Unit plans

The need for a unit plan

Unit plans are an integral part of the MYP process and your school may require you to produce them for the Diploma programme. Unit plans are covered in pages 30-32 in Approaches to Teaching and Learning.  In many ways it makes sense to write unit plans in chemistry addressing the topics as they are presented in the guide. The 12 units are of course the 11 main topics in the core, which are essentially repeated in AHL, and whichever option is covered. Energy, bonding, acids and bases etc. all make good overall concepts for units and the information given under ‘understandings’, ‘applications and skills’ and 'guidance' etc. make it clear what needs to be taught and what students need to understand and be able to apply. What is important is not to just copy and paste the content from the guide but use the unit plan to show how  you include Approaches to Teaching and Learning. The purpose is to record a thoughtful plan which aims to provide a relevant and engaging learning experience which is driven by inquiry, promoting learner attributes and taking account of students' prior experience rather than basing it on curriculum content. You can, if you wish, formulate your plan using materials available on this site.

What is a unit plan?

According to the IB "a unit plan is part of the written curriculum and can be defined as a planned study, of various lengths, concluding with summative assessment."

•  It should stand alone as a significant, engaging, relevant and challenging learning experience.

•  It should enable students to demonstrate development against objectives.

•  It should contribute to a coherent, school-wide commitment to inquiry that is framed by contexts of personal, local or global significance.

•  It should be driven by inquiry that is conceptually based and contextually framed.

•  It should involve students in a range of learning experiences planned in response to inquiry-based questions.

•  It should build on the prior knowledge of the students.

•  It should be planned and taught to promote positive attitudes and development of the attributes of an IB learner.

•  It should have a summative assessment that gives the students the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the DP objectives set for the unit.

•  It should require students to reflect on their learning and encourage them to engage in principled action or service.

Templates for unit plans

There is no fixed template for a unit plan as the IB does not prescribe any specific design. Teachers are free to design their own. The IB has produced three exemplar unit plans and you can find more examples on My IB.  Two that you might wish to consider have been put together by my colleagues Chris Hamper and David Faure who are the authors of the Physics and Biology InThinking websites respectively. I am grateful to both of them for sharing. See Unit planner (Physics) and Template- Simple unit planner (Biology).

Backward design

Before making your own unit plans it is worth looking at this video by Grant Wiggins talking about 'Backward design'[1].  'Backward design' has the teacher consider the learning goals of the course first, then consideration of the assessment prior to consideration of the content. This is the exact reverse of  'Forward design', which is the way most teachers design their courses.


  Understanding design


  1. ^ Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching have written a book 'Understanding Design'.
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