The DP: Approaches to Learning; Approaches to Teaching

Approaches to teaching, and even more curiously, approaches to learning are not often enough the focus when deciding on the best curriculum or best school for children to attend. In the International Baccalaureate (IB), it is at the centre of the curriculum and the foundation from which all teaching, learning, subject curricula and further studies are based.

The International Baccalaureate believes it’s not enough to decide on simply what the student needs to learn, but how it is learnt and how it is taught is far more fundamental. After all, absorbing and regurgitating facts does not create new skills, enhance thinking processes or encourage independent and capable students:

“What is of paramount importance in the pre-university stage is not what is learned but learning how to learn … What matters is not the absorption and regurgitation either of fact or predigested interpretations of facts, but the development of powers of the mind or ways of thinking which can be applied to new situations and new presentations of facts as they arise.”
Alec Peterson; Peterson, A. 1972. The International Baccalaureate: An experiment in International Education. London. George Harrap

This focus on teaching and learning supports students to become actively responsible for their own learning.

What are the IB approaches to learning skills?

Some of the learning skills this method promotes includes self-management skills, more capable research skills and better thinking skills which allow students to apply their knowledge outside of the classroom and after they graduate. These skills set them apart in tertiary education and allow students to more easily slot in to first year studies at university or college.

The harnessing of these skills are showcased most obviously in the Diploma Programme’s Theory of Knowledge (TOK) subject, the Extended Essay (EE) and Internal Assessment (IA) projects undertaken by students in their various subject choices.

Theory of Knowledge exposes students to the biases of knowledge as we know it. It encourages them to be more critical, empathetic and aware of the information they receive – no matter whether it comes from the curriculum they are learning, or if they learnt it growing up.

The Extended Essay, a mini thesis, is a project motivated by the student, where they choose their own topic; need to do extensive research and be aware of and cite all sources they made use of in their writing.

Similarly, Internal Assessment projects also require students to choose their own topic. These are done in each subject and the student is encouraged to pick a topic that most interests them to encourage enthusiasm and dedication in their research and presentation.

For more information on the International Baccalaureate and the Diploma Programme offered at Hout Bay International School, look out for upcoming articles.