Glossary of IB Terms

Academic Honesty: The principle that all work presented for assessment should be the candidate's own work.

Access: refers to what IB World Schools can do to increase access for students to the Diploma Programme regardless of personal circumstances. Schools should consider their student selection process, schedules and course offerings, language options and language support, support for students with special educational needs. Refer to Building an accessible programme (2009) on the OCC.

Activator: an opening activity which motivates students to engage with learning as well as a way of activating students’ prior knowledge.

Affective learning (skills): Affective skills are the skills of behaviour and emotional management underpinning attitudinal factors such as resilience, perseverance and self-motivation, which often have a large role to play in educational achievement.

Aim: An aim states, in a general way, what the teacher may expect to teach or do, what the student may expect to experience or learn and how the student may be changed by the learning experience.

Alignment: Agreement in principle and practice between shared values and aspirations for learning (written curriculum), how teachers actually work (taught curriculum) and what students actually learn (assessed curriculum).

Approaches to Teaching and Learning: The strategies, skills and attitudes that are at the heart of the IB Diploma teaching and learning context. There are five approaches to learning (thinking, communication, social, self-management and research skills), and six approaches to teaching skills (inquiry, conceptual understanding, local and global contexts, collaboration, differentiation, formative and summative assessment).

ATL Leaders: Schools may designate leaders for ATL; they are entrusted with liaison between the teachers involved, parents, students and, if necessary, the community.

Articulation: Correlation and logical progression of learning objectives from year to year (vertical) and from course to course (horizontal), including transitions between institutions and courses of study/ formal curriculum boundaries.

Assessment criteria: Criteria against which a student’s performance is measured as evidenced by work produced. Subject-group guides provide assessment criteria to be used for final assessment for each subject group and for the personal project.

Attitudes: Attitudes In the PYP, attitudes are dispositions that are expressions of fundamental values, beliefs and feels about learning, the environment and people.

Authorization : The process of applying and becoming an IB World School.

Beyond the Disciplines: the title of this workshop is taken from David Perkins’ work related to teaching/learning beyond the disciplines which emphasizes six “beyonds,” where educators are venturing beyond the traditional disciplines, in brief: beyond … content, local, topics, traditional disciplines, discrete disciplines and academic engagement.

Bilingual: speaking two languages (fluently).

Candidate School: A school that has submitted its application for candidacy which the IB has accepted.

Career-related Programme (CP): IB programme that aims to extend access to an IB education by addressing the needs of students engaged in career-related education.

Command words: also called instructional, operational or task words. They indicate what approach should be applied to the information found. They are often used in assessment tasks.

Community Service: Students serve the community by understanding and acting with mutual responsibility to meet their own needs and the needs of others.

Competency-based learning: measures learning rather than time. Competencies refers to mastery in knowledge and skills. The student progresses to the next stage of their learning by demonstrating their competence (or mastery of knowledge and skills) in a particular course, regardless of how long it takes. It is learner focussed since it allows the student to work at their own pace.

Concepts: Concepts are big powerful ideas that have relevance both within and across subject areas. They help move students from knowledge to understanding, and facilitate transfer of knowledge across subjects and contexts. Understanding the 'big ideas' behind a topic can also help students get to the heart of why they are learning a particular topic. IB has a concept based approach to teaching and learning. See Concept-based teaching and learning.

Collaborative Planning: When teachers work together to plan and create a curriculum and lessons for their students. The IB standards and practices makes reference to collaborative planning in relation to embedding the Learner Profile throughout the Diploma Programme, ensuring standardization of expectations, planning for differentiation of learning styles, assessment of student learning and recognizing that all teachers are responsible for language development. Collaborative planning is also essential to ensure that TOK is delivered within each subject as well, as maybe, as a single course. Click here to access an IB community blog on collaborative planning.

Concurrency of Learning: a principle under which students deal each year with a balanced curriculum in which the required subjects are studied simultaneously with all subjects and the core being taught over a two year period. It is possible to teach up to two SL subjects in one year but this should only be the case in exceptional circumstances. Alec Peterson, former Director General of the IB, provided a rationale for this principle when he advocated "The teaching of minds well informed rather than minds well stuffed." Click here to access the IB position paper Concurrency of learning in the IB Diploma Programme and the Middle Years Programme, Marshman, R.,2010.

Consideration phase: Period during which a school examines the IB philosophy and specific programme structures and requirements, and compares them with the current state of the school to see if they are compatible. As a result, the school will decide whether to begin the authorization process by submitting an Application for candidacy. A school should complete the school information form to inform the IB of their interest when starting this phase.

Constructivist: The IB has a constructivist view of knowledge. Learning and knowledge making is an active, constructive and lifelong process. People actively construct or create their own representations of reality. “Teaching and learning in the IB celebrates the many ways people work together to construct meaning and make sense of the world. Through the interplay of asking, doing and thinking, this constructivist approach leads towards open, democratic classrooms. An IB education empowers young people for a lifetime of learning, independently and in collaboration with others. It prepares a community of learners to engage with global challenges through inquiry, action and reflection.” (What is an IB education? 2013 p4). The WIAIBE workshops use a number of constructivist principles based on the work of George Hein.

Consultation process: A required part of the candidate phase, which includes a fixed number of hours of remote consultation per year of candidacy as well as an on-site visit (for all programmes except the CP).

Creativity, Activity, Service : CAS is an acronym for Creativity, Activity, Service.

Criterion-related assessment: An assessment process based on determining achievement levels against previously agreed criteria. MYP assessment is criterion-related.

Cultural Competence: Cultural competence is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures.  It involves being aware of one’s own world view, gaining knowledge of other world views and cultural practices and developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences.

Curriculum: All aspects of the teaching and learning process for students in an IB programme, namely its design, implementation, assessment and review.

Descriptors: Achievement level descriptors describe the differences in student accomplishment for each assessment criterion and correspond to the achievement level that should be awarded.

Differentiation: the process of identifying, with each learner, the most effective strategies for achieving goals” (SEN IB programmes p.4).

Diploma Programme: IB programme that provides an academically challenging and balanced programme of education, preparing students, normally aged 16 to 19, for success at university and in life beyond. The programme is normally taught over two years and has gained recognition from the world's leading universities.

Discipline: A branch of learning or field of academic study; a way of ordering knowledge for the purpose of instruction (known generally for practical purposes of assessment in the MYP and DP as subjects). Some MYP subject groups and subjects can comprise multiple disciplines. For example, the MYP subject group arts includes disciplines like visual arts, drama, music, media and dance. The subject integrated sciences includes three disciplines: biology, chemistry and physics.

Emotional Intelligence: The ability of a person to recognise their own and others’ emotions, to distinguish between different feelings, to use emotional information to guide their thinking and behaviour, and thus manage their emotions to adapt to the situation and environment. It includes the four key domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Essential Element: To meet the programme’s goals, the PYP emphasizes five powerful domains which promote meaning, understanding, and challenges the students to engage with significant ideas: Concept, Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes, Action.

External Assessment: Assessment that is set and marked by the IB and not by a student’s teacher.

Evaluation : IB World Schools are evaluated every five years to ensure that the standards and practices of the IB are being maintained. Central to this process is the self-study which the school undertakes.

Formative assessment: Ongoing assessment aimed at providing information to guide teaching and improve student performance.

Global citizenship: The WIAIBE workshop on Living and Learning Globally explores the following definition. "Global citizenship as a choice and a way of thinking….self-awareness and awareness of others … practising cultural empathy….the cultivation of principled decision making, and participation in the social and political life of one’s community."

Global competence: Global competence refers to the acquisition of in-depth. knowledge and understanding of international issues, an appreciation of and ability to learn and work with people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, proficiency in a foreign language, and skills to function. In these workshops the IB signposts ASCD Globally Competent Learning Continuum and the work of the Asia Society

Global engagement: a commitment to address humanity's greatest challenges in the classroom and beyond. IB students and teachers should be encouraged to explore both global and local issues. The IB aims to empower people to be active learners who are committed to service within the community. Click here to access an IB community blog on global awareness.

Governing body: The duly constituted individual or group that has the ultimate legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the school.

Grade: in the IB Diploma programme each subject has a set of assessment criteria for 7 grades, whether at Higher Level or Standard Level.

  • 7 = Excellent
  • 6 = Very Good
  • 5 = Good
  • 4 = Satisfactory
  • 3 = Mediocre
  • 2 = Poor
  • 1 = Very Poor

Growth Mindset: Alfred Binet and more recent researchers like Carol Dweck believe that intelligence is malleable and that being successful is a combination of two things: Talent (what you are born with) + mindset (beliefs about yourself and your abilities). When students had more of a growth mindset, they held the view that talents and abilities could be developed and that challenges were the way to do it. Learning something new, something hard, sticking to things—that’s how students get smarter. Setbacks and feedback aren’t about your abilities; they are information students can use to help themselves learn.

Higher Level (HL): A subject that is offered over two years that requires a minimum of 240 hours of teaching.

Holistic education: "An IB education is holistic in nature" (What is an IB education? 2013 p9). An holistic education addresses the development of the whole person at both the cognitive and affective levels (intellectual, emotional, social, physical, creative, aesthetic and spiritual potential). It aims to prepare students to live fulfilling and productive lives in an increasingly complex world. It is therefore a lifelong quest of personal discovery. It encourages learners to critically examine knowledge gained and it also has a focus on responsible action.

Horizontal planning/horizontal articulation: Planning horizontally involves a team of teachers of the same grade level working together to plan for learning.

IB educators / IB educators network (IBEN): Education professionals and specialists who contribute to the successful delivery of core activities of the IB by acting as examiners, workshop leaders, school visitors, curriculum developers, examination paper authors, advancement service project consultants and readers of school applications. Collectively, IB educators are known as the IB educator network (IBEN).

IB Educator Capabilities: The capabilities are a global mindset that best describe the requirements to effectively perform roles for the IB Educator Network (IBEN). The capabilities evaluate current ability and identify development opportunities. The capabilities are adapted from the approaches to teaching and learning skills. The capabilities create a structure and system that promotes the development of the individual without being overly-specific. The IB learner profile attributes are intentionally included throughout the capabilities. The educator capabilities will be used in every aspect of the IBEN from the recruitment, initial development, feedback and on-going professional development.

IB Grade: The number assigned to standards of student achievement. A grade is reached by applying the grade boundaries table to the student’s criterion levels total.

IB Learner Profile: a set of ten attributes which all members of the IB community - students, teachers and leaders - should be encouraged to develop. The IB describes the Learner Profile as “the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes" for the 21st century.

IB Mission: The International Baccalaureate (IB) is more than its educational programmes and certificates. At our heart we are motivated by a mission to create a better world through education.

IB World School: A school that is authorized to offer one or more IB programmes.

IB Philosophy: The IB’s set of beliefs and values that guides the development and delivery of its educational programmes. It is reflected in the IB mission statement, the IB learner profile. What is an IB education? and the programme-specific documents that describe and explain each individual programme.

IBIS: A system that allows IB coordinators to complete administrative procedures and obtain news and information from the IB via a password-protected web server.

Inclusion is about responding positively to each individual’s unique needs; identifying and removing barriers to learning, and developing collaborative cultures built on mutual respect, support and problem solving. Inclusion is more about responding positively to each individual’s unique needs.Inclusion is less about marginalizing students because of their differences.

Inquiry-based teaching and learning: An approach to learning - both student and professional learning - that involves asking questions, using critical thinking, solving problems, carrying out research. Inquiry is central to the written, taught and assessed curriculum in IB programmes. Inquiry is one of the ten attributes of the IB Learner Profile which refers to nurturing curiosity and our ability to learn independently.

Inquiry levels (or levels of inquiry): learning experiences that are structured around different levels of inquiry: confirmation, structured, guided and open. Confirmation inquiry is when students confirm a principle through an activity when the results are known in advance. Structured inquiry is when students investigate a teacher-presented question through a prescribed procedure. Guided inquiry is when students investigate a teacher-presented question using student designed/selected procedures. Open inquiry is when students investigate questions that are student formulated through student designed/selected procedures.

Integrated learning: An interdisciplinary approach to curriculum planning in which two or more disciplines within a subject group are integrated into a single course.

Intercultural Understanding : The IB encourages students to appreciate critically their own perspective (beliefs, values, experiences and ways of knowing) as well as the perspectives of others. Intercultural understanding is about exploring human commonality, diversity and interconnection.

Interdisciplinary: Combining or involving two or more branches of learning or fields of academic study.

Intralingual knowledge: knowledge drawing on resources within the same language.

Interlingual knowledge: knowledge drawing on resources from a variety of languages.

Internal Assessment: The assessment of a student’s work that is carried out by a student’s teacher(s).

Internal standardization: The process by which all teachers of one subject group in a school ensure a common understanding and application of criteria and descriptors.

International Mindedness : Three concepts are at the heart of the IB's understanding of international-mindedness: multilingualism, intercultural understanding and global engagement. Click here to access an IB community blog on Ten perspectives on international-mindedness. Access  What is International-Mindedness? on this website for a discussion of what the term international-mindedness means and how it has developed in the IB community.

KWHLAQ is an acronym for Know, Want to know, How will we find out, Learned, What action will we take, What new Questions do we have. With the WIAIBE workshops it refers to the IB teaching and learning graphic showing the inquiry/action/reflection process.

Ladder of Feedback: is a Harvard Project Zero protocol to establish a culture of trust and support by sequencing feedback in order to be constructive

Language A1: This is one's first language. It is a literature based syllabus.

Language A2: This is a 'learned' language course which aims to develop listening, writing, speaking and reading skills.

Language of Instruction: This is the language used in all IB programmes to deliver the curriculum.

Language landscape: Language Landscape is a tool for mapping where languages are spoken around the world.

Language Policy: IB requires that all schools develop a comprehensive approach to meeting the language needs of all of its students which provides effective support for students’ linguistic development through a comprehensive language policy. All IB programmes require the study of at least one world language in addition to the principal language of instruction. The policy should reflect the school’s position on mother tongue support and what steps will be taken to meet the needs of additional language learners.

Language Profile: the profile is a living and evolving record of who the student is as a language learner. Language profiles are not only important to learners’ cultural identity but they are also essential in the process of developing and learning language and literacy in multilingual settings.

Learning Engagement: Within the WIABE workshops this term is used to define the main activities that engage participants in learning.

Middle Years Programme (MYP): IB programme that provides an academically challenging framework that encourages students to embrace and understand the connections between traditional subjects and the real world and become critical and reflective thinkers. The programme serves students aged 11 to 16 and is typically offered over 4 or 5 years.

Mindfulness: Various definitions are provided for discussion. Key terms include paying attention, focus, being aware and having a different relationship with the dialogue that goes on in the mind. Mindfulness is foundational to managing one’s state of mind. We are learning that things like happiness, well-being and what we used to consider hard-wired personality traits are actually skills and attitudes that can be learned and practiced. In the IB, the skills of mindfulness are critical to being able to authentically develop and choose to demonstrate the attributes of the Learner profile, to focus and learn, and to build a caring, authentic community.

Moderation: The procedure by which sample assessed personal projects from teachers is reviewed and adjusted externally to ensure assessment has been carried out according to IB criteria and standards.

Mother tongue: The language(s) learned first; the language(s) identified with as a “native” speaker; the language known best; the language used most.

Multidisciplinary: Combining several academic disciplines (areas of knowledge) in an approach to a topic or problem to be solved.

Multilingualism: All IB students have to learn a language because learning to communicate in a variety of ways in more than one language is central to intercultural understanding.

Multi-literacy: Multi-literacy highlights two aspects of literacy: linguistic diversity (see multilingualism – including personal languages, languages of instruction, transliteracy) and multimodel forms of linguistic expression (numeracy, media literacy, design literacy, technology literacy, new literacies).

Objective: One of a set of statements for a subject group or the MYP projects, describing the skills, knowledge and understanding that will be addressed in the course/project. The assessment criteria correspond to the objectives. Student achievement of the objectives is evaluated using the assessment criteria.

Online curriculum centre (OCC): A web-based service to schools at http://occ.ibo.org that aims to support the Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme, Diploma Programme and IB Career-related Certificate. Teachers can take part in online discussions, access selected IB publications, exchange ideas and resources, read news and information from the IB, and participate in special events.

Pedagogical leadership: effective leadership of the IB programmes that addresses alignment of school philosophy and mission to the IB, resourcing and support for the Diploma Programme, and leadership of teaching and learning.

Performances of understanding: A particular kind of learning experience—one that encourages flexible thinking with knowledge in novel situations. They become “understanding performances” when students are asked to use information deliberately to advance a new understanding. Performances of understanding allow students both to build and demonstrate their understanding in and across subjects. They are based on the theory that understanding is not something we have—like a set of facts we possess—but rather is something we can do.

Personal project: A project that is the culmination of the students’ experience in the MYP and shows their experience of ATL and global contexts. It is completed in the final year of the programme.

Personal project supervisor: The member of staff within a school who is responsible for working directly with the student on the completion of the personal project.

Policy: Documentation, written collectively, that articulates how implementation and development of the IB programmes can be supported and put into practice in everyday school life.

Principled Action: This is both an IB approach to learning - students learn by doing - and an outcome of their learning - students are encouraged to take action and make ethical and responsible choices as a result of their learning and to make a positive difference in the world. This links closely with the IB Mission Statement and is part of the IB Learner Profile.

Professional Learning Community (PLC): In schools this often refers to the organisation of teachers into collaborative practice-based working groups.

Programme(s): Each IB programme includes a curriculum or curriculum framework and pedagogy, student assessment appropriate to the age range, professional development for teachers and a process of school authorization and evaluation. The four programmes offered by the IB are the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), Diploma Programme (DP) and the IB Career-Related Certificate (CP). A school may be authorized to offer one or more programmes.

Programme coordinator: Programme coordinators provide school-level leadership for the implementation of IB programmes and IB processes generally. They are key points of liaison with the IB.

Programme requirements: requirements specific to the Diploma Programme, as contained in the standards and practices.

Provocation: something which provokes thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity and ideas. They can also expand on a thought, project, idea and interest. They are open-ended invitations for students to express their ideas. They could be as simple as an artefact (e.g. photo) or a question.

Reflection: This is one of the ten attributes of the Learner Profile. Being a reflective thinker means that the student is critically reflective of evidence, methods and conclusions; and analyzes one's own thinking, being aware of potential bias in one's own and other people's work. Being reflective is also about working to understand one's own strengths and areas for development.

Regional office(s): Each of the three IB regions – Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Americas —is administered by a regional office. The regional offices provide services to prospective IB schools, IB World Schools, universities and governments.

Responsible / Principled action: Principled action means making responsible choices, sometimes including decisions not to act. Individuals, organizations and communities can engage in principled action when they explore the ethical dimensions of personal and global challenges. Action in IB programmes may involve service learning, advocacy and educating self and others.

Scaffold(ing): A strategy in which teachers develop and employ a sequence of steps or stages marked by a gradual decrease of support and a corresponding increase in students’ responsibility for their own learning.

Service learning: is a teaching and learning strategy that combines learning objectives with community service in order to provide a pragmatic, progressive learning experience while meeting societal needs. It is encouraged as a teaching methodology in all four IB programmes. It is a five-stage process: investigating the issue, preparing for action, taking action, reflecting on what has been done and demonstrating what has been learned.

Social entrepreneurship: a social entrepreneur addresses a social problem or unmet need and finds solutions to them. Within WIAIBE the term is used in connection with being a change-agent and taking responsible and principled action to address social needs.

Social justice: Social justice refers to the equal distribution of resources, opportunities and privileges, in which outside factors that categorize people are irrelevant.

Special educational need (SEN): Special educational needs students, as defined by the IB, may: display difficulties or live with conditions that are a barrier to learning and therefore need particular teaching strategies for classroom management and effective education; display a higher than average aptitude in one or more subjects that requires adaptation of the curriculum to cater for their accelerated learning needs.

Standard Level (SL): A  subject that is offered over two years that requires a minimum of 150 hours of teaching.

Standards and practices: describes the practices common to all four IB programmes (PYP, MYP, DP and CP). It is the 'rule book' against which an IB school can measure their success in implementing the DP programme. This document forms the basis of verification (authorization) and five year evaluation processes.

Subject group: A collection of related courses grouped into a common category, which together represent a broad and balanced curriculum. The MYP is organized into eight subject groups: arts, design, individuals and societies, language acquisition, language and literature, mathematics, physical and health education, and sciences. The DP is organized into six subject groups: studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, the arts.

Summative assessment: The culminating assessment for a unit, term or course of study, designed to provide information on the student’s achievement level against specific objectives.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a set of 17 "Global Goals" with 169 targets between them. They are the successor to the Millennium Development Goals. These included ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests. They were adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit September 2015. The title of the agenda is Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Synergistic thinking: The interplay between factual and conceptual thinking.

Theory of Knowledge : TOK is an acronym for Theory of Knowledge. An interdisciplinary course that stimulates critical reflection on the knowledge gained inside and outside of the classroom.

Transdisciplinary themes: a set of themes that represents shared human experiences. The PYP is underpinned by six transdisciplinary themes around which learning is planned. These are: Who we are, Where we are in place and time, How we express ourselves, How the world works, How we organize ourselves and Sharing the planet. These themes are selected for their relevance to the real world. They are described as transdisciplinary because they focus on issues that go across subject areas. These themes help teachers develop a programme of inquiry.

Trans-languaging: is the use of different languages and discourse modes in communication in order to understand something. The use of translanguaging in schools allows students to develop in both the school language and their own language in order to maximize learning opportunities across the curriculum.

Verification refers to the visit which an IB visiting team makes to a school once the IB has received the application for authorization. The verification visit aims to verify that the required IB standards and practices are in place and that the school is ready to become an IB World School.

Vertical and horizontal (curriculum) alignment: Vertical curriculum means that knowledge is linked from one lesson to the next across a programme of study. Horizontal curriculum integrates knowledge across different disciplines and classes. Vertical and horizontal alignment comes under collaborative planning in the IB standards and practices.

Visible Thinking & Learning: The WIAIBE workshops use a number of Visible Thinking Routines. These are part of Harvard University’s Project Zero. At the core of Visible Thinking are practices that help make thinking visible: Thinking Routines loosely guide learners' thought processes and encourage active processing. These thinking routines help build an infrastructure for thinking and learning in the classroom.

Ways of Knowing (WOK): The IB identifies eight ways of knowing: emotion, faith, imagination, intuition, language, memory reason and sense perception. They are the focus of inquiry in Beyond the Disciplines, one of the WIAIBE workshops. They are also some of the TOK (theory of knowledge) approaches to the acquisition of knowledge that transcends the disciplinary world, the thematic world of a multidisciplinary approach, the intertwined approach of the interdisciplinary world, and the in-depth approach of the transdisciplinary world. Within the TOK course students must explore a range of WOKs. It is suggested that studying four of these eight in depth would be appropriate. There are two central purposes to the WOKs in TOK. On the one hand they are the tools that answer the question “how do we know?” and on the other hand they help us answer the question “how do I know?”

WIAIBE stands for 'What is an IB Education? It is one of the seminal documents of the IB. It is also the name of a suire of IB workshops.

Written curriculum refers to curriculum documentation: unit planners, lessons plans, syllabuses.

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