inquiring – conceptual understanding – contextualizing – collaborating – differentiating – assessing – reflecting
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From January27 to February 1, over 3,500 high school students from all corners of theglobe gathered for the 45th annual THIMUN conference. This conference is a five-day simulation of the United Nations where students act as ambassadors representing various UN countries, NGOs, etc. In these roles, students participate in policy debate, lobby and merge resolutions on real world geo-political issues, and, finally, debate and vote on resolutions.
Model United Nations is an academic club that develops core personal skills while preparing participants for global citizenship. Through research and debate, students increase their knowledge base of the world and global issues while honing values and strengthening their moral backbones as they come to terms with “what is fair.” It is not uncommon to overhear passionate conversations amongst these young idealists, many of whom will go on to study International Relations, Global Politics, and World Studies at the university level.
On Thursday morning of the THIMUN conference, MUN directors were invited to the neighboring IB Global Center Africa/Europe/Middle East for a morning of presentations and discussions about how MUN and an IB World School are a natural fit. Interdisciplinary is the key concept that connects MUN and the IB Programmes. Politics are dynamic and often require a multidisciplinary approach to even begin to understand an issue. For example, in order to better understand terrorism one might want to examine psychology, economics, and religion, in addition to political background.
The interdisciplinary curricular connections of the Diploma Programme and their articulation into the university-level study of International Relations were addressed by Dr. Islam Qasem, Head of International Relations at Webster University in Leiden, The Netherlands. Dr. Qasem highlighted the importance for students entering university to be able to approach subject areas with an interdisciplinary focus. History class is no longer simply the study of past historical events, rather a student may need to consider the social sciences (human rights), natural sciences (climate change), biology (global health epidemics), or computer science (cyber terrorism). According to Dr. Qasem, the most successful students will enter university courses ready to participate in discussions and simulations, and will be ready to solve problems. Those expecting to just “sit-and-get” will find an International Relations program of study challenging. Students with strong communication and presentation skills will experience high levels of engagement.
Cross-curricular, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary are all synonymous terms that get at the heart of the International Baccalaureate programmes. Through six PYP transdisciplinary themes, MYP interdisciplinary units (IDUs), and the DP theory of knowledge (TOK) course, educators at AIS encourage students to make connections across traditional academic subjects and to the real world. The integration of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication into the teaching of core academic subjects such as English, reading or language arts, world languages, arts, mathematics, economics, science, and humanities aim to meet the new demands of the 21st century. Though there are timeless skills and knowledge important for success in any age what was needed to be a skilled person in 19th century agrarian society differs dramatically from the expertise needed to be a well-educated and capable 21st century citizen (including brain power and using digital tools).
Educators need to move away from the traditional methods of teaching and bring into the classroom new and innovative approaches to teach content and life skills. It is important to utilize a variety of techniques for students to build their own understanding through real world applications and interactions with their peers in group activities. “To be productive contributors to society in our 21st century, you need to be able to quickly learn the core content of a field of knowledge while also mastering a broad portfolio of essentials in learning, innovation, technology, and careers skills needed for work and life” (Trilling & Fadel, 2009, p16). Through the interdisciplinary teaching of the IB programmes, teachers are preparing students for the jobs that have not yet been created, for the new products that have not yet been invented, and for the new skills to build towards creativity and innovation.
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