Searching for the Coordinator’s Compass

“We will have to learn our way into understanding.”– Eleanor Drago-Severson

I asked a question this morning to my Twitter PLN of educators engaged in implementing IB programmes. It was a simple question, “What might be some questions you’d have liked answered when you first became an IB Coordinator?”

Perhaps the intention for posting this question was simple enough. What’s important that new coordinators might appreciate? What is this work all about, and what does it mean to the coordinator? And, How do we describe the agency of so many of the educators who nurture IB programs in their schools?

It’s all about Purpose

@jitenpande talked about the why. “I found the answers in the Standards and Practices. They became my why.”

The Standards and Practices are important to coordinators because these describe “What it means to be an IB World School” (Programme Standards and Practices, 2015, p. 1). The descriptors inside this document spell out success criteria for implementation of programmes. For our students and communities, these criteria guarantee a quality that IB schools uphold, enact, and embody.

@brianlalor: Having somebody clearly go through the standards and practices with me and in particular the ones required for authorisation.

The Standards and Practices are key to implementation. The descriptors of practices become the basis for an action plan, which programme coordinators and teachers reference for what to implement and how to implement.

@WilsJP: As an incoming MYPCo, would have been nice to see the previous five year evaluation + action plan straightaway as a tool for setting relevant goals. If action plan doesn’t exist, this becomes priority.

Guidance is also available through the Coordinators’ Teacher Support Materials on the (former OCC) MyIB. @sjtylr gives the example of the MYP TSM.

It’s all about people

The conversation turned again and again to people, relationships, and growth. Creating connected thinking by establishing connections in a network was key for a lot of the PLN.

@KetiBrook: For me it was who can I contact and go to for support/help with specific questions! I spent a lot of time on ibanswers Skype for quick clarification questions

@reidau1: I’d highly recommend joining your local network, especially if it is in the same city. I found this group to be so helpful.

@Jenny_Lathrop: Using social media and online groups to connect with educators in other schools, peer observations and professional reading.

@KetiBook: Definitely agree – the MYPC Jiangsu network has been a lifesaver many times over and it is so amazing to see how the coached quickly become the coaches. Our WeChat MYPC group is very active and reduces isolation massively! It reassures you that everyone has similar struggles.

@alisonkis: Establishing a personal learning network and sharing ideas have helped me grow a lot this year. Good ideas are worth sharing and with feedback, ideas could be refined and become better.

@sjtylr: The power of a good PLN is irreplaceable; my school and I benefit beyond measure from these connections, ideas, iterations and sharing.

Ultimately we recognise that the work is about supporting people and their growth.

@jitenpande: I thought it was quite important to assure teachers that there is no perfect planner. The teachers knew the content. We had the what figured out. We worked on the how once we created a strong faith in the why.

Drago-Severson talks about the value of a holding environment, a cognitive time-space continuum which “both supports a person where he or she is in terms of making meaning of the experience and challenges the person to grow beyond that, but without conveying any urgent need for change.”

@DaunYorke: Whatever position you’re in, when joining a new school, have to go slow and be ready to listen to voices of others, learn about <to move>.

@MsGurpreet_gmis: First might be identifying your leadership style and seeing how it aligns to the community. Many times I see MYPC feel like lone warriors. Identify community capacity and talent. Allocate and share responsibility by making an action plan together with teachers.

@alisonkis: Help teachers align their values with the organization, develop a vision and involve them in the discussion of what good learning and teaching looks like might enable teachers to find their personal pathways.

@Jenny_Lathrop: As all teachers are in different places in their understanding of the PYP and inquiry-based learning, it is essential to maintain effective communication to know how, and when, to support them.

The programme coordinator is key in developing a holding environment while implementation presents a challenge that is complicated and often adaptive as opposed to technical.

@sjtylr: People look to the coordinator for answers and clarity, so I provided online resources, personal support and a listening ear.

@Jenny_Lathrop: And sometimes a listening ear is the best support we can give!

Building a collaborative culture is key. The knowledge of standards and practices in actual implementation is a steep learning curve, a deep learning pit. Pooling cognitive resources together to understand the programme is an adaptive learning response to that challenge.

@arifminhal: Collaboration was a savior. All MYP teachers were shown examples of units of work, they had to read their subject guides, FPIP [From Principles into Practice] and based on the activity everyone engaged group discussion.

@rajashree_basu: Every teacher in the team has their own pathway of learning and are placed at a particular timeframe. Differentiated learning for the teachers is as important as the same for students. Also valuing everyone’s thoughts, interests and advice

Because the implementation of a programme requires complex enactment, the coordinator nurtures her or his own ways of widening perspectives to support the thinking of others and understand the language of implementation.

@Jenny_Lathrop: A common language which all stakeholders began to use. Clear, defined goals which were transparent to the community. A willingness to take risks and become more open-minded.

Although @Jenny_Lathrop cautions: “You cannot stretch yourself to help each person everyday. You must give them the tools they need to create and implement their own action plans and develop their own PLNs.

The coordinator cares for the adult learners, and is a reassuring presence to each one.

@rajashree_basu: To have patience and a smile on the face to assure that you are there for them when needed

It’s all about capacity building, including your own.

@JRafaelAngelM: I indirectly learned from struggles previous coordinators of mine had, and prepared myself for the job I would have liked SLT (Senior Leadership Team) to be resourceful in terms of support and trust. What were they not clear about re: my role? Did we see the same limit to my involvement in various areas?

@KetiBrook: Hopefully I’m on my way to conscious competence now!

She shared the hierarchy of competence (Gordon Training International), which @sjtylr promptly revised with feedback from the group.

Heirarchy of competence. Graphic by Stephen Taylor.

@KetiBrook: It was all about moving from the unconsciously incompetent camp to the consciously competent camp! I couldn’t support or empower my HoDs (Heads of Departments) without first identifying and then understanding the problems they faced. A lot of watching and listening to begin with…

The #ibchat touched on tacit knowledge and its potential for transfer.

@EwenBailey01: A great teacher would be unable to fully verbalise how they deliver 10mins of a lesson because of the tacit knowledge involved.

And is it transferrable? Sometimes, we think implementing a programme might mostly be a technical problem and is easily addressed by duplicating a set of procedures stored from one coordinator’s head and gained by another coordinator through verbal transfer. And, is this a lot like content knowledge, which sometimes is not able to transfer into a novel context?

@dylanwiliam: You can’t ever really capture all the tacit knowledge in an organization (and even if you could, it probably wouldn’t be usable by others) but Nonaka and Takeuchi’s “knowledge-creating spiral” is as good a place as any to start

The concept of a spiral brings to mind the nature of iterative, cyclical learning essential in the co-construction of a programme implementation. All are engaged, all contribute, and all grow.

@teresattung: Find your tribe, create your own personal Board of Directors to answer questions you don’t know you have yet. Find your IB folks to contact for help, tap into local/digital PLN, create a PLN, find your cheerleaders and critical friends.

It’s all about being reflective.

@alisonkis: To raise capacity for implementation, having time and space for personal reflection is very important. Too much information can be overwhelming and intimidating. Setting short, medium and long-term goals and acknowledging that you can’t do everything at one time, help.

It’s about the patience of a gardener.

@rajasjree_basu: Value the culture of every school that you work at. Do not try to change everything overnight. Being IB practitioners it is important for us to understand the context of each school and support the school accordingly. This has been my takeaway when I started as a DPC.

@alisonkis: Using triangulation of data and don’t jump into conclusions are very important things. Learning when and how to offer feedback to help teachers grow is also an art.

The #ibchat that started with one question at 5.47am in Zagreb, about 12 hours ago. It lasted for hours, and replies are still coming in. The PLN is far-reaching, and it is a network of generous thinkers and caring professionals, who live inquiry.

It’s all about learning our way to understanding and creating the program together.

Programme implementation is not a linear algorithm, and there is no one map. The coordinator’s pathways describe more the finding of a compass, and the terrain is not the same from school to school. It’s an active inquiry into what it means and what it takes to intentionally build the environment and processes, while doing the same.

If you’re a new coordinator, you have great company. Enjoy the journey.



Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

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