Pre-Assessments: The Foundation of Prior Learning in IB PYP

Pooja Bajaj
3 min read
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As a teacher, I probably love and own more picture books than regular literature. We’ll blame it on it being a professional hazard!!

One of my favourites is the classic “Fish is Fish” by Leo Lionni. If you haven’t read it, here is a quick summary!

It is a story about 2 friends – a fish and a tadpole. The tadpole grows and becomes a frog – moving his home to land! One day, the frog returns with tales of what he saw on land. The frog describes his adventures – “I have seen birds! They have wings and can fly about! Birds have two legs and many, many beautiful colors!”. As the frog spoke, the fish saw the bird fly through his mind like a large-feathered fish!!

Pause for thought!

  • What connections can you make to the classroom?
  • What assumptions does the fish hold that limits his perception of reality?
  • How is his world contracted?
  • Why does the fish hold this limited view? What is the danger in it?

This beautiful story illustrates the creative opportunities and possible dangers inherent to the fact that people construct new knowledge based on their current understanding. 

These form the basis of all learning unless something or someone challenges us to reexamine, revisit, and think otherwise.

Assessing prior learning gives us the opportunity to take a step back, a step into the individual worlds of our students before launching into a new inquiry or learning new information. It gives us the ability to bridge the gap between what we assume children know and like and what they actually know and like. 

Well-designed prior learning assessments provide us with the vital insights about a child’s understanding, interests, and learning preferences. Equipped with this information, we can create learning opportunities that promote student agency

The idea of agency is closely connected to self-efficacy or more simply – a belief in one’s own ability to succeed. When learners are kept at the center of learning / made an active part of their own learning, they are motivated and engaged!

Through this series of blogs on Prior Learning Assessments – we will explore strategies and tools to pre-assess, to understand our students better, and to use that information to design high-quality learning environments. We will examine how you can involve students to take ownership of their learning right from the beginning of the unit and how you can use inclusive strategies to cater to the learning needs of every student.

We’ll design prior learning assessments with a goal to help our learners learn better. 

In this Prior Learning series, we will inquire into the why, what, and how of prior learning and useful strategies and tips on how to assess prior learning in your classroom.

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Pooja Bajaj
Pooja Bajaj
Pooja is an experienced PYP teacher, tech integrationist, school leader, and curriculum coach! Her last role was that of an Assissant Coordinator at the Bombay International School (BIS). She loves leading workshops for teacher training and believes that meaningful technology can transform classrooms! When she's not in school, she's travelling, reading, and learning new tech tools.
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.