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!