Monthly Archives: June 2012


3…2…1…Action! (And this is not a movie set!) A major component of learning is ACTION. In the PYP, we talk about global action and making a difference in the world for others. But an equally if not more  important aspect of action is the daily action that learners take as they construct meaning. Action happens EVERY DAY, whether we see it or not. Our brains are always active, so the learning never stops, not even when we are sleeping. Action is a personal passion of mine, so for the next few posts I will share action as I have come to understand it through my work as an action mentor and champion over the last 10 years.

Action comes in many forms. PYP teachers will be quite familiar with the Action Cycle, which consists of three equally important parts:

Choose – deciding what to do or what to take action for

Act – Deciding on the course of action and implementing it to follow through

Reflect – thinking about the effectiveness of the action (s) throughout the action implementation process and after the action is complete

To me, the action cycle is the most simplified and straight forward inquiry cycle I know. It is best practice pedagogy in a neat little package. Action can be both intrinsic and extrinsic. Both forms come from within the learner, but the are motivated by different factors and they look different when they manifest. Both, come from what Cathy Short calls “tension” in learning. “Tension” in this context is a good thing – it is when the learner gets to a place where he/she must move or shift in thinking because they’ve constructed new understandings and created meaning.

What makes for EFFECTIVE Action?

  • modeled by the adults in the school  – based on the needs of the school community and the local community
  • voluntary and involve students in exercising their own initiatives
  •  best grounded in the students’ concrete experiences
  • most beneficial to the students when they are able to witness the outcomes
  • usually begins in a small way and arises from genuine concern and commitment
  • should include anticipation of consequences, and accepting of responsibility
  • may require appropriate adult support in order to facilitate students’ efforts and to provide them with alternatives and choices
  • leads to meaningful reflection on the process and what was learned
Action needs to be part of the taught/written curriculum, both  in formal and informal ways (e.g. planned engagements, teachable/spontaneous moments). Learners need to understand the difference between action FOR Learning and action FROM learning – both are very connected, but are also distinct; BOTH engage them in different aspects of the action cycle. Ultimately, the ACTION CYCLE is a model for GROWTH!

“It is only as we develop that we permanently succeed.” Harvey Samuel Firestone

Stay tuned for the next few upcoming posts: Action FOR Learning, Action FROM Learning, and Mentoring Meaningful Action School Wide