All IB programmes support students to develop into lifelong learners by promoting the development of a broad set of skills, including:
- Thinking skills
- Communication skills
- Research skills
- Self-management skills
- Social skills
We call these approaches to learning (ATL) skills. They are important in helping students learn how to learn, as well as developing young people into the future global citizens and leaders that are needed to thrive in an increasingly complex world.
This blog is a continuation of the series looking at the diversity of implementation and the flexibility of the Middle Years Programme (MYP). You can read part one here.
Question: Do all the ATL skills have to be covered multiple times?
Answer: The skills that are included in the ATL Framework in the appendices of MYP: From Principles into Practice are suggested examples. A school might choose to select those that are relevant to their school, or they might write their own. Within each individual subject guide there is a section on ATL skills, which includes suggestions of some of the indicators that can be important for the different subjects. It is not a requirement to apply all these skills, as schools need to choose any skills relevant to their contexts that support students’ learning. The ATL skills are a useful organizing tool, but you are not required to use them in plans for teaching, assessing and reporting.
Some schools encourage their students to self-evaluate their growth in ATL skill development with an opportunity for teachers to comment on the student’s reflection. Students learn best in a trusting environment in which they receive detailed, ongoing feedback about what they are doing well and what they need to practice in order to improve. Meaningful formative feedback can bring about lasting change. The long-term purpose of ATL in the MYP is to help students develop agency and grow in their ability to monitor their own learning and manage themselves (alone and in a community of practice).
Question: Do we need to teach only one ATL skill per unit?
Answer: There are no rules regarding the number of ATL skills in each unit. However, if the unit is covering two objectives, it would make sense that the corresponding approaches to learning skills tied to those objectives are taught whether explicitly or implicitly. For each new skill to be taught, it needs to be taught explicitly (without content from the subject teacher), this is usually through a learning experience, then practiced implicitly once or twice before it appears in a summative task. So, to properly teach one ATL skill, you will need two to three learning experiences per unit. If a teacher is choosing two ATL skills, then this adds up to four to six learning experiences per unit and so on.
The guidance given in ATL workshops is to map the skills per subject objective. This will allow the teaching of the ATL skills to be distributed among the teachers and documented in a way to help teachers identify who is teaching the skills explicitly. This makes the planning and implementation of ATL easier for everyone.
Question: Is there a specific chart we should use to document the ATL skills in use?
Answer: MYP schools can plan their delivery of approaches to learning skills in different ways.
The IB’s Programme Standards and Practices states: “The school plans and implements a coherent curriculum that organizes learning and teaching within and across the years of its IB programme. The school develops subject group overviews and an approaches to learning planning chart in accordance with programme documentation.” Schools can choose to document the progression of skills in any chart that makes sense to the context of the school and students. A chart simply means the presentation of information in a table, but this may take many forms. For example, a school can choose to map the ATL skills they use to the subject objectives listed in the units of inquiry, or they might make a chart that shows each indicator and when and how it is taught. Another idea is to map the skills to their pastoral or well-being programme with connections to units of inquiry. The purpose is to provide evidence for the vertical articulation of ATL skills across the years of the programme.
Along the course of a school’s MYP journey, the ATL chart may be developed in many ways. Over time, the chart may become more detailed and comprehensive. The chart may instead reflect the school’s current emphasis and work plans in terms of ATL skills development. The chart exists as a record of important conversations and commitments in the past, as well as a revisable blueprint for the future. It is meant to be evidence from a lively process, not an overly complex tool that is onerous to create, difficult to use, and left sitting unused on the shelf or as a digital asset. Having an ATL chart is a requirement because it is a document expected for verification and evaluation visits. If applicable, the school learning management system or curriculum planning software can be used to create an ATL planning chart.
Useful resources related to ATL for IB educators (you will need to log in to MY IB):
There are two new resources available aimed at supporting candidate schools and IB World Schools in implementing and better understanding the approaches to learning and approaches to teaching.
- Approaches to learning and approaches to teaching in the Middle Years Programme has been adapted from Diploma Programme Approaches to teaching and learning and supplemented with videos and charts from MYP educators from different countries and contexts. The publication is supported by authentic school examples of different ways to document approaches to learning. The publication can be found on the Programme Resource Centre.
- A series of videos about ATL skills from MYP school educators are hyperlinked throughout the above publication in relevant sections. Educators describe and explain their schools’ strategies for approaches to learning and approaches to teaching in the MYP. The videos are in a range of languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese and Spanish, with subtitles for these languages available. Watch the videos by clicking the below links:
In addition, the IB has developed the MYP Approaches to Learning Resource Locator Tool. This infographic aims to provide easy access to all resources related to approaches to learning published via the Programme Resource Centre. This tool can be found on the Programme Resource Centre, available in English, French and Spanish.