In this post, we invite you to visit behind the scenes at ManageBac with our Curriculum Director, Leila Holmyard.
Having a background in teaching, I came into the Curriculum Director role at ManageBac thinking I had a fairly good understanding of how schools manage their curriculum; but I was wrong! One of the biggest learnings for me has been the immense diversity of approach that schools (and even divisions within schools) have towards their curriculum design, development, and delivery.
As a result, we regularly receive feedback from students, teachers, and school leaders on ways we can enhance their user experience. A major challenge for us is to determine which feature requests will be beneficial across school contexts so that our updates enhance the experiences of a majority of our users.
One way we do this is to consult with specialists who guide our decision-making. An example is our current work with MYP Building Quality Curriculum Senior Reviewer and consultant, Diane Smith, who is assisting us in evaluating MYP feature requests from schools and creating a roadmap for future improvements to Managing MYP.
Diane describes the balancing act we face: “For MYP schools, it is critical that the unit planning platform allows teachers to develop their units according to the ‘sharing’ level descriptions provided in Evaluating MYP unit plans. At the same time, the ideal platform needs to provide practical support for teaching and learning, allow for effective assessment and reporting, assist in clarifying the curriculum scope and sequence, and be adaptable to the needs of different schools! So there are a lot of elements to balance and coordinate.”
Another consultant we have worked with recently is Natalie Lockhart-Mann. Drawing on her teaching and IB workshop leader experience, Natalie was able to contextualize the new Group 1 subject guides for us and assist us in developing a structure for the new Learner Portfolio. Natalie is leading a webinar on tips and guidance for using the learner portfolio to enhance learning and support students.
Natalie describes her experiences as a ManageBac user: “I have found that ManageBac is quick to respond to curriculum changes in the IB programmes, so that teachers can get going right away in planning and implementing their courses, providing a structure to support teachers as they work towards full implementation.”
Of course, some updates are more straightforward than others. IB Diploma course changes tend to be relatively straightforward and are deployed between June-August each year. This timing allows a smooth transition for schools, so teachers can start the new course for DP1 students while maintaining the old course for DP2.
Other changes are more complex because they involve multiple components, such as the Theory of Knowledge. To plan for the 2020 TOK update, we are working closely with Michael Dunn, our resident TOK expert! Michael runs theoryofknowledge.net, a resource used by many TOK teachers globally, and he has been consulting for us for several years. He most recently created handbooks for experienced and novice TOK coordinators and delivered accompanying webinars.
Michael says: “Working with ManageBac has helped me to develop clearer ideas about how to establish an effective TOK department, and create a great course programme, something that I have tried to articulate in the handbooks. TOK is all about helping your students to connect big ideas about knowledge to the latest issues and events going on in the world, and ManageBac offers a great mechanism for doing this.”
Although we primarily use IB documentation to guide our curriculum updates, we also benefit from advice directly from IB Curriculum Managers, with a view to ensuring ManageBac is not only consistent with the requirements, but also reflects best practice.
Finally, when we are implementing major changes, such as the recent launch of the Enhanced PYP to support the enhanced PYP, we conduct a consultation with a select group of users. Our PYP focus group of 25 PYP coordinators from around the world has allowed us to gather feedback from a diverse group of users with varying needs and experiences. Their ideas were used directly by the development team in the creation of the Enhanced PYP.
Joshua Medendorp of the Overseas Chinese Academy Suzhou describes his experience of participating in the focus group: “It really felt good to be asked to share my opinion. I like what you are all doing with ManageBac. It’s really something for the end-user and the agency and involvement makes it something I am proud to be a part of.”
Through combining user voice with the requirements of the IB, we ensure ManageBac supports best practices in IB education across a diverse range of schools and contexts.
If you would like to get involved with future curriculum focus groups, we’d love to hear from you! Please send Leila an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author - Leila Holmyard
In her role as Curriculum Director for ManageBac, Leila works closely with the development team to review and extend how we support schools in the design, delivery, and assessment of their written curriculum. Recent projects include the addition of IGCSE, A level, and BTEC curricula and the extension of our International Baccalaureate support to include the Career-related Programme and enhanced Primary Years Programme. Leila also works with our marketing and professional development departments in the production of resources, blog posts, and webinars to share with our community.