Approaches to Teaching

Approaches to Teaching: Teaching Based on Inquiry

Explore specific ATL Categories by clicking on the page tab.

You can download a series of resources that I have used on ATL PD sessions here: Download 1. Download 2. Download 3.

Follow this hashtag on twitter #ApproachTTL

In one statement, Approaches to Teaching and Learning (AtTL) are a buffet of opportunities.

Considering that we have been living in the 21th century for over 10 years now, it is becoming rather unnecessary to refer to important skills of the present as 21th century skills; the skills required in this ever-changing time need to find a balance between the information and data we know and our ability to apply them in order to produce something new. When the added value to learning has to do with the diversity of skills, we must wonder: what can we do with what we know?

Considering that there is no trial without error, it is important to create learning experiences where students are exposed to unfamiliar situations where they test the extent to which they can employ the skills they use to solve a problem or to propose work strategies. Those students who can access their knowledge in various ways will have more advantages and also an impact over their peers.

Instead of asking students to memorize data, to regurgitate, and to handle information to pass exams, we should be encouraging to:

1. Pose new problems in the learning experience, as problem posing more important than problem solving.

2. Ask the right question, as this will enable them to obtain the best answer that will help them further their understanding.

3. Collaboration across networks and subjects; aiming at leading by influence, demonstrating how deeply they understand the diversity and complexity of a theme.

4.Be agile and adaptable; for progress in a classroom does not wait for anyone; and because opportunities to be a part of progress and to contribute to it can easily be gone.

5. Have initiative and entrepreneurship, for they are able to redirect the course of learning and help improve the process.

I heard a colleague of mine say that ‘students do not know how to write not because they are using word processors and writing apps, but because they do not know how to reason, because they do not have a voice’; and this absence is due to the fact these are not explicitly fostered in formative tasks/assessments but are required in summative ones. Not a very valid practice in assessment terms.

This is the part where keeping an array of AtTL is the key; since we will have different strategies to help students understand where is the bias in the documents they read; we will encourage them to access their prior knowledge; we will surround them with possibilities to iterate in every project; we will urge them to evaluate information, to reflect, to share, and to express thoughts that innovate by integrating ideas that cross subject boundaries.

Most importantly, students must have the forum to document their learning experiences, to contrast them with those of others, and celebrate their success. In the present, knowledge should not stay confined in the classroom.

Approaches to teaching and learning in the IB

There are six main pedagogical principles that underpin IB programs. Teaching in IB programs is:

a) Based on inquiry

b) Focused on conceptual understanding

c) Developed in local and global contexts

d) Focused on effective teamwork and collaboration

e) Differentiated to meet the needs of all learners

f) Informed by assessment (formative and summative)

 (From: Towards a continuum of international education)

Teaching with ATL in mind

Approaches to Teaching and Learning (AtTL) refer to the learning environments teachers need to generate in order for students to explore a variety of ways of leaning, and to explore different ways to access, construct and study the structure of knowledge. 

Teaching with ATL in mind needs to begin with a clear and explicit identification of what types of skills and dispositions are trying to be developed.

In general terms, the development of every ATL skill can follow the same seven steps.

1. Decide which particular and specific skills are going to be focused on in your classroom/subject/ department/school.

2. Make the skills to be focused on explicit by clear description of each skill and by using examples of high and low skills proficiency.

3. Allow the students to self-assess their perceived competence in the skills in question.

4. Analyze the class results obtained looking in particular for any general skills deficiencies across the class.

5. Develop mini-lessons or tutorials or find online exercises for students to complete to bring all students up to the same skill level.

6. Build into subject lessons exercises that enable students to practice and improve the skills in focus.

7. Ask the students to continue to self-assess their proficiency.

Teaching with the development of ATL skills in mind impacts significantly on the wider pedagogical approach adopted by teachers, and in particular on how teachers view their role in the classroom. Teacher regulation of student learning is sometimes described in a continuum from strong, through shared, to loose regulation.

(From: Approaches to teaching and learning in the IB Pilot: 2013-2014)

Approaches to Learning (ATL)

ATL are key when constructing the appropriate learning environment in IB Inquiry-based classrooms. You will know that ATLs are implemented appropriately when:

•   Everybody is doing something

•   Feels like being in a comfortable place

•   Students are engaged

•   There is an emphasis in working in groups or pairs

•   The class is not teacher-centered

•   The teacher moves around the groups

•   It is a stimulating environment

•   Shared control between teacher and students

•   Students make connections between their past experiences, context and the content studied 

•   Students are encouraged to be curious about the world

•   Promotion of autonomy in learning

•   Students asking and answering their own questions

•   Fun problem solving

(Conclusion from the MYP NC Upskilling workshop)

You can evaluate how effectively you add, modify, adapt a learning experience through this lengthy self-evaluation, by Jack C. Richards and David Bohlke.

Below is a collection activities representing different strategies to work in the classroom. While many of them are clearly exemplifying foreign language classes, hopefully they can be adapted to other subjects.

Question strategies

Costa’s House Levels of Questions.
The question Mark (site).

Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of problem solving. Students learn both thinking strategies and domain knowledge


The Frayer Model

The Frayer Model is a visual organizer that helps students understand key words and concepts.
The Frayer Model is a chart with four sections which can hold a definition, some characteristics/facts, examples and non-examples of the word/concept.

Gunawaderna Model 

The Gunawaderna Model is based on electronic discussion lists that foster a sense of interaction with the teacher, with the contents, with the other students and the sociocultural context in which the activity occurs. In that sense, the interaction and idea sharing influence the quality of teaching and learning (McIsaac and Gunawardena, 1996).

Phase I. Share and compare information
Phase II. Discover and explore dissonance or inconsistency of ideas, concepts or statements.
Phase III. Negotiate meaning / co-construction of knowledge.
Phase IV. Testing and modification of proposed synthesis or co-construction.
Phase V. Articulate and implement new agreements build meanings.
Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 11.39.02 pm

Collaborative Learning


Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.
  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.
  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.

Online Resources for Kendall & Marzano’s Taxonomy’s Strategies

Site includes definitions and summaries of the nine strategies and links to support tools for teaching the strategies.

Marzano webquest with video-clips.

Site includes video learning clips in all subjects and are short extensions to enhance any lesson. Lots of free video clips here.
An Academic Vocabulary website developed by the Tennessee Department of Education that has vocabulary lists by grade and subjects K-12, vocabulary cards and templates, word games, board game templates, game shows and more.
English Companion. com has many literacy tools that are supported by Marzano’s research.
A complete Academic Vocabulary list that all teachers will find useful. 

Click HERE to access any CRISS template for use when teaching the metacognitive CRISS strategies. 

Methods, techniques and strategies 

Differentiation strategies

ATL strategies for students who need specific accommodations 

World Languages Learning Activity Types

The 33 Digital Skills every 21st Century Teacher Should Have

Online-Study Skills.



2 Responses to Approaches to Teaching

  1. Ritu says:

    very interesting and informative…

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