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Palmerston ATL Skills Toolbox: Home

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ATL skills Explained

What are Approaches To Learning Skills?

Approaches to Learning (ATL) Skills are strategies, skills and attitudes that are incorporated across all learning areas in the International Baccalaureate program, and are taught from the Primary Years Program through to the Diploma Program (International Baccalaureate 2014a). These skills are about ‘learning how to learn,’ and encourage students to take responsibility for their own development (International Baccalaureate Organization 2014b, p. 97). ATL skills are transferable across curriculum areas and the world beyond the classroom. The Approaches to learning skills are:

ATL Skill Categories

ATL Skill Clusters

ATL Skill Strands



Exchanging thoughts, messages and information effectively through interaction

Reading, writing and using language to gather and communicate information


Critical Thinking

Analysing and evaluating issues and ideas

Creative Thinking

Generating novel ideas and considering new perspectives

Transfer Skills

Using skills and knowledge in multiple contexts


Information Literacy

Finding, interpreting, judging and creating information

Media Literacy

Interacting with media to use and create ideas and information

Self Management

Affective Skills

Managing state of mind

Organisation Skills

Managing time and tasks effectively

Reflective Skills

(Re)considering the process of learning; choosing and using ATL skills



Working effectively with others

Examples of ATL skills are provided in the ATL Skills Framework in MYP: From Principles to Practice (International Baccalaureate Organization 2014b, pp. 98-104). 

Approaches to Learning Skills require explicit teaching (International Baccalaureate Organization 2014b, p. 97). Not all skills are taught in all subjects at all year levels; however, it is important that students have multiple opportunities to learn about and refine each skill across their educational journey. While not directly assessed in a unit, the application of the selected ATL Skills should be integral to the successful completion of a unit’s summative tasks (Mackenzie 2016).  

Students progress through different stages in their mastery of ATL skills. MYP: From Principles into Practice (International Baccalaureate Organization 2014b, p. 97) suggests using terminology such as the following to assist students in identifying their level of proficiency within each skill area:

  • Novice/beginning—students are introduced to the skill, and can watch others performing it (observation)
  • Learner/developing—students copy others who use the skill and use the skill with scaffolding and guidance (emulation)
  • Practitioner/using—students employ the skill confidently and effectively (demonstration)
  • Expert/sharing—students can show others how to use the skill and accurately assess how effectively the skill is used (self-regulation)

Evaluating ATLs in MYP Unit Planners

Integration of ATL's in Unit Planners at the exemplary (sharing) level:

*Are specifically identified and integrate meaningfully with engagements and assessment tasks. 

*Offer students opportunities to develop responsibility for their own learning through independent practice.

*Include clear descriptions of how skills are explicitly taught and specific strategies are practiced. 

*Support a clearly identified progression of learning across the PYP through their articulation with other subject groups, year levels, or school-wide plans (documented in the school's ATL chart). 

*Help students reach higher levels of achievement for the unit's objectives through related summative assessment task(s). 


From: International Baccalaureate Organization 2016, Evaluating MYP unit plans, International Baccalaureate Organization, Geneva. 

List of Works Cited

International Baccalaureate Organization 2014a, Approaches to teaching and learning in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, International Baccalaureate Organization, viewed 25 September 2018, <>.

International Baccalaureate Organization 2014b, MYP: From principles into practice, International Baccalaureate Organization, viewed 25 September 2018, <>.

Mackenzie, D 2016, ‘Approaches to Learning skills’, blog post, Library Grits, viewed 25 September 2018,<>.

ATL Documents

Further Reading