The International Baccalaureate was founded in the 1960s, when leaders and educators were searching for a way to revolutionize education. They were searching for an education program that adequately responded to postmodern problems in a post-war era that was becoming increasingly globalized (Tarc, 2009, p. 237-238). This mission began with the creation of the Diploma Programme, but later expanded into the Middle Years Programme (1994) and the Primary Years Programme (1997). The PYP is the IBO’s answer to meeting its mission statement earlier on in a student’s education. There is a lot of foundation to build for students to develop into “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world” (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, 2009, p. 2).
The PYP is a complex program that requires complex planning. Units must contain a central idea and a few lines of inquiry, as well as consider the six transdisciplinary themes, the eight key concepts, and the ten learner profile attributes. There is no single unit planner to address these needs, but here I will evaluate one with dynamic styling that makes PYP planning clearer. This planner is a free resource shared on the MyIB website. It contains three sections: Reflecting and Planning, Designing and Implementing, and Reflecting. These pages can be viewed below.
(Primary Years Programme, 2018)
Before dismantling this PYP planner, it’s important to understand the theory underpinning its design. These are primarily cognitive constructivism and social constructivism. The breakdown of these theories and how they relate to this PYP planner are discussed in the presentation below.
These theories form the basis behind three important elements of this PYP unit planner: inquiry, student agency, and a transdisciplinary focus. First, let’s look at the significance of inquiry in the PYP.
“Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand” (as cited in Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn, 2007, p. 105).
Understanding inquiry is key to understanding this PYP planning document. This is because the PYP requires teachers to plan collaborative units of inquiry. Some strategies of inquiry employed by the PYP include investigating “significant issues by formulating their own questions, designing their own inquiries, assessing the various means available to support their inquiries, and proceeding with research, experimentation, observation and analysis that will help them in finding their own responses to the issues” (Primary Years Programme, 2009, p. 28)
The IB’s focus on inquiry is based on the work of constructivist theorists. Some constructivists, like Bruner and Gardner, contend that curricula should focus more on the connections between students’ prior learning and new content. There are several sections of this PYP planner that attempt to do so, and they do so through the inquiry.
Student agency is crucial to the IB’s mission. The PYP seeks to distinguish the student as an object with education acted upon them from the student as an agent who is responsible for their own education. This idea is constructivist in theory, meaning that students need to active constructors of their own learning. This idea further supported by constructivist theorists, like Albert Bandura, who studied the impact of self-efficacy on achievement (Bandura, 1989).
Even the United Nations has expressed concern for students’ rights to be active participants in their own education. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child explains at length all the inherent rights of children, including the right to preserve their own identity (General Assembly resolution, 44/25). This PYP planner has specific sections dedicated to preserving the identity of each student, even going so far as to incorporate it into planning. This is evident in the graphic organizer below.
Finally, transdisciplinarity underpins the foundation of the International Baccalaureate. The idealism behind this programme aspired to educate the whole person to address the “needs of common humanity” (Tarc, 2009, 246-247). This holistic approach connected with a concept-based focus rather than a narrow, subject-specific, and disjointed academic approach.
The learner profile is a large part of the IB’s transdisciplinary. The IB also requires teachers across disciplines to plan together and identify possible connections within units of inquiry. The areas for those connections are evident in the graphic organizer below.
This PYP planner is essential to planning a unit of inquiry as required by the IB. This planner, in particular, is an attractive and extensive way to address the core values of inquiry, student agency, and transdisciplinarity in the International Baccalaureate. It has many dedicated sections to invite students to play an active role in their own learning and make connections between disciplines. It incorporates aspects of constructivism, including social constructivism. It also includes several planning guide pages with prompts to help teachers navigate and complete each section.
Please use the link below to view my references: