Developing approaches to learning (ATL)

Rachana Kothapally, PYP educator, Silver Oaks School Bangalore, India

This article summarizes how reflections help learners choose how they want to act. It shares a real-time example and utilizes an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the PYP and how implementing it ties together all the elements!

As a committed PYP practitioner for five years, I keep appreciating the uniqueness of the programme. However, moving from theory to practice is not always an easy journey. The PYP stresses achieving a balance between acquisition of essential knowledge and skills, development of conceptual understandings, demonstrations of positive attitudes, and taking of responsible action. Making this a realty in a classroom and making it meaningful for learners will bring the outcomes of the programme to fruition.

The IB approaches to learning are unarguably the most important to acquire not only in the units of inquiry, but also for any learning and teaching that occurs within the classroom and in life outside the school. The five categories and their respective sub-skills encompass what is needed for a learner in the 21st century. In this dynamic, fast evolving world we need people who are not just knowledgeable but are critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Year after year I work with a new set of learners, each of them unique in their own way. This year I am working with learners who are highly energetic, curious and incredibly open-minded. We often engage in reflection sessions during which we discuss how we are learning in classroom, what is going well and what is not. Learners come up with sincere reflections including that we often fall short at displaying our skills.

Learners reflected that if they could work consciously towards displaying all the sub-skills, they would resolve most of the problems they face in and out of the classroom. In tandem with this thought process we as a class managed to develop a means to help assess our commitment to display these skills in classroom – The skills wheel.

This assessment model is based on Carol Dweck’s theory of Growth Mindset and the idea of “NOT YET” (Dweck, 2014).

Learners set up a skills goal for a period of 2 weeks. We display all the sub-skills of that category in an accessible area so that students know what they will be assessed on. After the observation period, the class meets up to discuss how they displayed each sub-skill. Learners provide each other feedback and those learners who have consistently made efforts to display the particular skill will be placed in the pink circle and those learners who have “not reached there yet” will be placed in the yellow part. Gradually, learners who try to work on their goal areas will be moved to the pink area too.

I have experienced a positive change in learners’ thinking and learning behaviour in the classroom while utilizing this tool. Learners evidently show more ownership to their actions as they are a part of this solution. It also encouraged learners to show commitment to their choice and be more open minded to feedback.

Although small, I feel this model acted as an effective means for me to make approaches to learning categories and sub-skills more meaningful for my learners. It gave our learners the opportunity to choose to act; to reflect and decide the course of their actions. That, I believe, is responsible action.


Rachana Kothapally is a PYP facilitator at Silver Oaks School Bangalore, India. She has been an IB practitioner for 5 years and is passionate about developing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities of learners.


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12 Responses to Developing approaches to learning (ATL)

  1. Niru Raghuram 11 October 2017 at 5:36 am #

    Brilliant idea to have a visual of it up in class. Love to use this idea

    • Kesa 4 November 2017 at 1:44 am #

      A brilliant visual and reminder for the students and the teachers.

  2. Jonathan Tom 12 October 2017 at 8:17 am #

    That’s a really nice visual way to share skills reflections. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Piyush 15 October 2017 at 10:00 am #

    Its different approach that focus on learning rather exam preperation

  4. Majken Johansson 17 October 2017 at 4:18 am #

    Thank you for sharing your learning and journey. The ATL can seem massive so I appreciate your simple model to break them down easier.

  5. Ritu Dubey 3 November 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    Well done Rachana. Thank you very much for sharing this with us. Although, I don’t teach and am limited to MYP and DP but I find this idea a very useful way for the students to encourage active reflection.

  6. Anuradha 3 November 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    Brilliant idea Rachna!

  7. Rachana 1 February 2018 at 5:04 am #

    Thank you all for your encouraging words.

  8. Kelly Rogers 7 March 2019 at 5:38 pm #

    Can you explain the difference between the pink and yellow sticky notes? The pink ones seems to have a goal or something written on them and the yellow their name? Great idea! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Diane 8 May 2019 at 6:07 pm #

    I think this could be used with elementary students after some modeling.

  10. Payel Kar 18 May 2019 at 6:30 pm #

    Very unique and innovative ,I would like to do it my class

  11. Tracy McFadden 6 July 2020 at 11:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing!
    I love your skill wheel and how it motivates the learner to in charge of their learning.

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