The International Baccalaureate (IB) values education more as the transformation of personal
understanding and the collaborative construction of meaning, and less as the transmission of knowledge
and rote memorization of facts. Consequently, conceptual understanding is a significant and enduring goal
for teaching and learning in IB programmes.
IB programmes offer curriculum frameworks and courses that are broad and balanced, conceptual and
connected. In the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and MYP curriculum frameworks, students engage with
a defined set of key and related concepts.
A concept is a big idea—a principle or conception that is enduring, the significance of which goes beyond
aspects such as particular origins, subject matter or place in time (Wiggins and McTighe 1998). Concepts
represent the vehicle for students’ inquiry into issues and ideas of personal, local and global significance,
providing the means by which the essence of a subject can be explored.
Concepts have an essential place in the structure of knowledge. They require students to demonstrate
levels of thinking that reach beyond facts or topics. Concepts are used to formulate the understandings that
students should retain in the future; they become principles and generalizations that students can use to
understand the world and to succeed in further study and in life beyond school.
The exploration and re-exploration of concepts lead students towards:
- deeper understanding of the subject group
- appreciation of ideas that transcend disciplinary boundaries
- engagement with complex ideas, including the ability to transfer and apply ideas and skills to new
situations (Erickson 2008).
The structure of conceptual understanding in the MYP
MYP programme design uses two kinds of concepts.
- Key concepts are powerful, abstract ideas that have many dimensions and definitions.
- Related concepts promote depth of learning and add coherence to the understanding of academic subjects and disciplines.
MYP Key concepts
|Perspective||Relationships||Time, place and space||Systems|
IBO From Principles into Practice