IB Approaches to Learning

The IB approaches to learning are a set of strategies and skills. They pay especial attention on how students learn as opposed to merely the content of the learning. These approaches are intrinsically linked with the IB learner profile attributes.

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 five approaches to learning skills. Together they can form a 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.

The five sets of learning skills are: thinking skills, communication skills, social skills, self-management skills and research skills.

Learning to Learn

UNESCO have identified the following four pillars of learning:

  • Learning to know
  • Learning to do
  • Learning to be
  • Learning to live together

Learning to know is all about providing "the cognitive tools required to better comprehend the world and its complexities, and to provide an appropriate and adequate foundation for future learning." This section of the website will focus on how we learn to learn by exploring the IB DP's approaches to learning. Each of the following pages explores one of these approaches to learning and provides a framework for teachers to collate resources for developing the particular skill within their subject base.

Activity 1: How do you learn?

  • How do you like to learn (individually, cooperatively, visually, reading, etc.)?
  • How do you like to teach (how are you most comfortable with in terms of teaching style)?
  • What do you think makes a “good” student?
  • What makes a “good” teacher?
  • What skills does a teacher need to have to be more effective in order to effectively promote intercultural understanding in the classroom?

Activity 2: What does learning look like?

Use a Market Place activity to explore the nature of learning. You will need three flipcharts around the room on which colleagues can post their response to the following inquiry question:

  • What counts as evidence of “learning” when it happens? What do you see, hear and feel?

IB approaches to learning

There are a number of aims of the IB approaches to learning:
  • encourages teachers to be teachers of learning as well as teachers of content
  • encourages teachers to create strategies to develop learning in which students are more more meaningfully engaged in structured inquiry and greater critical and creative thinking
  • develops a set of learning skills for life
  • develops skills which can be used in a whole variety of subjects, as opposed to subject specific attention.

Activity 3: Understanding the approaches - Thinking Routine

You need five groups for this activity, with each group focusing on one of the five approaches to learning. Each group is responsible for reading, discussing and sharing information from the guide on a particular skill.

  • In groups review the guide which can be found by clicking here.
  • Choose  (i) a sentence,  (ii) a phrase and  (iii) a word which encapsulates the essence of the paper.
  • Then: discuss ways in which the assigned skill is expressed and used in classrooms and any challenges that arises in developing this skill.
  • Each group share their thoughts with the larger group. What is highlighted?   What questions remain?

Exploring key ideas in the approaches to learning

Activity 4: Visible Thinking

The following videos look at aspects of the learning skills. Assign a skill to a group, asking them to carry out research into the topic using the video. In each case:

  • Identify key argument
  • Generate inquiry questions based on the content
  • What issues does the video raise for how we develop our approaches to learning?
  • Be willing to share in plenary with all the group

Thinking skills: Watch Dr.Derek Cabera's TED Talk 'How Thinking Works'. Derek Cabera is an internationally recognized expert in metacognition (thinking about thinking), epistemology (the study of knowledge), human and organizational learning and education.

Communication skills, Is everything an argument?

Social skills. This 2007 footage of Alexis's classroom shows how Spider Web Discussion gets students to think critically, work collaboratively, and behave ethically – entirely on their own. (Produced and edited by Grant Wiggins)

Self-management skills. Richard Burnett is co-founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project. "Our mental health and well-being are profoundly affected by where and how we place our attention". In this talk, Richard shares his experience of teaching mindfulness in schools. He reveals some of the benefits of being more aware of how we respond to our everyday experiences.

Research skills. As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. So how do we carry out research?

Activity 5: Sharing Practice

  • Use a web based tool - a Padlet or wiki - to collect and share examples of each of how you as a school develop these approaches to learning.
  • Link each approaches to learning skill to 1 or more learner profile attributes. Develop a brief explanation for each linkage.

Activity 6: Where are we?

  • Use the self-reflection tool to identify aspects of your approaches to learning that needs developing. You can find the tool on the IB resources website by clicking here.
  • Examine the area in context and brainstorm solutions.
  • Develop a preliminary action plan. Remember to think about such matters as: Who does what? When?  How will improvement be measured?

Resource Bank

Lance King's website on The Art of Learning has a rich store of resources (including articles and strategies) on all ATL. It could provide a good link for staff to carry out a search into all or any specific ATL skill.

Toolkit: 'My IB' discussion forum contains a link to a fantastic toolkit providing many links for developing the approaches to learning. Although arising out of the MYP the majority of the resources are as appropriate for DP. Click HERE.

IB documents

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

All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.