The IB Middle Years Programme
In June 2013, Walden School of Liberal Arts was accepted as a candidate school for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP). We are one of a handful of schools in Utah to offer this internationally recognized program of learning respected for its rigor and holistic, inquiry-driven instruction. The Middle Years Programme serves students ages 11-16. It is designed to prepare students for the rigors of college work and to help them to thrive in an ever-changing world. This year, Walden is implementing elements of IB MYP across grades 6-10. In 2015-16, Walden hopes to be an authorized International Baccalaureate World School offering the IB Diploma Programme for grades 11 and 12.
The International Baccalaureate Middle Years and Diploma Programmes align beautifully with the Montessori philosophy. Both programs foster individual growth, creativity, critical thinking, compassion, and a global perspective and encourage students to make a positive difference in the world. Over the next few years, you will see big changes at Walden as we embrace both programs more fully—changes such as increased rigor, inquiry-driven learning, and independent project work.
The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.
The IB Learner Profile
International Baccalaureate has developed a list of positive character attributes it calls the Learner Profile. In the MYP and DP, academic growth is vital, but development of the Learner Profile attributes is equally as important. Walden teachers and students are encouraged to infuse these values into their work and lives. IB learners strive to be:
They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.
They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.
They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.
They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.
They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.
They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.
They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.
Changes in the way Students are Assessed
One of the most visible changes at Walden this year will be in the way we assess students. Assessment in the MYP is rich, varied, and complex.
Most students are accustomed to an assessment system that awards students with A or B letter grades for turning in all work on time and performing relatively well on exams. Although worthy goals, these are only a few of the many skills students need to be successful in an increasingly complex and globalized world. The IB Middle Years Programme offers a research-based system of assessment that shifts the focus from task completion to mastery of a wide range of skills and abilities.
MYP strives to expand each student’s perception of what he or she is capable of achieving. IB students quickly learn that there is always room for improvement and that mastering skills and abilities is an ongoing process fostered through diligent work, self-reflection, and continuous feedback. Assessment in the MYP is designed to support individual growth and development.
Varied Learning Tasks
The first thing you will notice about an MYP classroom is that students engage in a wide variety of learning tasks. Worksheets are not the norm. Your student will learn how to:
- give presentations
- conduct labs
- write papers
- analyze text
- create products
- participate in group work
- manage individual projects
Learning is much more than memorizing facts; learning is the process of developing higher order skills such as creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, analysis, application and reflection. Your student’s assignments will be designed to teach these skills.
Formative and Summative Learning Tasks
Formative tasks are assigned throughout the semester to provide students with practice. These assignments are not always scored, but are tracked for completion. Students are encouraged to complete formative work so that they can receive valuable feedback.
Summative tasks are assessed and assigned numerical scores. As the semester progresses, teachers will assign projects, presentations, papers, and other tasks that will be scored. This work will come with instructions and scoring rubrics so that students will know exactly what is expected. Students must learn how to read rubrics carefully so that they will include all required elements as they complete assignments and projects. Much of this work will become a part of the student’s portfolio.
Assessing Subject Portfolios
At the end of each semester, teachers will use an assembled portfolio of student work to assign final scores. Each portfolio will be unique to the class that is being taught, but could include a variety of written work, projects, reflections, labs, presentations and tests. It is important that students do their best possible work for portfolio pieces. Teachers will select most of the work to be included in the portfolio, but students will have the opportunity to include work they are particularly proud of as well.
Throughout the year, students will work on a variety of tasks and projects. Some assignments are simply tracked for completion. Some are scored holistically, using a numerical scale called a “rubric”. Student will be provided with a rubric for most summative projects and assignments.
What is a Rubric?
A rubric is a document that helps students to understand learning and performance expectations. A typical rubric is formatted as a table that describes levels of quality, from poor to excellent, and assigns a score at each level. Rubrics are used to teach, as well as to evaluate. Students can use a rubric to judge how well their work is fulfilling the objectives of an assignment. They can also use a rubric to think about elements of quality work they may have overlooked. Good rubrics shouldn’t stifle creativity or limit student potential; they should help students to think about their work critically and reflectively.
Rubrics are designed so that the highest score designates extraordinarily high achievement. The lowest score indicates a serious lack of achievement. Students must learn to read each rubric carefully in order to understand the unique expectations for each assignment. Rubrics are a tool to help students see the possibilities for how advanced their work can be.
Learning Criteria in the MYP
Each subject uses a set of four assessment “criteria” or standards, to define student mastery. Instructors are guided by these criteria as they plan and teach, and students use them as they learn. For example, In Walden’s Literature and Language classes, the four distinct criteria that guide learning are Analyzing, Organizing, Producing Texts, and Using Language. Students come to understand that there is much more to learning than memorizing facts and filling out worksheets.
Following is an example of the Language and Literature criteria and some of the skills and abilities they encompass:
Criterion A: Analyzing
- Identify and comment on specific aspects of texts
- Comment on the creator’s choices
- Justify opinions and ideas using examples
- Identify similarities and differences in texts
Criterion B: Organizing
- Organize opinions and ideas in a logical manner.
- Employ organizational structures that serve the context and intention.
- Use referencing and formatting tools to create a presentation style suitable to the context and intention.
Criterion C: Producting Texts
- Produce texts that demonstrate thought and imagination
- Explore new perspectives and ideas arising from personal engagement with the creative process
- Make stylistic choices in terms of linguistic, literary, and stylistic devices
Criterion D: Analyzing Language
- Use appropriate and varied vocabulary and sentence structure
- Write and speak in an appropriate register and style.
- Use correct grammar, syntax, and punctuation.
- Use appropriate non-verbal communication
Teachers address all four learning criteria as they plan and assess learning tasks throughout the year. Twice each year, in January and May, students will receive a comprehensive report, which will include a mastery score for each criterion. These scores are not an average of the scores awarded on assignments throughout the semester. They are based on the each teacher’s professional judgment of how well a student is performing to set standards at a given point in time. Teachers review each student’s portfolio of work, including projects, journals, assignments, and assessments, and assign criterion scores based on the student’s current level of mastery.
Criterion scores range from 1 to 8, where 1 represents unusually low mastery and achievement and 8 represents exceptionally high mastery and achievement.
The four criterion scores in each subject area are added together to determine an overall level of achievement called a “mastery” score. The mastery score is a number between 1 and 7 that indicates a student’s overall level of achievement in a class.
1-7 Grading Descriptors: What Do They Mean?
Having a shared understanding of the meaning of the 1-7 scale is a vital part of understanding MYP assessment.
The following table is a very general overview that can be adapted for each subject and year of the MYP. Students will be given clear guidance so that they will know what the standards and objectives are for each subject.
- Minimal achievement in terms of the objectives.
- Very limited achievement against all the objectives. The student has difficulty in understanding the required knowledge and skills and is unable to apply them fully in normal situations, even with support.
- Limited achievement against most of the objectives, or clear difficulties in some areas. The student demonstrates a limited understanding of the required knowledge and skills and is only able to apply them fully in normal situations with support.
- A good general understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them effectively in normal situations. There is occasional evidence of the skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
- A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them in a variety of situations. The student generally shows evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation where appropriate and occasionally demonstrates originality and insight.
- A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them in a wide variety of situations. There is consistent evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation where appropriate. The student generally demonstrates originality and insight.
- A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them almost faultlessly in a wide variety of situations. There is consistent evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation where appropriate. The student consistently demonstrates originality and insight and always produces work of high quality.
The MYP scoring system was developed by International Baccalaureate and has been refined over many years using data from schools and students around the world. An MYP Mastery score represents a standardized level of achievement. A 9th grader at Walden who earns a math score of 5 will have roughly the same abilities and skills as a 9th grader who earned a 5 in Uganda, France, Mexico, or anywhere else in the World. Walden must periodically submit samples of student portfolio work and accompanying scores to International Baccalaureate so that they can validate our grading practices to be sure we are accurately assessing student work.
Theoretically, an IB instructor at an MYP school anywhere in the world could grade your student’s portfolio and arrive at the same score that the Walden teacher has assigned.
For more information on assessment, please download the Assessment Guideline Handbook