Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

“Now that’s what I call Curriculum” The MYP as a Greatest Hits album


Curriculum Design: Key Concept Map, from Birmingham University's 'Problems at Crumpton' resources (

Curriculum Design: Key Concept Map (clickable), from Birmingham University’s ‘Problems at Crumpton’ resources (

Over the last couple of days I’ve been reading about ‘Knowledge and the Curriculum‘ as part of the Curriculum Studies unit. Through the tasks set in the MA online resources, I’ve been re-familiarising myself with ideas about curriculum, largely through  David Scott’s Critical Essays on Major Curriculum Theorists (2008). It goes over the idea that curriculum models are episodic, that ideas come in and out of vogue and retain elements of each other, as well as giving an historical overview of ideas that most teachers will be familiar with:

The book goes on to discuss other ideas by Michael Apple, Basil Bernstein, Lev Vygotsky (social development), Jerome Bruner (constructivist), Henry Giroux (critical pedagogy), Donald Schon (reflective practice) and John White (autonomy). It’s a good read, though very academic, and an interesting snapshot of the history of educational theories.

My reading is always coloured by a view of the MYP and DP, my practices, ideas and biases and, of course, of thinking up research questions for this assignment. I’ve come to appreciate the title “curriculum framework” as a description of the MYP in a new light. It’s always been the case that the MYP has overtly avoided becoming a prescribed syllabus, instead focusing on how we use learning experiences and assessment to develop the learner profile in our students. But I also see it now as a scaffold upon which curriculum ideas are selected and hung. Then there is the element of the Next Chapter and the foundations of MYP as it is built, which have not yet come up in course literature: concept-based curriculum, backwards design, global contexts.

Now! 82 (2012)

Digesting all of this makes me think that curriculum in the case of the MYP is less episodic and more like an omnibus edition – or more appropriately a greatest hits album of chart-topping ideas from educational thinkers. Popular elements of many curriculum theories are visible in the MYP framework and philosophy, as well as the practices which arise in class.


The following paragraph was added July 18, 2012 after publication of the IB’s position paper on Concept-based teaching and learning

With the recent publication of the IB’s position paper on Concept-based teaching and learning, more ideas and theoretical foundations are added into the mix of the Middle Years Programme. In this paper, H. Lynn Erickson distills the rationale for the emphasis on the concept-based curriculum, contrasting her 3D model of learning with a more traditional 2D model which assumes that conceptual understanding will arise from factual and skill-based teaching. She goes on to outline the concept-based model, linking elements of the MYP which lead to greater conceptual understanding. It is well worth reading.

I’d perhaps like to explore this in more depth in my assignment, thinking about my Grade 10 Physics class and how it fits in the wider curriculum of the MYP and the school; how components of the MYP addressed in class reflect different curriculum and learning theories:

  • the emphasis of command terms in descriptions of content and skills (objective-based curriculum)
  • addressing the assessment criteria, and teaching of self-assessment, which look towards a subject-based process model
  • introducing reflection, learner profiles, metacognition and TOK, approaching foundationalism

I think about which curriculum models each of these fit. It could be an interesting exploration and evaluation of the course in light of the aims and objectives of the MYP sciences as well as the ideas of these curriculum theorists. To what extent does the course I deliver and syllabus used meet these goals? Which curriculum theories am I modeling?

The challenge now it going to be to narrow this down to a manageable topic, or else come up with a workable alternative.


As I was working through, taking notes (and yes, in some cases skimming), I started to look for more visual resources that I might be able to share with colleagues. I came across the image above, a clickable mind-map from Birmingham University (above), which is worth visiting as it outlines the major areas of curriculum design.

Another useful resource is the website Instructional Design, which has amassed links and articles on a wide range of curriculum and pedagogical issues. It is likely something to which I’d refer again when planning PD, units or courses. It includes sections on learning theories, domains and concepts, as well as more.

Greg Kearnsley's Theory in Practice guide at

Greg Kearnsley’s Theory in Practice guide at



Image: Now that’s what I call music! 82, from


Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

2 thoughts on ““Now that’s what I call Curriculum” The MYP as a Greatest Hits album

  1. Reblogged this on Profesorbaker's Blog: A Bit of Everything and commented:
    An excellent post on learning theories

  2. Pingback: Are IB Schools Trivium21C Schools? | i-Biology | Reflections

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