Moving in One Direction: Finding Ourselves with an ATLAS Curriculum Map.

This week Tony (@bellew, Curriculum, IBDP & PD Coordinator) and I gave a presentation to MS-HS faculty during our Wednesday PD time on “Why we map with ATLAS Rubicon.” Here it is. 


I’m willing to bet that if you’re a coordinator and your school uses a mapping tool like ATLAS Rubicon then you have heard the question “what’s the point of using XYZ?” on enough occasions to make you question it yourself. ATLAS is not a new thing for the school, and we have a great faculty here, but it was seen that there was a need to address directly the why and how of our curriculum mapping. So this week, Tony and I prepared, edited and presented a faculty PD session on why we map the curriculum and why we’re using ATLAS to get it done.

Timing was important for this presentation; we’re in the early stages of the year, having spent a few years trying to populate planners and articulate the curriculum, and now we’re looking to analyse, improve and use curriculum development as professional development across the school. For some it feels like we’ve been working towards completion for years, and it is important that faculty realise that if we see it as purely an exercise in box-filling accountancy that we will learn little and grow less. Instead we should be approaching it is an ongoing process, a cycle of review and improve, of collaboration, reflection and inquiry into our practices. We need everyone to be on the same page, moving in One Direction towards a stronger curriculum.

The slide-deck is posted below. The One Direction connection, tenuous though it may be, was an attempt to lighten a pretty dry topic – how many song titles can you spot? No apologies for the texty nature of many of the slides: the presentation has been added to a faculty guide page on curriculum mapping and needs to be self-explanatory for teachers looking back. Some slides we did not need in the presentation have been added back into the slide-deck for completion.


How did it go?

I think it did the job. The survey responses were positive and some teachers were thankful for the clarification. It was important to recognise that we were building on the good work of a lot of good people, and I think it was generally well received. There were some good discussions at the tables, and some entertaining headlines in the closing task (one has been re-purposed for the title of this blog post). The survey responses have given us plenty of actions to take on making ATLAS more useful for teachers and many of these have been taken care of already: the team at ATLAS have been very swift and accommodating in our development of planners over the last couple of years.

This was worth doing, and I recommend it to any coordinators who sense a resistance to curriculum development. I do feel that we have been able to address the issues and are more unified and it has given us a lot of food for thought in further development of curriculum and in-house PD sessions. Over the last couple of years we have done a lot to customise the planner to meet our needs as a school, connecting each section to PD resources and explanations – this has been well worth the ongoing time and effort.

Next Steps

It is clear from the feedback that teachers want more in-school time to work on planners. The HOS is clear that Wednesday PD time is for development, not secretarial work, so we need to manage this effectively. Also, we are in the midst of a stay-or-go summative evaluation of PYP and MYP in the school, so a lot rides on the results of that; however the use of ATLAS as a mapping tool will always be there. Here are some of the things I’d like to do with regard to curriculum development as professional development at CA:

  • Continue to evolve the planner and supporting linked resources so that teachers and departments are autonomous in development and confident in the expectations. This allows for more differentiated development.
  • Continue planner hotspots to allow teachers to choose their sessions for development of curriculum – and practices – for different elements of the planner.
  • Look again at assessment in a whole-faculty manner in semester 2.
  • Continue to check and provide feedback on exemplar planners for each department.
  • Provide resources and guidance for departments to help them make the most of collaborative planning sessions.
  • Continue to meet teachers at their request for development help – but add more walk-throughs in classes to see where more support can be given in translating curriculum into practice.

If the summative evaluation results in an affirmation of MYP at CA:

  • Use the opportunity to explore who we are using the standards and practices. We are CA and we are an IB World School.
  • Help departments set plans for transition into Next Chapter planners, and add a Stage 3 (hidden from public) section at the bottom of ATLAS planners as a ‘sandbox’ for this development.


So now that’s done, we continue our march onwards towards developing the ‘Best Curriculum Ever…’




5 responses to “Moving in One Direction: Finding Ourselves with an ATLAS Curriculum Map.”

  1. Jon Field Avatar
    Jon Field

    Hi Stephen – Interesting article and slideshow – Thanks for sharing. Here at Canadian International in Hong Kong we are using Atlas to map the PYP, MYP and have just started mapping certain aspects of the DP. I was wondering how you are using Atlas to map the whole IB Continuum. We are currently looking at what we want to map across the 3 programs, and the best way to do it to enable us to get a macro view from Pre Reception to grade 12. Any thoughts would be welcome. Cheers, Jon

    1. Stephen Avatar

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks for commenting. This week we’ve been working with the ATLAS guys to think about how to streamline the organisation of the schools & categories for this and to make the analytics more useful. We need to think more carefully about how we can map K-12, but the increasingly common language between the programmes will help. DP are using what is basically and MYP planner with TOK connections added.

      Some things we’ll look at over the coming years:
      – vertical articulation of subjects up the schools
      – mapping ATLs

      It has become really obvious that it needs to be populated as accurately as possible before we can see its value – we’re getting there and now thinking more about how we use it for review and improvement.

      I hope this helps. Say hi to Daun!


      1. Jon Field Avatar
        Jon Field

        Thanks Stephen – Our major focus for this year is also articulating the subjects across the whole school. When we have a really clear idea of how we are going to best use Atlas to facilitate this process l’ll pass it on. Daun says hi.



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