Forward looking learning
Just how do you undertake a comprehensive review of a well-established and popular international curriculum like the IPC and IMYC? Gregory Biggs looks at the dynamic process being used by Fieldwork Education.
Defining the process
In the March 2021 edition of the International Teacher’s Magazine, we introduced the new 7 foundations for the IPC and IMYC, launched following the review of the international curriculum in its 20th year. As we embarked on this challenging and critical exercise, we defined 8 stages for our curriculum review, which is intended to be permanently implemented as an ongoing process for improving learning.
With 20 years of implementation of the IPC in over 1,000 schools across over 90 countries, we commenced the review at stages 8 and 1 together: Stage 8, to ‘Research and review implementation’ and stage 1, to conduct ‘Underpinning research’. By critically reflecting on years of learning and teaching, guided by schools within our international community, we were able to simultaneously conduct research and take action, thus embedding the spirit of Action Research in the curriculum review. The generosity of the international school community to dedicate time and effort to this process was truly humbling and their guidance has directed our efforts to construct international curriculum for learning and teaching for years to come. It was from this reflective activity that we were able to establish the vision for reviewing the international curriculum, which reinforced the importance of learning:
The international Curriculum aims to improve learning in schools by supporting teachers and leaders through the provision of internationally researched curriculum materials and engaging units of learning.
Stage 1: underpinning research
In parallel with the reflective research and review of the IPC and IMYC’s implementation, we commenced a 2-year research activity consisting of an extensive literature review (focused on: Advances in learning theory; Curriculum design; Neuroscientific research in learning; Pedagogy; Assessment; International mindedness; and Trends in international education) and a review of over 20 other curriculum options for schools around the world. This underpinning research (stage 1), combined with the reflection of implementation (stage 8) enabled us to commit to a central belief, from which we could begin to identify results and proceed through the subsequent stages of curriculum review. For us, it was critical that this belief statement reemphasised learning for learners:
Central to the International Curriculum is the belief in and commitment to the holistic development of learners through enjoyable academic, personal and international learning that prepares them for opportunities and challenges now and in the future.
Stage 2: identify desired results
The underpinning research (stage 1) also enabled us to identify the desired results for the review of the international curriculum (stage 2), captured by the new 7 foundations:
- Learner-focused Personal, International and Subject Learning Goals
- A progressive pedagogy
- A Process to Facilitate Learning for All
- Globally competent learners
- Knowledge, Skills and Understanding are taught, learnt and assessed differently
- Connected learning
- Assessment for Improving Learning
The desired result was then defined by our statement for what the international curriculum seeks to achieve:
Through the International Curriculum, which supports teachers and leaders, learners are encouraged to be globally competent, future ready socially conscious and motivated to positively contribute within a global and/or global context.
Stage 3: establishing learning goals
By defining a vision for the review of the international curriculum, establishing a formalised 8-stage process, conducting Action Research and setting a clear statement for what the international curriculum seeks to achieve, we were then able to commence the significant task of establishing learning goals across the phases of learning (stage 3).
Working in collaboration with the international community, we constructed the international curriculum’s set of defined progressive learning goals across phases of learning (spanning 5-14 years old) and defined by subject, personal and international learning, with integrated Assessment for Improving Learning opportunities in key skills, including the development of a 4-stage rubric and dedicated sets of learning advice for each key skill. By collaborating with the specialist expertise of subject, personal and international learning from across the international school community, we were able to establish over 1,200 defined goals and sub-strands, progressive through the entire curriculum, which were peer-reviewed through rounds of quality assurance, again, by collaborating with the international school community.
Stage 4: create and refine units of learning
This establishment of learning goals then enabled us to consider how learning opportunities may be presented to learners in the classroom in an engaging way, which led us to the creation and refinement of thematic units of learning (stage 4). By embedding the research findings and documented learning goals and, once more, collaborating with the international school community, we set about writing over 15,000 pages of thematic unit planning for teachers, by teachers. With over 175 themed units of learning, including examples ranging from our ‘Active Planet’ to ‘Buildings’ and of course ‘Chocolate’, the passions and interests from the international school community was unleashed with the magnificent contributions made.
Stage 5: develop and refine learning activities
Within each theme, learning activities were developed and refined (stage 5) that enable subject, personal and international learning and each theme was designed in accordance with the defined Process to Facilitate Learning. Recommended tasks were created by teachers, for teachers across subject areas. For example, in ‘Active Planet’, learning activities were developed across the subject areas of Geography, Design Technology and Innovation, Health and Wellbeing, History, Science, Art and Music, with further standalone International tasks and embedded Assessment for Improving Learning opportunities. All recommended tasks bring back learning to the personal learning goals and each task interlinks with other subject areas to introduce subject connections, including Language Arts and Mathematics.
Stages 6, Professional learning and Stage 7, implementation and accreditation
With the extensive and comprehensive tasks in each unit of learning mapped to the learning goals, structured into the Process to Facilitate Learning and grounded in underpinning research, we then set about stages 6 and 7: to Create and align professional learning (stage 6), and Align recommendations for implementation and Accreditation (stage 7). With such a thriving international school community, we sought to ensure that schools learning and teaching with the IPC and IMYC not only had access to the new, internationally-researched materials, but also guidance, training and support with how to best use them, all with the aim of improving learning.
The cycle of review was designed to be implemented as a permanent state of continuous improvement and, just as we started, with our international schools community we find ourselves once again researching and reviewing its implementation (stage 8). Improving learning does not stop.
On behalf of the wider international schools community, we thank the over 100 international school and educator contributions offered to the review process to date and look forward to the globally competent, future ready, socially conscious and motivated cohort of learners who are already positively contributing within a local and/or global context.
Gregory Biggs is the Director of Fieldwork Education, publishers of the International Primary Curriculum
Support Images: kindly provided by Fieldwork Education.