The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) in Victorian government primary schools, Australia

23 Nov 2014

IB Primary Years Programme students star in NAPLAN results compared with like and other Australian schools

The aim of this research study was to examine and document the impact of the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) implementation on student outcomes, pedagogical practice and school culture in the thirteen Victorian Government primary schools that have been authorised to offer the PYP. The project also sought in-depth understandings of the factors that influence schools to implement the PYP, to what extent the perceived benefits of PYP implementation are realised in practice and the emergent challenges and enablers associated with the introduction of AusVELS.

The research design adopted for this research study employed a mixed-methods approach to obtain and analyse both quantitative and qualitative data in order to address the key questions in a comprehensive manner. The methods included analysing relevant existing survey and assessment instruments, designing and analysing specific surveys, and interviews and observations in case study schools. In the context of Victorian Government schools, relevant survey and assessment instruments include the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and DEECD school surveys including the Teacher and Parent Opinion Surveys and the Student Attitudes to School Surveys. Only the DEECD Parent Opinion Survey is analysed in this study as this survey provides an insight into parental perspectives on the schools not obtained through other means.

To complement and extend the NAPLAN results, the RMIT team developed a principal, teacher and student (Grades 5 and 6) survey to collect perceptions about the extent to which PYP is impacting on: student achievement; student motivation; perceptions of teacher effectiveness; school connectedness; teacher pedagogical beliefs and practices; teacher efficacy and engagement; and school culture and climate (see Appendixes A-C). All of the surveys asked a mixture of closed and open questions. Each of the surveys was made available online to facilitate access by participants and analysis of responses.

All thirteen PYP Victorian Government schools were invited to participate in the research study, and the NAPLAN data from all of these schools, accessed via the MySchool website is analysed in this report. A total of five schools agreed to participate in the survey component of the study and completed the three RMIT surveys (principal, teacher and Grade 5 and 6 student questionnaires). To provide a richer picture of the implementation and impact of the PYP in the Government schools three case studies were completed. These case studies provided insight into each school and its context, the changes in teaching practices at the school and changes to the school climate and culture as perceived by key stakeholders (school leadership team, teachers and parents). The three schools that were the focus of case studies included a small school, a medium sized school and a large school. The schools had been authorised as PYP schools at three different times and were situated in different types of local communities with a range of non-English speaking backgrounds.

The investigation found that:

  • PYP student outcomes on the Year 3 and 5 reading and numeracy tests in the thirteen schools, as measured by NAPLAN in 2012, were higher than the Australian average, except for one school in numeracy.
  • The students at PYP Government schools, for the cohorts 2008-2010, 2009-2011 and 2010-2012, achieved higher levels in both reading and numeracy when compared to Like and Australian schools at both Years 3 and 5. Effect size outcomes, however, indicate greater achievement growth among Like and Australian schools.
  • Principals in the participating schools were very supportive of the PYP and viewed the programme as offering a range of benefits for the school.
  • Both principals and teachers in the participating schools are very strong in their beliefs that the PYP has contributed to student learning, particularly academic achievement, student development of Learner Profile attributes, and student motivation.
  • Students in the participating schools were very positive about their learning opportunities, teacher impact and school environment.
  • Principals were strong in their beliefs that the PYP had had an impact on their teachers’ beliefs, practices and engagement.
  • Teachers agreed that the PYP had had an impact on their beliefs, practices and engagement.
  • Principals were confident that the PYP had had positive benefits on the culture and climate in their schools.
  • A clear majority of the teachers were also of the view that the PYP had had positive benefits on the culture and climate in their schools.

The factors that influenced the schools to implement the PYP were very much related to its curriculum – it was an internationally recognised and validated curriculum that would engage and challenge students (especially the high achieving ones) – and also its inquiry based student centred pedagogy, together with its global perspective on learning and teaching.

With respect to emergent challenges and enablers associated with the introduction of AusVELS, at the time of the surveys and interviews, most of the schools were still in the early stages of auditing their PYP units of inquiry against the AusVELS curriculum. The schools were finding that they had to change and adapt the PYP units of inquiry, sometimes moving them across year levels, for example, to better fit the AusVELS requirements, but this was not extensive. Some teachers were finding these changes challenging, but the principal from one school who had completed the process was very happy with the outcome as s/he felt that the school now had the AusVELS and PYP scope and sequence information blended into a seamless document.

The case studies provided a richer picture of the implementation of the PYP in three Victorian Government schools, and illustrate successful implementation of the PYP and the benefits of the PYP for student outcomes. As noted above, each of the schools is different in terms of its size, location and time of joining, and the proportion of the students who come from a language background other than English; however there is a shared enthusiasm for PYP across the school leadership teams.

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