IB Approaches to Teaching

An introduction to the IB approaches to teaching

"Educators need to think of themselves as designers of learning...We are convinced that we need to move rapidly to the place where all learners feel connected and all learners are able to self-regulate their own learning." (Judy Halbert & Linda Kaser, Spirals of Inquiry)

"The ultimate goal of teaching is to make the new seem familiar and the familiar seem new." (Samuel Johnson)

What are the key IB pedagogical principles? This page provides you with a number of activities that you can use with your pedagogical leadership team and your teachers to professionally inquire into the six approaches to teaching skills. Together they can form an in-school workshop which can be used when you are a Candidate School preparing for authorization, or as part of the process of reviewing your Teaching and Learning Policy, or as part of the five year self-evaluation review.

Context - what are we teaching for?

This is how Jihad Kawas' Tedex talk is introduced. It provides the context for us to think about what and how we teach.

"In the age of wikipedia & online learning, what do kids want from school these days? This 17-year-old entrepreneur shares his thoughts and raises questions that any student can rightly ask: What if what I love to do counted in school? Wouldn’t that change the way we spend time in school? Is school doomed to stay at the margin of my life?   Jihad has already founded three companies and won four local and international business competitions. He currently runs his latest company "Saily," the social marketplace app."

Activity 1: Key Mantras

Reflect on the video: what resonates? What are the key messages for you and your school? How does your school need to change? Capture your thinking in the form of key mantras that need to be embedded in your school culture for this change to happen.

Example: Here is one groups' mantras arising out of reflection on this video.

  • We create not replicate.
  • We feed passions and interests.
  • We make it relevant.
  • We fail well.
  • We imagine possibilities.
  • We celebrate diversity.
  • We learn for ourselves and others.


The IB Approaches to Teaching and Learning are a set of strategies and skills. The approaches to teaching pay especial attention on how teachers can influence how students' learn as opposed to merely teaching the content of an academic course.

In the six sets of skills teaching is defined as: based on inquiry, focused on conceptual understanding, developed in local and global contexts, focused on effective teamwork and collaboration, differentiated to meet the needs of learners and informed by formative and summative assessment.

Links within the website

The individual IB approaches to teaching skills can be explored in more depth by referring to other pages in this website.

What do we believe about teaching?

Activity 2:

  • Watch the following short video.
  • How might this inspire your approach to teaching?

Inspired by this clip one school came up with the following essential agreement for their pedagogical team. Check it out here.

Activity 3: Our essential agreement about teaching

As a pedagogical team work collaboratively to write your own essential agreement for your team.

Use the Essential Agreement protocol. You may like to consider the following questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • What do you believe about best practice in teaching?
  • Who are you inspired by?
  • Why do you teach in the way you do?

What is the IB approach to teaching?

The DP has adopted a broadly constructivist and student-centred approach, emphasizing the importance of connectedness and concurrency of learning.

There are six key principles that underpin all IB programmes. Teaching in IB programmes is:

  1. based on inquiry
  2. focused on conceptual understanding
  3. developed in local and global contexts
  4. focused on effective teamwork and collaboration
  5. differentiated to meet the needs of all learners
  6. informed by assessment (formative and summative).

Activity 4: IB approaches to teaching skills

Inquiry based

Watch the following video clip in which Grant Wiggins uses essential questions for developing inquiry. As you watch, consider what might be the essential questions in your subject group

Inquiry-based teaching is explored elsewhere on this website. The following activity uses the Genius Hour protocol as a way of introducing inquiry based learning. Note that this activity will take around one hour and should not be rushed.

Activity 5: Our own professional inquiry

  • Ask colleagues to engage in a Genius Hour to carry out a professional inquiry into an area of their choice.
  • Each person must use this time to create something (e.g. a list of top tips, an action plan of next steps, a stimulus for teaching etc.)
  • Before starting out on the inquiry frame an inquiry question and pitch it to colleagues in your department etc.
  • Provide time to carry out the research and learn as much as they can on any given topic (within their subject group or a passion they have outside school) and pull together a one minute presentation of it for all participants.
  • They can spend their time reading, researching on the web, watching a tutorial online or learning from another person.
  • Once they have had time to research provide time for them to collect together their ideas and start framing their presentation.
  • Finally participants present to each other and/or whole group.

Focused on conceptual understanding

The webpage Concept-based teaching and learning provides activities and thought pieces to explore what is meant by concept-based teaching.The following video is a helpful introduction providing quotes and information from Erikson's work.

Developed in local and global contexts

In the following TED Talk Maths teacher Dan Meyer explores how Maths has to be applied to real life situations in order for it to make sense of the world.

Activity 6: How do you relate your subject to local and global contexts?

  • What issues does Dan Meyer raise?
  • Brainstorm as many ways as you can for teaching your subject in local and global contexts.

Developing a collaborative culture

Activity 7:

Access a Teaching Channel video on collaborative learning, called Collaborating to Design and Build Stable Structures by clicking here.

As you reflect on this video consider:

  • good ideas to encourage collaboration
  • challenges with regard to collaboration
  • possible solutions to these challenges

Activity 8: What does effective collaboration look like?

Standard C1 of the Diploma Programme Standards and Practices focuses on the importance of a culture of collaboration within the school in the delivery of the curriculum. An IB World School is expected to demonstrate that collaborative planning takes place regularly and addresses the IB Learner Profile in order to ensure standardization of expectations, differentiation for learning styles, assessment of student learning and recognize that all teachers are responsible for language development. It is also important to demonstrate collaborative planning in the delivery of TOK so that it is delivered within each subject as well, maybe as a single course.But what does it mean for a teacher to focus on effective collaboration and communication?

  • Create a list of top tips for developing effective collaboration and good communication in a school.
  • What behaviors should a teacher who wants to communicate and collaborate effectively cultivate? What are the dos and don'ts'?
  • Consider what your school needs to do to implement the kinds of collaboration the IB calls for.

What is differentiation?

In her TED Talk The world needs all kinds of mind, Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

Activity 9: How do we differentiate to meet the needs of all learners?

  • Discuss your impressions of Temple Grandin's TED Talk.
  • How do you define 'need'?
  • Make a list of things your school does to address students' needs.
  • What strategies do you use to differentiate and meet the needs of all learners?

Informed by assessment

Activity 10: The importance of formative assessment for learning

  • Click here to access an article by Dylan Wiliam in which he explores the link or bridge between what a teacher teaches and what a student learns. It is a helpful introduction to the power of formative assessment.
  • Use the Compass points protocol to reflect on the article and to provide feedback.
  • East – Excited (What excited you in the reading?)
  • West – Worried (What worried you?)
  • North - Needs (What support do you need to move forward?)
  • South – Suggestions for moving forward  (What steps do you need to take?)

IB documents

The IB have produced a wealth of material you can use to inquire into the IB approaches to teaching skills. Click here to access the site.

Dig deeper

Differentiated Instruction - wealth of resources (articles, videos and links to teacher strategies) from the edutopia website.

How are all learners' needs catered for? A short but useful blog, establishing the right questions and illustrated by two good pictures - a quick thought piece to excite discussion.

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