In September, by following IB MYP lessons in action, we began our voyage to explore the ten IB Learner Profile attributes, beginning with “Open-minded.” In October, we explored another IB Learner Profile attribute, “Inquirers”, following a unit organized by the BIBS MS/HS Chinese Department entitled “Inquiry on Chinese characters and Culture”.
Inquirers develop their natural curiosity and acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning.
IB Learner Profile ExplorationSession Two: Inquirers
For several weeks, the Chinese teachers from BIBS MS/HS and their students have been very busy. Teachers tasked all MS/HS students to explore, inquire and generally think about the Chinese cultural characters in each classroom. The graphics, created by our Communications Department in collaboration with our Associate Director and outside Chinese culture experts, were designed with the idea that BIBS MS/HS students would be the primary viewers, yet are flexible enough to be accessible to anyone. As an IB World School, BIBS works hard to instill the values of the IB Learner Profile in our students, and these graphics nicely reinforce those values while serving to connect thousands of years of culture to modern day learning.
Students were to inquire into the graphics: the Chinese word, the story of the historical figure, and the words or poems written, and to reflect upon the significance of this learning in relation their lives and studies. Taking up the assignment, students began to search on the Internet, reference books, discuss in groups and also plan how they would present their learning in a large MS/HS assembly.
Not knowing what to expect, I turned up at the assembly, and though it had not yet begun, there certainly was a lot of action and excitement. Soon the show began,with the first performance coming from Grade 7 students. They presented a movie they made to show the story of “Mencius’ Mother’s Three Moves” in which we learn about Mencius’ mother’s sacrifices for his education. Even though it was a short film, it contained all the elements of a real movie and, most importantly, was completely orchestrated by students: the planning, shooting, acting, editing, advertisements for fun, bloopers, everything. Clearly they were totally immersed in the process of bold planning, practice and team cooperation.
Later, I was deeply impressed by Grade 9 students’ performance, which showed their inquiry-based learning in three ways. The first was to use a bilingual PowerPoint presentation to give a detailed introduction of the meaning of the Chinese character “义“ meaning “Friendship”, the life story of Chinese hero Guan Yu and displayed the history of the Three Kingdoms. For Chinese students, the process helped them “gain new knowledge by reviewing the old (温故而知新)” while for foreign students, it was a totally new learning experience.
In the second part of their presentation, students presented a play to re-act the story of “the pass of five forces and the six slain captains — win glory in battle” by hero Guan Yu. As associated in the classroom wall graphic, “Friendship” was the main idea through this play. Students combined narration, moving subtitles and live acrobatic fighting to depict the period and the intricate relationships during the time of the Three Kingdoms. More than a dozen students took part in the lively performance with the screen behind them changing as the plot progressed. While the performers acted in full swing the audience sat engaged – paying close attention and laughing at the light-hearted accounts. I have to admit, it was hard to hold the camera still – I really didn’t expect to see a classical opera with so serious a theme depicted in such a vivid and funny manner!
Perhaps the most memorable and impressive part was the last presentation: a mixture of traditional Chinese music and calligraphy. While one student elegantly played the Gu Zheng, a traditional chinese string instrument, four students (including 3 non-Chinese students) wrote characters in Chinese calligraphy using traditional brushes. The beautiful gu zheng calmed the room and brought us back to ancient China, and the exquisite calligraphy “义字当先” meaning “Friendship comes first” got a hearty round of applause. Such a multi-faceted presentation clearly demonstrated the depth of students’ inquiries.
Grade 10 took a different approach to presenting their learning – they wrote a song called “BIBS is a good school.” It lyrics deeply touched me, showing their love for Chinese culture and their respect for Chinese historical heroes. More importantly, the lyrics showed students are applying their learning to their lives. The lyrics “ No Pain No Gain, We have to live a meaningful life, we have to pull our own weight”, for example, indicating that students explored and extracted the values of Chinese history and culture, mapping and guide their lives against such values.
Walking out of the gym with my camera, I though over a common question: which is the better model for learning: remembering facts for a test or developing deeper understanding which comes from searching, creative communication, role assignment and teamwork? Confucius once said “the tutor should not enlighten the student until he has turned the problem over in his mind or unless they have arrived at a an understanding but cannot express their thoughts clearly.” The phrase means in teaching process, the teacher ought to get the right point to conduct the student, neither too fast nor too slow. For me, the inquiry-based model is the key.
By providing an engaging and balanced international curriculum in a supportive and stimulating environment, BIBS encourages our students to develop as thinkers and individuals. Understanding and appreciating that children learn in different ways and excel in different areas, our programs encourage students to draw upon their strengths and to explore new ideas of interest to them as critical thinkers with inquiring minds. Our teachers are guides in this wonderful process, helping students to distill their learning. 2500 years ago, Chinese educator had already proposed the concept of heuristic education, one we know today is best based upon an inquiry-based learning model. What’s more, through our bilingual program, we are able to not only focus on languages but also on inquiry, understanding and fusion of cultures, opening thousands of years of learning and philosophy to all our students, Chinese and foreign alike.