Changes in the new guide: 'Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP'

What are the major changes in the new guide?
Updated Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP guide! Check the publication date: February 2021 (Updated July 2021). Note that the 'For use from' date on the cover of the guide will not change. The update month is indicated in parentheses on the publication page of the pdf.)

What is the same?

While the guide has changed, many foundational aspects of MYP interdisciplinary teaching and learning remain the same:
  • In each year of the programme, schools:
    • are responsible for engaging students in a minimum of one formal interdisciplinary unit (IDU)
    • must address every strand of all interdisciplinary objectives at least once
  • The IB encourages schools to make connections between the learning in different subject groups so that students are exposed to a more integrated learning experience throughout their journey in the MYP, even when this is not assessed in a formal IDU. For example, connections can be developed in:
    • the exploration of concepts
    • content topics, knowledge and skills
    • ATL (approaches to learning) skill development
  • Formal interdisciplinary units need to involve substantive, distinct disciplinary learning experiences, and explicit interdisciplinary learning experiences. (See the Disciplinary grounding and Interdisciplinary learning experiences and teaching strategies pages of this guide for more details.)

Significant changes

However, there are a number of significant clarifications and changes that will impact both existing IDUs and IDUs developed in the future. One of the most consequential changes is in the objectives and corresponding criteria. (See the Interdisciplinary summative task page of this guide regarding the application of the assessment criteria.)
There are now three interdisciplinary objectives, each with two descriptor strands.
Points to remember about the objectives:
"The three objectives for interdisciplinary learning work together in a holistic process that envisions students engaging all three criteria in every formal interdisciplinary unit. In practice, teachers may highlight specific objectives for some units in order to develop students’ skills and provide formative feedback for subsequent, more complex units. For students in MYP years 1–3 especially, it may be appropriate to introduce criteria separately to allow for a specific focus on one of the objectives in a given unit. Teachers might scaffold the approach to an objective so that their students can reach the highest achievement levels in subsequent units.
Only when all three objectives are addressed in a unit of work are all the aims of interdisciplinary learning met. Working collaboratively, teachers should design summative assessment tasks (performances of understanding) that address multiple objectives whenever possible." - Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP
The two objectives that will require the biggest shift in thinking about IDU development are objectives B and C. In order to address these new objectives it is particularly important for the teachers involved in developing an IDU to design their units to include:
  • an authentic purpose for bringing the subjects or disciplines together. This purpose could often involve a real-world challenge or problem that requires the content and perspectives of multiple subjects/disciplines in order to understand it and consider or take action to address it (objective Cii),
  • and a product or outcome that students can develop to meaningfully impact that issue or problem (objective Bi).
"Interdisciplinary units represent a unique opportunity for schools to integrate service learning meaningfully into the classroom. Service as action experiences developed through interdisciplinary units empower students to learn the value of community participation and gain a deeper understanding of the real-world issues facing their immediate surroundings.
"The real focus should be on providing an education that cultivates the skills and abilities in students to channel learning and experience into purposeful action and participation." - Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP
In some cases, the idea for the real-world challenge or problem might be inspired by current events or issues in the local, national or global community. In other cases, the idea might originate in a particularly relevant concept, set of concepts or a global context. Whatever provides the seed of the idea for an IDU, the content and perspectives of the participating subjects/disciplines need to be integral to understanding and responding to the inquiries, and to developing a meaningful product or outcome.

Other changes

"Forms of Integration" have been removed from the new guide.
The previously provided forms of connection between subjects may still provide inspiration for developing IDUs. However, existing IDUs will need to be reviewed, and revised if need be, to ensure that they allow students to address the new objectives. The summative tasks in existing units will also need to be reviewed and revised to allow students to demonstrate their learning in ways that can be assessed with the new criteria.
A formal interdisciplinary unit must involve at least two disciplines, either from the same subject group or from different subject groups.
Previously, formal IDUs were required to involve at least two subject groups. The new guidelines allow disciplines within the same subject group to develop IDUs. Remember, however, that the students experiencing an IDU should be enrolled in both/all of the disciplines participating in the unit. (See the FAQ page in this guide for a potential, unique situation in which this could be more flexible.)
Concurrent IDUs are strongly encouraged. But non-concurrent IDUs are allowed if concurrent teaching and learning is not possible due to curriculum sequencing requirements or scheduling.
  • Concurrent: The disciplinary learning processes occur during the same time frame.
  • Non-concurrent: The disciplinary learning processes occur at different times during the year.
Concurrent IDUs are strongly encouraged because this structure allows students to consider the strengths and limitations of the contributions of each subject side-by-side, and to synthesize the learning while it is still fresh in their minds. Concurrency also allows the teachers involved in the unit to collaborate and adapt the unit content and schedule more readily as student needs arise.