Caution with the parachutes

Coordinating the MYP is an open-ended task. Faced with a lot of structures, systems and practices that need to be in place, it is very tempting to take little bits from other existing programs and parachute them as they are into place.

It is almost comforting to think that as these parachutes drop down gently upon an empty space, there will be something that will exist that did not, before.

Although the generous sharing of colleagues around the IB World is one of our community’s greatest resource for support and ideas, we might reflect on the contextual needs of our own program and the learners we wish to serve.

Rarely are Middle Years Programs exactly alike, and the variations stem from the contexts and clients each program serves.

The MYP is a framework rather than a model, and the difference is that a model has its own process and might be prescriptive, whereas a framework has parameters and is flexible enough to allow for the school’s contextual interpretation.

Being a framework, the implementation of the program considers many questions addressing the needs of the context and clients a school serves.

For examples,

  • Why do these students need an IB education?
  • Do they know what problems the MYP solves for their futures?
  • Are they following a trend?
  • Do they need to be more informed that when this child engages in the MYP, he or she will most likely end up an active, critical thinker, questioning many things including what the parents believe and do?
  • Is that what they want for where they intend to go?

Sometimes there is a gap between the experience of schooling for the parent generation and the student generation, and this is addressed through continuous parent dialog on the philosophy and practices.

In a school new to MYP, one of the most difficult conversations teachers might have is the one about assessment. Especially when a previous assessment system depended on percentages or letter grades to report student progress, it takes a lot to get used to descriptive reporting and the idea of using a range level of achievement rather than a spot-on single number.

The pressure points of this dialog may include:

  • The process of arriving at a 1-7 grade
  • The fact that there is no ‘averaging’ of the levels of achievement
  • That often formative assessments receive descriptive feedback rather than scores
  • The tasks are open-ended
  • The process is a part of the assessment criteria and may not be linear
  • Tasks are conceptual
  • Tasks are contextual
  • Tasks are unfamiliar problems that require some transfer skills
  • Tasks may not rely on memorization and repetition of material

Just with the single standard of assessment, there is a lot of knowledge and understanding that the community must gain to embrace the MYP and to flourish in it.

The knowledge, receptivity, approaches to communication, and all other facets of the context and community are different, specific to where the school is in time, place and space.

Why are we doing this? Why does it matter? What is it like? What problems will it solve?

Open-ended questions like these might help the community reflect on what it needs to know, understand and do at the start.

Parachuting a part of a program as it is without modifications might not serve coherence and clarity.

So, perhaps some caution might be needed with the numerous parachutes that float all around our IB world.

The ideas abound and are welcome. And, we have the privilege of thinking critically so these ideas serve our specific context and community.

Featured Photo by Yoav Aziz on Unsplash

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    Author: alavina

    Cognitive CoachSM and professional development leader at large. Writer and editor at

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