A Concept Driven Curriculum

Central to the philosophy of the PYP is the principle that purposeful, structured inquiry is a powerful vehicle for learning that promotes meaning and understanding, and challenges students to engage with significant
ideas. Therefore, in the PYP there is also a commitment to a concept-driven curriculum as a means of supporting that inquiry.
The PYP provides a framework for the curriculum, including eight key concepts as one of the essential elements. It is accepted that these are not, in any sense, the only concepts worth exploring. Taken together, they form a powerful curriculum component that inspires the teacher- and/or student-constructed inquiries that lie at the heart of the PYP curriculum.
Form: What is it like?
Function: How does it work?
Causation: Why is it like it is?
Change: How is it changing?
Connection: How is it connected to other things?
Perspective: What are the points of view?
Responsibility: What is our responsibility?
Reflection: How do we know?
By identifying concepts that have relevance within each subject area, and across and beyond the subject areas, the PYP has defined an essential element for supporting its transdisciplinary model of teaching and learning. Expressed as open-ended questions, the eight key concepts provide the initial momentum and the underlying structure for the exploration of the content of the whole programme. For example, asking “What are the points of view?” is a common practice in IB World Schools offering the PYP. It broadens the thinking of students as they take that first essential step towards international-mindedness—expressing a curiosity about and a willingness to consider another’s perspective.
All teachers refer to these questions during the process of collaborative planning, which is required by the PYP. They focus the teachers’ thinking as they generate key questions relevant to particular content, whether it be subject-specific or related to transdisciplinary themes.
The subject-specific bodies of knowledge, concepts and skills, together with the programme of inquiry provide a comprehensive, well-balanced curriculum that requires students to reflect on their roles and responsibilities and to participate fully in the learning process. The concepts help the teacher to make the learning coherent and the learning environment a provocative place, where the students’ points of view, supported by knowledge, skill, reflection and understanding, are both valued and built upon.
In a unit of inquiry for students aged 11 and 12 under the transdisciplinary theme “Sharing the planet”, the central idea is “Finding peaceful solutions to conflict leads to a better quality of life in a community”. The teacher asks the following questions relating to the listed concepts.
What are the reasons for conflict taking place in a community? (Suggested by the key concept - causation and the related question “Why is it like it is?”)
How can differences be resolved without conflict? (Suggested by the key concept - perspective and the related question “What are the points of view?”)
In what ways is peace an active rather than a passive state? (Suggested by the key concept - responsibility and the related question “What is our responsibility?”)
In a unit of inquiry for students aged 4 and 5 under the transdisciplinary theme “How we express ourselves”, the central idea is “We use play to express our feelings and ideas, and to come to new understanding”. The teacher asks the following questions relating to the listed concepts.
Why do we play? (Suggested by the key concept - perspective and the related question “What are the points of view?”)
How do we play with others? (Suggested by the key concept - function and the related question “How does it work?”)
What do toys and games help us learn? (Suggested by the key concept - connection and the related question “How are they connected to other things?”)