Instruction and Assessment
Inquiry-based Based Learning
Teachers at NOVA are focused on using and learning content as a means to develop information processing and problem-solving skills. Their approach is student-centered, while the teacher has the role of a facilitator of learning. There is a great emphasis on how we learn in addition to what we learn. The resources that teachers use in their instruction are open-ended and authentic. In NOVA’s PYP environment, all questions that may arise are explored by the joint efforts of the teacher and the students. To monitor students’ learning and adapt instruction to the learners’ needs, teachers use assessments in all steps of the process.
Transdisciplinary learning allows students to build concepts and skills across subject areas, rather than studying subjects in isolation. Subjects are distinct, yet interconnected, allowing for a holistic learning experience in which students apply what they're learning in a variety of contexts. In real life, we never fully exercise our knowledge related to certain subject areas. Transdisciplinary learning means that students learn to combine the knowledge gained from different disciplines and have the skills to practically use it in different settings and contexts. For instance, when they learn about astronomy, they also learn related subject matters, and the history of the science and understand why it is important, and furthermore, they are enabled to make related mathematical connections.
The Six Transdisciplinary Units
The transdisciplinary themes mark the starting point of student inquiries. It is within the context of each theme that students explore related central ideas and assimilate knowledge. These themes engage the learning community in rich dialogues and ongoing collaboration, with the purpose of building an understanding of themselves, their wider community, and the world.
1. Who We Are: An inquiry into the nature of the "self"; personal beliefs and values; what the term person means, what is physical, mental, social, and spiritual health; how are human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures shaped; what are our personal rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.
2. Where We Are in Place and Time: An inquiry into orientation in place and time; how can we link personal histories with homes and journeys; what are the discoveries that have shaped the human experience and the world itself, why humankind is prone to explorations and migrations; what is the relationship between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, rendered both from local and global perspectives.
3. How We Express Ourselves: An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs, and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.
4. How the World Works: An inquiry into the natural world and its laws, what is the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; understanding how humans use their apprehension of scientific principles; what is the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
5. How We Organize Ourselves: An inquiry into the structure and functioning of organizations; what does societal decision-making mean and how it takes place; how are economic activities produced and what is their impact on humankind and the environment.
6. Sharing the Planet: An inquiry into rights and responsibilities arising from the struggle of sharing finite resources with other people and other living things; how are communities built and how do they function, how are relationships within those communities and between forged, and why; how can we enable access to equal opportunities; what is peace and what is conflict resolution.
Assessment in the PYP is a collaborative process between the teacher, the student, and the family. Teachers use multiple tools to help students on their learning journey. Elementary teachers use a variety of assessment tools to record student progress including rubrics, checklists, continuums, task or subject-specific outcomes/standards, forms, benchmarks/exemplars, and narrative records.
PYP teachers also rely on standardized assessment tools such as the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) and MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tests to customize teaching and learning for all students. These tools identify students' strengths and areas for growth. They are not achievement tests and are not reflected in the report card.
Reflection is a powerful tool in assessment. Students are asked to self-reflect on their learning process at several stages throughout a unit of inquiry. These self-reflections allow students to gain agency over their learning, understand what they know and can do, and encourage them to become an active part of the learning process.
The Elementary School uses AERO (American Education Reaches Out) Standards as a framework for assessment in Literacy, Numeracy, Science, Social Studies, Music, Visual Arts, and Macedonian Language. Course grades are determined by overall performance on Power Standards (key standards per subject/grade level). Based on these benchmarks, teachers create rubrics for each assignment that they later use to assess or administer for students to self-assess. At the end of a marking period, teachers combine evidence of all formative and summative assessments and use their professional judgment to determine the overall attainment level. For more information on assessment please refer to our assessment policy.