In last week’s article, I asked whether or not the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme provided schools with a working model of a transdisciplinary framework, and the conclusion drawn was no, it did not – there is no plan of action. We are all talking about a unicorn that everyone believes in, but no one has seen. And that right there explains why so many educators struggle to figure out how to implement the IB programme – because although in a general sense people understand what it means to make “connections” between subject areas, no one really knows for sure how to go about doing this, and all the individual planners being designed worldwide won’t help unless you have an over-arching educational framework tying the transdisciplinary vision together, such as the example below.
In the above Transdisciplinary Framework that we have designed, there are two distinct sections – The Team Transdisciplinary Planner on the left-hand side containing individual subject planners arranged in the form of a 9-frame (this number could vary depending on how many subject areas your school has), and the individual Teacher Planners depicted by the grey boxes on the right-hand side. Simply put, the concept behind the above framework is that the information on the left-hand side is used to inform the individual planners on the right-hand side. How would this work in practical terms? To begin with, your teams would run their unit planning meetings normally, but instead of brainstorming in a haphazard way, each teacher would be required to fill out their own individual box within the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (9-frame) with required information. Each planner within the 9-frame would necessitate that teachers not only think about their lessons, but also about how they plan to link them to every other subject as depicted by the white connectors in the above Team Transdisciplinary Planner. This forces the team to act as one cohesive unit and serves to ensure seamless transitions between subject areas for students. Once the information is documented during the meeting within the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (9-frame), then it becomes the point of reference for individual teachers when planning their lessons, because as illustrated by the rainbow of rectangles within each one of their planners, the first thing a teacher will need to do is indicate how they will be connecting to all other subject areas during the upcoming week. Here is a diagram depicting what this would look like for the Performing Arts teacher:
As you can see, the Performing Arts teacher’s first step is to look at the Team Transdisciplinary Planner and copy relevant information into their personal Teacher Planner. Step 2 requires the Performing Arts teacher to continue planning their unit based on the possible links noted, thus ensuring cross-connections are being made between subject Standards, Learning Experiences etc. The arrows go both ways to demonstrate that during weekly team meetings, the Performing Arts teacher can note reflections and inquiries that transpired during their lessons within their box in the Team Transdisciplinary Planner, which will ultimately influence the direction all other subject areas go in. Therefore, what you end up with is a living, breathing set of documents that are based on real-time learnings happening across all subject areas, and that are tied together as tightly as possible. And this is how you implement an inquiry-based program that centers around the concept of a transdisciplinary framework – which is the goal of IB, is it not?
Now of course it can be noted that this Transdisciplinary Framework has been laid out in a very general sense, and is tailored to the PYP (Primary Years Programme). As we all know, it’s not that easy because no two teachers will be approaching their personal planning in the same manner – specialists see multiple classes within a day, mainstream teachers plan multiple lessons for the same class, and ESL/Learning Support staff must look at their objectives from the point of supporting learners during their lessons. In our upcoming articles, detailed suggestions for how to design both the personalized planners within a team transdisciplinary planner (9-frame) and each teacher’s individualized planner will be made, alongside tips for running effective team meetings. To learn more, see:
How to Run Your IB Planning Meetings Like a Boss Using a Transdisciplinary Framework
The Transdisciplinary Planners
Creating Transdisciplinary Assessments and Rubrics
Interested in a customized version of the Transdisciplinary Framework for your IB school? Based on your needs, we can adapt this framework and its accompanying planners so that it’s a perfect fit your school. Contact us, we look forward helping you achieve your unique vision!
Where is the IB's Transdisciplinary Framework?
A Reggio Inspired Approach to the IB's PYP
Thoughts on ManageBac
I have always wanted the opportunity to work at an IB (International Baccalaureate) school, and so when a short-term contract was offered to me at EtonHouse International School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I jumped on it. I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the teaching culture and learn all there is to know about the PYP (Primary Years Programme). Going in, I wasn’t under the illusion that the IB programme was going to be a perfect system; however, I did expect it to be a step above working at an IPC (International Primary Curriculum) school, or a public school, etc. While I will give the IB programme kudos for many things they have done well – their mission statement, their inquiry-based approach, their core values, their vision of the ideal learner (attitudes and attributes), and their resources, I wouldn’t say the issues teachers encountered were any different – I saw the same look of confusion and stress on the staff’s faces during planning meetings as I have seen at any other school I have worked at as they tried to piece together a cohesive unit.
And so I asked myself why? How can it be that a programme held in such high regard can have teachers that are so lost? After exploring the IB website, I believe the answer is a simple one – because the IB has merely offered curriculum framework (or curriculum frameworks depending on what your definition of a curriculum framework is), and nothing else. And why does this matter? Let me explain, but before I do, it’s important to understand exactly what a curriculum framework is:
A curriculum framework is an organized plan or set of standards or learning outcomes that defines the content to be learned in terms of clear, definable standards of what the student should know and be able to do. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curriculum_framework
In light of this, it’s easy to see how staff are so confused about the implementation of the IB programme – it’s because there is no plan of action. It’s like a head chef having provided the ingredients (outcomes, resources, etc.) for making a delicious lasagna to their sous chefs but no recipe, and then wondering why they couldn’t deliver the dish as expected – a bit of a hot mess. So, what is the solution? What is required in order for the IB programme to function optimally, with all staff at a school clear on expectations and implementation? The answer lies within the creation of a transdisciplinary framework, which at this point is non-existent. Don’t believe me? Have a look at this page on the IB website, and scroll down to the following paragraph:
Through its inquiry-led, transdisciplinary framework, the PYP challenges students to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts. - https://www.ibo.org/programmes/primary-years-programme/
If you click on the “transdisciplinary framework” link what you will find instead of an educational framework outlining how to implement their inquiry-based approach is a lovely brochure that although inspirational, is definitely no plan of action. Instead of the pretty brochure, what you should be taken to is a link to an educational framework that any school could adapt to suit their needs, such as the one below:
In the above Transdisciplinary Framework, it’s easy for anyone to see how every subject connects and how curriculums can integrate in a seamless fashion – after all, isn’t the goal of IB to provide learners with the opportunity to learn through Transdisciplinary Themes?
What if every IB school was provided with a plan of action similar to the framework above? What if every planning meeting started with teachers completing their section in the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (depicted by the 9-frame planners on the left-hand side of the diagram) that would be provided? What if every individual Teacher Planner (grey boxes on the right-hand side) required staff members to begin their personal planning by referring to information provided on the Team Transdisciplinary Planner (this connection is represented by the arrows pointing from the 9-frame planners to the rainbow of stripes next to each subject name). How transdisciplinary can your school be? What would the impact on student learning be?
To learn more about The Transdisciplinary Framework we have designed and how to implement one of your own, see the following articles:
The Transdisciplinary Framework
How to Run Your IB Planning Meetings Like a Boss Using a Transdisciplinary Framework
The Transdisciplinary Planners
If you are interested in turning the what-ifs into reality, contact us! We look forward to helping you achieve your goals!
It’s no secret that I love anything to do with planners and planning tools. Throw me into a new school, and one of the first things I will do is check out the tools at their disposal, which brings me to the latest system I have had the opportunity to explore – ManageBac. As with most planning platforms available in the field of education these days, ManageBac also prides itself on assessment and reporting; the one difference between ManageBac and other planning platforms is that ManageBac specifically caters to the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. After playing around with the site, I have to say that ManageBac, although it has some great features, fell short of my expectations of an ideal planning platform for several reasons, but let’s start with the pros:
Is ManageBac Right for Your School?
If your school is looking for a way to organize information for the sake of organizing information and meeting IB requirements, then yes, ManageBac could be a good solution. You will be able to easily submit necessary documents to IB and know that they are in the right format. Similar to most platforms out there, real-time collaboration, access to a gradebook, the ability to take attendance, student and parent portals, etc. are all included, which is great.
But is ManageBac the ideal planning solution? In my opinion, no, and where they fail is this idea of a ‘turnkey’ solution, because in education there is no such thing. There are individual schools with individual needs that require customized solutions. Where ManageBac also fails is in disregarding the fact that all teacher planners do not need to look alike, and it does not provide an adequate solution for transdisciplinary planning.
In short, if you are looking for a safe bet to get the job done, then ManageBac is for you. If your school is looking for an outside-the-box, innovative and customized planning platform that will allow for a cohesive and well-connected teaching culture to transpire at yours school, then my suggestion is to look elsewhere.