This is probably the longest of our pages - there is a lot of jargon to explain!
There are four sections after this Introduction. Clicking on each link above will take you directly to that section.
There is also a special section on the new E-assessments.
Introduction: the overall principles
The Middle Years Programme (MYP) of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IB) is a course of study designed to meet the educational requirements of students aged between 11 and 16 years. The curriculum may be taught as an entity in itself, but it is flexible enough to allow the demands of national, regional or local legislation to be met. It is the middle of the three-part IB framework, between the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the Diploma Programme (DP) or Careers Programme (CP).
It provides a framework of learning that emphasizes intellectual challenges and encourages students to make connections between their studies and the real world. It fosters the development of skills for communication, intercultural understanding and global engagement—essential qualities for young people today.
Interdisciplinary teaching and learning builds a connected curriculum that addresses the developmental needs of students and prepares them for further academic study and life in an increasingly interconnected world. The MYP uses concepts and contexts as starting points for meaningful integration and the transfer of knowledge across eight subject groups.
The MYP focuses on “learning how to learn” through the systematic development of approaches to learning (ATL) skills for communication, collaboration, organization, self-management, reflection, research, information literacy, media literacy, creative thinking, critical thinking, and transfer of learning.
The MYP has been devised to guide students in their search for a sense of belonging in the world around them. It also aims to help students to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills they need to participate actively and responsibly in a changing and increasingly interrelated world. This means teaching them to become independent learners who can recognize relationships between school subjects and the world outside, and learn to combine relevant knowledge, experience and critical thinking to solve authentic problems.
The eight subject groups provide a broad, traditional foundation of knowledge, while the pedagogical devices used to transmit this knowledge aim to increase the students’ awareness of the relationships between subjects. Students are encouraged to question and evaluate information critically, to seek out and explore the links between subjects, and to develop an awareness of their own place in the world.
AIMS OF THE MYP
The MYP aims to develop in students:
The disposition and capacity to be lifelong learners
The capacity to adapt to a rapidly changing reality
Problem-solving and practical skills and intellectual rigour
The capacity and self-confidence to act individually and collaboratively
An awareness of global issues and the willingness to act responsibly
The ability to engage in effective communication across frontiers
Respect for others and an appreciation of similarities and differences
It fulfils these aims because it:
provides an education that prepares students to be competitive on a global stage, building the skills valued by parents and employers
develops students who are self-directed, self-regulated, independent and autonomous learners
stimulates critical and creative thinking through inquiry- based, student-centred education
emphasizes approaches to learning (ATL), a unifying thread throughout all MYP subject groups that helps students learn how to learn, not just what to learn
encourages the application of knowledge and skills in unfamiliar contexts
develops students as responsible members of their local, national and global communities who strive to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open- minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective
creates personal relevance and encourages understanding of cultures and environments across global contexts
results in students who are global learners, aware of connections between disciplines and to the larger world.
The philosophy of the programme is expressed through three fundamental concepts that support and strengthen all areas of the curriculum. These concepts are: Holistic Learning, Intercultural Awareness and Communication
1. HOLISTIC LEARNING
Holistic Learning emphasizes the links between the disciplines, providing a global view of situations and issues. Students should become more aware of the relevance of their learning, and come to see knowledge as an interrelated whole.
2. INTERCULTURAL AWARENESS
Intercultural awareness is concerned with developing students’ attitudes, knowledge and skills as they learn about their own and others’ social and national cultures. By encouraging students to consider multiple perspectives, intercultural awareness not only fosters tolerance and respect, but may also lead to empathy.
Communication is fundamental to learning, as it supports inquiry and understanding, and allows student reflection and expression. The MYP places particular emphasis on language acquisition and allows students to explore multiple forms of expression.
EVIDENCE OF IMPACT
Research studies provide evidence that MYP students tend to distinguish themselves from their non-IB peers. Consider the following recent findings (available here):
MYP students perform as well as, or better than, their peers at non-IB World Schools on international assessments, including assessments in maths literacy, reading, narrative writing and expository writing.
Enrolment in the MYP appears to have a positive impact on global- mindedness.
MYP students are more likely to engage in student service learning projects in school and to participate in volunteer activities outside of school.
The MYP is also a strong predictor of performance in the IB Diploma Programme (DP).
The AKUSA framework: the pedagogical ideas
There are five distinctive aspects of the MYP, all of which unfortunately are very jargon-rich and can be confusing at first. We have tried to put together an easy way to present and remember the different aspects. We call it AKUSA, which stands for Action, Knowledge, Understanding, Skills, Attributes. Each aspect can be represented by one finger on a hand.
THE CENTRAL PLACE OF THE STUDENT
The programme model of the MYP places the learner at its centre. This underscores the IB’s belief in educating the whole person, and placing importance on student inquiry. MYP students are making the transition from early puberty to mid-adolescence, which is a crucial period of personal, social and intellectual development, of uncertainty and questioning. The MYP is designed to guide students in their search for a sense of place in their natural and social environments.
THE SUBJECT GROUPS
In the programme model, global contexts, concepts, approaches to learning and teaching, surround the learner and connect to the eight subject groups. Schools are required to teach a broad and balanced choice of subjects in every year of the programme, including at least one subject from each of the eight subject groups. The subject groups provide a broad and balanced foundation of knowledge in traditional subject disciplines.
The illustration below shows the eight subjects together with the criteria against which students' achievements are assessed. As a general summary Criterion A is Factual, B is Conceptual, C is Procedural and D is Meta-cognitive. We can reinterpret these as Knowledge, Understanding, Skills and Attributes (KUSA).
The six Global Contexts give the MYP its common language for powerful contextual learning so that students will become increasingly aware of the connections between subject content and the real world, rather than considering subjects as isolated areas unrelated to each other and to the world. The MYP presents knowledge as an integrated whole, emphasizing the acquisition of skills and self-awareness, and the development of personal values. As a result, students are expected to develop an awareness of broader and more complex global issues. We remember the Global Contexts with the acronym OFPIGS.
The MYP programme follows a concept-driven curriculum framework which allows students to demonstrate levels of thinking that reach beyond facts or topics. Concepts are used to formulate the understandings that students should retain in the future; they become principles and generalizations that students can use to understand the world and to succeed in further study and in life beyond school. There are two kinds of concepts. Key concepts (16; above) are ideas which provide interdisciplinary breadth to the programme and Related concepts (12 per subject; below) which are grounded in each of the subject disciplines and explores the key concepts in greater detail, providing depth to the programme.
APPROACHES TO LEARNING
Approaches to Learning (ATL) is central to the programme, as it is concerned with developing the intellectual discipline, attitudes, strategies and skills which will result in critical, coherent and independent thought and the capacity for problem solving and decision making. It goes far beyond study skills, having to do with “learning how to learn” and with developing an awareness of thought processes and their strategic use. ATL skills show that true learning is more than the acquisition of knowledge: it involves its thoughtful application, as well as critical thinking and problem solving, both individually and collaboratively.
We are now able to revisit the AKUSA diagram with full details, for a very concise summary (PDF here for downloading).
The easiest way to remember the eight Subject groups is with the acronym MESH SLAD. Each subject has its own page.
In addition to the main Subject groups, the MYP also includes one Interdisciplinary unit (IDU) every year. This combines two different subjects, such as Maths and Arts, but the subjects combined change each year.
The benefits of interdisciplinary learning are that it:
allows students to use knowledge domains creatively to foster new understanding;
develops mental flexibility that prepares students to be lifelong learners;
promotes intellectual rigour by providing a holistic approach to the study of complex issues and ideas;
models the importance of collaboration and teamwork across disciplines (an important life skill);
supports and promotes transfer of understanding.
As an independent school we are also required by law to teach PSHEE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) and, since September 2019, RSE (Relationships and Sex Education). We cover both those topics in our section on Enrichment.
PERSONAL PROJECT – MYP5
The Personal Project is a summative assignment designed as a formal expression of what the student has learned during their years in the MYP. The Personal Project encourages students to practice and strengthen their approaches to learning (ATL) skills, to consolidate prior and subject-specific learning, and to develop an area of personal interest. (MYP Project Handbook) All students in the MYP must complete a Personal Project. The project is assessed using the final objectives that correlate with the final assessment criteria.
The Personal Project is a significant body of work produced over an extended period. It is a product of the student’s own initiative and should reflect his/her experience of the MYP. The Personal Project holds a very important place in the programme. It provides an excellent opportunity for students to produce a truly creative piece of work of their choice and to demonstrate the skills they have developed in Approaches to Learning.
TYPES OF PERSONAL PROJECTS
The Personal Project may take many forms, for example:
an original work of art (visual, dramatic, or performance)
a written piece of work on a special topic (literary, social, psychological, or anthropological)
a piece of literary fiction (that is, creative writing)
an original science experiment
an invention or specially designed object or system
the presentation of a developed business, management, or organizational plan (that is, for an
entrepreneurial business or project), a special event, or the development of a new student or community organization.
The student and the supervisor must agree that, whatever form the Personal Project takes, the finished product allows the student to investigate and focus on a theme, topic and/or issue closely connected to one global context of the MYP.
The student needs to choose carefully the type of and the goal of their project in terms of the skills and techniques that are required to bring it to a successful conclusion. Some projects may be too ambitious, require overly complex procedures or require a lengthy process of learning.
Here is an example of a realistic and an unrealistic Personal Project:
A student who has studied the piano for a number of years decides to write and interpret a musical score for parts of a school play.
A student decides to learn to play the piano as a Personal Project
Information and initial instructions about the Personal Project will be given to students and parents at the end of Grade 9. Students will be expected to formulate their ideas and begin research in preparation for the start of the Personal Project in Grade 10. Process Journals must be kept throughout grade 10. A Personal Project Fair, where students exhibit their project, will be held in March, and a final report must be submitted by students in April.
These are the essential assessment principles we try to adhere to:
Assessment accounts for a variety of learning styles.
Assessment is differentiated to account for the diverse backgrounds of learners.
Students have a wide variety of different assessment opportunities (written assignments, oral presentations, field work, practical work, exhibitions, performance, tests and examinations, research papers, peer and self-assessment).
Assessment is criteria-referenced, so that students are assessed against subject learning objectives. These learning objectives are published for each subject and grade level, and are available to parents and students.
Assessment is both formative (to assist students in building understanding, skills and knowledge) and summative (to assess students’ acquired understanding, skills and knowledge at the end of a unit).
Assessment is on-going and reflective, allowing:
students to evaluate their progress and set targets for improvements; and
the school to evaluate the measure of success in meeting specific learning objectives.
Assessment is internally moderated to ensure consistency.
FORMATIVE AND SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENTS
There are at least three positive reasons for assessment:
Students learn more about the subject/skills they’ve been exposed to in class;
Students learn about themselves as learners
Teachers learn about students and assessment design.
Formative assessments are used by the teacher and student to reflect on what knowledge and skills have been learned and developed and can be applied. Examples of formative assessments in the MYP classroom may include:
Quiz or Test
Summative assessments take place at the END of the teaching and learning process and allows the student the opportunity to develop and show WHAT HAS BEEN LEARNED and provide samples of their work to show their understanding. It also helps the teacher judge the level of achievement the student has attained.
Examples of summative assessments in the MYP classroom may include:
Performances Presentations (oral, written, multimedia)
HOW DO WE ASSESS?
For all summative assessments, students have criteria against which they will be assessed. It provides guidelines on what teachers will be looking for when assessing the students’ knowledge and deeper understanding of the unit and unit question. It also helps the students know what is expected of them so that they can prepare and do the best they can.
For example Mathematics has four criteria, one of which is called ‘Knowing and Understanding’. The achievement levels for this criterion are defined by the following descriptors:
THE MYP ASSESSMENT PROCESS
In lessons and through assignments, a unit topic is explored. A summative assessment is announced at least one week in advance. Assessments are varied to provide students with the greatest chance to express what they know and can do and allows for different learning styles.
The assessment includes a set of instructions and the criteria with which the student’s performance will be assessed. Often the student has the criteria before the assessment takes place. Criteria are sometimes modified to apply to specific assessment tasks or to suit the grade-level expectations.
The assessment is handed-out, collected and assessed by the teacher. The teacher assesses the work according to the criteria and awards an attainment level for each of the criteria assessed (e.g. a lab report may cover three of the six science assessment criteria).
The assessed work is then shared with the student. It is then that a teacher must provide feedback to the student about the work and the student may constructively question the attainment level awarded. The attainment levels reached in each criterion are then noted down with the other levels attained on previous work.
Teachers aim to give students the greatest chance at showing what they can do and so each criterion must be assessed several times through a semester. This helps when a student might be ill during the time of the assessment, who did not understand the work or the assessment (EAL students or newly arrived to the school) or was a risk-taker who experimented with a different approach.
ASSESSMENT BY CRITERIA
The levels attained for each of the criteria are collected and the subject teacher judges the level at which the student is operating. The final levels are added up and compared to a set of ranges, each range being represented by a grade level.
An example is the four criteria used to assess Individuals and Societies. As the assessments are done, the teacher records the level achieved in a table such as the one below:
HOW TO ARRIVE AT THESE LEVELS?
Each piece of work is valued differently depending on level of difficulty and effort needed by the student. Also, the level of working knowledge of how the student can express themselves in English is considered. Observed evidence from the classroom is also used to reach a final criteria level.
In the example above, the reasoning behind the choice of levels is as follows:
Criterion A: the student consistently achieves a level 6.
Criterion B: the student found this criterion difficult at first but tried hard and steadily improved performance. The teacher is confident that the student has reached attainment level 6 and so awards that level.
Criterion C: the student achieved a weak 6 and then a strong 5 but after that the student made a mess of the last assessment. In this case the teacher has judged that the student is normally operating at a level 5 and that the last assessment was not representative of what the student can do.
Criterion D: The student has achieved two very different levels. Technically the student has not achieved any level in between so it is problematic to award a 3 or a 6 level. More evidence would be needed so the teacher would need to set another assessment to gather more data.
The final ‘number’ or total is considered a number with a level boundary. The subject teacher would allocate a final grade using the table below and provide the student with a final grade.
Assuming the student achieved a 6 in the last assessment – that would mean the total of the assessment levels would come to 23 and that the student would receive a final grade of 5.
This final grade is reported on the term reports and on the final school transcripts should the student move or need a record for further education.
MIDDLE YEARS PROGRAMME ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
There are eight MYP subjects, each with its own set of criteria. Each subject area has specific criteria to be assessed. Below are the subject groups and the associated assessment criteria. Students are assessed on the work that is produced using clearly explained rubrics. Scores on the criteria in each subject are added up. This sum is translated into an MYP Grade ranging from 1 to 7, lowest to highest.
Final 1-7 grades are broad grade descriptors that provide information about the skills and knowledge mastered by a student. They are not specific to any subject group.
The MYP was launched in 1994 but for a long time struggled to gain much traction. For example, in 2017 there were 1,500 PYP schools and nearly 3,000 DP schools but only about 1,000 MYP schools worldwide. The most likely reason for this was the lack of any external moderation of pupil outcomes, with a secondary reason being the lack of any exam practice. As a result many MYP schools switched pupils in their final two years to the dubious delights of GCSEs or IGCSEs.
The IB responded to these concerns by introducing e-assessments in 2016 as the way to earn the MYP Certificate but allowing schools to continue with teacher assessed grades (TAG) if they felt that was best for their students. Since the MYP is a framework rather than a syllabus the challenge of devising a set of assessments which was fair for students across the world was a considerable one.
Initial feedback was mixed but the IB has taken on board the criticisms and has now developed an award-winning eAssessment package which is innovative, exciting AND is accepted by Ofqual as being of equivalent value to GCSEs. It is partly because of this that there are now 1,733 MYP schools worldwide and we are going to trial the e-assessments for the first time this summer (2022).
This is the framework. To be awarded the MYP Certificate a student needs to pass eight components:
1. Personal Project
2. Maths (on-screen exam)
3. English (on-screen exam)
4. Science (on-screen exam)
5. Humanities (on-screen exam)
6. Interdisciplinary Unit (on-screen exam)
7. Languages (mixture of portfolio and exam)
8. EITHER Art or Design or Sports (portfolio)
This graphic from the IB should make it clearer:
These are the most important points to note about grades:
Each of the components contributes up to 7 points, so the maximum score is 56, and each component has to be scored higher than a 3.
The passmark to achieve the MYP Certificate is exactly 50% (ie a score of 28). This means that half the scores have to be 3 or higher and half have to be 4 or higher.
All MYP students have to be entered for the Personal Project. But after that they can choose whether to enter none, some or all of the e-assessments.
The IB award official Course Results certificates for candidates entering only some of the e-assessments.
If students enter no e-assessments then they are awarded their teacher assessed grades in their final report. We know that local further education colleges accept these.
And these are the most important points about the actual exams:
Each subject has a single on-screen exam which is 2 hours long.
Examination questions are open and they assess deep understanding. They do not focus on knowledge and so cannot be crammed for.
The examinations include the use of multimedia (interactive text, images, video, animations) to engage students in realistic scenarios and interactive tools to allow students to make predictions, take measurements and to problem solve.
Unfortunately the exams do not run on Chromebooks and so we are setting up a computer suite of iMacs and PCs to take the exams.
All students will be given several opportunities to familiarise themselves with the look and feel of the e-assessments.
The IB’s Chief Assessment Officer, Paula Wilcock, said recently: “We will continue to develop assessments that measure the skills that universities and employers tell us they need to see, and that give our students the best and most relevant assessment experience."
The IB have published a very interesting statistical summary of the results of the 2021 e-assessments. Overall there were 85,000 candidates from 900 schools worldwide. Since e-assessments have only been in existence for 5 years these numbers are beginning to look reasonable when compared to the IGCSE number of 210,000 candidates from 4,500 schools. By country, the USA entered by far the most candidates but many others had more candidates than the UK, including India, China, Mexico, Spain and the Netherlands.
Perhaps the most interesting number is the overall mean grade: 4.35 (ie roughly halfway between satisfactory and good).
The timetable for the 2022 sessions is here.