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Jeff Thompson Research Award winners' studies

Scroll down to see abstracts and executive summaries of completed studies.

In-progress studies

Samantha Cook, International School of Tanganyika, Tanzania

  • An analysis of the factors identified by IB PYP teachers that influence their development as PYP educators


Michael Lynch, Bladins International School of Malmö, Sweden

  • Evaluation of an IB informed prevention approach to bullying with MYP students: Using a mixed methods approach incorporating a quasi-experimental design within a Swedish IB school

Stirling Perry, Özel Bilkent Lisesi, Turkey

  • CAS programs in Turkey: An implementation study of six IB schools in Turkey


Rebekah Kim Bush, Newton College (Peru)

  • Educating children with Autism Spectrum Disorder within the Primary Years Program framework: The Latin American perspective


Melissa McDonald, International School of the Stockholm Region (Sweden)

  • A cross-cultural study on differentiated assessment strategies within the global citizenship program: Focus on IB PYP, MYP and DP assessment tools


Myriam Monopoli, St. Catherine’s Moorlands (Argentina)

  • Reading comprehension development in the English B lesson


Angela Mary Steinmann, Munich International School (Germany)

  • The role teachers play on the effectiveness of standardized tests in the PYP


Asma Syed, Renaissance College (Hong Kong)

  • Gap analysis of the literacy demands of the PYP exhibition for students entering their PYP exhibition year


Dona Pursall, United World College Red Cross Nordic (Norway)

  • To explore ways in which three Learner Profile attributes (principled, caring, open-minded) are conceptualized by students in the context of a residential IB-UWC programme


Daniel Keller, Bilkent Laboratory & International School (Turkey)

  • International education: Stakeholder perceptions and values


Completed studies

The coordination of the Middle Years Programme in smaller international schools

Sean Gibb, The British International School of Stavanger (Norway)

The purpose of this study was to investigate key strategies for coordinators implementing the Middle Years Programme (MYP) in smaller international schools. The study used four exploratory interviews and one case study to gain insight into the experiences of MYP coordinators working in international schools of 100 students or less in Norway. The qualitative data suggests that MYP coordination can be very challenging in smaller international schools, due to limited physical and human resources. The key findings provide evidence for the importance of creating opportunities for professional development and facilitating regular collaborative planning and reflection time, as key implementation priorities in these settings. The results also highlight successful implementation strategies as those which contribute to forming and strengthening the identity of the school. These results have important implications for heads and MYP coordinators of smaller international schools, as well as those implementing the Middle Years Programme for the first time; for budgeting and prioritizing opportunities for teacher professional development; timetabling and facilitating ample regular collaborative planning and reflection time; and considering ‘identity forming’ strategies as key implementation priorities.


Executive summary

Developing formative assessment strategies in the Primary Years Programme

Brendan Kean, Canadian International School of Hong Kong (Hong Kong)

The aim of this research was to identify and implement key formative assessment strategies that will improve students’ learning within the Primary Years Programme (PYP). This was achieved through action research on developing and implementing formative assessment strategies in a PYP school in Hong Kong. The research also used an in-depth case study approach on a well-known PYP school in Australia to identify the key formative assessment strategies implemented across the whole school. The research questions explored different formative assessment strategies, including stating the learning intention, developing success criteria, teacher questioning and feedback and self- and peer-assessment. The key themes identified in this research build upon the work of Black and Wiliam’s (1998b) meta-analysis of formative assessment and Clarke (2008, 2005 & 2001) and Glasson’s (2009) practical approach to assessment strategies that improve student learning. The study suggested what these findings might mean for educators and the IB in their approaches to formative assessment. The study also established a link between the different formative assessment strategies, and created a ‘framework’ for how teachers could connect the assessment strategies to ensure that learning, teaching and assessing are interwoven in the classroom.

Executive summary

The perception and practice of Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for students, teachers and schools

Tom Brodie, Skagerak International School (Norway)

This study investigated students, school and staff perceptions of the CAS programme being offered in ten schools across Europe. School types varied and represented different Diploma Programme school styles, including public and private schools, boarding and day schools. Investigations were undertaken via questionnaire (n=241), structured interview (n=20) and structured focus group (n=15). The study suggested that students and teachers alike valued CAS. CAS was identified as being compartmentalized into the job or role of a particular individual, the CAS coordinator. CAS coordinators felt they lacked time (70%), guidance and were isolated. Pupils enjoyed CAS activities (78%) and the CAS outcomes were challenging but appropriate. Reflection was highlighted as a concern for both pupils (38%) and staff (40%). Staff would like to develop it but were unsure how to do so. Students disliked it and felt very negatively towards it. Therefore, the stated goal of reflection [CAS Guide, IBO (2008)] was failing to be appreciated or developed. The study offers recommendations for schools and coordinators on ways to develop the CAS programme so that it better meets the needs of schools and students as well as the goals of the Diploma Programme.

Executive summary and appendices

Dilemmas and challenges in IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) implementation: A case study of Swedish MYP schools and the impact of Swedish school laws

Jayson Williams, International School of the Gothenburg Region (Sweden)

This study provides an exploration into the dilemmas and challenges experienced when implementing and developing the IB Middle Years Programme within schools. It examines two schools within the Swedish school system: one an international school in name, classified as a public school, and the other a ‘friskola’ or an independent school. This paper discusses commonalities between new cases and the cases being studied, with further discussion regarding Swedish educational laws and the impact on the implementation of the MYP. The study raised a number of key considerations including an urgent need for a review of the categorization of Swedish schools. Inconsistent categorization has led to the questioning of Swedish schools’ public data and its reliability.

Executive summary

The impact of U.S. educational policy on the implementation of the IB Primary Years Programme: A case study of an urban, low-income public School

Heather E. Mills, Ph.D. (California, USA)

There is a fundamental gap in the requirements of the U.S. mandate of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the philosophical tenets of the International Baccalaureate Programme. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to collaborate with veteran teachers in an urban, high-minority, low-income public school to study how they navigate the challenges of NCLB requirements while teaching in an authorized International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP). Teachers in this situation faced a complex set of conflicting requirements and mandates that often diametrically opposed one another. This study investigated the processes involved in meeting these requirements within the context and atmosphere of educational accountability. Utilizing culturally responsive methodologies, the five participating teachers were involved in all aspects of the study, including the design, research questions, and analysis. The co-construction of the study served to disrupt the traditional power imbalance between the researcher and participants by recognizing teachers as experts in the field of education and assuming a stance of humility on the part of the researcher. A grounded theory analysis yielded two main themes that captured the essence of the participants’ experiences. These themes aided in the development of a conceptual framework illustrating instances of conformity (active and reactive) and resistance (unquestioned and compromised) enacted by teachers in order to adapt to competing paradigms.

Executive summary

Writing to enhance learning and inform teaching in mathematics

Ellen Manson, Canadian International School (Hong Kong)

This action research reports on the introduction of journaling in mathematics with a cohort of year 6 students (10-year and 11-year olds) engaged in their final year of the Primary Years Programme (PYP), within a large International Baccalaureate (IB) World School in Hong Kong. The project, carried out during the 2011-2012 academic year, sought to respond to the question: Does journal writing in mathematics support students to articulate their thinking and develop their conceptual understandings, while also serving to better inform teachers in order to guide planning? Data was collected at the beginning, midpoint and end of the study from both participating teachers and a sample of participating students. This was accomplished through informal group discussions in response to open questions posed by the researcher. Samples of student journals were also collected throughout the study for analysis. While the research findings were generally very positive, some points to note include: students for whom English was a second language found writing in mathematics challenging, while some other more mathematically able students just wanted to “get on with the math” and viewed journaling as holding them up. In summary, the rationale for introducing journaling as an aspect of a mathematics programme is strong. All participating teachers agreed that challenging students to better articulate their thinking and conceptual understandings in mathematics, as documented in the PYP Mathematics scope and sequence, not only develops metacognitive skills but also leads to opportunities for further inquiry, an important aspect of the Primary Years Programme philosophy.

Executive summary

Evaluation of learner profile attributes and competencies in South Australian International Baccalaureate (IB MYP) Students

Jane Jarvis et al., Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia)

This study explores the extent to which students participating in the IB programme in target South Australian schools demonstrated the characteristics articulated in the IB learner profile (LP) and the skills reflected in the approaches to learning (ATL) component of the IB curriculum framework. Three studies were implemented. The first (1) and second (2) studies compared students with and without prior IB experience on characteristics described in the learner profile and approaches to learning component in both mathematics and humanities. The third study (3) examined how students conceptualized, planned and reflected on their MYP personal project. The schools and University agreed that four elements of the LP should be the primary focus of the research inquiry: (a) open-minded (b) thinkers (c) reflective and (d) inquirers. In the first and second studies, year 8 students in the target schools were given problems in mathematics and humanities and were observed in “think aloud” exercises recorded verbatim by the researchers. Comparison of the groups of students with previous IB experience and those new to the IB did not reveal a consistent difference in level of problem solving action in the mathematics findings. The second study resulted in similar findings for the humanities exercise. In relation to the personal project analyses, the researchers found that year 9 and 10 students did demonstrate elements of inquiry, reflection, thinking and openness reflective of the learner profile and approaches to learning framework.

Executive summary

Distributed Leadership and Social Networks in the School-Based Development of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme in a Venezuelan K-12

Jose Bolivar, Instituto Educacional Juan XXIII (Valencia, Venezuela)

Deep analysis of the collective work of teachers and school administrators as they develop innovative programs, such as the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme (MYP), is essential to build models for 21st century education. Two theoretical frameworks, distributed leadership and social networks, have emerged in the educational research literature that present school leadership for change and innovation in terms of actions and emphasize the importance of social interactions for their enactment. This study draws upon these theories to describe and understand leadership in action during the school-based design and implementation of the MYP as well as the social networks underlying their enactment. In terms of practice, the study highlights several findings key to the successful development of the MYP: (1) the importance of coherence-building, collaborative design tasks for a systemic instructional vision, (2) the critical role of teacher support tasks in providing key resources for the successful enactment of design tasks, (3) the promotion of certain school-level and team-level conditions that support collaborative processes, and (4) the existence of certain school-level and team-level conditions that constrain teacher collaboration. The study shows that when schools undertake major changes special attention needs to be given to the multiple tasks that will need to be accomplished to achieve these initiatives. Findings indicate that these tasks require unique, varied, and fluid social network configurations that channel collaborative processes and that they are shaped by contextual factors that impact collaboration and communication flow.

Executive summary

The Impact on Students of Programs Such as the PYP Indigenous Bunuba/Walmajarri Unit of Inquiry Within the Transdisciplinary Theme ‘How Do We Express Ourselves’ and With the Central Idea of ‘We Discover More When We Reflect Upon Other Ways of Knowing’

Annette Rome & Kim Anderson, Wesley College Institute for Innovation in Education (Melbourne, Australia)

This project investigated the impact on students of programs such as the Primary Years Programme (PYP) Indigenous Bunuba/Walmajarri Unit of Inquiry within the trans-disciplinary theme ‘How we express ourselves’ and with the central idea of ‘we discover more when we reflect upon other ways of knowing’ through the Research Question: How effective are programs such as the Wesley College Year 4 PYP Bunuba/Walmajarri unit in terms of changing understandings of Indigenous ways of knowing by non-Indigenous students? The methodology included a survey administered to the students as part of regular feedback gleaned on the unit, along with analyses of reflective 2007- 2010 reports. The findings indicated that as a result of this unit students: know there is a difference between non-Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous knowledge; really enjoyed getting to know (Indigenous Leader) Annette Kogolo; think their understanding of Indigenous people has improved after doing this unit of inquiry; felt their learning about indigenous ways was better because of Annette Kogolo; understand more about Indigenous ways of knowing; felt having a Bunuba/Walmajarri Leader made their learning about Indigenous people more real; know where to find information about indigenous ways of knowing that they did not know before; and think that they now know more about their own culture by learning about Indigenous culture. The research uncovered that there are two important aspects to this unit: the power of the story teller as well as the story itself. The stories are considered a valid form of accessing significant, if specialised, knowledge. The research also indicated that students developed in relation to the IB PYP Student Learner Profile, especially regarding the open-minded and caring attributes. The metric used to determine responses was considered an effective one in terms of assessing impact of unit in relation to developing cross cultural awareness.

Executive summary

A  Tale of Two Cities: Chinese teachers vs. Western Teachers on Pedagogic Behaviours in an IB World School in China

Yue Zhang, Guangdong Country Garden School (China)

The purpose of this study is to investigate any differences existing in pedagogic behaviours between Chinese teachers (CTs) and non-Chinese teachers (NCTs) in and outside the English and Science (English-medium) classrooms in an International Baccalaureate (IB) context in mainland China. It also explored potential cultural influences, students’ perspectives and issues arising from any differences in pedagogic behaviours.  It provided an in-depth and systematic interpretation of the reasons that cause the differences with the aim of contribution to an amelioration of the co-constructed pedagogy. The study adopted a comparative approach and employed qualitative methods of observation, teacher-researcher diary, individual interviews, focus group, narrative inquiry and document review to obtain data from a case study school in China.  The findings indicate that firstly there were differences in pedagogic behaviours according to the key factors of: lesson timing, lesson structure, activities, students’ participation, management, differentiation, assessment, language, materials and information and communication technology. Differences also existed in communication and teacher-student-relationships outside of the classrooms. Secondly, the pedagogic behaviours were influenced by culture. Thirdly all differences were partly attributable to cultural influences. Fourthly, certain issues arose from the differences, such as misunderstandings and mistrust between NCTs and CTs and students. Finally, students on one hand welcomed the differences for they were inspired by the differences which they also considered as a good preparation for their further study overseas; on the other hand, they believed that there should be an international standard of IB approach. 

Executive summary

Perspectives of Criteria Based Assessment in the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme

Chad Carlson, Colegio Internacional de Educación Integral (Colombia)

This study examined how the implementation of IB’s Middle Years Programme criteria referenced assessment model has affected the overall understanding, articulation and achievement of program learning objectives in two MYP schools.  The goal was to explore perspectives in the implementation of the MYP’s assessment model in order to better understand the challenges, difficulties and successes that educators face in its implementation.  Research surveys and interviews were designed to explore the dynamics of the MYP’s criteria-related assessment model and to learn if students were more actively engaged in the assessment process when criteria based assessment was effectively articulated.  The research for this study was conducted with a wide-range of students and teachers from the two schools, involving participants in each year of the programme.  Overall the research found that the implementation of the MYP’s criteria-referenced grading system remains to be highly subjective and that many students lack authentic understanding of program learning objectives and the value of this information.  However the research showed a positive relationship between the effective articulation and understanding of learning objectives and the development of metacognitive processes and skills in reflection, leading the researcher to conclude that in order to effectively articulate learning objectives and develop student skills and processes in metacognition and reflection, student engagement in the assessment process must be seen as part of the taught curriculum. 

Executive summary

Language Teaching Strategies and Techniques Used to Support Students Learning in a Language other than Their Mother Tounge

Natascha Thomson, Kongsberg International School (Norway)

Many learners are facing the challenge of accessing an IB programme in a language other than their mother tongue. To enable learners to fully participate in both the academic and social aspects of school life, educators need to recognise how this phenomenon impacts on teaching and learning and identify ways to support language development. This executive summary aims to raise awareness of this issue and describes and presents the findings of an investigation into the Language Teaching Strategies and Techniques used by Primary Year Practitioners (PYP) when implementing the Programme of Inquiry conducted in 2010.

Executive summary

Is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Effective at Delivering the International Baccalaureate Mission Statement?

Richard Lineham, St. George's School in Switzerland (Switzerland)

The International Baccalaureate (IB) aims to develop students who contribute to a more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. The aim of this study is to examine if the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is effective at delivering the IB mission statement? Literature is reviewed to explore the aims of international education and how curricula and school systems can influence the development of values within students. Within the review concepts are explored and compared to the IBDP. The literature review concludes with a model reflecting the influences on the promotion of international education within a school. A case study is carried out in an international school that delivers the IBDP. A mixed methods study with an exploratory sequential design approach is used.  A small number of IBDP students are interviewed, and the findings of these interviews are triangulated using a questionnaire completed by most diploma programme students, in the case study school. The results of the student interviews and questionnaires are used to ascertain how the IBDP has influenced student attitudes. The study concludes that the values of the students are moving towards those expressed in the International Baccalaureate mission statement. The significance of different elements of the school curriculum and the school environment on the development of values within the student population is highlighted as an area of further research.

Executive summary

The perceptions of the use of inquiry based methods in the Chinese language classroom in IBO Primary Years Programme schools in the Asia Pacific region

Mary van der Heijden, United World College (Singapore)

This research project investigated how the pedagogical approach of inquiry was transferred into Chinese as an additional language classrooms in Primary Years Programme schools in the Asia Pacific region. The goal was to explore perceptions and practices of Chinese language teachers to better understand the successes and challenges of using inquiry based approaches. Data was collected using mixed methods; including a survey to ninety-eight schools, individual semi-structured interviews with six teachers and classroom observations for four of those teachers. There was evidence from the findings that teachers demonstrated a positive attitude towards the inquiry approach, but the understanding of how this could be transferred into the Chinese classroom was not consistent.  The need to train the Chinese language teachers and to develop an opportunity to learn, both with and from other teachers in the school, was also identified. Attempts were made towards the creation of authentic situations where language could be developed and opportunities for more exploration and experimentation rather than relying on accuracy with vocabulary and grammatical structures, but this was not consistently underpinning the pedagogy.

Executive summary

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