Teaching using the programme of inquiry

The PYP requirement under practice B2.10 states that:

The student schedule or timetable allows for the requirements of the programme(s) to be met.

  1. The schedule or timetable allows for in-depth inquiry into the transdisciplinary and disciplinary dimensions of the curriculum.
IB Programme standards and practices: Practice B2.10 (IB 2010)

All teachers, including single-subject teachers whenever appropriate, have a responsibility for developing planners to accompany the units of inquiry documented on the programme of inquiry. Sample planners are available in other PYP publications on the online curriculum centre (OCC).

The central ideas indicate the concepts and knowledge that will be documented on the planners. It is then the responsibility of the teachers to define the learning experiences and assessments they feel will allow students to come to an understanding of the central idea. Summative assessment tasks and the evidence of understanding that students will need to produce also need to be documented on the accompanying planners. Schools should bear this in mind when developing central ideas.

Teachers of 3–5 year olds (early childhood) must plan and teach a minimum of four units of inquiry, which include a unit under the transdisciplinary theme “Who we are”, and another under the theme “How we express ourselves”. These two themes, in particular, are considered fundamentally relevant to all young students.

In the early childhood years, a substantial degree of flexibility is offered in terms of the length of the required four units of inquiry. Due to the nature of development and learning during early childhood (3–5 years), it is acknowledged that some units may be year-long and, consequently, more than one unit may be addressed at the same time. The same degree of flexibility regarding the length of the units for 3–5 year olds is considered appropriate for 5–6 year olds. However, for students aged 5 years and older, all six transdisciplinary themes need to be addressed during the year. This flexibility is outlined in Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education (IB 2009).

Teaching and learning, whenever possible and appropriate, should be within the school’s programme of inquiry. However, there are occasions when this is not practical. During these times, teachers may use a number of the following models to teach subject-specific knowledge, concepts and skills.

  • Subject-specific inquiry: There are times when teachers will teach subject-specific knowledge, concepts and skills, outside the programme of inquiry, using purposeful inquiry. They should use the PYP planner to structure their planning for this type of inquiry. Teachers should still ensure that authentic connections are made with the essential elements of the programme while maintaining the integrity of the subject area.
  • Preparing for or following on from a unit within the programme of inquiry: The direct teaching of subject-specific knowledge, concepts and skills in a unit of inquiry may not always be feasible but, where appropriate, introductory or follow-up learning experiences may be useful to help students make connections across the curriculum. Teachers plan and teach learning experiences that prepare the students to participate in a unit of inquiry. Following on from a unit, students may demonstrate their understanding of the central idea in a subject-specific activity.
  • Skills-based teaching: This refers to the teaching of subject-specific skills not directly related to a unit of inquiry but to support mastery and increase students’ skills base in areas such as literacy, numeracy, arts and PSPE. Nevertheless, teachers should be mindful that it is appropriate to develop and use subject-specific skills in the context of units of inquiry. In fact, it could be argued, that this authentic, contextualized learning is preferable.