Reimagining IDUs

Earlier this month, the IB released the updated guides to the Personal Project and Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning, and there are some exciting changes coming from September! Two things seem clear in both guides: there is a greater emphasis on student agency and there is greater alignment between the core components of the programme: the MYP Projects, Interdisciplinary Learning, and Service as Action. There also seems to be a real push to use IDUs to grow school culture (with links to Social Emotional Learning). I wrote about the importance of establishing an interdisciplinary learning culture last spring, so it is really great to see this take on central importance in the new guide (see “Using interdisciplinary units to grow school culture” in “Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP”).

Last May, I shared a model for a 3-day IDU, based around the inquiry cycle. I developed the idea in response to conversations I had had with other MYP educators (both within and outside of my school) in which we shared concerns about how to “make IDUs fit” within the curriculum and how to effectively teach IDUs concurrently. If time is intentionally set aside for IDUs to take place in every grade, ideally around the same time, it becomes much easier to develop a continuum of interdisciplinary learning.

In this newest iteration of the guide, there are only three objectives, which align directly with the inquiry cycle, making the 3-day model much easier to plan and implement.

Day 1: Inquiry (Evaluating)

The shift in language from Disciplinary Grounding to Evaluating as one of the three objectives is interesting. The previous wording might have implied a focus on subject area content. Now, evaluating invites students to consider real-world problems through an interdisciplinary lens.

Day 2: Action (Synthesizing)

Day 2 would be an opportunity for students, either individually or in collaborative groups, to create a product that communicates a purposeful interdisciplinary understanding.

Day 3: Reflection (Reflecting)

Day 3 would be an opportunity for students to showcase their interdisciplinary understandings, either through the form of presentations or mini-exhibitions, and to reflect on their learning.

Finally, I thought I would highlight the part of the new guide that really jumped out at me: “Students should become more self-directed in their interdisciplinary inquiry over time. It is suggested that in the first years of the MYP, depending on the context and the student’s prior learning, inquiry can be more teacher-determined and directed. As learners progress through the programme, interdisciplinary inquiry may be more student-led and open, for example, by focusing on inquiry questions generated by students as well as teachers, and/or by including tasks that allow students to be agents of change in creating a more sustainable, interconnected and peaceful world that brings the IB mission to life.” (IBO, 2021) So progression of interdisciplinary learning can be developed through the amount of agency students are given, not simply through complexity of content. This is a game-changer!

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