Several months ago, we described International Baccalaureate education. Over the last week or so, I've been in several discussions about the skill-sets we need to teach, in order to properly equip our students to solve the complex problems of the future. And I realized there are many more ways to describe the philosophy and impact of an IB education.
Last week, Deborah Squires from Snohomish STEM Network talked with our parents about the importance of "soft skills" in the STEAM-disciplines: critical-thinking, creative problem-solving, design-thinking, communication, and working in teams. She talked about the need from students to practice making connections across a multitude of disciplines.
The International Baccalaureate Learner Profile puts these skills and habits of mind at the foundation of an IB school experience:
- Inquiry: We nurture our curiosity, developing skills for inquiry and research. We know how to learn independently and with others. We learn with enthusiasm and sustain our love of learning throughout life.
- Knowledge: We develop and use conceptual understanding, exploring knowledge across a range of disciplines. We engage with issues and ideas that have local and global significance.
- Thinking: We use critical and creative thinking skills to analyse and take responsible action on complex problems. We exercise initiative in making reasoned, ethical decisions.
- Communication: We express ourselves confidently and creatively in more than one language and in many ways. We collaborate effectively, listening carefully to the perspectives of other individuals and groups.
- Principles: We act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness and justice, and with respect for the dignity and rights of people everywhere. We take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.
- Open-mindedness: We critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of others. We seek and evaluate a range of points of view, and we are willing to grow from the experience.
- Care: We show empathy, compassion and respect. We have a commitment to service, and we act to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world around us.
- Risk-taking: We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; we work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. We are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.
- Balance: We understand the importance of balancing different aspects of our lives—intellectual, physical, and emotional—to achieve well-being for ourselves and others. We recognize our interdependence with other people and with the world in which we live.
- Reflection: We thoughtfully consider the world and our own ideas and experience. We work to understand our strengths and weaknesses in order to support our learning and personal development.
But there's more that our students need to be effective problem-solvers and future change agents. A colleague wrote recently about the importance of transdisciplinary thinking. That is, thinking from the perspectives of the disciplines while making conceptual connections across disciplines to solve complex problems.
The IB Primary Years Program is also called the Program of Inquiry. It is a transdisciplinary program built around six "transdisciplinary themes." The foundations of literacy and numeracy are interwoven into "units of inquiry." And each unit culminates in "student-driven action," an application of the transdisciplinary concepts and corresponding context and skills within any given unit topic. The transdisciplinary themes are:
Who We Are: An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; and what it means to be human.
Where We Are In Place And Time: An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; and the relationships between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.
How We Express Ourselves: An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.
How The World Works: An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; and the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
How We Organize Ourselves: An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.
Sharing The Planet: An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.
Students explore these themes through a depth and breadth of related topics, planned collaboratively by the entire teaching team. In each unit, teachers define three or so "lines of inquiry." The rest of the teaching and learning explores students own questions, which they learn to ask using a framework of "key concepts," which include: form, function, causation, connection, change, perspective, responsibility, and reflection.
Finally, students are asked to apply the concepts and skills acquired and explored in a unit of inquiry. This application should be in service of students' community - however they define that.
See student work on display this Thursday at Exhibition Night. And look for more at how transdisciplinary learning becomes interdisciplinary in the Middle Years Program.