A somewhat brief summation from a 14+ year veteran of the MYP

The International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme (MYP) is a pedagogical framework that sits over national and international curriculum.  Basically…

1. It teaches students to be better people by emphasizing its Learner Profile – the idea that everyone should be caring, balanced, an inquirer, knowledgeable, reflective, principled, open-minded, courageous, a thinker, and a good communicator

2. Students learn how to become better at learning by improving their research, thinking, social, communication, and self-management skills. These are called the “Approaches to Learning” or ATL skills.

3. It wants students to focus on big, over-arching ideas (concepts) that could be applicable to any class, but which are taught in one class (or, in an interdisciplinary unit, actually within many classes).  For example, a big idea could be, “Communication is an essential part of persuasion.”  

4. There’s a huge focus on process work. Do you remember that unit you did in grade 3 on dinosaurs? Neither do I. The IB recognises that the learning skills you pick-up in the process of learning will stay with you, even if you forget the difference between a brachiosaurus and a brontosaurus.

5. There’s an even bigger focus on student agency (student voice & choice). By co-constructing their learning, students can emotionally engage with the material better. 

What does it actually look like? (Heads Up - It's a beautiful thing to behold)

I walked into our Design Centre and saw students giving feedback on each other’s work.  They were working on a persuasion unit and were creating videos on social issues. Three students were sitting together, with a laptop open. The middle student was quickly nodding, asking clarifying questions, and typing. You see, the other two were offering very specific, helpful, and kind feedback on his project.  All three were really intent. It was beautiful to me because it seemed like there were no egos involved. The Design Centre offered a kind and supportive environment, and the MYP assessment criteria asks for responses to feedback given. This accumulated in a beautiful situation in which students were really open and receptive to constructive criticism from their peers. 

Same thing in a music class.

I tell my students, “Please produce a performance that demonstrates your understanding of music as a persuasive tool.”  Some perform as soloists, others in small groups, and others in a large group. They are making progress videos and critiquing their own work. Midway through the creative cycle, they watch each other’s performances and give feedback. When finished, the group respectfully listens to the performance and then offers kind, specific, and help constructive criticism and praise that serves to help the musicians through their next creative cycle.

Perfect for my son.

When I see the type of students who graduate from MYP / DP programmes, I know this is what I want for my own son. MYP students are hard-working, flexible-thinkers who are happy to take feedback in their journeys to become life-long learners.

This is not because they memorise all melodic minor scales and can name every major composer from the Renaissance era; it’s because they’ve learned how to learn in a supportive, inquiry-based, failing-forward environment.