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What (on earth) is a Transdisciplinary Programme of Inquiry?

At International School Utrecht we offer a transdisciplinary programme of inquiry. What exactly do we mean by this? It is a connected programme, which crosses the boundaries of ‘traditional’ school subjects to offer students a broad, balanced, conceptual and connected learning experience.

-by Lindsey Dudgeon, Leader of Primary Years

There are 6 transdisciplinary themes to explore human commonalities that are significant and relevant across cultures, geographic regions and student learning stages. That is why the same themes recur in every grade level (KG-grade 5) in an age-appropriate way.  

The programme of inquiry is a long-term plan that provides students with the opportunities to evolve their theories, address misconceptions and deepen understandings. Throughout the programme they build upon what they have learned in previous years, extending their understanding of the recurring themes as they revisit them throughout the early and primary years of education.

Knowledge, conceptual understandings and skills

A well-designed programme of inquiry ensures students gain a balance of subject-specific knowledge and conceptual understandings and skills. Alongside this they get familiar and develop the IB learner profile attributes and learn what it means to take action. Each unit of inquiry is planned by the whole grade level team and is continually modified based on student and teacher reflections. This means that the programme is constantly evolving.

The programme of inquiry consists of 6 transdisciplinary units of inquiry that include:

  • a central idea— the primary conceptual understanding that defines the unit
  • concepts—key and related concepts that support higher-order thinking and provide lenses for considering knowledge related to the central idea in a range of ways
  • lines of inquiry—statements that define the potential scope of an inquiry.

Integrated subjects

Mathematics, Language and other subjects play an important role in transdisciplinary units of inquiry as they can determine, support, enrich and connect learning. For example, a unit about Materials, includes writing of procedural texts such as a lab report (language), data handling (mathematics), material and matter (science) and resources and the environment (social studies).

When we integrate subjects within the programme of inquiry, it ensures that the expertise and collaborative effort of the learning community are integral to supporting students to construct, unite and transform knowledge.

Source: IB document “Learning and Teaching”

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