Aligning the new Programme Standards and Practices (2018) with ATL practices

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The Programme standards and practices define what it means to be an IB World School and are used to ensure quality and faithfulness in the implementation of IB programmes. They are made up of criteria against which schools and the IB can measure the success of the implementation of the four programmes. Standards are principles standing at the heart of any IB World School. Practices define the standards, including references to programme implementation.

The IB has revised the Programme Standards and Practices periodically with versions published in 2008, 2014 and 2016. For the first time the Programme Standards and Practices (2018) use programme terminology, like Approaches to Learning (ATL), which is now possible because the four IB programmes are now better aligned in the use of terminology. However, while the standards and the practices have changed significantly, the evidence and requirements that schools need to demonstrate mirror those of the 2016 version while the IB observes what schools come up with as evidence in the next two years! The new Standards and Practices can be found in the PRC via ‘My IB’.

In this article we will think about examples of the type of evidence that schools can provide in terms of ATL skills, drawing upon lists of potential evidence from 2008, 2014 and 2016 as well as new ways in which to address new Practices.

Which new practices address ATL skills?

Although the ATL is specifically addressed in ‘Students as lifelong learners (0402)’, the successful implementation of ATL touches on many other practices. Schools should be aware that ATL appears implicitly in many areas, especially through ‘Environment’, providing structures, systems and resources.

ATL is heavily featured in the ‘Learning’ standard, as you would expect. Example practices include:

Students actively develop thinking, research, communication, social and self-management skills. (0402-01)

The school implements and reviews the development of the IB’s approaches to learning. (0402-01-0100)

The school implements and reviews processes that actively engage students in their own learning. (0402-01-0200)

The IB has researched the components of a quality education and emphasised through these practices aspects that are best practice. The IB has ‘raised the bar’ in terms of ATL, showing the importance they place on schools developing a coherent ATL programme that leads to those learners being able to articulate their learning journey, describing which skills they have learned and demonstrated, and to what extent. What evidence can a school provide? There are many, and they include:

  • Interdisciplinary learning units based around skills shared across disciplines. ATL skills explicitly planned (unit planners) and taught that enable transfer skills and using skills in unfamiliar situations.
  • Students self-reflections in the form of journals, apps or e-Portfolios as well as diagnostic tests of skill development. Eg. Skill Tracker from Tracker Apps.
  • Schedule for curriculum review; review of curriculum uses data collected from student self-reflection on skill development and diagnostic testing.
  • Academic integrity policy that incorporates ATL skill development.
  • Academic integrity skills are explicitly planned and taught (unit planners, scope and sequence).
  • Student self-reflection and teacher review of student work submitted. Schedule of review meetings and tools used to check.
  • Subject group overviews and unit planners show ATL skill planning and progression.
  • Scope and sequence produced showing skills within the 5 categories and progression over time.
  • Student responses to statement of inquiry and inquiry questions.
  • Tools used to show academic integrity skill development.
  • Essays and projects by students with effective citing and referencing.
  • Unit planners with explicit planning for academic integrity skills; student self-reflections on skill development.
  • Unit planners with explicit learning experiences planned.
  • Homeroom/form group activities to set goals and review; unit planners showing goal setting activities and review; unit planners showing student agency in inquiry.
  • Journals and e-Portfolios articulating goals set.
  • Unit plans showing planned opportunities for students to pursue inquiry; science fairs and similar opportunities for personal inquiry.
  • Schedule of teacher observations; mentoring system; student self-reflection and journaling.
  • Reports with descriptive text used to show skill development with focus on improvement rather than achievement of grades; reporting schedule with goals of each reporting period.
  • Unit planners; formative and summative assessments with variety of styles.
  • Unit planners; formative and summative assessments; student self-reflection.


Students will need to be articulate in explaining how they best learn and how they deal with challenges during the process of learning. Students should be able to use metacognitive tools as part of their learning experience and articulate how they have developed and applied ATL skills.

The Programme Standards and Practices (2018) provide an excellent opportunity for IB schools to review they ways in which they implement the programmes and to continue to innovate in providing the best education possible for their students. There is still great flexibility around the ways in which schools can provide evidence of meeting practices, and we hope that this article provides practical advice towards improved and evolving programme implementation.


International Baccalaureate (2014) Programme Standards and Practices; IB, Cardiff, UK

International Baccalaureate (2018) Programme Standards and Practices; IB, Cardiff, UK

Malcolm Nicolson – Feb 2020

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