By Cara Kranz, Sara Schneeberg, and Michael Beyer
We’ve heard parents share they don’t understand what makes our school “IB”. Sometimes when new families join Ogden, they don’t know anything about IB, and their kids don’t come home talking about IB. As a parent, you might ask yourself, “where is this IB?” “How do I know IB is central to my child’s learning?”
IB, or International Baccalaureate, isn’t something students “do” in the same way they “do” art, music, math, or reading. IB, or International Baccalaureate, is more of a philosophy of teaching and learning than it is a specific activity. There are frameworks for what is expected of students at certain stages, and ways teachers are expected to teach, all of which can be found in the various documents published by the International IB Organization. However, these tend to be technical and generally used by educators, not parents. And they certainly aren’t things a child would answer to a parent when asked, “What did you do at school today?”
The hallmarks of what makes an IB school IB is that education is constructivist and student-centered. Constructivist learning states “learning is a self-directed process—knowledge is constructed rather than directly received; instructor as facilitator; learning as a sociocultural process.” Student-centered learning is “creating multiple experiences for knowledge construction” and “creating authentic and complex sociocultural learning environments to mediate learning.” In simple terms, we want for our students to direct and engage in their learning in ways that help them develop as individuals.
It also might help to describe what IB is not. An IB learning environment does not have the teacher as the center. The teacher does not act as the gatekeeper or owner of knowledge. The teacher does not tell students what the “right” and “wrong” answers are. Instead, the teacher guides the learners to discover the correct answers through an inquiry-based process.
That’s why at the beginning of units you’ll often see classes creating anchor charts of what they know, what they want learn and how they plan to get there. It puts the student in the driver seat, instead of being a passenger.
Another key concept to an IB education is transdisciplinary learning. This can be frustrating for IB parents, because it often leads to students learning science and history without teaching those subjects as distinct classes.
For example, in a first-grade PYP Unit of Inquiry about light and communication, students might begin the unit with a provocation that leads them to ask questions about whether we need light to see or not. Then they might design scientific investigations to answer their own questions. During these investigations students apply their mathematical skills to collect data, organize it at a class and interpret their results to make meaning. After testing various materials and attempting to block out all the light from their classroom, the teacher might ask students to think of places in the world where the light is completely blocked out. From this conversation students might become interested in caves and whether they could see in caves or not. The teacher could then bring up cave art examples from history and ask students whether they would be able to see the art on the cave walls if the entrance were blocked. Students decide to make their own cave art paintings and design tests to find out. They use what they previously learned to block all of the light from their classroom and test what they might see in a cave with the door open, door closed and using a flashlight. This investigation might get students interested in caves paintings and lead them to design ways to learn more about the history of cave paintings. They might also read books about caves and write about their tests or experiences in dark places themselves. Through this example, students construct new learning opportunities in science, math, history, art, reading and writing. This is called transdisciplinary learning in the PYP because the learning transfers between the traditional discipline boundaries to make learning more meaningful.
So, even though your child may not be talking about IB specifically, they should be talking about their learning experiences at Ogden. If you hear your child talk about making choices and decisions, using materials in flexible and imaginative ways, initiating inquiry and asking questions, working collaboratively with others, finding an interest and developing their knowledge, you know IB is alive and well at Ogden.
This blog has contributions from a variety of faculty and staff at Ogden International.