Skip To Main Content

sticky-container

search-container

header-container

top-container

header-nav

search-container

trigger-container

Landing Nav

BREADCRUMB

‘CARING’ ACROSS THE INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE CONTINUUM

Share this article with a friend.

April 4, 2024

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here

Research looks into caring as the heart of teaching and learning in IB World Schools such as Notre Dame Prep.

Notre Dame Preparatory School is authorized by IB to offer the IB-Primary Years Program, IB-Middle Years Program and IB-Diploma Program to its students.


A number of years ago, Notre Dame Prep founder and current corporate president Fr. Leon Olszamowski, s.m., was asked about why the school invests in such an expansive academic curriculum, including International Baccalaureate from pre-K through 12th grade.  

“We provide the best education you can get — Catholic and internationally speaking — at Notre Dame Prep," he said. "That’s why we went with the IB curriculum to supplement an already excellent curriculum. I'm fond of saying that we are not preparing kids to live in our world — we are preparing kids to live in their world, 20 or 30 years from now, when they are prosperous and productive people. 

"When they are CEOs and leaders, we want them to be caring CEOs and leaders and we want them to live in the world and not get swallowed up by it. Ultimately, we want to continue to provide to our students the education they need to be successful in this world and the next.”

A report prepared by researchers at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. and published by the International Baccalaureate organization a few years ago summarized a study that aimed to develop a better understanding of the role of “caring” across the continuum of IB programs (IB-PYP, IB-MYP and IB-DP). 

NOTE: Notre Dame Preparatory School is authorized by IB to offer IB-PYP, IB-MYP and IB-DP; however, it was not part of this study.

The following research summary was originally published by the International Baccalaureate.


Caring is one of the ten attributes that comprise the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) learner profile. The IB defines the learner profile as “the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes of the 21st century” (IBO, 2014). The caring learner profile attribute states that:

“We show empathy, compassion and respect. We have a commitment to service, and we act to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world around us.” (IBO, 2013).

This study sponsored by IB had two broad objectives. First, it aimed to establish the extent to which students in IB World Schools are caring, and secondly, it sought to understand how IB World Schools attempt to develop a disposition of caring among their students.

The pedagogical principles that underpin IB programs recognize, and indeed emphasize, that learning is a social process. Such learning must be underpinned by an ethic of care in which all those involved as teachers and students share an interest in supporting the learning of each other. This study has highlighted the importance of creating cultures in schools that have at their foundation an ethic of care.

Fr. Leon Olszamowski, s.m., school founder and current corporate president, says that "we are not preparing kids to live in our world — we are preparing kids to live in their world, 20 or 30 years from now, when they are prosperous and productive people."


However, care is not something that flows in one direction from teacher to student, but should be seen as an aspect of the organizational culture that radiates in all directions. Caring makes a difference when everyone in a community recognizes their responsibility to care for everyone else. The authors argue that “caring” should be reframed in the context of social solidarity in which individual self-interest is underpinned by a commitment to reciprocity and the common good.

The schools in this study valued the emphasis the IB places on holistic education in general, and pro-social learning in particular, through the learner profile. They also valued the flexibility they are given to enact this philosophy in their own community, and saw the importance of school leadership in enabling them to respond flexibly to cultural differences at the national and school level. 

Overall findings 

Survey data showed that students scored highly when rated on the extent to which they demonstrated perspective taking, empathic concern and a range of attitudes and behaviors linked to caring. While the report does not make comparisons to non-IB students, the evidence suggests that students in the case-study schools display an ethic of care. Moreover, the vast majority of students agreed or strongly agreed that their school teaches them to be more caring.

Between-program differences

Scores were largely consistent across IB programs, with little evidence to suggest that students in different programs are inclined to be more or less caring. The survey did suggest that students in the DP were less likely to score highly on perspective taking or on the degree to which their school “taught” them to be caring. This may reflect some age-related issues whereby students at this stage in their schooling necessarily become focused on a narrower conception of academic success.

Between-school differences

Differences between individual schools were more notable than differences between programs. Among the six schools that participated in the survey, students from two schools (Alpha and Beta) had higher self-ratings in relation to both caring dispositions and the factors that might contribute to an increased disposition to care. Both schools were examined in subsequent case studies to more closely explore school practices that may account for these differences, while also investigating understandings and enactments of caring practices at the four other case study schools.

School practices can encourage caring

Building on the quantitative survey, the qualitative case studies draw attention to particular actions and practices of both schools, and the IB, to consider which may encourage caring behavior. 

Creating a culture of caring

One of the features that emerged most strongly from this study is that a caring disposition among young people is best developed in schools where caring is woven into the fabric of the institution. This emerged very strongly in all of the schools that participated in the study. Caring was seen as fundamental to learning, a pre-condition without which effective learning was much less likely to take place. 

As one teacher noted: “I feel that with these little kids that they really do need to have that feeling of being ‘cared’ for ... and ‘caring’ for others before they can really ... you know feel comfortable enough to learn academically ... and so you have to kind of establish that ... that level of ‘caring’ ... just in order to be able to move on through the school.”

Additionally, interview participants emphasized the importance of leadership and the need for school leaders to foster a caring culture. Principally, this involved the modeling of caring as well as practical actions. Leaders have a critical role in setting the tone within their institution, and leadership emerged as a key factor in creating the conditions in which caring cultures can flourish. 

Although school principals are critical to fostering a caring culture, leadership in this case means all those who may be considered to have leadership roles, whether formal or informal.

Modeling

As noted above, modeling was identified across all case study schools as nurturing caring behavior. In every school, teachers spoke of the importance of modeling caring conduct to students, but in many of these instances, it was assumed that students would learn from this modeling through a process of osmosis.

For instance, a principal articulated the view that simply “doing” is enough, and that caring was “caught” rather than “taught.” In “accidental modeling”, the student is constructed as an observer, as passive and as an absorber of knowledge and skills that are transmitted by the teacher. In “conscious modeling”, the student is constructed as a co-participant, and as actively engaged with constructing knowledge and skills alongside the teacher. The researchers suggest that frameworks for more effective conscious modeling could be provided by the IB.

A language of care

The researchers further noted that in several schools, teachers believed that in some contexts synonyms for caring needed to be adopted that were more culturally appropriate. In addition, they wanted more nuanced language that allows more room for cultural interpretation than does the current IB definition of caring. While the overwhelming majority of teachers were clear that they did not want the IB to prescribe practice for caring, the report authors suggest that there is an opportunity for the IB to offer a richer language for discussing this learner profile attribute, and to provide some guidance on effective frameworks for doing so.

Leveraging the curriculum to develop caring students 

Lastly, many of those interviewed in this study believed that the IB curriculum offers opportunities to make caring a central concern of schooling. The position of caring within the learner profile affords a status and privilege that encourages teachers to place caring at the core of their teaching. Indeed, the survey data suggests that IB programs may be more likely to encourage formal caring activities within the curriculum. Caring in the curriculum, however, is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a caring school ethos, although it can be a useful catalyst. 

Both teachers and older students expressed the views that the relationship between thought and action was essential for caring, that the IB curriculum emphasized caring and that the IB curriculum was special in paying attention to community service. The research highlighted the need for teachers to exploit the opportunities provided by IB programs to ensure that a commitment to caring is central to learning and underlined that it is important to “protect” this dimension of the curriculum, particularly in later years when academic pressures intensify.

Conclusions

Caring as the heart of teaching and learning The pedagogical principles that underpin IB programs recognize, and indeed emphasize, that learning is a social process. Such learning must be underpinned by an ethic of care in which all those involved as teachers and students share an interest in supporting the learning of each other. This study has highlighted the importance of creating cultures in schools that have at their foundation an ethic of care.

However, care is not something that flows in one direction from teacher to student, but should be seen as an aspect of the organizational culture that radiates in all directions. Caring makes a difference when everyone in a community recognizes their responsibility to care for everyone else. 

The authors argue that “caring” should be reframed in the context of social solidarity in which individual self-interest is underpinned by a commitment to reciprocity and the common good.

The schools in this study valued the emphasis the IB places on holistic education in general, and pro-social learning in particular, through the learner profile. They also valued the flexibility they are given to enact this philosophy in their own community, and saw the importance of school leadership in enabling them to respond flexibly to cultural differences at the national and school level. While it is clear that schools do not want detailed prescriptions about how to incorporate caring into their curriculum, further advice and guidance from the IB in this area could be beneficial.

Additionally, schools could benefit from further guidance on effective modeling and dialogue, and a richer language for ensuring continuity in discussing caring behavior across the programs.

While it is clear that schools do not want detailed prescriptions about how to incorporate caring into their curriculum, further advice and guidance from the IB in this area could be beneficial. Additionally, schools could benefit from further guidance on effective modeling and dialogue, and a richer language for ensuring continuity in discussing caring behavior across the programs.

 


The schools participating in this research were all continuum schools, meaning that, like Notre Dame Prep, they offered the Primary Years Program (PYP), Middle Years Program (MYP) and Diploma Program (DP).

This summary was developed by the IB Research department.

Stevenson, H, Joseph, S, Bailey, L, Cooker, L, Fox, S and Bowman, A. “Caring” across the International Baccalaureate continuum." Bethesda, MD, USA. International Baccalaureate Organization.

©International Baccalaureate Organization
International Baccalaureate® | Baccalauréat
International® | Bachillerato Internacional®

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School 
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.