International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme » Approaches to Learning (ATL)

Approaches to Learning (ATL)

Through ATL in IB programmes, students develop skills that have relevance across the curriculum that help them “learn how to learn”. ATL 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 students and teachers can use to reflect on, and articulate on, the process of learning.

IB programmes identify five ATL skill categories, expanded into developmentally appropriate skill clusters.

ATL skill categories MYP ATL skill clusters
Communication I. Communication
Social II. Collaboration
Self-management III. Organization
IV. Affective
V. Reflection
Research VI. Information literacy
VII. Media literacy
Thinking VIII. Critical thinking
IX. Creative thinking
X. Transfer

The focus of ATL in the MYP is on helping students to develop the self-knowledge and skills they need to enjoy a lifetime of learning. ATL skills empower students to succeed in meeting the challenging objectives of MYP subject groups and prepare them for further success in rigorous academic programmes like the DP and the CP.

In the MYP, ATL encompasses both general and discipline-specific skills. Many ATL skills are applicable to all MYP subject groups; these general “tools for learning” can be tailored to meet the specific needs of students and schools. In order to develop ATL skills that facilitate effective and efficient learning, students need models, clear expectations, developmental benchmarks (or targets) and multiple opportunities to practise. While ATL skills are not formally assessed in the MYP, they contribute to students’ achievement in all subject groups. Teachers should provide students with regular, specific feedback on the development of ATL skills through learning engagements and provide formative assessment.

The most effective way to develop ATL is through ongoing, process-focused disciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Teachers can use a wide range of content, developed through MYP key and related concepts and global contexts, as a vehicle for teaching effective learning strategies. Likewise, ATL skills can be powerful tools for exploring significant content. This dual focus (content and process, knowledge and skills) promotes student engagement, deep understanding, transfer of skills and academic success.

All teachers in MYP schools are responsible for integrating and explicitly teaching ATL skills.

Over time, students should 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 MYP 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.

ATL skills are informed by, and support the development of, the attributes of the IB learner profile.