Unit Planning

Are you loosing sleep over unit planning?

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.


    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

     The IB has produced three generic exemplar unit plans and you can find more examples on My IB. Unit plans are covered in th IB publication  Approaches to Teaching and Learning.

    I have adapted the key points of the IB Unit plans into two templates specific for Visual arts, one is an overview all on one page, and one is a flexible template with more room to expand

      Visual Arts One Page Unit Planner template as shown in the screenshot below

    If you have a lot of information to include in your unit, such as resources or reflections, or you want to keep adding to it, you will need more than a page. The same key points and sections as the one page planner but with room to expand.

    Visual Arts flexi Unit Planner

    Quick view Unit Planner on one page

    Sample Unit Plans

    The intention, as always in IBDP art, is to create your own individual visual arts course made up of various units depending on your specific skills, location, and resources. I hope this template, and the subsequent examples of unit plans will help you to organize your own marvelously different and engaging content, whilst meeting the intended pedagogical goals.

     Sample Unit Plans 

    Unit Plan: Exploring Place and Culture 

    Unit Plan: Curatorial Focus 

    Unit Plan: Foundation Skills 

    A brand new section of the site will feature a menu of individual unit plans that you can pick and choose from to supplement your course design

    Typically, a unit plan in Visual Arts addresses

    • Teaching skills and techniques
    • Goals for knowledge and understanding
    • ATL ( approaches to learning) using a varieity of learning processes
    • ToK connections wherever possible
    • Assessment methods used, both formative and summative
    • Resources used
    • Final Reflections on learning outcomes

    Unit planning differs from course planning in that a single unit addresses a specific topic or topic area but still may include several BIG IDEAS. 

      Key Points

      INQUIRY: establishing the purpose of the unit

      Transfer goals, big ideas

      ACTION: teaching and learning through inquiry

      Content/skills/concepts—essential understandings 
      Learning Processes

      Approaches to learning (ATL)

      Links to CAS, ToK, Language and Learning


      Reflection—considering the planning, process and impact of the inquiry

      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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