Approaches to Learning

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"The world no longer cares how much our graduates know…What the world cares about is not what our students know but what they can do with what they know."

Tony Wagner

Over the academic year, September 2018-September 2019, IAG as a learning organisation will be developing systems which will enable all learners to recognise and develop their Cognitive and Affective Skills; collectively referred to as Approaches to Learning within both the MYP and IAG Curriculum.

We are working to develop a single framework combining ATL Cognitive and Affective skills alongside the applied attributes of the IB Learner Profile into what we recognises as Global Competencies. It is these Competencies alongside general academic and subject specific skills that will empower our IAG learners to become Active Global Citizens.


Our rational for explicitly recognising and developing the skills and attributes of a Global Competency is fundamental to our Vision; ‘Shaping our world through active global citizenship’.

Using the vocabulary of learning theory, ATL skills can be described as:

  • cognitive- learner-initiated use and practice of active information-processing and retrieval strategies

  • affective (social and emotional)- self-management of mood, motivation, interpersonal relationships and attitudes toward learning

  • metacognitive- awareness, understanding and control of personal learning processes.

Such skills clusters are vital for the development of the holistic, self-directed and Global learner.


To systematise and enhance current practises across IAG, the following is in development:

  • an academy wide horizontal and vertical map of all ATL Skill Categories and Clusters

  • subject specific maps of  ATL Skills Indicators

  • an explicit reference in Unit planners to ATL’s

  • an approach to assessment design which explicitly recognises ATL Skills – Statement of Inquiry + Identified Criterion (A,B, C, D) + Identified ATL = Assessment Statement 

  • an explicit reference in learning sessions/experiences to ATL Skills Indicators articulated as Outcomes

  • reporting of ATL’s through Student Led Conferences

  • reporting of ATL’s through end of year/phase report cards

  • a focus on ATL development as part of the 1:1 discussions within Advisory

  • ongoing learner self assessment of ATL development as part of learning sessions, at the mid point of the IAG Inquiry Cycle (Review Learning) and at the end of the IAG Inquiry Cycle (Inquiry ‘Showcase’)


Approach To Learning Organisation

ATL Cognitive and Affective Skills Categories:

  • Thinking Skills

  • Social Skills

  • Communication Skills

  • Self-management Skills

  • Research Skills

ATL Cognitive and Affective Skills Clusters (see the diagram below)


Developing student responsibility for ATL

Some of the key questions to be answered by students with respect to ATL skills include:

  • What are my present skills in this area and what evidence do I have of my development?

  • What skills can I improve?

  • What new skills can learn?

When specific ATL skills become an explicit focus for teaching and learning, students can begin to take responsibility for their own development. Over time, students can identify the progress they are making across their Cognitive and Affective Skills.


ATL Planning Resources for IAG Educators 

The following link will take you to a data base, created by the IB, of teacher support materials designed to accompany all the Middle Years Programme (MYP) guides. It contains examples of teacher and student work related to approaches to learning (ATL). It is intended to give practical help to support teachers’ understanding and implementation of the theory presented in MYP guides.

The TSM is divided into three sections.

A: Philosophy, school culture, research

B: Policies, learning stories

C: Curriculum activities

This TSM exemplifies aspects of the MYP that are at the heart of the programme model.

  • Approaches to learning—demonstrating a commitment to ATL as a key component of the MYP for developing skills for learning.

  • Approaches to teaching—emphasizing MYP pedagogy, including collaborative, authentic learning through inquiry.

Another key component of the model is action, which may result from inquiry-based learning. This may be demonstrated by students in the form of service in the community.

Please note that this TSM is produced in three languages (English, French and Spanish). If teachers are familiar with more than one of these languages, it may be worthwhile for them to look at the other language versions, as examples are different for each language.