Middle Years Programme: What to expect during the first forty-five days of the school year
New challenges and concerns are an inherent part of the beginning of an academic year, and as parents, we might have an ever present need to facilitate or cushion our children’s journey. Giving in to said need might not be the best approach to providing support to our children, but having the information to assist them through the process could be the most appropriate one. So, you might wonder what is to be expected to happen in the Middle Years Programme during the first forty-five days of the school year?
Besides getting to know your children and assessing their previous knowledge and mastery of subject-related skills in order to introduce new content, teachers focus in specific areas during the beginning of the year. They target particularly the development of cross-curricular skills, the integration of the IB learner profile to lessons and class discussions, the creation of an inviting learning environment aligned with the students’ needs and essential agreements, and the clarification of assessment procedure and classroom expectations. When it comes to developing skills (IB’s Approaches to learning [ATL]: communication, social, self-management, research, and thinking), teachers emphasize the practice of organization skills during the first weeks due to their role in having a successful year, especially for those students in seventh grade or that are new to Robinson. Having a clear understanding of how the students are assessed is crucial for the creation of an inviting learning environment; therefore, the teachers take time to discuss the process with the students.
Since the MYP differs from traditional education in the manner it monitors the development of the student; it is imperative to note that the teachers assess by using formative and summative assessments based on criteria. Formatives are used “to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning”; while the summative assessments are used “to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark”. Assessment is a fundamental part of the programme, particularly because the formative assessments, which have no point value and are done during the coverage of a unit, are used to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and focus on those areas that need work. They also help faculty recognize where students are struggling so teachers can address problems immediately. Formative assessment also monitors the development of the skills the students need to master in order to successfully complete the objectives of a unit, and these can be as diverse as the skills assessed. The summative assessment is given as the completion of a unit, therefore the assessment will be criteria-based and awarded with a numeric value tied to the selected criteria. Since each summative assessment is given at the end of each unit, it is important to point out that the student will have “grades” or scores according to the criteria evaluated and the amount of units per year, which ranges between four and six units per subject per year.
When students are assessed with criteria-based, end-of-unit summative assessments the traditional timeframe expectations change. Now students will receive report cards by semesters (in December and May) instead of quarters, and progress reports by the end of the quarter (in October and March) instead of mid-quarter. Therefore, it is normal for IB students to have only formative assessments when the September mid-quarter progress report and first Parent-Teacher-Student Conference comes by. This is a noteworthy fact, since unit length vary from six to 10 weeks. This manner of assessing may take a little more time than traditional ways, but we want to make sure that students grasp the skills and master the in-depth content before moving on to another unit. Overall, assessing our students with formative and summative assessments provide a more accurate description of the students’ development, allowing them to take control of their learning process.
As a mean to further assist your child’s education, the upcoming Parent-Teacher-Student Conference of September 8th, is a great opportunity to meet your child’s teacher, discuss expectations, and gauge the best strategies to support your child, and establish an effective line of communication between the teacher, your child and yourself.
Definitions of formative and summative assessments. Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University. http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/basics/formative-summative.html
Diploma Programme: Broadening horizons and increasing opportunities
As we wait for the visit from the International Baccalaureate to authorize Robinson School to deliver the Diploma Programme curriculum, we reflect on the reasons why we embarked on this journey. With a rapidly changing world, the skills and knowledge that we pass on to our children are the only certainty of the role we play in their future. But, how do we prepare our students for college, work, and the rest of their lives? How do we increase their opportunities at being successful?
We can do it by opening doors for them, by providing students with authentic and meaningful learning experiences that will shape their character and guide them in finding their place in this world. If all goes accordingly, that is precisely what we intend to do after August 2018 with the Diploma Programme. Building upon the learning foundation settled by the Middle Years Programme, the Diploma brings a rigorous, internationally focused, broad and balanced curriculum that further develops the learner’s profile while honing skills. Over two years, the students will study six subjects and a curriculum core, which consists of a research paper (extended essay), and educational philosophy course about critical thinking and inquiring into the process of knowing (Theory of Knowledge), and a service component (Creativity, Action, Service). Most of the elements of the program are assessed externally, therefore, at the completion of the courses the students take exams for each subject. This is similar to advanced placement courses, which are also assessed externally at the end of the year. Another resemblance between the programs is that if a student does not feel comfortable undertaking the whole Diploma Programme, he/she can take one or two courses and the exams and depending on their results, can get college credits. The Diploma program’s ultimate goal is “to equip students with the basic academic skills needed for university study, further education and their chosen profession as well as developing the values and life skills needed to live a fulfilled and purposeful life”, which aligns with Robinson’s own goals for our students.
So, how will the International Baccalaureate and the Diploma programme broaden your child’s horizons and increase his/her opportunities? The student, by the end of his/her school career, would have completed a curriculum that encouraged him/her to think independently and drive his/her own learning; promoted cultural awareness, instilled a global mindset, and facilitated the skills needed to pursue further education in some of the highest ranking universities around the world. And in this ever changing, challenging world those are the best legacies a parent can leave to his/her children.