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New International Middle Years Curriculum Already Making its Mark

This year, eleven and twelve year-olds from several international schools, as well as schools in the UK, are experiencing a different way of learning with the new International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) – and it is already proving to have a positive impact.

Developed by UK-based Fieldwork Education – the organization behind the increasingly popular International Primary Curriculum (IPC) – the IMYC is a curriculum that focuses foremost on student learning. It responds specifically to the needs of 11 to 14 year olds by providing independence and interdependence in their learning through discrete subject learning and themes, encouraging learning that helps them make connections that are relevant to their own lives. It draws on current media platforms, involves active skills-based learning, and promotes self-reflection and the opportunity for students to make sense of their learning.  The IMYC was launched by Fieldwork Education in September as a result of requests from many international schools wishing to extend the thematic, rigorous and engaging learning approach of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) into middle years.

The IMYC has already received very positive feedback. At the American International School of Rotterdam, Secondary Principal Alison Lipp says: “The children have already grown. The IMYC is definitely engaging them more, it’s been a big confidence-builder for many of them and it’s helping them all to want to solve problems and take ownership of their learning.” In Germany, at the International School of Bremen, Maths teacher Sabine Keeley said: “It’s shown us what our students are capable of achieving because previously, the teachers wouldn’t have expected so much of them. It’s getting the students to think out of the box and it’s amazing to see.”

The IMYC involves six week units of learning based around a ‘Big Idea’.  This Big Idea centres on an abstract, conceptual theme that challenges young teenagers to think about its meaning and connection through each subject as well as a personal disposition. For example, in the IMYC Balance unit, students’ learning is all based around the Big Idea that ‘Things are more stable when different elements are in the correct or best possible proportions,’ and in the IMYC Collaboration unit, learning follows the Big Idea that ‘When people work together they can achieve a common goal’.  Through the learning of specific knowledge, skills and understanding in all subjects (science, art, ICT, music, history, design and technology, PE, geography, language arts), students make connections between their various classes by investigating how the Big Idea relates to each discrete subject.  Through blogging or journaling over the course of the unit, students are encouraged to reflect on the Big Idea and to develop their understanding of how it relates to them personally and to the world around them. At the end of the six weeks of subject learning, students collaborate to produce a media project (such as a podcast or video) to present their personal understanding of the Big Idea to the rest of their classmates.

“Eleven to fourteen year olds have very different needs than primary learners. It’s not all hormones and attitude; their brains are changing,” says Emily Porter, Director of the IMYC. “The Big Idea provides them with a ‘rope’ to hold on to as they move from subject to subject which is hugely beneficial for them at this age; it gives them meaning in their learning and helps them to organise that meaning in a better way. The Exit Point at the end of each unit encourages them to express their understanding of the Big Idea in a collaborative media presentation which they share with their classmates. The projects we’re seeing reflect the thinking and personal connection that students are experiencing.”

As for the teachers, Bart Van Den Haak, Principal of Verenigde Scholen J.A. Alberdingk Thijm, in The Netherlands says: “We are constantly trying to get teachers to think about the work and the learning and to be innovative. For me, that was the most important reason for introducing the IMYC. The IMYC is an inspiring framework and a source to stimulate teachers to support their children in a challenging and 21st century way. The IMYC helps teachers to facilitate not only the average students but also to let children of all abilities have exciting, challenging learning experiences. Because the IMYC is not static – it’s very dynamic – the teacher can differentiate for every student. The IMYC gives children space to develop in their own way, something that we really miss in a lot of schools in The Netherlands.” Nina, a sixth grade Science teacher from the American International School of Rotterdam who has been teaching with the IMYC says: “It’s just the right amount of detail in the IMYC framework, so that then I can customise the learning. It’s giving me freedom and autonomy but also giving me ideas based on a theme that everyone is following.” And Senior Principal at the school, Alison Lipp adds: “It’s forcing us all to support the same approach and that’s getting the teachers working together. This is focusing our communication and it makes the time that we do have together much more productive. The IMYC is so natural. It spreads, it’s infectious. We’re already sharing our experiences and our thinking, and to see and hear what everyone’s doing, that’s huge. It’s amazing to see the teachers collaborating with each other on the Media Project. I’ve never seen that level of collaboration before.”

For more information about the IMYC or to talk with a school already using the IMYC contact Fieldwork Education at +44(0)20 7531 9696 or visit www.greatlearning.com/imyc

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