Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Repackaging skills

There is a new frantic buzz going around IB schools "The Approaches to Learning". These have been around for a while in the IB documents, but they have been reorganised, repackaged and remarketed in the Primary and Middle years program, and introduced into the Diploma Program. 

To make their mark, the ATL skills have also been made a required specific teaching aspect of the IB curriculum. The ATL skills are not new skills, they are integral skills for students to master so they can actually do the tasks teachers ask them and expect them to do. 

Below are a few lines from the IB information on the Approaches to Learning 

  •  ATL are deliberate strategies, skills and attitudes that permeate the IB teaching and learning environment.
  • ATL supports the IB belief that a large influence on a student’s education is not only what you learn but also how you learn.
  • Teaching students how to learn has always been a part of IB teaching, but now the IB is providing more explicit support for teaching these skills, aligning the Diploma Programme (DP) with the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the IB Career-related Programme (CP). 
  • Focus on ATL will improve the quality of teaching and learning across the programmes and may result in more engaged teachers and students.

Most of the Approaches to learning are repackaged and remarketed what used to be and are still known as information literacy  or fluency skills (along with 21st century skills).

The first image below is a summary / overview of the 10 page Approaches to Learning document which really simplifies the skills and the purpose of what it is all about.

Image from The Relevant Educator, Caring for students.

The image below is a simplification of the information literacy skills, as you can see, there are many similarities between the two - just different words used.

Image from Infolit.org

Now school and teacher librarians have been banging on about these skills for years ... and have been relatively unheard and ignored. Now it is an required part of the IB teaching and learning skills and many teachers are struggling with integrating these skills into their everyday teaching.

Why is this such a problem for some teachers? Why is it adding stress and causing confusion? These are skills that students need to complete their work to a standard, they are also skills needed for students to learn at a higher level of thinking. These ATL skills are about pedagogy and making sure that students are just not learning content, but learning skills that will help them to access content, make sense of the content, and then create something from the content across subjects, university and life. Why is it such a hard thing? Is it because it has never been a priority? Is it because content has been king, with good pedagogy and skills coming in as the poor cousin?

The Relevant Educator blogger wrote a lovely post about the ATL skills and how by integrating them into our lessons is showing that we care for the students and how they learn.

"To care for our students means that we, as educators, should make intentional efforts to teach and embed within our students the skills they need when they move on from our educational institutions. ...... To me the ATL skills are all life-skills that will be applied during a variety of stages of  a student development — not only academically but also socially and professional. " The Relevent Educator
As a librarian whose expertise is the Approaches to Learning (or information literacy / fluency) I welcome this emphasis, this mandate to work with teachers to help them through the struggle to make sense, integrate and to prioritise these skills in their teaching. For too long teachers have assumed students have these skills, or they are being taught in another class. Now it is everyone's responsibility to teach the ATL skills that are relevant to their subject, and even those that cross over. Teachers now need to upskill themselves in these skills so they are able to teach them. They need to plan for their instruction and inclusion in the curriculum and they need to ensure they explicitly teach the skills. They also need to document the teaching and create scope and sequences. The ATL skills are not to be assessed, but they are an integral part of the assessment, as without the proficiency level of these skills, the students cannot achieve the higher grades. 

The ATL skills have been categorised and clustered as below to help teachers look at what the students need to be able to do to achieve. 
Image from IB Document MYP Principles in Practise 
Beyond the 10 clusters are ATL statements on what it may look like.

For example : 
communication -> 
        collaboration -> 
             working effectively with others -> 
                        "Manage and resolve conflict and work collaboratively in teams"

I do think the final ATL skill statement in bold is still too broad as it really doesn't give the skill set that needs to be taught to manage conflict or work collaboratively. There are quite a lot of skills embedded in this one sentence.

What does it look like to manage and resolve conflict and work with others collaboratively? 
What skills are required to manage and resolve conflict?

What skills are required to work with others collaboratively? Taking this one part of the 'skill' I have broken it down into further skills which are teachable and measurable.

  •   Demonstrates tolerance for different opinions. 
  •   Understands the concept of freedom of expression and the role that it plays in group work.
  •   Helps to organize and integrate contribu􏰀ons of all group members into projects.
  •   Recognises the contribution of each individual in a group.
  •   Respects the ideas and opinions of others.
  •   Speaks and shares own ideas clearly with humility and openness, without patronising.
  •   Is willing to share ideas.
  •   Considers culturally divergent and opposing viewpoints on topics.
  •   Recognises the right to express own opinion in an appropriate manner.

The ATL skills that are given in the IB documents are broad suggestions and guides. The actual skill statements need to be broken down further so the individual skills that need to be taught can be identified. As teachers we need to be looking deeper than the broad sentences - what does the sentence mean? How can this be broken down so I can actually teach it. What skills are involved for this to be achieved at a high level. 

More work????   Don't fret... look at the New York Information Fluency Guide, ask your school librarian, the work has already been done. Do not go and reinvent the wheel.   Approaches to Learning are information literacy and fluency skills. They have just been rebranded and reorganised. Using this information and keywords you will see there is a wide variety of resources already available for you to use.

If you are a school librarian in an IB school, you need to be at the coalface at meetings, working in classes, collaborating on planning lessons and units. You need to share your expertise, and be helping others learn what it all means. 

If you work in an IB school as a teacher or an administrator are you including your teacher or school librarian in the process of upskilling your staff? This is the stuff that gets school librarians excited.

1 comment:

K. Inglis said...

Thanks for this insightful post. We are discussing many of the same issues in British Columbia, Canada as we revise our curriculum. I agree,Teacher-librarians need to be at the forefront of these discussions not only in order to help our classroom colleagues adapt their instuction but to recognize what they have already been doing intuitively - for many the changes will be an evolution, not a revolution. Having the life skills we know are essential to developing good citizens embedded in curriculum so that we can teach them explicitly rather than treating them as add-ones to 'the real curriculum' can only be a positive.