Skills can be taught: Embracing the core of IB

Updated: May 20, 2020

When they embrace the growth mindset and build skills, they will see positive results in their academic performance.

“My responsibility as a teacher is to enable my students to see the BIG picture,” says Shalini John, Head of IBDP at the Aditya Birla World Academy in Mumbai. Shalini has been a teacher since 1994 and has witnessed education’s many changes and transitions. A significant change has been the shift to learner centric teaching and inter-disciplinary collaboration. While teachers need to give students agency and freedom, students also need clear roadmaps to help them take control of their learning processes. A firm advocate of the growth mindset, Shalini believes that life skills can truly contribute to academic success.

“As an IB head, I want to empower students with important skills,”

she says. “Teachers too need to constantly update their skills so that their students are more engaged in teaching and learning.”

Making the best of the IB Diploma Program

In today’s education scenario, teachers face different challenges. One challenge is to make students self-directed learners. The IB Diploma program, for instance, gives students many opportunities to steer their own learning journey but many of them need structure and the skillsets to navigate their own course.

“We have a very detailed and very robust DP assessment calendar,” says Shalini. “We share this with the students at the beginning of the academic year. “The entire year’s deadlines are shared, including those for internal assessments, TOK deadlines, extended essay, and even timelines for the summative assessments.” While this makes it easier for students to be organized, it also makes them responsible for their own learning. Self-reflection sessions with students during every reporting cycle also helps.

“We expect the students to do a SWOT analysis and this helps them reflect on what went well, what could have been done better, and what measures could be put in place to bring about changes.”

Shalini says that a huge challenge faced by DP students is time management. DP students grapple with numerous impending submissions and deadlines. According to Shalini, the school’s SEN faculty steps in to support the and helps them to create a study-schedule for themselves.

“We also place a lot of emphasis on the emotional well-being of the student,” she says. “The curriculum is very demanding. I think if they are not emotionally strong, they are less equipped to handle their learning. The school’s pastoral care team provides emotional support and guidance to the students to ensure that they are successful learners.”

Ungraded skills and academic success

As someone who attributes learning success with emotional well-being, Shalini links certain skills to academic excellence. She says,

“I believe that the whole philosophy of the IB revolves around the approaches to learning. These include skills of thinking, research, communication, social and self-management. If these skills are in place, it will automatically lead to academic success and the scores will follow.”

The IB has identified the learner profile attributes, this helps teachers establish a link between skill-building and the attributes. She believes that it is very crucial to develop these skills in the student. With the job market changing considerably, employers are looking for people with the right attitude and skill sets. “I think we as educators should keep this in mind and give our students a holistic education,” says Shalini. “A holistic education includes building a growth mindset and moving away from the fixed mindset. We need to provide students access to numerous opportunities. They could be in the form of extra-curricular activities, international competitions, inter-house competitions, inter-school competitions, and internships.

At ABWA the session Academia and Industry, included as a part of our Pre-IB program brings our students face to face with experts and professionals from different fields. This enables students to establish connections with the world outside the classroom and develop a better understanding of the demands of work life.”

Bridging gaps to make students DP Ready!

When Shalini first met the Callido team, she was impressed with the organization’s vision. “The Callido team comprises of the IB alumni, thus they have a clear understanding of the needs of the curriculum and the skills that each child would require through the two years, which is why we introduced the program for the year one students of the DP,” she says.

Shalini says, trying to do justice to both skill development and content delivery within the school schedule is challenging, Callido’s sessions on critical thinking and research skills helps the students with their academic writing. The Callido modules scaffold a student’s learning process and helps them complete their IAs successfully. The Extended Essay modules further helps the students frame research questions, understand the research methodology. She says,

“Writing the 4000-word essays isn’t such a daunting task for the students anymore. “Callido has been very instrumental in developing the required skills. I strongly believe these skills need to be taught and can’t be left to chance.”

In fact, Shalini says that she has had alumni of the school come back to her and tell her how their learning from the Callido modules have helped them even at university.

“If an ex-student can come back and tell you this, then running these sessions has proved to be a worthwhile investment.”

Talking about the mammoth shift to online learning during the COVID crisis, Shalini says it is business as usual at Aditya Birla World Academy. “We have online classes for our current DP1 students and have started the Pre-IB sessions for the grade ten students too”, she says. “We need to keep teaching and learning going to ensure minimal loss of academic time. We are also starting with the online Callido session as a part of the Pre-IB.”

Shalini insists that it is important to make our students lifelong learners. “The thirst for learning is something that they should carry forward for the rest of their life,” she says. “Its important for students to set realistic goals for themselves. Grades cannot be the prime focus, education has to be holistic and inclusive. It is for us educators to bring out the best in each one of our students.”

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