• Beth Overby

Transition to the enhanced Approaches to Learning: a productive struggle

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

When I unlocked my understanding of Approaches to Learning, I feel like finally I understood what sets PYP apart from other frameworks. When we develop these transferrable skills in our students, we are teaching them HOW to think, not WHAT to think. In a more traditional approach, the focus tends to be on the standards and the knowledge which, when memorized, can be fleeting. In the PYP, however, we build skills that apply to all types of knowledge, so students are given the power to learn anything that they want or need.


These are lifelong skills; they do not end in primary programmes. In the enhanced PYP, the ATL had a major overhaul. This was a very large brain shift for me, as I was someone who is passionate about authentically developing these skills in my students and was very comfortable with the previous version. As the ATL Team Leader at my school a couple of years ago, I collaborated with the MYP Coordinator to see how we could best vertically align our skill development. I found it challenging to see how different our ATL were organized and used, despite the fact that both programmes come from the IB. Initially, I felt that the PYP was clearer and more specific than the MYP ATL.


So, when the enhanced PYP came out, I was pleased to see greater alignment with MYP and DP and could see how we more easily collaborate for a whole-school continuum. At the same time, I felt a struggle with change at my initial glance: Why did the PYP change to become more like MYP rather than the other way around? Why were some of these changes made when it worked well before? Where did some of the skills go? How do we use this when it seems both more and less clear than before?


I felt like I needed to be on board with these enhancements before our school tackled integrating them. So I went on a researching rampage. I read articles, I looked at other schools' continuums, I asked my other coordinator friends. And what do you know? Others had the same feelings, questions, and concerns that I did. In sharing resources and ideas, I developed an appreciation for the enhanced ATL and a greater vision of how to begin planning and integrating this collaboratively with teachers.


In my opinion, the best part of the enhanced ATL is that every school gets to tailor-make their own continuum in order to best meet the needs of their students. Each continuum isn't owned by the IB, it is owned by the people who craft it together. This allows for input from staff and students, as well as the greater school community. I realized that the clarity that I was missing at first comes from this process of collaborating, as we discuss our own goals and determine the skills that we need to get us there.


When constructing understanding, as I was with these enhancements, it is important to remember that a productive struggle is actually knowledge being gained through experience. These challenges push us to find ways to work through misconceptions and solve problems. Based on my new learning of the enhanced ATL, I was able to more clearly envision the path that our school needed to take to develop our own ALT continuum, as well as identify some of the challenges that our staff might encounter along the way.