The ET Journal Spring Issue 2021

Page 30


Explaining The Relationship Between Explicit Instruction And Student Acquisition Of Approaches To Learning Skills By Matthew J. Baxter, PhD. Hangzhou International School

Background of Study Approaches to Learning (ATLs) include the following skill domains: research, thinking, communication, self-management and collaboration. The purpose of ATLs is to improve student outcomes. When looking at this purpose, the first question that comes to mind is, “How?” The International Baccalaureate (IB) requires that IB Schools cover ATL skills in all subject areas (2013, 2014). Explicitly teaching ATLs to every student in the Middle Years Program (MYP) via a designated course, however, is not required. The feedback from universities and industries all over the world is that these are the skills students will need for the future of work, and yet, these skills are seemingly missing (World Economic Forum, 2018; Schleicher, 2015). The IB encourages schools to have students regularly self-assess their progress in developing their ATL skills (International Baccalaureate, 2013; Altan & Nevin 2019). The self-evaluation of progress regarding student learning has been shown to improve both self-confidence and self-motivation (Dweck, 1999). Using a previously developed skills framework (Dreyfus & Dreyfus 2000; Berliner 2004; Altan & Nevin 2019) adapted to the context of the ATL domains, students can accurately judge their progress in selected skills against general measures of mastery of those skills (International Baccalaureate, 2013). Explicit and implicit instruction of ATLs raises student learning outcomes across all disciplines, in addition to improvement in the skills taught. Hangzhou International School (HIS) decided to create an MYP course dedicated to the instruction of the five main ATL domains: self-

management, communication, research, collaboration and thinking. According to Martin Seligman, “Learned Helplessness” is embracing negative inputs because past events have demonstrated that you are helpless to change an outcome (1972). The objective of teaching ATL skills is to empower students to understand that control and change are possible. Control over our behaviors, traits and skills is attainable because of research regarding the Growth Mindset, including that of Carol Dweck and others. According to Lance King, an expert on ATLs and Growth Mindset, “Control over the quality of your own output is absolutely necessary for both intrinsic motivation and high performance. The world outside of school demands the acquisition of ATL skills as what is needed most out of college graduates” (2018). Research Question To what extent does explicit instruction of Approaches to Learning skills explain self-reported acquisition of these skills when taught to Englishspeaking students enrolled in an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program in China? Defining the Terms Approaches to Learning. The five domains identified by the International Baccalaureate Organization are self-management, research, thinking, collaboration and communication. For this study, ATLs were selected because of the IB authorization and curriculum. These skills can be associated with other curriculums that focus on interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary learning.They are further defined into skill clusters in Table 1.

Table 1. Approaches to Learning Domains and Skill Clusters










Literary Skills





Verbal Skills


Media Literacy

Critical Thinking

Social and Emotional

Non-Verbal Skills

Ethical Use of Information




Information and Communication Technologies

28 EARCOS Triannual Journal