ICYMI: The IB (still) loves acronyms.

Total acronym count: 11

This week I am completing the IB Educator Network (IBEN) training on the new Programme Standards and Practices (PSP). This training is for workshop leaders (WSL’s) and other IBEN members so that we can (1) model the new standards in our own schools and, (2) update how we approach workshops and other school services.

Cool diagram, bro!

Even Drake knows schools are systems, and as such, are better suited to think of their core business in non-linear ways.

In true systems-thinking fashion, the new PSP model emphasizes that Learning emerges from the interdependence of a school’s Purpose, Environment, and Culture.

On a side note, I do love how the IB represents each of the programme’s “why’s” in the form of a visual model, like the DP model shown below. At its core, the student and the attributes of the Learner Profile (LP), surrounded by Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATTLs), the elements of the core (TOK, EE and CAS) and then, and only then, the subject groups.

It’s easy to see, in this model, that understanding how pyruvate turns into lactate in anaerobic respiration, the causes of WWII or how the log scale works really aren’t, and shouldn’t be, the core business of any IB school.

There are 10 types of people in the world:
those that understand this joke, and those that don’t.

If you add all the “ones” in this image, you get the number of minutes spent thinking about a naming system for the standards and practices.

There is potential for the PSP to be used as a living, breathing document.

The PSP published in 2014 emphasized requirements for authorization and evaluation. The current version has more of a standing chance of being a document that is referred to more often than every 5 years.

In this new iteration, the Standards and Practices describe the school’s design, development, and evolution. With the emphasis on the local school context, there is potential for schools to see day-to-day operations and generating evidence for evaluation one and the same. In fact, instead of being something schools ‘have to do’, it has the potential to be a true guide for the “co-creation of high-quality education”.

The new model talks about integrating the IB philosophy, rather than implementing it. If adopted beyond the semantic level of the change, it has the potential to transform how schools interact with IB guidance.

Build empathy.

The school context is an important element of the new PSP model. The upskilling of School Visit Team Members and Team Leaders (SVTMs / SVTLs) includes developmental questioning strategies that are similar in nature to those used in the empathy stage of design cycles. The objective is to capture how schools live out the Standards and Practices, rather than expect cookie-cutter approaches that work for all schools.

Embrace the gray.

Much of the language in the PSP is vague, probably on purpose. Questions like “how do you support the creation of an optimal environment?” are full of gray areas. What does optimal mean? Online environment? Physical environment?

How optimal is defined is part of the school development journey. There is a right answer, but it isn’t the same answer for everyone. And the answer is unlikely to be black or white.

Aspirational Building Blocks and Themes.

Aspirational Building Blocks, a series of practices now part of the PSP, allow IB World schools to align with other accrediting organizations. Learning space design, agency for learners and teachers, and technology integration are examples of practices that now for more seamless multi-agency evaluation.

POÄNG Armchair - birch veneer, Hillared beige - IKEA
The Pöang, IKEA’s most famous chair. Rumor has it, the same person that names IKEA products has come up with the name “Aspirational Building Blocks”

Themes are another novelty in the PSP that didn’t even get a mention in the document itself. They are connections or integration of practices across standards — linking “culture” with “environment”, for instance. The idea is to leverage themes as ways of developing these standards, since it may feel more organic to connect practices in this way, rather than working with a standard in isolation. If done right, I think it could help schools think about themselves as systems, or at least not have to ‘translate’ their work as a system to what used to be a ‘checklist’ approach to school authorization and evaluation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *