The Primary Years Program (PYP) focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. It is a curriculum framework defined by six transdisciplinary themes of global significance, explored using knowledge and skills from the subject areas, with a powerful emphasis on inquiry-based learning.
- fosters international-mindedness through the IB learner profile
- prepares students to become life-long learners
- reflects real life through meaningful, in-depth inquiries into local and global issues
- emphasizes the development of the whole student - physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and ethically
To view a PowerPoint presentation about the essential elements of the PYP Program at McGraw, click on the following link: McGraw PYP PowerPoint
The PYP Curriculum Model
When most people think of the meaning for the word “curriculum” the first thing that comes to mind is a written body of knowledge that students will be exposed to in school. In addition to this, many would include a set of academic skills students should acquire and maybe even a set of positive character traits that students will be encouraged to model as parts of a school’s curriculum. There are endless debates about the merits of the endless variety of written curriculums that exist for elementary students – which is the most rigorous, most developmentally appropriate, most culturally appropriate and so on. Students (and schools) are assessed on students’ ability to master curriculum standards attached to national and state tests. Parents often choose schools for their children based primarily on their preference for one type of written curriculum over another.
The IB Primary Years Program takes a different and much broader view of curriculum than the one expressed above. According to the PYP, “curriculum” revolves around the concept of learners constructing meaning, and everyone at a PYP school, including the teachers, is a learner. The PYP model of curriculum is student-centered. It is founded on the belief that learning occurs when students (and teachers) build on their prior knowledge and engage in activities that help them construct new understandings. This process involves continuous self-reflection, the freedom to ask questions, the motivation to take risks and the desire to take action based on what one has learned.
So what does the PYP curriculum model look like? It is composed of three interrelated and equally important components. Each component is expressed as a question, in keeping with the spirit of inquiry found throughout the Primary Years Program.
The first question, “What do we want to learn?” represents the written curriculum. A PYP school’s written curriculum utilizes existing district/state/national learning standards, or as in the case of many private international schools, on a set of learning benchmarks provided by the PYP for each subject area. Teachers at a PYP school work collaboratively to develop a transdisciplinary Program of Inquiry (PoI) that is unique to their school. The PoI contains six units per grade level. These units engage learners in exploring universal concepts that transcend the boundaries of traditional subject areas. Students contribute to the content of these learning units by posing and pursuing their own inquiries related to the unit concepts.
The second question, “How best will we learn?” represents the taught curriculum in a PYP school. The taught curriculum involves the methods teachers use to engage students with the written curriculum. It is not only “what” students will learn but also “how” they will learn it that matters in a PYP school. PYP teachers are expected to constantly examine and improve the practices they use to actively involve students in learning. Inquiry-based learning and differentiation of instruction to meet individual student needs are featured within the wide array of best practices employed by teachers at PYP schools.
The third question, “How will we know what we have learned?” represents the learned curriculum. PYP teachers employ a variety of authentic assessment strategies (examples include student presentations, portfolios, projects, written tests, student self-reflections, peer reflections, student-led conferences, interviews, demonstrations and many others) to find out not only if students learned what they were expected to learn from the written curriculum but also what actual learning took place instead of or in addition to what was expected. Teachers and students use the results of assessments to set goals for further learning and to think about ways to improve their teaching and learning strategies. Assessment in a PYP school has a positive connotation since it focuses on what a learner can do at the current moment instead of on what they can’t do.
All three components of the curriculum of a Primary Years Program school - Written, Taught and Learned – function together to help produce life-long learners who can be successful in tomorrow’s world.