For most of the past year, Alana Brown, IB Coordinator at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC, has played a dual role, also leading efforts to bring a support service called Curriculum Connections to interested, candidate and authorized schools selected for participation in a trial of the new service. Alana has worked closely with the IB’s Global School Services team, based in Bethesda, MD, alongside a small group of other top IB educators leading other newly developed services through trials. Alana generously spent time as 2014 drew to a close, explaining Curriculum Connections, how it works and what it provides.
Curriculum Connections is a support service tailored for PYP and MYP. It drills down into each IB framework so that teachers can reflect and expand upon the various elements of each programme.
“Curriculum requirements change frequently,” Alana notes. “Curriculum Connections allows school teams to survey and align, and to see how their curriculum naturally connects to their IB programme.”
Curriculum Connections, trialing in 21 schools until December 2015, has resulted in stronger connections to parents and community leaders. Participant schools are gaining a deeper understanding of the IB’s core elements and how the programmes connect to their local curriculum requirements. One strand of the service, for example, is designed to enhance communication between teachers and parents. A goal, Alana says, is for “parents to be able to speak about the IB more effectively and to feel confident in the IB’s ability to frame their child’s education. They are able to speak the IB language and expand IB awareness into the community. After all,” Alana continues, “the IB is a community-based programme; it’s not just a programme in a school.”
For both PYP and MYP, three strands of Curriculum Connections are offered to support a school’s development team, specific areas of study, and the whole school community. To determine which strand will be most helpful to a school, a short evaluation survey is completed by the school’s head and/or coordinator.
“My favorite part is helping a school figure out where its gaps are,” says Alana. “Helping identify and plan is a powerful component of this service.”
Curriculum Connections resources include an online resource library, interactive webinars and coaching that is provided onsite over a two-day period with a lead teacher, coordinator and school teams. The level of intensity is chosen by the school to meet its particular needs. “We developed resources a school can use to model activity. Each document comes with a video showing how to do what is written,” Alana explains. There are also checkpoints along the way so that each school that avails itself of Curriculum Connections can complete the term of service with measureable results.
Alana is eager to recommend the Curriculum Connections service to PYP and MYP educators. “If your school feels it is serving two masters, this service shows the strong connection between the IB and your local curriculum. It strongly benefits teachers,” she adds.
✔ PYP curriculum alignment maps that identify learning outcomes by subject
✔ MYP curriculum alignment maps that identify subject group objectives
✔ PYP transdisciplinary themes marked across subject groups
✔ MYP concepts and context marked across subject groups
✔ PYP and MYP annotated unit planners
✔ Continuum alignment mapping, programme by programme
Regional educators abuzz about Curriculum Connections
From Ashley Coats, MYP Coordinator at Mercedes College, Springfield, South Australia:
“As a long-serving workshop leader I am often asked: ‘Where can we get good exemplar documents to use in our own schools?’ Finally, a service provides documents designed to support the individual school’s needs and context. Curriculum Connections provides an excellent opportunity for schools to work with highly experienced IB teachers from around the world. While a service to schools, it is also a rich professional development experience for individuals.”
From Alex Rankin, MYP Coordinator at Bladins International School, Malmo, Sweden:
“While implementing the IB, many schools feel they have to implement two programmes at once. Use of this new service allows them—with the help of a service provider—to see where things fit well and to see the natural connections between elements such as the Learner Profile and their mandated standards. All schools can embrace this tailor-made service to address a problem that many teachers and school leaders come across.”
From Alison Schneider, PYP Coordinator at Westlake Academy, Westlake, Texas, USA:
“IB Standards and Practices state that the pedagogy of the PYP must be articulated throughout the written, taught, and assessed curriculum. This task becomes quite complex when additional requirements—along with school-based initiatives—must be connected to the PYP. With support from a Curriculum Connections service provider, schools can become better equipped to demonstrate their commitment to the PYP’s transdisciplinary nature. This collaborative process will ensure that curriculum documents have explicit impact on the decision-making and functioning of the school.”