A Guided Review & Reflection: Inquiry Educators Summit 2021

Cindy Blackburn
5 min read
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I had an absolute blast learning at this years’ The Inquiry Educators Summit (TIES 2021). It is such a treat to get to peek into the minds of our industry thought leaders and start to imagine a path forward in our learning journey as educators! While this year has been one of immense change and challenge, the overall tone of TIES 2021was one of optimism and hope for a better path forward. 

One talk that resonated deeply with me was Julie Stern’s Master Class ‘Learning That Transfers: Designing Curriculum for a Changing World’ centered on learning that transfers. Stern describes a process for planning learning that empowers students to take on the unknown by focusing on recognition of concepts and transferring those understandings to new situations. She provides a 3 step framework – Acquire, Connect, Transfer.

This blog is an experiment in inquiry. Rather than just hearing about my ideas, I would love for you to create your own meaning by engaging in an asynchronous, guided inquiry into major concepts from learning at TIES. Using the ACT framework, I will provide a process for furthering the thinking and discussion we began at TIES 2021 to draw threads of connection conceptually and identify where we might be headed in the field of education. Please make sure to follow along with the accompanying hand out that will guide you through a process of thinking through these ideas.

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Setting the Stage 

At the Master Class ‘Learning That Transfers: Designing Curriculum for a Changing World’, a reference is made to creating a list of 10 concepts that they would describe as essential to one’s practice. This got me wondering: What would be the 10 or so concepts I would choose as being central to what I learned at TIES. Before looking at my list, can you make your own? What still resonates with you after percolating for a few weeks? If you weren’t able to attend, what are the 10 concepts you would select as essential for progressive education?

Ok, I know that’s more than 10, but it’s hard to narrow down! 

Next, it is time to choose the big pillar concepts. If you could only choose 3, what would they be and why? I personally narrowed it down to: identity, understanding, and complexity.  To me, these 3 concepts capture the big themes I saw present in nearly every talk. As speakers provoked us to reflect on our practice and envision a path forward, these ideas seemed to anchor everyone to common best practices. That being said, you might have your own “top 3.” However, to guide and scaffold the process a bit more, we will move forward with the three I have chosen. 

Now, let’s use the ACT model to explore these three concepts in depth. Here are our learning intentions for this endeavor:

Acquire:  In this stage, we want to explore the different concepts. Your goal as a learner is to identify your own definition for each concept using examples from different speakers! What does this look like in your life and in your practice? How might you visualize or explain what these ideas mean to you?

Let’s look at examples of these concepts from different TIES speakers’ perspectives. Where did these concepts emerge? Use the handout to take notes, sketch ideas, and answer the guiding questions to dive deeper into the meaning of each of these concepts.

Connect: In the connect stage, we are looking to explore the relationships between the concepts. How do they interrelate in the real world and across contexts? Types of conceptual connections include to attract, increase, strengthen, inter-depend, repel, decrease, block, and transform amongst others. 

Stern, Ferraro, Duncan, & Aleo (2021), Learning That Transfers: Designing Curriculum for A Changing World

So give it a try on your handout:

What relationships do you see? Do any of the three concepts interrelate?  

When I think of the connections, they seem infinite! The realization that learning is inherently a process of writing our own narrative- of trying on different identities and seeing what fits and what might not. The realization that understanding comes from having a deep personal connection to ideas and seeing them present in every facet of our lives. Seeing knowledge in this way makes learning an endless journey- there will always be infinite ways to dive deeper into our own personal identity and reach outwards to explore new communities, ideas, and paths. Viewing learning and teaching this way gets me fired up, and that tells me I am on the right track.

Transfer: Your classroom is an ever changing ecosystem. With new learners, new experiences, new ideas, and new questions. So, how might these concepts transfer to your unique contexts? Which concepts or ideas might you as a teacher explore further to grow your practice and empower learners with the understandings and skills they need to truly affect change? Personally, I will be transitioning out of the classroom and into a role focused on teacher education. I find myself wondering about how best to model best practices and encourage action, and this blog is my first action step! I can’t wait to hear back from you about how it went, how you felt, and how I can improve on the experience.  Designing this blog felt challenging and exciting- what might you make, create, or try that could put a new thought into action?


TIES explored beautiful theoretical models for what we believe about learning and teaching- we were given the opportunity to challenge our misconceptions, take an honest look at our practice, and celebrate the path ahead.  I believe that by embracing our students’ personal and community identities, prioritizing the understanding of transferable concepts, and recognizing that our world is too big to know, we best prepare our students to overcome the unknowable obstacles they face in the future. 

Do you have a concept you want to dive deeper into? Did you miss a great talk or just want to watch one again? Great news! All of the amazing TIES sessions that are shown in this blog and many more can still be accessed on the Toddle TIES website.  Happy inquiring!

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Cindy Blackburn
Cindy Blackburn
Cindy has a Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership and has worked as an PYP educator and coordinator internationally for the past ten years. She currently works as the Director of learning and engagement at Toddle and specializes in developing resources to support teachers and leaders in honing their practice and understandings, to make the PYP simple, actionable, and above all else, joyous.
Disclaimer - This resource has been produced independently of and not endorsed by the IB. Toddle’s resources seek to encourage sharing of perspectives and innovative ideas for classroom teaching & learning. They are not intended to be replacements for official IB guides and publications. Views and opinions expressed by the authors of these resources are personal and should not be construed as official guidance by the IB. Please seek assistance from your school’s IB coordinator and/or refer to official IB documents before implementing ideas and strategies shared within these resources in your classroom.