Approaches to learning

How can ATL (approaches to learning) skills be selected and described in a unit plan?

ATL selection

"Teachers should select the specific ATL skills that students will develop through their engagement with the interdisciplinary unit.

Teachers need to ask themselves,

  • What skills are identified and integrated with:

    • the unit’s objectives

    • learning engagements

    • and assessment tasks?

  • What skill [indicators] are explicitly taught and what specific strategies are practised?" -Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP

  • In all MYP units, specific ATL skill indicators need to be selected to support students in three potential aspects of a unit:

    • achieving the unit’s identified disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary objectives/criteria

    • effectively participating in the unit’s disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary learning experiences

    • effectively completing the unit’s disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary assessment tasks

  • It is also important to consider including ATL skills that:

    • offer students opportunities to develop responsibility for their own learning through independent practice

    • support a clearly identified progression of learning across MYP years through their articulation within and across subject groups, year levels, school-wide plans (documented in the school’s ATL chart)

  • The Approaches to learning skill indicators identified in MYP: From principles into practice and MYP Interdisciplinary teaching and learning are examples, not prescribed or exhaustive requirements.

"The MYP extends IB approaches to learning (ATL) skills categories into 10 developmentally appropriate clusters. This framework provides common ground from which schools can develop their own ATL planning [of skill indicators and strategies] based on MYP units, student needs, and local circumstances and requirements." -Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP

Schools need to develop their own ATL chart that identifies a progression of skill indicators and skill strategies in each skill cluster that students develop across their years in the MYP (and if the school includes additional IB programmes, across their years in the continuum of IB programmes).

In Managebac, schools can customize the lists of skill indicators identified in the tick-box selections to align with the school's ATL skills framework.

Number of ATL skill indicators to explicitly develop in a unit

The number of skill indicators selected to explicitly develop in a unit depends on a variety of factors, such as the length of the unit, the nature of the learning experiences and summative tasks, students' prior knowledge and current needs, and the complexity of the skill strategies included. To find that 'just right' number, the following considerations may be helpful.

  • Too few

    • If a more complex research skill indicator, such as 'analyse and evaluate sources from a variety of sources' is identified, the explicit teaching and practice of the use of a strategy such as 'OPCVL' might be the only skill that can effectively be included in a unit.

    • However, if skill indicators involving simpler skill strategies are identified for a unit, one or two skills could be 'too few', and there may be missed opportunities for skill building.

  • Too many

    • The length of the unit needs to allow time for explicit teaching, practice and feedback on students' progress in developing proficiency in the skill strategy/strategies. Clearly identifying when and how each skill strategy is taught and practiced in the description of the learning process can help teachers gauge whether or not they have included too many ATL skills in a particular unit.

Description of ATL skills in the unit plan

In this section of the unit planner, teachers need to identify the skill category and cluster of each approaches to learning skill indicator that will be explicitly taught and practiced during the unit.

  • A description also needs to be provided that:

    • explains the aspect of the unit that each identified skill indicator is intended to support:

      • a specific disciplinary or interdisciplinary objective strand,

      • a specific learning experience

      • or a specific element of an assessment task

    • identifies the specific skill strategy(ies) that is explicitly taught and practiced

    • clarifies when and how the strategy(ies) is taught and practiced. These details can be provided in the ATL section of the unit planner and/or in the description of the disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning processes.


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 is the ATL section of that unit.

Note that, in the ManageBac 'Description' text box, schools can customize the format of the description of how each ATL skill indicator is supported in a unit.

This example illustrates one possible format. In this example, each skill indicator is underlined and described in terms of the element of the unit it is intended to support. Specific skill strategies are also identified for each skill indicator. The descriptions of when and how each skill strategy is explicitly taught and practices are provided in the applicable learning process sections of the unit plan.

Check the approaches to learning skills through the descriptors (shown below) from the IB publication Evaluating MYP interdisciplinary unit plans.

Last updated