• Beth Overby

A collaborative approach to developing enhanced ATL

Our school was ready to adopt and implement the enhanced PYP Approaches to Learning, but I knew that this would come with some challenges:


How do we make this a truly collaborative process?

How do take something given to us by the IB and make it meet the needs of our own students?

What is the best way to transition from something we are comfortable with to something new?


Our team started by reading the enhanced documentation from the PYP. We noticed connections between the old ATL and the new ones, but many people (including me!) wondered if it was possible to use the ATL in the same way that we have been. It seemed like much of what existed was woven into the new version, but we had questions about why certain skills were put together and why certain ones were left out.



The enhanced framework was much more extensive, with both sub-skills and their descriptors. So, we decided to research what other schools were doing in order to find out how others were attacking their process.


We noticed that some people were taking the sub-skills and breaking the descriptors down to make the outcomes clear for each phase or grade level. People particularly liked the clarity of Emma and Mark Wheatley's detailed breakdown. Other schools chose to keep one to two descriptors for each sub-skills, which would then be used throughout the PYP. Orenji Buta's ATL continuum has been widely shared and is a great example of this.


As a staff, we split into groups and focused on one ATL category. Each group read about the enhanced category and its sub-skills, found connections between old and new, and considered the following questions:

  • What do we like? What is missing?

  • What do WE want or need?

  • How do WE want to break down this category?

  • How might we develop these skills throughout PYP?

  • How might we assess these skills?


After collating these results, we then mapped out a draft of our own ATL continuum. We decided to focus on a whole-school approach rather than a grade-by-grade breakdown, as we felt that our learning outcomes and differentiation would support the scaffolding needed for each phase. We also determined that we could try using our school enhanced continuum for this year, and then reflect and revise as we go along, getting input from our students and our community.


Some of the outcomes that make our continuum unique to our school:

  • We added a sub-skill for Self Management in order to keep fine and gross motor skill development.

  • We worded descriptors in a way that made sense for our community.

  • We added in skills or descriptors that we felt were needed but had been changed in the enhanced version.

  • We created an Early Years continuum that connects and vertically aligns with the PYP continuum.

  • We added or modified sub-skills/descriptors if we felt the need.


This collaborative process was extremely important in ensuring that all voices were valued and that as a school, we agreed on how we would implement the enhanced Approaches to Learning. It also meant that as a team, we were able to discuss and overcome the challenges that presented themselves as we developed the continuum for OUR school and OUR students.