Disciplinary grounding

How can the disciplinary learning processes be structured in an IDU?

"Disciplinary grounding is necessary to ensure that students can effectively achieve interdisciplinary understanding. This section identifies significant discipline-specific content. (Content may include methods, tools, theories, knowledge or forms of communication from relevant disciplines that are necessary to develop interdisciplinary understanding as expressed in the unit’s statement of inquiry.)" - Evaluating MYP interdisciplinary unit plans

Disciplinary grounding

In an interdisciplinary unit plan, 'disciplinary grounding' includes:

  • disciplinary objectives

  • disciplinary related concepts (optional)

    • Teachers may identify disciplinary related concepts that are intended to strengthen disciplinary grounding through exploration during the relevant disciplinary learning process.

  • disciplinary content

    • This can include school-based, national or programmatic standards and the specific disciplinary factual, conceptual and procedural knowledge that is explored in the unit to support the unit's integrative purpose.

  • disciplinary learning experiences and teaching strategies

  • discipline-specific summative assessment (optional)

Details to remember

  • Each subject participating in an IDU needs to contribute substantive content that supports the integrated purpose of the unit.

    • If there are additional subjects that are more peripheral to the purpose, but could add valuable insights or skills that could complement students' interdisciplinary understanding, those subjects could create those "connections" with the formal IDU during their class times, but would not necessarily need to be included in the planning and assessment of the formal IDU. Such connections are valuable for student learning and are valued by the IB.

  • Number of subjects (or disciplines within a subject) involved in an IDU:

    • There is no maximum number of subjects that can be involved in an IDU. However, it may be best to begin developing IDUs by involving just two subjects. This can streamline the planning, implementation, and assessment processes as teachers and students develop their understanding of MYP interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

    • If more than two subjects are included in an IDU, the logistics and time involved in planning the unit, collaborating during the unit and collaboratively assessing students' interdisciplinary tasks needs to be carefully considered.

  • Structuring the disciplinary learning processes:

    • In a formal MYP IDU, there needs to be distinct disciplinary learning in each participating subject. Students need to develop solid disciplinary grounding and consciously consider the strengths and limitations of each subject's contribution as they synthesize their learning in an interdisciplinary learning process. The disciplinary learning processes can occur concurrently or non-concurrently.

      • Concurrently: In concurrent IDUs, the disciplinary learning processes in the participating subjects occur during the same time frame in the year. Concurrent IDUs are strongly encouraged as this structure allows students to consider the strengths and limitations of the contributions of each subject or discipline side-by-side, and to synthesize the learning while it is still fresh in their minds. Concurrency also allows:

        • students to inquire into the unit's shared inquiry questions during similar times in the learning process and compare the perspectives of each subject.

          • Inquiry into the shared inquiry questions does not need to occur on exactly the same day. Teachers can ask students to reflect back on the other subject(s) inquiries into the shared questions and consider the similarities and differences.

        • the teachers involved in the unit to collaborate and adapt the unit content and schedule more readily as student needs arise.

      • Non-concurrently: In non-concurrent IDUs, the disciplinary learning processes occur at different times during the year. An example of one way to structure a non-concurrent IDU is provided in Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP.

    • See the FAQs page of the eBook for information about planning an IDU that occurs during an off-timetable, extended immersion experience.


In this guide, a language and literature and sciences interdisciplinary unit is used to illustrate one example of what each unit plan section could look like using the provided guidance. Below are the disciplinary grounding sections of that unit.

This example IDU uses a 'concurrent' disciplinary learning process; both subjects are involved in separate disciplinary learning experiences during the same time frame. The unit begins with an interdisciplinary introduction to the unit (See the Interdisciplinary learning experiences and teaching strategies page in this guide), then proceeds to disciplinary learning, and then ends with interdisciplinary learning and development of the summative tasks.


In the example interdisciplinary unit plan section below, the disciplinary content is described through MYP disciplinary objectives, disciplinary related concepts (in purple font), and disciplinary prior learning, and factual, conceptual and procedural knowledge. In other schools, local, national or programmatic standards might also be included.

Check the disciplinary grounding content sections through the descriptors (shown below) from the IB publication Evaluating MYP interdisciplinary unit plans. (For clarity in this guide, these descriptors are divided into two sections- disciplinary content, and learning process.)

Does the disciplinary content included in the unit plan:

Learning experiences and teaching strategies

In this sample IDU, the learning process is sequentially structured through the unit's shared inquiry questions. It is separated here on this page into three parts to facilitate taking screen shots of the original document.

The format for structuring the outline of the learning experiences and teaching strategies is a school-based decision. There are a range of potential sequential outline formats. A few options might be: Lesson plans organized by days, weeks, in learning stages, by topics, or in a table format with columns for content, learning experiences, differentiation methods, and formative assessment.

Check the disciplinary learning experiences and teaching strategies sections through the descriptors (shown below) from the IB publication Evaluating MYP interdisciplinary unit plans.

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