Approaches to Learning (ATL)

One the key elements of WCA's International Baccalaureate curriculum is Approaches to Learning, or ATL. ATL training occurs weekly formally and every day informally at WCA.

Through approaches to learning, students develop skills that have relevance across the curriculum that help them “learn how to learn”. Approaches to learning skills can be learned and taught, improved with practice, and developed incrementally. They provide a solid foundation for learning independently and with others. ATL skills help students prepare for, and demonstrate learning through, meaningful assessment. They provide a common language that our students and learning facilitators can use to reflect on and articulate on the process of learning.

Approaches to learning are most powerful when learning facilitators plan and students engage with them in connection with significant and relevant content knowledge in order to develop transferable understanding. All learning facilitators in IB schools are responsible for integrating and explicitly teaching ATL skills.

The most effective way to develop approaches to learning is through ongoing, process-focused disciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Learning facilitators can use key and related concepts along with global contexts as vehicles for teaching effective learning strategies. Likewise, approaches to learning can be powerful tools for exploring significant content. This dual focus (content and process) promotes student engagement, deep understanding, transfer of skills and academic success.

Over time, our students develop clear and sophisticated understandings of how they learn best and how they can evaluate the effectiveness of their learning. This kind of self-regulated (independent and autonomous) learning helps students:

  • reflect purposefully on their learning (metacognition)
  • understand the diversity of human learning needs
  • evaluate and provide evidence of their learning
  • meet IB subject group aims and objectives
  • share responsibility for creating productive, cooperative and safe learning environments
  • develop the confidence to try new strategies and explore new concepts and contexts for learning
  • prepare for further study and responsible participation in local and global communities.

Developing student responsibility for ATL

Some of the key questions to be answered by students with respect to ATL skills include:

  • What are my present skills in this area and what evidence do I have of my development?
  • What skills can I improve?
  • What new skills can learn?

When specific ATL skills become an explicit focus for teaching and learning, students can begin to take responsibility for their own development. Over time, students can identify themselves and their competence in any learning strategy using terms like these:

  • Novice/ beginning – students are introduced to the skill and can watch others performing it (observation)
  • Learner/ developing – students copy others who use the skill and use the skill with scaffolding and guidance (emulation)
  • Practitioner/ using – students employ the skill confidently and effectively (demonstration)
  • Expert/ sharing – students can show others how to use the skill and accurately assess how effectively the skill is used (self-regulation)

A concept-based curriculum that uses ATL skills effectively enables all students to become stronger, more self-regulated learners.

 

COMMUNICATION

I Communication skills: Exchanging thoughts, messages, and information effectively through interaction

 

Inquiry focus: How can students communicate through interaction

  • -Give and receive meaningful feedback
  • -Use intercultural understanding to interpret communication
  • -Use a variety of speaking techniques to communicate with a variety of audiences
  • -Use appropriate forms of writing for different purposes and audiences
  • -Use a variety of media to communicate with a range of audiences
  • -Interpret and use effectively modes of non-verbal communication
  • -Negotiate ideas and knowledge with peers and teachers
  • -Participate in, and contribute to, digital social media networks
  • -Collaborate with peers and experts using a variety of digital environments and media
  • -Share ideas with multiple audiences using a variety of digital environments and media

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate communication through language?

  • -Reading, writing, and using language to gather and communicate information
  • -Read critically and for comprehension
  • -Read a variety of sources for information and for pleasure
  • -Make inferences and draw conclusions
  • -Use and interpret a range of discipline-specific terms and symbols
  • -Write and for different purposes
  • -Understand and use mathematical notation
  • -Paraphrase accurately and concisely
  • -Preview and skim texts to build understanding
  • -Take effective notes in class
  • -Make effective summary notes for studying
  • -Use a variety of organizers for academic writing tasks
  • -Find information for disciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiries, using a variety of media
  • -Organize and depict information logically
  • -Structure information in summaries, essays, and reports
  • -Understand and implement intellectual property
  • -Create references and citations, use footnotes/endnotes and construct a bibliography according to recognized conventions
  • -Identify primary and secondary sources
SOCIAL

II Collaboration skills: Working effectively with others

 

Inquiry focus: How can students collaborate?


- Use social media networks appropriately to build and develop relationships
- Practice empathy
- Delegate and share responsibility for decision-making
- Help others to succeed
- Take responsibility for one’s own actions
- Manage and resolve conflict and work collaboratively in teams
- Build consensus
- Make fair and equitable decisions
- Listen actively to other perspectives and ideas
- Negotiate effectively
- Encourage others to contribute
- Exercise leadership and take on a variety of roles within groups
- Give and receive meaningful feedback
- Advocate for your own rights and needs

SELF-MANAGEMENT

III Organization skills: Managing time and tasks effectively

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate organization skills?


- Plan short and long term assignments; meet deadlines
- Create plans to prepare for summative assessments (examinations and performances)
- Keep and use a weekly planner for assignments
- Set goals that are challenging and realistic
- Plan strategies and take action to achieve personal and academic goals
- Bring necessary equipment and supplies to class
- Keep an organized and logical system of information files/notebooks
- Use appropriate strategies for organizing complex information
- Understand and use sensory learning preferences (learning styles)
- Select and use technology effectively and productively

 

IV Affective skills: Managing state of mind

 

Inquiry focus: How can students manage their own state of mind?


- Mindfulness
- Practice focus and concentration
- Practice strategies to develop mental quiet
- Practice strategies to overcome distractions
- Perseverance
- Demonstrate persistence and perseverance
- Practice delaying gratification
- Emotional management
- Practice strategies to overcome impulsiveness and anger
- Practice strategies to prevent and eliminate bullying
- Practice strategies to reduce anxiety
- Practice being aware of body-mind connections
- Self-motivation
- Practice analyzing and attributing causes for failure
- Practice managing self-talk
- Practice positive thinking
- Resilience
- Practice ‘bouncing back’ after adversity, mistakes, and failures
- Practice ‘failing well’
- Practice dealing with disappointment and unmet expectations
- Practice dealing with change

 

V Reflection: (Re-)considering what has been learned; choosing and using ATL skills

 

Inquiry focus: How can students be reflective?


- Develop new skills, techniques, and strategies for effective learning
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of personal learning strategies (self-assessment)
- Demonstrate flexibility in the selection and use of learning strategies
- Try new approaches to learning and evaluate their effectiveness
- Consider content (What did I learn about today? What don’t I yet understand? What questions do I have now?)
- Consider ATL skills development (What can already do? How can I share my skills to help peers who need more practice? What will I work on next?)
- Consider personal learning strategies (How efficiently and effectively am I learning? What can I do to become a more efficient and effective learner? How can my understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses help me develop my own strategies for learning?)
- Consider ethical, cultural, and environmental implications
- Keep a journal to record reflections

RESEARCH

VI Information literacy: Finding, interpreting, judging and creating information

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate information literacy?

 

- Collect, record, and verify data
- Access information to be informed and inform others Make connections between various sources of information
- Understand the benefits and limitations of personal sensory learning preferences when accessing, processing and recalling information
- Use memory techniques to develop long term memory
- Present information in a variety of formats and platforms
- Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
- Process data and report results
- Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on their appropriateness to specific tasks
- Understand and use technology systems
- Use critical literacy skills to analyze and interpret media communications

 

VII Media literacy: Interacting with media to use and create ideas and information

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate media literacy?

- Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media [including digital social media and online networks]
- Demonstrate awareness of media interpretations of events and ideas [including digital social media]
- Make informed choices about personal viewing experiences
- Understand the impact of media representations and modes of presentation
- Seek a range of perspectives from multiple and varied sources
- Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
- Compare, contrast and draw connections among (multi)media resources

THINKING

VIII Critical thinking: Analyzing and evaluating issues and ideas

 

Inquiry focus: How can students think critically?


- Practice observing carefully in order to recognize problems
- Gather and organize relevant information to formulate an argument
- Recognize unstated assumptions and bias
- Interpret data Evaluate evidence and arguments
- Recognize and evaluate propositions
- Draw reasonable conclusions and generalizations
- Test generalizations and conclusions
- Revise understanding based on new information and evidence
- Evaluate and manage risk
- Formulate factual, topical, conceptual, and debatable questions
- Consider ideas from multiple perspectives
- Develop contrary or opposing arguments
- Analyze complex concepts and projects into their constituent parts and synthesize them to create a new understanding
- Propose and evaluate a variety of solutions
- Identify obstacles and challenges
- Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
- Identify trends and forecast possibilities
- Troubleshoot systems and applications

 

IX Creativity and innovation: The skills of invention – developing things and ideas that never existed before

 

Inquiry focus: How can students be creative?


- Use brainstorming and mind mapping to generate new ideas and inquiries
- Consider multiple alternatives, including those that might be unlikely or impossible
- Create novel solutions to complex problems
- Use lateral thinking to make unexpected connections
- Design improvements to existing machines, media, and technologies
- Design new machines, media, and technologies
- Make guesses and generate testable hypotheses
- Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes
- Create original works and ideas
- Practice flexible thinking – arguing both sides of an argument
- Use visible thinking strategies and techniques
- Propose metaphors and analogies

 

X Transfer Utilising skills and knowledge in multiple contexts

 

Inquiry focus: How can students transfer skills and knowledge among disciplines and subject groups?


- Utilize effective learning strategies in subject groups and disciplines
- Apply skills and knowledge in unfamiliar situations Inquire in different contexts to gain a different perspective
- Compare conceptual understanding across multiple subject groups and disciplines
- Make connections between subject groups and disciplines
- Combine knowledge, understanding, and skills to create products or solutions
- Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies
- Change the context of an inquiry to gain different perspectives

For more information on ATL and how our learning facilitators integrate ATL at all grade levels, feel free to reach out to our admissions department at admissions@williamsburgchristian.org.

Approaches to Learning (ATL)

One the key elements of WCA's International Baccalaureate curriculum is Approaches to Learning, or ATL. ATL training occurs weekly formally and every day informally at WCA.

Through approaches to learning, students develop skills that have relevance across the curriculum that help them “learn how to learn”. Approaches to learning skills can be learned and taught, improved with practice, and developed incrementally. They provide a solid foundation for learning independently and with others. ATL skills help students prepare for, and demonstrate learning through, meaningful assessment. They provide a common language that our students and learning facilitators can use to reflect on and articulate on the process of learning.

Approaches to learning are most powerful when learning facilitators plan and students engage with them in connection with significant and relevant content knowledge in order to develop transferable understanding. All learning facilitators in IB schools are responsible for integrating and explicitly teaching ATL skills.

The most effective way to develop approaches to learning is through ongoing, process-focused disciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Learning facilitators can use key and related concepts along with global contexts as vehicles for teaching effective learning strategies. Likewise, approaches to learning can be powerful tools for exploring significant content. This dual focus (content and process) promotes student engagement, deep understanding, transfer of skills and academic success.

Over time, our students develop clear and sophisticated understandings of how they learn best and how they can evaluate the effectiveness of their learning. This kind of self-regulated (independent and autonomous) learning helps students:

  • reflect purposefully on their learning (metacognition)
  • understand the diversity of human learning needs
  • evaluate and provide evidence of their learning
  • meet IB subject group aims and objectives
  • share responsibility for creating productive, cooperative and safe learning environments
  • develop the confidence to try new strategies and explore new concepts and contexts for learning
  • prepare for further study and responsible participation in local and global communities.

Developing student responsibility for ATL

Some of the key questions to be answered by students with respect to ATL skills include:

  • What are my present skills in this area and what evidence do I have of my development?
  • What skills can I improve?
  • What new skills can learn?

When specific ATL skills become an explicit focus for teaching and learning, students can begin to take responsibility for their own development. Over time, students can identify themselves and their competence in any learning strategy using terms like these:

  • Novice/ beginning – students are introduced to the skill and can watch others performing it (observation)
  • Learner/ developing – students copy others who use the skill and use the skill with scaffolding and guidance (emulation)
  • Practitioner/ using – students employ the skill confidently and effectively (demonstration)
  • Expert/ sharing – students can show others how to use the skill and accurately assess how effectively the skill is used (self-regulation)

A concept-based curriculum that uses ATL skills effectively enables all students to become stronger, more self-regulated learners.

 

COMMUNICATION

I Communication skills: Exchanging thoughts, messages, and information effectively through interaction

 

Inquiry focus: How can students communicate through interaction

  • -Give and receive meaningful feedback
  • -Use intercultural understanding to interpret communication
  • -Use a variety of speaking techniques to communicate with a variety of audiences
  • -Use appropriate forms of writing for different purposes and audiences
  • -Use a variety of media to communicate with a range of audiences
  • -Interpret and use effectively modes of non-verbal communication
  • -Negotiate ideas and knowledge with peers and teachers
  • -Participate in, and contribute to, digital social media networks
  • -Collaborate with peers and experts using a variety of digital environments and media
  • -Share ideas with multiple audiences using a variety of digital environments and media

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate communication through language?

  • -Reading, writing, and using language to gather and communicate information
  • -Read critically and for comprehension
  • -Read a variety of sources for information and for pleasure
  • -Make inferences and draw conclusions
  • -Use and interpret a range of discipline-specific terms and symbols
  • -Write and for different purposes
  • -Understand and use mathematical notation
  • -Paraphrase accurately and concisely
  • -Preview and skim texts to build understanding
  • -Take effective notes in class
  • -Make effective summary notes for studying
  • -Use a variety of organizers for academic writing tasks
  • -Find information for disciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiries, using a variety of media
  • -Organize and depict information logically
  • -Structure information in summaries, essays, and reports
  • -Understand and implement intellectual property
  • -Create references and citations, use footnotes/endnotes and construct a bibliography according to recognized conventions
  • -Identify primary and secondary sources
SOCIAL

II Collaboration skills: Working effectively with others

 

Inquiry focus: How can students collaborate?


- Use social media networks appropriately to build and develop relationships
- Practice empathy
- Delegate and share responsibility for decision-making
- Help others to succeed
- Take responsibility for one’s own actions
- Manage and resolve conflict and work collaboratively in teams
- Build consensus
- Make fair and equitable decisions
- Listen actively to other perspectives and ideas
- Negotiate effectively
- Encourage others to contribute
- Exercise leadership and take on a variety of roles within groups
- Give and receive meaningful feedback
- Advocate for your own rights and needs

SELF-MANAGEMENT

III Organization skills: Managing time and tasks effectively

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate organization skills?


- Plan short and long term assignments; meet deadlines
- Create plans to prepare for summative assessments (examinations and performances)
- Keep and use a weekly planner for assignments
- Set goals that are challenging and realistic
- Plan strategies and take action to achieve personal and academic goals
- Bring necessary equipment and supplies to class
- Keep an organized and logical system of information files/notebooks
- Use appropriate strategies for organizing complex information
- Understand and use sensory learning preferences (learning styles)
- Select and use technology effectively and productively

 

IV Affective skills: Managing state of mind

 

Inquiry focus: How can students manage their own state of mind?


- Mindfulness
- Practice focus and concentration
- Practice strategies to develop mental quiet
- Practice strategies to overcome distractions
- Perseverance
- Demonstrate persistence and perseverance
- Practice delaying gratification
- Emotional management
- Practice strategies to overcome impulsiveness and anger
- Practice strategies to prevent and eliminate bullying
- Practice strategies to reduce anxiety
- Practice being aware of body-mind connections
- Self-motivation
- Practice analyzing and attributing causes for failure
- Practice managing self-talk
- Practice positive thinking
- Resilience
- Practice ‘bouncing back’ after adversity, mistakes, and failures
- Practice ‘failing well’
- Practice dealing with disappointment and unmet expectations
- Practice dealing with change

 

V Reflection: (Re-)considering what has been learned; choosing and using ATL skills

 

Inquiry focus: How can students be reflective?


- Develop new skills, techniques, and strategies for effective learning
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of personal learning strategies (self-assessment)
- Demonstrate flexibility in the selection and use of learning strategies
- Try new approaches to learning and evaluate their effectiveness
- Consider content (What did I learn about today? What don’t I yet understand? What questions do I have now?)
- Consider ATL skills development (What can already do? How can I share my skills to help peers who need more practice? What will I work on next?)
- Consider personal learning strategies (How efficiently and effectively am I learning? What can I do to become a more efficient and effective learner? How can my understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses help me develop my own strategies for learning?)
- Consider ethical, cultural, and environmental implications
- Keep a journal to record reflections

RESEARCH

VI Information literacy: Finding, interpreting, judging and creating information

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate information literacy?

 

- Collect, record, and verify data
- Access information to be informed and inform others Make connections between various sources of information
- Understand the benefits and limitations of personal sensory learning preferences when accessing, processing and recalling information
- Use memory techniques to develop long term memory
- Present information in a variety of formats and platforms
- Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
- Process data and report results
- Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on their appropriateness to specific tasks
- Understand and use technology systems
- Use critical literacy skills to analyze and interpret media communications

 

VII Media literacy: Interacting with media to use and create ideas and information

 

Inquiry focus: How can students demonstrate media literacy?

- Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media [including digital social media and online networks]
- Demonstrate awareness of media interpretations of events and ideas [including digital social media]
- Make informed choices about personal viewing experiences
- Understand the impact of media representations and modes of presentation
- Seek a range of perspectives from multiple and varied sources
- Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
- Compare, contrast and draw connections among (multi)media resources

THINKING

VIII Critical thinking: Analyzing and evaluating issues and ideas

 

Inquiry focus: How can students think critically?


- Practice observing carefully in order to recognize problems
- Gather and organize relevant information to formulate an argument
- Recognize unstated assumptions and bias
- Interpret data Evaluate evidence and arguments
- Recognize and evaluate propositions
- Draw reasonable conclusions and generalizations
- Test generalizations and conclusions
- Revise understanding based on new information and evidence
- Evaluate and manage risk
- Formulate factual, topical, conceptual, and debatable questions
- Consider ideas from multiple perspectives
- Develop contrary or opposing arguments
- Analyze complex concepts and projects into their constituent parts and synthesize them to create a new understanding
- Propose and evaluate a variety of solutions
- Identify obstacles and challenges
- Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
- Identify trends and forecast possibilities
- Troubleshoot systems and applications

 

IX Creativity and innovation: The skills of invention – developing things and ideas that never existed before

 

Inquiry focus: How can students be creative?


- Use brainstorming and mind mapping to generate new ideas and inquiries
- Consider multiple alternatives, including those that might be unlikely or impossible
- Create novel solutions to complex problems
- Use lateral thinking to make unexpected connections
- Design improvements to existing machines, media, and technologies
- Design new machines, media, and technologies
- Make guesses and generate testable hypotheses
- Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes
- Create original works and ideas
- Practice flexible thinking – arguing both sides of an argument
- Use visible thinking strategies and techniques
- Propose metaphors and analogies

 

X Transfer Utilising skills and knowledge in multiple contexts

 

Inquiry focus: How can students transfer skills and knowledge among disciplines and subject groups?


- Utilize effective learning strategies in subject groups and disciplines
- Apply skills and knowledge in unfamiliar situations Inquire in different contexts to gain a different perspective
- Compare conceptual understanding across multiple subject groups and disciplines
- Make connections between subject groups and disciplines
- Combine knowledge, understanding, and skills to create products or solutions
- Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies
- Change the context of an inquiry to gain different perspectives

For more information on ATL and how our learning facilitators integrate ATL at all grade levels, feel free to reach out to our admissions department at admissions@williamsburgchristian.org.
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