A Framework For Developing Essential Skills: Analysis & Synthesis

In our last post, we described the transdisciplinary framework in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. Teaching and learning within this framework cultivates curiosity into inquiry, develops soft leadership skills (IB Learner Traits), and engages students at both conceptual and practical levels. The rationale for this framework is both developmental appropriateness and preparation to solve complex, unknown problems for the betterment of all people.

The IB Middle Years Program builds on the PYP framework by shifting to an interdisciplinary approach. The same rationale for the framework applies in the middle years. Students are ready to engage with the dominant structures (concepts, skills, essential questions) of the disciplines. They have a broadening sense of social justice and independence. And middle school students have a penchant to get deeply engaged in relevant content for short bursts at a time. 

MYP students take eight core classes: 

  1. Design Thinking: In this course, students apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems. They explore the role of design in both historical and contemporary contexts. And they consider their responsibilities when making design decisions and taking action.
  2. Sciences: As they investigate real examples of science application, students discover the tensions and dependencies between science and morality, ethics, culture, economics, politics, and the environment.
  3. Mathematics: The MYP Mathematics framework encompasses number, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, statistics and probability. Students learn how to represent information, to explore and model situations, and to find solutions to familiar and unfamiliar problems. 
  4. Individuals and Societies: This course integrates multiple subject areas: history, geography, economics, global politics and international relations, civics, philosophy, sociology, business management, anthropology. The subjects build understanding and skills to inquire into all factors that affect individuals and societies in local and global contexts.
  5. Language and Literature: Language is central to the development of critical thinking. This course aims to provide individual and collaborative exploration and practice in six key areas: listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, presenting. 
  6. Language Acquisition: The study of additional languages provides students with the opportunity to develop insights into the features, processes and crafts of language and the concept of culture, and to realize that there are diverse ways of living, viewing and behaving in the world. 
  7. The Arts: The arts stimulate young imaginations, challenge perceptions and develop creative and analytical skills. Involvement in the arts encourages students to understand the arts in context and the cultural histories of artworks, supporting the development of an inquiring and empathetic world view. Arts challenge and enrich personal identity and build awareness of the aesthetic in a real-world context. 
  8. Physical and Health Education: PHE focuses on both learning about and learning through physical activity. Both dimensions help students to develop Approaches To Learning (for another post) skills across the curriculum. 

Each of these eight courses are connected through the practice of the IB Learner Profile Traits, Global Contexts, Key Concepts, and Essential Debatable Questions. 

The Global Contexts ground units of study in real issues and applications. These are lens through which students see the content: 

  • Identities and Relationships
  • Personal and Cultural Identity
  • Orientations in Space and Time
  • Scientific and Technical Innovation
  • Fairness and Development
  • Globalization and Sustainability

Through the subject area, topic, and global context, we determine the "key concepts" for a unit. They can be one to three of the following: aesthetics, change, communication, communities, connections, creativity, culture, development, form, global interactions, identity, logic, perspective, relationships, time, place, and space, and systems.

A unit culminates as students consider the subject area (and connections to others), global context, key concepts, subject specific concepts and skills and grapple with an essential and debatable question or attempt to solve a complex problem. 

Here are examples of MYP units happening at Soundview today: 

Current units in science and design.

Current units in science and design.

Current units in mathematics.

Current units in mathematics.

When students complete the MYP grade 8 at Soundview, they engage in The Community Project, a student-directed, service-learning experience. Students participate in a sustained inquiry within a global context. One goal is to generate new insights and deepen understanding through in-depth investigation. Students are responsible for community-oriented action as a demonstration of their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This is leadership.

The Soundview MYP experience is a deep-dive into the core disciplines, explored through relevant global contexts, with opportunities to apply skills and knowledge to real issues and problems in our communities. As a result of the PYP and MYP, students are intellectually curious, able to ask critical questions, apply lenses of the academic disciplines, and connect and apply their learning to finding innovative solutions - great preparation for high school and life!