Exhibition Training Part 2

As with Part 1, this post is a record of my notes and reflections from the PYP Exhibition Workshop.


What does the ‘right’ theme look like? This was hard for me to answer because I’ve not had experience with a variety of themes, and we generally do the same theme every year at my school. Discussion amongst the group led us towards the idea that any theme can be ‘right’ as long as it has an appropriate Central Idea that lends itself to students engaging with the topic or issue. The presence of the Australian Curriculum determining content was also a big discussion point – it becomes a fine balancing act. In the end the rightness or wrongness of the theme is a misnomer, because it’s more than just a ‘How the World Works’ unit. The concepts, content, attitudes etc all need to be arranged so that there is a ‘right fit’ for the school, and specifically the students undertaking the exhibition. Choosing the theme needs to be done whilst thinking about the students – what do they need to learn? What do they need as learners?

Again, a common theme from this workshop is emerging: So much of the exhibition depends on contextual issues specific to a school and it’s learners.

Central Ideas

Doug took us through the way his school in Japan approach the Central Idea. A theme is chosen at the beginning of the year, and throughout the year, students bring in media stories concerning the theme (in this case, Sharing the Planet). With this constant exposure to the issue, come time for the exhibition, students were in a position to come up with phrases and ideas about the theme that went well beyond the obvious. Students were able to restate the theme in their own words and effectively explain it to audiences of different ages. This constant exposure to making connections within the theme led to students having a broad understanding of the theme and thus an ability to see how a Central Idea could apply to different issues. A good Central Idea in this theme could apply equally well to pollution, or conservation, or recycling.

This form of front loading the concepts as opposed to the content set the students up to be very autonomous in their research. In terms of how this works with our school, where the content is usually prescribed because of the Australian Curriculum is unclear. It is something that I certainly want to explore for the coming years.

Looking at how students unpack the theme, a process of brainstorming and rewording was used by students to establish their own interpretations of it. This produced possible issues that could be used by different groups. Examples are shown in these videos below.

Unpacking the theme at Seisen IS


Consulting with younger students:

Groups developing their lines of inquiry needed to begin by looking at the Form and Function concepts. The need was to understand what something was and how it worked before looking at other perspectives – they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they needed to find this out. This meant research was encyclopedia based and did not require the Internet. This allowed teachers to monitor how well the groups understood the issue before they jumped in without knowing the background. Once this was done, they knew what they didn’t know and this became their lines of inquiry. 



Action was the concept that I was most unsure about coming into this workshop. Can it be personal? Does it need to be a product? Can it be an idea? Much discussion ensued on this topic, so below are snippets of notes combined together:

I personally liked the idea of Action being evidence of a transformative experience by the students as a result of the learning. It is students responding to the knowledge they have gained throughout the unit.

Action can be inaction but it needs to be based on understanding. If the students don’t understand the problem, they can’t identify the need that needs to be filled. When they have the knowledge and know what the problem is (form and function) they can then situate themselves to act on that.

If you are exhibiting the attitudes, that is action. If you are demonstrating tolerance, that is taking action. If they are cooperating, that is also taking action.

 Student initiated action is part of a cycle where children are reflecting and choosing on their own action –>

  • Choose – Act – Reflect.
  • Head Heart Hand – understanding it, feel it and then do something about it.

The different types of action – this slide summarises different types of action.

 UNIS Hanoi Service

It doesn’t have to be student initiated – but as teachers we want to encourage this and provide support where it is needed. Designing the exhibition needs to be done so that it allows action to happen – it provides opportunities for student initiated action.


The real take away from this session was that the process is so much more important than the end product. Its the journey and not the destination, and as such ongoing assessment is vitally important. Student reflective journals, teacher anecdotal records as well as formal oral and written pieces must all contribute to final assessment for the exhibition. And again, its all up to the school to decide what works best.

A new assessment structure was shared by Doug, the SOLO Taxonomy. It’s not something I’m going to implement immediately, but I always like looking at things differently.

Group Investigations

Our final task for the day was an individual investigation. We were all given the opportunity to break into school or interest groups and develop understanding or resources in our chosen areas. Jill and I liked the idea of adding an Oral Presentation component to the exhibition evening so started investigating that. This led us to the realisation that we would need to completely rejig our assessment rubrics – much more substantial than a scheduling change! This will carry on to tomorrow so I’ll post that then.