SKILLS: what do we want students to be able to do?

Why include skills as an essential element?

The search for understanding is central to the beliefs and practices of the PYP. However, the emphasis on the development of conceptual understanding does not preclude recognition of the importance of developing skills. The construction of meaning and, therefore, of understanding is complemented by the students acquiring and applying a range of skills. These skills are best developed in the context of authentic situations such as those offered through the PYP units of inquiry.

While it is important for all teachers to foster and support the development of skills by providing opportunities embedded in authentic learning experiences, it is particularly relevant for teachers of the younger students to interpret this expectation in ways that are appropriate for their group of learners.

When learning about and through the subject areas, students acquire the particular skills that define the discipline of those subjects. For example, in language the students become literate, and in mathematics they become numerate. The acquisition of literacy and numeracy, in its broadest sense, is essential, as these skills provide students with the tools of inquiry. Nonetheless, the PYP position is that, in order to conduct purposeful inquiry and in order to be well prepared for lifelong learning, students need to master a whole range of skills beyond those normally referred to as basic. These include skills, relevant to all the subject areas and also transcending them, needed to support fully the complexities of the lives of the students.

What transdisciplinary skills does the PYP suggest?

Within their learning throughout the programme, students acquire and apply a set of transdisciplinary skills: social skills, communication skills, thinking skills, research skills and self-management skills. These skills are valuable, not only in the units of inquiry, but also for any teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom, and in life outside the school.

PYP transdisciplinary skills

Thinking Skills:
Acquisition of knowledge
Gaining specific facts, ideas, vocabulary; remembering in a similar form.
Grasping meaning from material learned; communicating and interpreting learning.
Making use of previously acquired knowledge in practical or new ways.
Taking knowledge or ideas apart; separating into component parts; seeing relationships; finding unique characteristics.
Combining parts to create wholes; creating, designing, developing and innovating.
Making judgments or decisions based on chosen criteria; standards and conditions.
Dialectical thought
Thinking about two or more different points of view at the same time; understanding those points of view; being able to construct an argument for each point of view based on knowledge of the other(s); realizing that other people can also take one’s own point of view.
Analysing one’s own and others’ thought processes; thinking about how one thinks and how one learns.

Social Skills:
Accepting responsibility
Taking on and completing tasks in an appropriate manner; being willing to assume a share of the responsibility.
Respecting others
Listening sensitively to others; making decisions based on fairness and
equality; recognizing that others’ beliefs, viewpoints, religions and ideas may differ from one’s own; stating one’s opinion without hurting others.
Working cooperatively in a group; being courteous to others; sharing materials; taking turns.
Resolving conflict
Listening carefully to others; compromising; reacting reasonably to the situation; accepting responsibility appropriately; being fair.
Group decision making
Listening to others; discussing ideas; asking questions; working towards and obtaining consensus.
Adopting a variety of group roles
Understanding what behaviour is appropriate in a given situation and acting accordingly; being a leader in some circumstances, a follower in others.

Communication Skills:
Listening to directions; listening to others; listening to information.
Speaking clearly; giving oral reports to small and large groups; expressing ideas clearly and logically; stating opinions.
Reading a variety of sources for information and pleasure; comprehending what has been read; making inferences and drawing conclusions.
Recording information and observations; taking notes and paraphrasing; writing summaries; writing reports; keeping a journal or record.
Interpreting and analysing visuals and multimedia; understanding the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas, values and beliefs; making informed choices about personal viewing experiences.
Constructing visuals and multimedia for a range of purposes and audiences; communicating information and ideas through a variety of visual media; using appropriate technology for effective presentation and representation.
Non-verbal communication
Recognizing the meaning of visual and kinesthetic communication; recognizing and creating signs; interpreting and utilizing symbols.

Self-management skills:
Gross motor skills
Exhibiting skills in which groups of large muscles are used and the factor of strength is primary.
Fine motor skills
Exhibiting skills in which precision in delicate muscle systems is required.
Spatial awareness
Displaying sensitivity to the position of objects in relation to oneself or each other.
Planning and carrying out activities effectively.
Time management
Using time effectively and appropriately.
Engaging in personal behaviour that avoids placing oneself or others in danger or at risk.
Healthy lifestyle
Making informed choices to achieve a balance in nutrition, rest, relaxation and exercise; practising appropriate hygiene and self-care.
Codes of behaviour
Knowing and applying appropriate rules or operating procedures of groups of people.
Informed choices
Selecting an appropriate course of action or behaviour based on fact or opinion.

Research skills:
Formulating questions
Identifying something one wants or needs to know and asking compelling and relevant questions that can be researched.
Using all the senses to notice relevant details.
Developing a course of action; writing an outline; devising ways of finding out necessary information.
Collecting data
Gathering information from a variety of first- and second-hand sources such as maps, surveys, direct observation, books, films, people, museums and ICT.
Recording data
Describing and recording observations by drawing, note taking, making charts, tallying, writing statements.
Organizing data
Sorting and categorizing information; arranging into understandable forms such as narrative descriptions, tables, timelines, graphs and diagrams.
Interpreting data
Drawing conclusions from relationships and patterns that emerge from organized data.
Presenting research findings
Effectively communicating what has been learned; choosing appropriate media.