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IB MATTERS at St. Brendan’s School PYP Understanding the Primary Years Programme as a “transdisciplinary” programme means that disciplines, or subject areas such as History, Maths, Language, Arts, Science, etc, are a means towards the understanding of the concepts that construct the central ideas connected to the transdisciplinary themes. page 3)

MYP Quality interdisciplinary education” is the one which stimulates students to integrate concepts, theories and skills, of two or more disciplines, in order to understand a complex topic (page 4)

Issue Nº 4 // August 2011 DIPLOMA “students are expected to make connections between the subjects in the different discipline so as not to study the subjects in isolation. The teachers are responsible to help students make significant connections between the different disciplines…”(page 7)


Editorial p. 2 Meaningful and enduring learning experiences p. 3 MYP: An interdisciplinary learning experience p. 4

Transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary methodology in the Diploma Programme p. 7

Primary Years Programme

IB Matters is an e-publication of St. Brendan’s School

info@stbrendan, Phone: 24094939 / 27100603 Fax: 24094939 int. 158 Montevideo, Uruguay

Diploma Programme: más allá del enfoque disciplinar

Jimena Taboada School Principal


Editorial }

FROM TRANSDISCIPLINARITY TO MASTERY OF DISCIPLINES: A VOYAGE WORTH TRAVELLING As an IB world school, St Brendan´s School is committed to providing a learning experience that “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. Through successful implementation of the three IB programmes the school “encourages students to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right”. (IB Mission statement) In order to accomplish this aim it is not sufficient to plan, design and implement a curriculum which has the mastery of knowledge as its sole or main objective, as is the case of most traditional curricula. Such endeavour requires the school to analyze what to teach and how to teach and to design curriculum in such a manner that it enables students to understand themselves and the world around them by making use of disciplinary knowledge. Therefore, the learning experience needs to be relevant to understanding the real world. In order to do so it must be ensured that students can make connections between their learning and its application its relevance and impact in the real world. To this end, the role of the disciplines and subject areas in the curriculum design of the IB programmes is grounded on the understanding of students’ needs and characteristics within the age range of each of the three programmes. The IB programmes provide and promote authentic learning environments as opposed to the all-too often compartmentalized, disconnected teaching and learning experience that can happen in a classroom. Curriculum design in the IB programmes follows a path that goes from transdisciplinary in the PYP, to interdisciplinary in MYP and ends in a disciplinary approach in the Diploma programme. In all three programmes, exploration and understanding of the discipline content and skills is used as the vehicle towards understanding the world and the self. As suggested by Nicolescu (1999), “Transdisciplinarity is ... radically distinct from multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity because of its goal, the understanding of the present world, which cannot be accomplished in the framework of discipline research.” IB (2010), page 1. Boix Mansilla & Gardner, (2000) state that interdisciplinary understanding takes place when students are able to integrate knowledge and thinking modes from two or more disciplinary areas, in order to create new products, pose problems and provide explanations to the world around them in such a manner that would not have been possible from the point of view of one single discipline. Figure 1 from The Primary Years Programme as a model of transdisciplinary learning, (2010) page 1 synthesizes the key characteristics of the curriculum framework of each of the three programmes: PYP, MYP and Diploma.

What are the main advantages of this type of learning experience?

   

Helps students to understand themselves and the world by making connections among the disciplines as from the early years Uses the different disciplines to better understand the world and themselves; disciplinary knowledge becomes relevant outside classroom doors. Promotes the exploration of issues that are significant to them and that belong in the real world by making use of skills that transcend the disciplines and by mastering the skills that belong to the different disciplines. Students apply what they have learned to make a positive change in themselves and the world around them.

IB MATTERS // Issue Nº 4// August2011


Primary Years Programme

MEANINGFUL AND ENDURING LEARNING EXPERIENCES Understanding the Primary Years Programme as a “transdisciplinary” programme means that disciplines, or subject areas such as History, Maths, Language, Arts, Science, etc, are a means towards the understanding of the concepts that construct the central ideas connected to the transdisciplinary themes. Learning has relevance across the subject areas and more importantly, learning that transcends the confines of the subject areas to connect to what is They reached conclusions and wonreal in the world. dered if all microscopes are the same, if atoms can be seen using a microscope Through the exploration of concepts and who use microscopes on a regular the learners need to develop social, basis. They used poems, songs and ads thinking and research skills that are not as resources to promote oral skills. connected to a single discipline, but are They also interviewed experts as a way directly connected to the possibility to to gather information to interpret and access knowledge. to create new understandings. Within the unit of inquiry “The world is energy” with the central idea “Energy transforms the universe”, Form 6 students inquired into nutrition, the impact of genetics on nutrition and the appropriate use of technology as a challenge that society is facing. During their inquiry they explored concepts such as structure and function of the cell, unicellular organisms, DNA, and genetic improvement of plants and animals under the lights of Chemistry, Biology, Maths, History and Language.

Along the process they developed thinking, social and communication skills. It was, without a doubt, a meaningful and enduring learning opportunity to understand how scientists work. They were inquirers, eager to learn new knowledge and reflective. They were also balanced, caring and principled during their work in groups. They put into action all the attributes of the IB community of learners.

The students also looked for real-life opportunities to see energy in action. They used UTE and ANTEL bills to calculate taxes and to understand and interpret graphs and other information. During these learning experiences the students used different resources available at school and at home: labs, audiovisual resources, ICT resources and books.

The students worked in groups to investigate and explore the concepts of structure, organization and transformation, and developed through a variety of learning experiences skills such as observation, planning, gathering data, interpretation of data and presentation of findings. One group used the microscope to observe vegetable tissues and they were able to see the cell membrane and the cytoplasm. They recorded their observations by drawing what they saw respecting proportions and dimensions.


IB MATTERS // Issue Nº 4 // August 2011

“MYP: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY LEARNING EXPERIENCE” The MYP documents, in particular, those which refer to interdisciplinary learning, state that “quality interdisciplinary education” is the one which stimulates students to integrate concepts, theories and skills, of two or more disciplines, in order to understand a complex topic. In this way, new modes of thinking are integrated and this prepares students to solve problems, create products, and formulate questions. It is not limited to the individual perspective of one discipline. Interdisciplinary learning, is defined as the process by which students come to understand bodies of knowledge and modes of thinking from two or more disciplines and integrate them to create a new understanding. The purpose is to deepen student’s understanding and not to replace disciplinary teaching. It is built on it. In interdisciplinary learning, elements of different disciplines (knowledge, understanding and skills) are put into a productive relationship with one another and connections are considered over time. It deepens student’s understanding of the world and therefore, enables them to work accordingly. What are the motives of interdisciplinary learning? It is to prepare the students to adopt an holistic and authentic view of learning and to offer a demanding opportunity for the teacher’s development. In the MYP, all teaching and learning is planned through MYP units of work. These may be disciplinary or interdisciplinary and are developed through unit planners. Interdisciplinary unit planners:   

synthesize the subject content and its real-world contexts into a meaningful whole is driven by a unit question that is conceptually based is planned by teams of teachers working in collaboration

Interdisciplinary Theme



History, Geography, English, Spanish, Art, Technology Music


Andrea Mourigan, Eglé Etchart, Mercedes Fernández, Lucas Lessa, Rodrigo Moyano, Nelcy Moleda, Fanny Bozzo, Bruno Cuturi, Judith Oks

MYP Level


Starting date

June 2010

Ending date

October 2010

IB MATTERS // Issue Nº 4 // August 2011


Integrate significant concept, area of interaction and unit question.

Area of Interaction focus

Significant concept(s)

Which area of interaction will be our focus? Why have we chose?

What are the big ideas? What do we want our students to retain for years into the future?

Community Service

To know and understand more about the world they live in.

Awareness of diversity through different subjects.

To develop awareness and a caring attitude to be able to contribute efficiently in the society.

MYP interdisciplinary unit question Integrative, purposeful and focused through the chosen area. In what way, world awareness and diversity, can help to develop commitment and create the need to contribute from the affection and creativity? Attributes of the IB Community Profile

Informed, reflexive, caring and open minded


IB MATTERS // Issue Nยบ 4 // August 2011

Selective disciplinary contents (Disciplinary understanding)

History: cultural exchange between Europe and America in the past Geography: habits and lifestyles of different cultures in Latin America Music: songs and instruments of different cultures in Latin America Spanish: linguistic styles in the different cultures of America and Europe Technology: typical food form different American countries English: the Anglo Saxon culture

Integrative Understanding (Identify type of chosen activity and its derived interdisciplinary understanding) Form of integration: The concept of diversity is used in different disciplinary contexts in order to understand and raise awareness on it. Interdisciplinary understanding: 1)

Acculturation in its different manifestations: food, music, language, ethnic groups


Working together and sharing experiences with partners from different socio-cultural context.

Assessment: Final product/s What will constitute acceptable evidence of interdisciplinary understanding? How will students show what they have understood? How will students be able to answer the interdisciplinary unit question?

Sharing cooking, designing maquettes and power point presentations with students from schools of different socioeconomic contexts (Jubilar High school)

Which specific assessment criteria of the MYP subject groups will be used in this unit? History: A, B y D Spanish: A,C Geography: A, B y D Technology: A, B, C, D y F Art: A y B English: A, B y C

Approaches to Learning How will this interdisciplinary unit contribute to the overall development of learning skills?

Contributed to: Selection of the appropriate information Communication Self evaluation


IB MATTERS // Issue Nยบ 4 // August 2011

TRANSDISCIPLINARY AND INTERDISCIPLINARY METHODOLOGY IN THE DIPLOMA PROGRAMME The Diploma programme is based on the study of various diverse academic disciplines, each one using their own particular methodology, by which the students get to understand them and use them. This understanding is essential to be able to have a deep appreciation of the nature of each academic discipline which will turn into a solid base for future university studies. Apart from this disciplinary focus, the students are expected to make connections between the subjects in the different discipline so as not to study the subjects in isolation. The teachers are responsible to help students make significant connections between the different disciplines by means of their teaching and organization of academic calendar, as well as different ways of learning, which favour this process. It is expected that there should be a simultaneous learning in the subjects in the Diploma programme, and this is what enables the development of an interdisciplinary learning experience. An example where the transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary focus can be seen is in the Group 4 in the Diploma Programme (group of experimental sciences, such as Biology, Physics, and Chemistry) which has a curricular model in common. The transdisciplinary focus has as its main objective to oversee knowledge fragmentation. It is not a discipline; in fact it is a focus. The general objectives of the subjects in Group 4 are framed under the becoming conscious of the ways in which scientists work and communicate between each other. Whereas the “scientific method” can adopt various different forms, the practical part, through experiments, is what distinguishes them from other disciplines. The “scientific method” transcends the disciplines. This is why all the subjects and courses of experimental sciences have as their goal: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Create opportunities for scientific study and the development of creativity within the global context which should stimulate and intellectually challenge the students Supply a whole amount of knowledge, methods and scientific and technological techniques Prepare students to be able to apply and use knowledge, methods and scientific and technological techniques Develop the capacity of analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing scientific information Generate an awareness of the value and the need to collaborate and communicate in an effective way during scientific activities Develop experimental and investigation scientific skills Develop IT competences as well as communications to be applied to scientific study Increase moral, ethical, social, economic, and environmental awareness in science and technology Develop the appreciation of the possibilities and limitations of science and the scientists Foster comprehension of the relationship between the different scientific disciplines and the amount which the scientific method can cover.

Practical activities and the Group 4 project All the subjects in this group have the same requirements for internal assessment which represents a 24% of the whole final evaluation, and it consists of an interdisciplinary project that covers a mix of short and long-term investigation work. The project of Group 4 is an interdisciplinary activity in which all students of Experimental Sciences should participate. What is meant is that students of different subjects analyze the same topic o problem. The exercise should be one of collaboration where the scientific investigation processes outstand more than the actual products of the investigation. As an example, we would like to share one of the school’s Group 4 did in the school. Name of the project: Acid rain Introduction: With the motive to evaluate the environmental, social and scientific ethical implications, the analysis of a topic was proposed to the students of the different scientific disciplines which are offered in the School. This was an opportunity to explore scientific solutions to global problems altogether.


IB MATTERS // Issue Nº 4 // August 2011

Problems to be investigated in Biology: observation of the germination of different types of seeds in the same amount of time with different quality of water, one being acid rain.

Problems to be investigated in Chemistry: how to simulate as an experiment, the production of acid rain similar to the way it happens naturally. And to answer the question: How does the acid rain affect the plant life?

Problems to investigate in Physics: to study the specific resistance of various samples of rain water, study of the specific heat of different water and study of the optical activity of rain water and acid rain.

As our teacher of Theory of Knowledge, Professor Pablo Melonio, “interdisciplinary teaching is, or should be, an asset and a methodological premise, which crosses through and gives a motive to a good part of the teaching and learning context of an IB community. When teaching, it is necessary to establish conceptual links o methodologies between one and other disciplines. This could come from personal student motivation or planned teacher practices. The exchanges between disciplines are generally enriching and significant for the students as for the teachers as well.”

IB MATTERS // Issue Nº 4// August 2011 An e-publication of St. Brendan’s School Editor & Graphic Design: Natalia Acerenza // Head of Communications Department


IB Matters - Issue 4