of understanding is its ability to use these models to make successful predictions. This is not the same of all disciplines.

So I took this to my students and we broke down the SOI to consider how other disciplines do this.

This is a photo of my whiteboard (yes I am still old school and working with pens!). If it is bit hard to read zoom in and it reads better.

I gave the example of Art, discussing how they use representations of reality and a different type of reasoning to a different end, with different success criteria. Artists would recognise that this is just one form of Art and that there are a multitudinous number of approaches and goals. That schools of artist thought are predicated on differences here. We (I and the class) then worked collaboratively on another example this time Literature. They saw that the use of characters and metaphors were used to make observations of the world in an attempt to influence or inform our world view. Feeling confident that they had got the concept, they made mindmaps of how they understood how other disciplines worked. This time I went techno savvy and they did this digitally here are some of their discoveries:

This was the first time doing this, but I was impressed with the insights and the personal perspectives it drew out. I intend to make this more habitual, and imagine if this was systemic! Students would be drawn to making comparisons. And every time they do this they are pulled into a situation when transfer has to happen!

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