There are many elements of MYP interdisciplinary teaching and learning that carry forward in the new IB guide to Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP (first teaching September 2021). There are also some impactful differences that will need to be considered as previous IDUs are redeveloped and new IDUs created.

Here are five key questions to focus on as you start using the new guide:

1. What is the reason for developing the IDU?

Interdisciplinary teaching and learning connects disciplines to develop new understanding, create products or address real-world issues in ways that would have been unlikely through a single approach. – Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP

Impact on ID unit planning:

  • There needs to be a meaningful reason for seeking a synthesis between intentionally selected subjects or disciplines. This means that an authentic purpose for developing an IDU will most likely be identified prior to determining which subjects or disciplines could most meaningfully contribute to that purpose.
  • Example: We would like students to understand and take action to address a specific current event or issue (Black Lives Matter, Global Pandemic, Refugee Crisis, Climate Change, etc).

2. What will each participating subject contribute to the synthesis?

Interdisciplinary teaching and learning is grounded in individual subject groups and disciplines but extends disciplinary understanding in ways that are integrative and purposeful. Interdiscipl
inary learning is oriented towards bringing together concepts, methods or modes of communication from two or more established areas of expertise to develop new perspectives. – Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP

Impact on ID unit planning:

  • Each participating subject must contribute substantive and identifiably different perspectives and areas of knowledge to the integrated purpose of the unit. These perspectives and content elements need to be clearly and succinctly described in the “Purpose of integration” section of the unit plan.

3. What synthesized product or outcome (objective Bi) will students create?

Interdisciplinary teaching and learning engages students with authentic tasks that they will be expected to perform as citizens and contributors to society. – Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP

The new guide also poses these questions to guide the development of an IDU’s product or outcome, through which objective Bi is addressed:

  • Can the product or outcome(s) of the summative task(s) create a real-world impact?
  • Does the summative task(s) allow students to connect with and influence a real-world audience?
  • Does this task(s) allow students to be agents of change in creating a more sustainable, interconnected and peaceful world?

Impact on ID unit planning:

  • The synthesis of disciplinary perspectives and content needs to result in a useful product or outcome that has a real-world audience and impact. The synthesis and synthesized product or outcome also needs to be clearly and succinctly described in the “Purpose of integration” section of the unit plan.

4. How will students demonstrate their thinking and understanding?

MYP interdisciplinary units are intended to provide opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of potential differences in and connections between knowledge areas. They also provide structured opportunities for students to broaden and transfer their understanding of concepts and conceptual relationships across subjects/disciplines.

Objectives Ai, ii; Bii; Ci, ii require students to communicate their thinking about their disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning. The command terms for these objectives are: analyze, evaluate, justify, and discuss.

Impact on ID unit planning:

  • The ways in which students will be supported in developing these higher order cognitive processing skills need to be clearly outlined in the description of the learning experiences, and the tasks that will allow students to summatively demonstrate these skills need to be carefully framed.

5. How will the learning process be structured?

Disciplinary teaching and learning experiences focus more narrowly on grounding students in the ideas and modes of thinking of a particular discipline. Interdisciplinary teaching and learning experiences allow students to begin to connect and draw on disciplines in an integrated way. This structure of clearly distinguishing the disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning engagements can support students in the metacognitive process of considering how we come to know, understand and take action on a topic, issue or problem. – Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP

Impact on ID unit planning:

  • There needs to be clearly outlined disciplinary learning in each participating subject or discipline. There also needs to be clearly outlined interdisciplinary learning.

Would you like to learn more about MYP interdisciplinary teaching and learning?

Read our Blog to find out how ManageBac is developing Interdisciplinary Unit Planning and Assessment for the new guide.

Join the author of this blog post and a cohort of global educators to take an in-depth look at the what, why and how of interdisciplinary unit planning, and consider how the changes in the new guide will impact your units!

Join MYP Virtual Professional Learning Community

Also coming soon: A section-by-section guide to MYP interdisciplinary unit planning, including an example unit plan that illustrates how each section of an IDU could be developed!


About the author:

Diane Smith

Diane Smith
Independent Education Consultant
Hawaii, USA

Diane Smith has been a senior reviewer and reviewer with the Building Quality Curriculum (BQC) service since it began in 2015. She developed the first training of BQC IDU reviewers and has contributed to the recent revision of the MYP Interdisciplinary teaching and learning guide and the new interdisciplinary teacher support materials on the MYP Program resource centre. After more than 25 years in education and 13 years as an MYP coordinator, Diane is currently an active MYP IBEN member and independent MYP consultant.