Approaches to learning

In order to research and write an Extended Essay, you will need to develop many skills. The International Baccalaureate has defined 5 skills that are useful for working on your Extended Essay and your Diploma Programme in general. These are called the Approaches to Learning. They are part of a greater framework called the Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATLs). The Approaches to Learning consist of 5 skills: 

How are these skills relevant to the Extended Essay? How is the 'EE journey' an exercise in developing these five skills? Here is an activity for you to do with a group of EE candidates, supervisors or both. 

  1. Take 5 sheets of flipchart paper and write a different 'approach to learning' (skill) on each sheet. Place each piece of flipchart paper on a separate table. Alternatively, create an online board for brainstorming, using a site such as Padlet or Stormboard.

  2. Walk around the room and visit each table. Create a mindmap of skills around each approach to learning. On the branches of the mind map, write key words to explore the relevance of this skill and sub-skills to the Extended Essay. On Padlet or Stormboard, create columns for each approach to learning and collect your ideas there. Contribute to each mind map or board

  3. When you are done, discuss your mind maps or boards with everyone. Compare them to the mind maps that have been provided below, by clicking on them to reveal model answers. These are only suggests.

  4. After comparing your results to the mind maps provided below, discuss how you plan to develop these skills throughout the EE journey. What kinds of habits will help you develop these skils? How will you track your skill development in your Researcher's Reflection Space (RRS) or notebook?

Learner profile

There is a lot of overlap between the IB Learner profile and the Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATLs). IB learners are 'thinkers' and 'communicators', for example. This raises the question: To what extent do your character traits enable you to become skillful or competent at certain tasks? Revisit the mind maps from this activity and ask yourself: What comes naturally to me? What skills will I have to work hard on, during the EE process? Know thyself!


Which skills are actually assessed? Study the assessment criteria carefully and you will see how the Approaches to Learning are relevant. The word 'research', for example, appears under multiple criteria. Criterion C is called 'Critical thinking'.

Last modified: Wednesday, 27 May 2020, 10:34 AM