TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release
TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release

Implementing the IB Program at Branksome Hall


Rosemary Evans

Daunting challenge

As the newly appointed academic director at Branksome Hall in 2000, I faced one of the most significant challenges of my career: implementing the International Baccalaureate ® (IB) program for all students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 in an independent all-girls school in Toronto. The IB programs are all inquiry-based. They require teachers to plan collaboratively and to develop inquiry units. They involve students in rigorous assessments, some of which are externally assessed. Teacher planning is also reviewed. In other words, my challenge was a daunting one.


A fortuitous encounter

Critical thinking is central to the IB curriculum. As a social studies educator, I was aware of the work of Professor Roland Case and The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC²), so I was excited to learn that Roland was speaking in Toronto at the Librarian’s Super Conference. I attended and was lucky to be introduced. This fortuitous encounter launched a long and fruitful partnership between TC² and Branksome Hall.


The beginning of a fruitful relationship

Roland’s initial presentations to staff at Branksome Hall proved to be a game-changer. Our teachers immediately appreciated the power of critical thinking questions that necessitated the use of criteria to make reasoned judgements. Deeply engaging critical thinking challenges became the heart of our IB inquiry units. Roland visited Branksome Hall frequently and made presentations on critical thinking, inquiry, and global education. He worked with teachers from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. The staff were excited by Roland’s visits and always wanted more time to work with the TC² team.


Spreading the excitement: Summer institutes

TC² had introduced teacher summer institutes in British Columbia, so Branksome Hall decided to host a TC² institute at Branksome Hall for four days in the summer of 2003. An entire team arrived from BC to work with interested staff to master the elements of the TC² model and to collaboratively develop units of inquiry that incorporated critical thinking challenges. The TC² summer institutes became an annual tradition at the school for several years and attracted teachers from across southern Ontario and beyond—from both independent and public schools.


Incorporating the TC² approach to critical inquiry throughout the school

At Branksome Hall, we incorporated the TC² model into our unit planners so that during the unit planning process teachers had the support of a planning template that guided them to consider the elements required by both the IB curriculum frameworks and TC². We worked diligently as a staff, and with students, to consider the criteria for judgement, to understand critical thinking vocabulary, and to practice powerful thinking strategies. We made it a point to reflect on the habits of mind of a thoughtful individual.

Throughout this process, TC² facilitators worked alongside us, using what they call the ‘comet’ model of professional learning, to help students become open-minded, full-minded, and fair-minded individuals. There is no doubt that TC² transformed the classrooms of Branksome Hall into hotbeds of critical inquiry and made the International Baccalaureate ® curricular transformation possible.

Rosemary Evans
Principal
University of Toronto Schools
Toronto, Ontario