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Farmdale Elementary IB World School: To Inquiry and Beyond!

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TO INQUIRY AND BEYOND: Exploring the Inquiry Process as an International Baccalaureate Candidate School. Through the UCLA TIIP Grant, we conducted an investigation into the nature of teaching inquiry to elementary school students.


Solid Figures: Connecting Math to UnitWhat does our school envision students to be? What should they be able to do?

  • Caring
  • Open-minded
  • Thinkers
  • Communicators
  • Inquirers
  • Knowledgeable
  • Principled
  • Risk-takers
  • Balanced
  • Reflective1

At Farmdale, these are the ideals teachers keep in mind when working with students in the classroom.

This wasn't always the case; like many schools across the country, we too marched lock-step in the mantra of direct instruction along the road of well-intentioned accountability and high-stakes exams. The penultimate goal being to learn enough skills to gain proficiency or better on state-mandated tests.

Did that provide a baseline for students to achieve? Yes, in many ways, it gave students some goals: read faster, underline important information, check my work, remember the times tables, etc. But, did this method of instruction match Farmdale's mission for students  " to succeed as life-long learners" or its vision to prepare them to "become global learners and leaders"? No, not directly, and not for the majority of our students. In focusing on isolated skills, inadvertently, we placed a ceiling on them:

"This is what you need to know."

"Okay, teacher."

Such policies ignore students needs to innovate, use their myriad talents, and take increased control of their own personal and academic growth. Missing were the critical analyses of broad, engaging issues and the dialogue & consensus-building--in short, the authentic learning that would impact them for life and allow them to conquer any test it threw at them.

When presented with the opportunity for our school to participate in the IB Primary Years Program (PYP), our staff welcomed it with optimism--cautiously --but with optimism, nonetheless. We, as a staff, realized that for this change to occur, we must embrace it ourselves and shift from direct-instruction to a guided-inquiry model; from an emphasis on isolated skills & subjects to transdisciplinary learning; from over-reliance on textbooks and pre-packaged curriculum to a more balanced approach, incorporating elements of information literacy and technology to acquire knowledge.

We knew we didn't understand the inquiry process as well as we needed to guide students in their learning, and it motivated us to improve our teaching. For students to learn in-depth questioning and answering, we needed to improve our methodology. Staff members realized this would need to be a large-scale effort--one that we could not undertake on our own. We were expected to build from the ground up, and professional development support was limited.

1 IB Learner Profiile


Excitement at the possibility of transforming our school into an authorized IB campus was met with a lot of questions:

  • How do we know that we are teaching the inquiry process? 

  • What are some ways to integrate the IB curriculum across the subject areas? 

  • How do we develop better questioning/information literacy methods?

At the start and well into the year, we often felt very unsure about what we were doing and had difficulty translating the curriculum to our students as it was intended. We had a few introductory trainings, and we enjoyed being able to plan and troubleshoot with our colleagues, but we knew enough to know we didn't know a whole lot. Only with the guidance of experts in the IB curriculum would we be able to tackle these pressing questions. If we were to be successful, we needed to get help.



Enter UCLA's Center X Which number does not belong?& the Teacher Initiated Inquiry Projects (TIIP). It was the break we needed, and we quickly moved into action. Over the course of several months, our four members would go from the writing--and rewriting--the proposal to being able to attend trainings, so we could lead workshops at the school site to share what we had learned. The grant would provide the resources that the school lacked, enabling us to seek out experts in the field to address the critical needs of our school at its most important time.

The team identified two areas that our school had to address in order to successfully transition into an IB World School:

  • Learn inquiry as a process of the IB philosophy and how it applies both in and out of the classroom. 

  • Become familiar with the the different aspects of the IB planner, curriculum, and how inquiry could be incorporated across all subjects areas.

Faced with the challenge of attaining competency and proper training in the IB methods, the funding provided by UCLA's Center X & the Teacher Initiated Inquiry Projects (TIIP) allowed for the crucial professional development that the teachers at Farmdale desperately sought.

To ensure the successful transition to become an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, the staff at Farmdale utilized the TIIP grant to

  1. increase capacity in teaching inquiry through the IB pedagogy
  2. to create a support network of teachers to sustain growth beyond the life of the grant.


Summary of Accomplishments

  • "Back to School": We attended over 190 hours of training in the areas of inquiry, information technology and research. Our team deepened the understanding of transdisciplinary instruction by attending conferences and inviting experts to our school.
  • Sharing Our Learning and Building Capacity: Another goal of this project was to share our learning with our colleagues on staff and build our collective capacity. To date, we have provided over 38 hours of professional development to the staff in the form of faculty meetings and the organization of three Book Club "cycles."
  • Classroom Application: Our Farmdale team members took the strategies, theories, and methodologies we learned throughout this project, and applied them to our classroom practices. Through the TIIP grant, the team was able to provide assistance to 32 teachers and 5 administrative staff.


Farmdale TIIP Team

Our Farmdale TIIP Team is comprised of three classroom teachers ranging from grades 1-5 and our Intervention Support Coordinator.  Each team member has brought a unique perspective to our project.  We feel because we each represent a different facet of our school community such as, Dual Language teachers, GATE Coordinator, administration, and even a Farmdale parent, we have been able to begin to address some of the needs of our school community.   For more information about our team, you can refer to our team biography page.


School Information

Farmdale Elementary received its authorization as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School in 2011. At the core of the IB pedagogy are transdisciplinary units of inquiry that drive teacher instruction and promote a global awareness and responsibility towards action. In addition, the school offers a 50/50 Dual Language (English/Spanish) program. Approximately half of the 600 students enrolled participate in the Dual Language program.  

The current ethnic population is: 93% Hispanic/Latino, 5% Asian; 1% African American; and 1% other ethnicities. Forty-nine percent of the school is English Language Learners (ELLs). Farmdale is a District-identified adapted campus. Twenty-two percent of students at Farmdale receive special education services. 

Our aim is to facilitate an environment that draws on its multiplicities and diversity to educate the whole child.

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