What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program?
The International Baccalaureate is a college preparatory program for all students, PPK-12. The IB began more than four decades ago, and is considered the world’s premier college preparatory program, especially by colleges and universities in Europe and North America. The IB is not based on a single educational system; rather, it is based on best practices and standards derived from many national systems of education.
IB is divided into three main programs. The Primary Years Program (PYP) is designed to meet the unique developmental needs of learners ages 3-11. The Middle Years Program (MYP) is designed to meet the needs of pre and early adolescent learners ages 11-16. The Diploma Program (DP) is designed to meet the needs of later adolescence/college bound learners ages 16-18. All three programs integrate the IB Learner Profile, which is best described as a character education strand that teaches and reinforces the ten characteristics of highly effective people (e.g. caring, communicators, principled, inquirers, etc.). All three programs also include the philosophy of International Mindedness–the idea that others, with their differing values and beliefs, can also be right, and that we can at times deeply disagree and still recognize our shared humanity.
IB is governed by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO): more than 4500 schools, tens of thousands of educators, and nearly 700,000 students world-wide. Schools must prove their commitment to the high standards for pedagogy and assessment through a rigorous authorization process in advance of becoming an IB school. IB schools must also commit to continuous professional development for their faculties.
What makes IB different?
Traditional curriculum focuses largely on content acquisition, with some skills development, and is often teacher-centered. The IB uses the inquiry method (teaching kids how to ask the right questions in support of their own learning) and is student-centered in focus. While content is important within the IB, it is viewed as one of the means available to grow key skills such as critical thinking (the ability to reason deeply and with complexity) and divergent thinking (the ability to see more than one solution to a problem, or to frame a question in more than one way), not as an end unto itself. The IB stresses the importance of conceptual understanding. For example, in IB mathematics, it is not enough for a student to memorize a problem-solving algorithm (the method or mechanics of problem solving). They must also be able to explain the concept behind the method (e.g. the distributive property, etc.) so that they are successful applying their learning in novel situations.
An IB classroom looks different from the classrooms that most of us remember. IB is not textbook or test centered. Students are not compared to their peers; they are assessed according to internationally established criteria. Collaborative learning is the norm, as it is in our adult lives. Creative and innovative thought is rewarded. Learning differences are supported through a variety of tasks and assessment formats.
How are teachers prepared for the IB program?
The IB is extremely demanding of teachers. Schools must commit to continuous professional development for their faculties in order to be authorized to offer any of the three programs: PYP, MYP, or DP. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), in partnership with national-regional associations of IB schools, offers 3-day workshops in multiple languages around the world and throughout the year. Workshops are available in three levels from entry-level to advanced, and cover a range of topics from educational leadership, assessment, and instruction by discipline, to programmatically specific topics designed to meet the needs of particular developmental ranges.
Our teachers participate in Level 1, 2 and 3 workshops abroad. We also conduct on-site trainings during the year. The Robinson faculty meets weekly to develop curriculum and discuss pedagogy and assessment practices. Our teachers work with their IB Coordinators by program to develop unit plans and assessments.
What is the IB Primary Years Program?
The IB Primary Years Program (PYP) is a curriculum framework designed for students aged 3 to 11. It focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. It is defined by six trans-disciplinary themes of global significance, explored using knowledge and skills derived from six subject areas, with a powerful emphasis on inquiry-based learning.
Inquiry-based learning is so much more than asking and answering questions. While children are challenged to develop the skill of questioning, they also come to understand that for many problems, there is no right or wrong answer. This is especially true when considering human institutions and behaviors. Therefore, children learn how to resolve problems as much as solve them. Often, the most difficult aspect of inquiry is identifying a problem and framing useful questions. In an inquiry-based instructional model, students construct their own meaningful questions, obtain useful information or evidence intended to answer the question under study, explain and evaluate collected evidence, connect the results of the investigative process with their explanation, and then create an argument and marshal evidence in support of their contentions. Inherent within this approach is the idea that the learner is fully engaged in the acquisition of essential or useful knowledge.
For example, a child in Kindergarten might notice that plants change over time, and may want to know how and why this occurs. With the support of a teacher, the student will develop a series of guiding questions that will help him/her answer their big question. The student will review books and other media about plants in order to develop their background knowledge. A student may also place seeds in a clear plastic bag with soil and water in order to observe and chronicle the growth of a plant over time. He or she might keep a time-journal, complete with illustrations of what they see. They may also compare this to what they witness at home in their garden. Once the student has grown their background knowledge and completed their investigation, they are able to generate a theory about how plants develop and change, and support their theory with the evidence they themselves have collected and the connections they have made. The student might now be encouraged to test their theory against other types of growth; that is, do animals and plants grow and change in the same way, and so on.
For the student immersed in guided inquiry, knowledge is earned and learned deeply, not simply memorized, and therefore it is more likely to stick. Big ideas and foundational concepts are rooted. More so, the skills of inquiry, such as those described above, are broadly applicable to all types of problem solving both in and beyond the classroom. Just as important, these skills grow with the child, and can be used to solve or resolve ever more complex problems.
What is the IB Middle Years Program?
The Middle Years Program is designed for students aged 11 to 16. It provides a “framework of learning which encourages students to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers. The MYP emphasizes intellectual challenge, encouraging students to make connections between their studies in traditional subjects and to the real world. It fosters the development of skills for communication, intercultural understanding and global engagement, qualities that are essential for life in the 21st century. The MYP is flexible enough to accommodate the demands of most national or local curriculums. It builds upon the knowledge, skills and attitudes developed in the IB Primary Years Program and prepares students to meet the academic challenges of the IB Diploma Program (grades 11-12) and the IB Career-related Certificate (IBCC).”
The MYP is particularly sensitive to the needs of pre-adolescent and adolescent learners. The program emphasizes the development of core competencies including critical and divergent thinking, literacy (a broad understanding of oral and written language, composition, argumentation, and literary themes), numeracy (a conceptual understanding of numbers and algebraic and geometric expressions beyond basic problem solving), and ethics. These competencies are developed in an interdisciplinary framework; for instance, thru the history of art or science, comparative language study, basic engineering, etc.
Two of the more intriguing aspects of the MYP are the Design Cycle/Technology courses offered at all levels, grades 6-10, and the Personal Project, undertaken over the course of the tenth grade year. Design Cycle courses teach the art and science of developing ideas from conception to product or process. Design Cycle classes range, for example, from Literary Magazine, where students are challenged with all aspects of publication (design and layout, invitation and submission, quality control and editing, finance and distribution); to Engineering/Robotics Workshop, where students design, build, program, troubleshoot, and refine working machines; to Drama Lab, where students author, produce, and perform all aspects, including technical programing and set design, of a dramatic play. Design cycle courses emphasize the practical application of computer and natural sciences, contextualize the liberal arts, and solve real problems on and off campus.
All Design Cycle courses are intended to prepare students for the culminating Personal Project in tenth grade. Students choose their own year-long, individual project, and develop it from idea to fruition. Example personal projects that I have seen include building a sailboat from scratch, self-publishing an original collection of art, poetry, or cartoons, writing an original application for an IPhone, rebuilding a 1967 Ford Mustang, and developing and running a summer soccer program for poor urban elementary students. Work on this project begins in second semester of the ninth grade year, and much of the project is completed over summer before the tenth grade year. The project culminates in a public exposition at the end of tenth grade.
What is the IB Diploma Program?
The IB Diploma Program (DP) is a comprehensive college preparatory program for juniors and seniors. Students in the DP program must complete coursework in English, Spanish, History, Science, Mathematics and the Arts/or a second course in the other five subject areas. Three subjects, or a maximum of four, are completed at the higher level (college level) and the rest at the standard level (college preparatory). All subjects are taken for two consecutive years to ensure both depth and breadth of understanding. DP candidates complete a 4,000-word independent research project called the Extended Essay and 150 hours of participation in the fine arts, physical activity, and community service outside of any course requirement (Creativity Action Service).
DP Candidates take the Theory of Knowledge in both their junior and senior years, a course that explores relationships among disciplines and engages students in reflection and discussion on perspectives of life from different cultural, religious, and philosophical orientations. During their candidacy, students take both internal (school-based) and external (IB examinations) assessments. Both types of assessments are reviewed by external examiners from schools around the world.
All Robinson graduates receive the Robinson School diploma. Students that successfully complete the Diploma Program and examinations are additionally awarded the IB Diploma in July. Because all IB courses and participation within the program are noted on their transcripts, Robinson students will benefit from the DP during the college admissions process in advance of the IB diploma. Once the IB Diploma is achieved, students can take their credential to their colleges and universities, and be awarded up to a year of college credit depending on the college or university they attend.
How many IB exams are there, and when do students take them?
The IB Diploma Program offers examinations in more than 50 different courses. A typical IB Diploma Program offers between 12 and 15 different IB courses, which you can expect from Robinson. A student pursuing the full IB diploma will take six IB subjects, including one literature course taught in the student’s best language, one language acquisition course, one social science/humanities, one experimental science, one mathematics and one arts course. They may opt for a second standard or higher level course in any of the subject areas in lieu of an arts course. All courses conclude with external examinations.
IB students are expected to take their examinations at the conclusion of the two-year Diploma Program. However, the IB permits students to take one or two standard level examinations at the end of the first year of the Diploma Program. The remaining exams are taken at the conclusion of the second year of the Diploma Program. Higher level exams can only be taken at the end of the second year. In many schools, all examinations are taken in the final year
How does IB compare to Advanced Placement (AP)?
Often times, in American schools, IB is compared to Advanced Placement (AP) coursework. This is a little like comparing apples and oranges, as IB is a comprehensive, school-wide initiative PPK-12, and AP is a series of individual courses for sophomores-seniors. IB and AP are most similar in grades 11 and 12. IB Diploma Level courses and AP courses are both demanding of students. Both are seen as significant indicators of college preparedness. Because IB begins in early childhood, students in IB schools are generally more prepared for these advanced courses when they enroll. More so, because students are enrolled in each of their IB courses for two years, they are more likely to have a much greater understanding of the subject matter upon completion. Finally, because the IB Diploma Program is a program of study that includes the Theory of Knowledge, there is a greater integration of knowledge across disciplines, and an advanced critical capacity in students as a result.
Will my child be up to the task?
Because all of our students are selected through a thorough admissions process, we have great confidence that they are capable of success throughout the IB continuum (Primary Years Program, Middle Years Program, and Diploma Program). In the second semester of grade 10, students will meet with the MYP and DP coordinators to discuss their progress and to determine their coursework for their junior and senior year. Unless there is a significant concern, students will be enrolled in the full diploma program. Student individual strengths and areas of concern will be discussed when determining appropriate coursework and levels of coursework (standard level vs. higher level) in each of the six required disciplines. Students that do not enroll in the full Diploma Program still participate in the DP certificate program, which is more like an AP format. They also are required to complete the Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) component, and are enrolled in the Theory of Knowledge (TOK).
Will Robinson still offer AP coursework?
Robinson will still offer AP coursework that is closely aligned with IB coursework.
How will students be graded?
Generally speaking, educational assessments are divided into three categories: diagnostic, formative and summative. Diagnostic assessments are sometimes exams, but they also take the form of personality inventories and observations of skills and behaviors at the outset. Diagnostic assessments are intended to provide a baseline understanding of where a student is in terms of skills and background knowledge as they enter into a course of study.
Formative assessment is the day-to-day, ongoing assessment of learning; the continuous observations, conversations, feedback cycles, and coaching practices that take place in the classroom and that help to shape a student’s learning. Formative assessment occurs throughout the learning process, solicits individual student input, and allows the teacher to adjust their teaching methods in real time in order to best support learning. Examples of formative assessment include learning logs, concept maps, laboratory reports, and journals. Formative assessments also include direct observations of students working alone or collaboratively, and one-on-one student-teacher conferencing that is scheduled during the regular school day. Formative assessments are linked closely to the idea of differentiated, or individualized, instruction.
Summative assessment is most often a formal evaluation of learning. Summative assessment generally occurs at the end of a larger unit of learning and often takes the form of a representative or cumulative examination. This is the assessment type with which most of us are most familiar: unit exams, chapter tests, SATs, etc.
One way to understand the difference between formative and summative assessment is that formative assessment is assessment for learning, whereas summative assessment is assessment of learning. Educator Paul Black expresses this idea in simpler terms: “When a cook tastes the soup, that’s formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s summative assessment.” Summative assessment is product-focused, a snapshot of student competence, whereas formative assessment is process-focused, and is used to refine individual learning processes throughout the learning cycle. The end goal of formative assessment is always greater competency.
Generally speaking, if our focus is on learning, most of our assessments should be formative. This is what IB stresses and on our way to becoming an IB school we will focus more on these types of assessments rather than on traditional summative assessments. We want to coach our students towards competency in key skills and content. More so, we want to be sure that our assessments provide both a clear picture of a student’s strengths and challenges, as well as direct, critical feedback to the student that will allow them to improve over time.
Will students still use books?
Textbooks are also used in IB programs. In inquiry-based programs like IB, textbooks are but one of a number of possible resources that students can use to support their understanding of a subject area or concept. Technology is reshaping the relationship between learning and supporting materials like textbooks. In the near future, you can expect that most textbooks will be replaced by on-line versions and other web-based formats and opportunities.
What is International Mindedness and the IB Learner Profile?
Two major aspects of the IB are International Mindedness and the IB Learner Profile. Both convey a value set and are the foundation for character development. The first, International Mindedness, is more than intercultural study and non-native language acquisition. It is a mindset that seeks to understand without prejudice; that builds capacity for empathy, stewardship, and genuine expressions of compassion for others; that allows us to deeply disagree about our fundamental values and beliefs and still honor our shared humanity. The second, the IB Learner Profile, is a set of characteristics that support intellectual and personal growth: empathy, open-mindedness, critical thinking, reflection, inquiry, effective communication, risk taking, personal balance, and principled action. International Mindedness and the IB Learner Profile are actively cultivated in the curriculum and in the classroom.
Who can I go to with additional questions?
Robinson has three (3) IB coordinators who will be happy to answer your questions:
– Primary Years Program (PYP)
– Middle Years Program (MYP)
– Diploma Program (DP)
You can also find additional information in the IBO official website, www.ibo.org.
How will this change or impact my child’s college applications and/or acceptances?
The IB gives our students even greater market leverage. For example, in 2011, 30% of all students who applied to New York University were offered admission. By comparison, 57% of IB students who applied to NYU were accepted in the same year. 8% of all Princeton applicants were accepted by the university in 2011; 16% of IB student applicants were accepted. 7% of all Stanford applicants were accepted in 2011; 15% of all IB student applicants were accepted. 7% of all Yale applicants were accepted in 2011; 18% of all IB student applicants were accepted. In the same year, IB students applying to UCLA, Penn, Duke, Cornell, and UC Berkeley were accepted at a rate at least 10% higher by college than the general applicant pool.
Will my child still receive the college preparatory education for which Robinson is known?
The International Baccalaureate is widely recognized as the world’s elite college preparatory program by colleges and universities world-wide, and it will give our students an even greater advantage in college admissions. The IB promotes an approach to learning that prepares students not only for the rigors of university study, but also for the complexities of adult life. More so, the IB approach is consistent with Robinson’s mission to develop “culturally aware citizens who positively impact our diverse world”. The IB will improve upon the rich tradition and excellent reputation of Robinson School.
What is the timeline for Robinson School becoming an IB authorized school?
Robinson School is currently a candidate for the Primary Years Program (PPK-Grade 5) and the Middle Years Program (Grades 6-10). Robinson will seek candidacy in the Diploma Program (Grades 11-12) in Spring 2015. We expect to be authorized in all three programs at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year. Our first IB Diploma Candidates will be the Class of 2019.