IB LogoWhat if students used their knowledge to do projects that make the world a better place? Welcome to the world of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP)!

The IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) is designed to support the holistic development of students aged 11-16. The goals of an IB education include developing character, service and academics. In an era plagued by over-reliance on standardized testing and the continued push for schools and practitioners to do more with less, it is a breath of fresh air that the Buck’s Gold Standard PBL’s essential elements exist to support teachers in nurturing the growth of the whole child.

How do PBL essentials inform the MYP framework?

PBL fits seamlessly within the MYP framework—notably the MYP unit planning process, regardless of discipline or age group. The chart below outlines how the essential elements align with significant aspects of the IB Middle Years Programme.

IB table


Key Knowledge, Understanding and Success Skills

We are tasked with the opportunity to prepare our students to contribute to and thrive in an ever-changing world. True PBL requires a diverse set of knowledge and skills to fully inform a project’s design and implementation. Both key and related concepts, combined with subject-specific objectives and thoughtfully curated Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills, equip the MYP learner to embark on a journey informed by a rich set of learning goals as a guide.

Challenging Problem or Question

If we were paid a dollar every time a child asks, “Why?” we’d all be rich! Children are masters at questioning, and the most challenging questions are open-ended. Asking complex questions is an art that requires curiosity about the world around us. The MYP Statement of Inquiry blends both key and related concepts to create a claim that is worth investigating.

Sustained Inquiry

At the heart of a child’s wonderings is an innate desire to do more. To create, test, observe, retest, and push the envelope; in short, to demonstrate agency and grow in independence. Factual, conceptual, and debatable questions in the MYP unit planner ensure that students have ample opportunity to unpack the concepts and context inherent in an MYP unit. IB students are inquirers!


MYP teachers use global contexts to help establish the authentic “why” in PBL. If an MYP science teacher wants students to better understand the impact of climate change, that teacher might focus on globalization and sustainability.

Student Voice and Choice

Students (and most people) like to be heard, listened to, and given a say in decisions and processes. Whether through teaching and learning activities, or putting one’s own creative interpretation on a GRASPS assessment task, engagement in a high-quality project in an MYP class empowers students with a sense of ownership.


PBL facilitates the sort of engagement that yields thoughtful reflection in response to learning. This may lead a student in an MYP class to develop new questions to spur further research, or even to realize an increased need for giving & receiving feedback (one of the MYP Approaches to Learning skills).

Critique and Revision

Collaboration on projects in MYP classrooms affords countless opportunities for students to receive feedback from both peers and from the teacher. The added specificity of MYP subject area rubrics lead to further student self-assessment on performance tasks.

Public Product

As in many classrooms around the world, students have the opportunity to thoughtfully engage with a performance of learning as a service to others, whether centered on presenting one’s MYP Community Project or Personal Project, or the culmination of a unit.

Purpose, Connection and Engagement

In short, PBL creates a wider pathway for students to connect their learning to the real world. This engagement is exemplified by the nature of the MYP Community Project and Personal Project. These capstone projects are driven by service learning (Community Project) and principled action (Personal Project), both of which are culminations of many Project Based Learning experiences.

I’ll leave you with the story of Luisa (name changed), a year 5 MYP student who had a unique vision and passion for her MYP Personal Project: to create a scholarship for undocumented immigrant high school students to attend college. Her audience extended well beyond her high school’s walls. The principles of Gold Standard PBL laid the foundation for her MYP Personal Project, from start to finish.

How have you integrated PBL into an IB class? Please share in the comments below. 


Want to learn more about PBL? Check out our books.

Elizabeth Stock, Adjunct Faculty & IB Educator Network Member, DePaul University