Creating Community in IB


Competition or cooperation?

Students in an IB programme cohort can easily slip into feeling they are in competition with each other, if we are not careful about creating a supportive IB community with our students. We should be doing this both in our classrooms and in the school. I want to focus on how we can encourage our students to view their peers as a support system and cooperate with each other, instead of viewing each other as competition. 

Below is a list of activities and examples of how you can create this classroom climate.

Don’t curve students’ grades based on each other, but on a predetermined set of criteria.
When students are pitted against each other and in competition to “break” the curve, there is resentment, stress, and the idea that your classmates are resources to support you is no longer valid. Instead, tell your students ahead of time what the “curve” will be. For example, if you are at the beginning of the year and you will be grading the students on the IA rubric, tell them ahead of time that you expect an A to be 16/30 points, a B to be 13/30 points, etc. 

Give students lots of opportunities to work together.
If you are doing a silent reading activity, afterwards have students share a reflection with their neighbor before leaving class, schedule class discussions and small group work for students, and give students credit for working in study groups outside of class. One of my favorite activities a month ahead of exam time is to give students a worksheet where they record group study time outside of class. Students can decide how many students will comprise their group, they can change groups daily, and as a group they decide on a set number of topics to study. They add up their study hours and turn this worksheet into me the day before their exam.

Remind students IB is not a competition.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in class got a 4 or higher in each of their subjects? There is nothing in the IB regulations or subject guides that say only a set number of students can get high scores. Remind your students of this. Also, remind your students that the higher everyone’s scores are, the higher the school’s scores. The school’s scores are important to colleges and universities for determining credit. When students work together, everyone wins.

Show off student work, but rotate whose work is used as the exemplar for each major assessment.

I like to keep a list of students who have had their work shared in class and I don’t repeat students within the same semester. I also like to have the student whose work is used in class to talk a bit about how they went about tackling the project/activity/assessment so other students can get some tips on how to improve for next time.

Assign groups and pairs throughout the year so students are not always working with the same people.
Students should get to know all the students in their class, not just the students they tend to always sit next to. There are some great benefits for having static groups because students get to know each other well and can “dig deeper”, but students also need to work with different people throughout the year.

Provide time in class for reflection and goal-setting.
When students reflect on their performance on an activity or assessment, and then create their own goals for improving, they are reminded that they are only in competition with themselves. After a reflection activity, you may (depending on your class) ask for students to volunteer their goals for next time. Sharing goals can help struggling students with ideas of how to improve and reminds everyone that the whole class is working together to score higher.

Each class is different and every student is different, but with continual encouragement from classroom teachers, our students can turn a competitive attitude into one of support and caring...which really is an embodiment of what we want an IB student to be.

How do you create community in your classroom?