ATL or Approaches to Teaching and Learning. Hopefully, this will not be a new phrase or acronym to you and that your teachers will have exposed you to it…. But what is it?

Well, ATL has been part of IB for at least 18 months and most probably even longer than that. It’s the idea that the IB does not only tell your teachers what to teach (ie, the curriculum) but also how they should teach it (that’s the Approaches to Teaching) and how you (the student) should go about learning it (that’s the Approaches to Learning).

Are you aware of this?

I have chosen my words above carefully, this is not something that is only applied to the diploma programme, it should permeate the whole IB programme, from PYP to MYP.

So the big question for you is ‘what are the approaches to learning? And do I employ them?’

To answer your question, approaches to learning focus on the following 5 key skills:

  1. Thinking Skills:
    The IB breaks down thinking skills into acquisition of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and meta-cognition (thinking about thinking).
  2. Communication Skills:
    These can be categorised as listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, presenting, non verbal and seeking feedback.
  3. Social Skills:
    The IB has listed social skills as comprising of acting responsibly, respecting others, cooperating, resolving conflict, group decision making and engaging different points of view.
  4. Self Management Skills:
    This skill area deals with organisation, time management, safety, lifestyle, behaviour, informed choices, seeking support if needed.
  5. Research Skills:
    Perhaps one of the most important skills for chemistry. The IB lists this skill as dealing with formulating questions, observing, planning, organizing data, interpreting data, presenting findings.

By Kokcharov – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Like most things in education, you will probably find that you do some of these skills very well but others not so well. In my opinion, you should, try to broaden your learning skills by focusing more on skills that you don’t do so well ….

But this should not be to the detriment of your studies. There is the idea that if you are happy with your progress so far in the diploma, keep doing what you are doing! If it is not broken, don’t fix it!

However, if you are not making the progress you would like, it could well be worth focusing on one of these skill areas that is not being utilized to its fullest. You may be surprised with the results!

What are your experiences with the Approaches to Learning? I’d love to hear about them, so please fell to leave information below.