By Sharon Muench, Mack Littleton IB Programme Coordinator
The International Baccalaureate Programmes’ framework nurtures not only students, but citizens of the world. Students are taught to be active and engaged participants in the classroom. They are not simply taught book smarts, but learn the life skills to be successful in today’s world. Finally, IB students are encouraged to feel a sense of responsibility for their actions and for their communities.
Part of the Process
In a traditional classroom, lesson plans dictate what students are going to learn and how. Student input is rare. In contrast, an ideal IB classroom encourages students to ask questions, reflect, and share ideas. Students can’t passively sit and absorb information — they are part of the process.
In an IB classroom, teachers are responsive to students’ needs, questions, and interests. The teacher will have a map and a clear destination in mind, but students are encouraged to also read the map, offer suggestions for detour inquiries, and even drive at times. IB classrooms are active places and the students are a vital force within them.
Students learn that life doesn’t happen to you; you have to be part of the process. You can’t just watch it go by; you must jump in and be part of it!
Turns the “So What?” question into “Now What?”
In every IB classroom, students ask what they can do to take action with what they are learning in school. This action allows students to be part of the educational process. School is not being “done to them,” rather, they are part of the “doing.”
To be honest, sometimes students would rather memorize a bunch of facts to rattle off to impress those around them. It’s fun for the gifted mind to do that and it’s a great party trick. However, as a lifelong skill, it is great for first dates and trivia games, but a personality cannot be grounded in the ability to memorize facts and figures — the novelty wears thin for those around you!
You also need the ability to empathize with others, connect, build relationships, and put those facts and figures to use. You need to be able to make the intellectual leaps to bridge difficult concepts. The final summative projects, activities, and thinking in the IB “tickles” the brain and forces it to make these leaps and forge connections. These connections deepen not only the student’s understanding, but the understanding of those working with them, and can propel change in our world. Students know the “what” of the world and begin to see themselves as a part of that world and agents for change.
Learn and Use Skills Needed in the 21st Century Workplace
The IB framework requires students to learn and continually improve key life skills. IB graduates earn worldwide praise acknowledging that they know how to write well, speak in front of others with confidence, and comprehend key ideas and nuances in texts. They can manage their time, materials, and space. They know how to ask critical questions that will affect their personal, community, national, and world health, finances, and safety. They have the tools to determine if something is real or “fake news.” They can empathize, connect, and collaborate with others. They have the tools and skills to propel the “book smarts” into something they can share with the rest of the world, a career they are effective at and happy with, and meaningful and productive relationships.
World Citizen Character Compass
Finally, IB students come to embody a set of attributes to aspire to and a lifelong calling to take action when they can. IB students continually practice being caring, communicators, thinkers, open-minded, inquirers, mindful/reflective, principled, balanced, risk-takers/courageous, resilient, and knowledgeable. These attributes are not just put up on classroom walls in the hope that students will absorb them by chance or osmosis. These characteristics are taught, discussed, reflected in discussion and writing, and are part of the ties that connect the community of all IB students from over 6,000 schools worldwide.