IB students ‘appear to hold an advantage’ in critical thinking, finds study

The IB-funded report, conducted by Oxford University, found that participation in its diploma programme was a “significant predictor” of critical thinking

Research from Oxford University suggests that International Baccalaureate (IB) students “appear to hold an advantage” over their non-IB contemporaries in their ability to think critically.

The study, commissioned by the IB, examined the impact of its diploma programme (DP) on students’ critical thinking abilities. Researchers focused on more than 560 students from eight schools in Australia, England and Norway.

“The DP philosophy ensures that critical thinking instruction is not assumed to follow from other gains in knowledge, but is purposefully taught within the classroom,” reads the summary of the report.

“This approach may represent one of the likely ways that DP students gain a competitive critical thinking advantage because national programmes rarely include general critical thinking instruction courses.

“After controlling for covariates – including student personality variables, cognitive abilities, socio-economic status indicators and demographic characteristics – participation in the DP was a significant predictor of critical thinking. Specifically, DP students had significantly higher critical thinking than their non-DP peers.”

While we can’t know for certain whether IB participation improves critical thinking, it is noteworthy that, even after controlling for many pre-existing differences, IB students appear to hold an advantage when it comes to critical thinking – Dr Therese Hopfenbeck, Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment

Dr Therese Hopfenbeck, director of the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment, who received an IB-funded $100,000 grant to act as principal investigator on the year-long project, said: “While we can’t know for certain whether IB participation improves critical thinking, it is noteworthy that, even after controlling for many pre-existing differences, IB students appear to hold an advantage when it comes to critical thinking.

“The findings suggest that instructional approaches that focus on teaching critical thinking skills explicitly, as well as embedding opportunities for students to think critically within each subject, may facilitate the development of critical thinking skills.

“IB students and teachers have identified many potential avenues by which the IB encourages the development of critical thinking and hopefully in the future we can build an even clearer picture of how to improve students’ critical thinking skills.”

An environment systems and society teacher in England commented: “I feel like our students end up maybe more rounded than other students would because we facilitate both sides and thinking about things from different perspectives and then coming up with their own validated conclusions. And I think that’s a very valuable part of the course.”

  • Heather McPherson

    My huge appreciation re the IB approach is rooted in eliminating the delusions of fanciful thinking to begin with! As the parent of two IB grads, mother-in-law of another (IB completed in the USA), I applaud the no-nonsense approach : a veritable mandate to think beyond the proverbial “box” duly guided by highly motivated teachers (critically important), fellow students and supportive parents.
    Sans “A” levels in the USA, it came as no surprise that the parent body – at least in Central Florida – consisted of some former British Commonwealth citizens and other immigrants seeking to shape a newer, more rounded future adult with solid academics and a strong pathway to the pick of universities incl grad school.

  • Paritosh K. Roopak

    I fully agree with the facts that IB Diploma program is a better curriculum and can enhance strong critical thinking skill of students, however, since the author has mentioned this research was funded by IBO, readers may think it is a paid article to promote the organization.

  • Rajeev DIXIT

    I am sure IB is about to grow their impact on University market to facilitate absorption of their students worldwide.

  • Petra Hanna

    I am a 12 year old student, in 8th grade, and I am thinking of switching to IB program at 10th grade. In Lebanon, the education system isn’t satisfactory. I want a challenging and advanced way of learning and continuing with my schooling.

  • Pushpaja Nambiar

    I do believe IB facilitates critical thinking skills.
    Being a TOK Coordinator and facilitator, it is visible while teaching and students interest in comparison to other curriculum.

  • An ib student

    It is concerning how the investigation that praises ib is funded by ib themselves.

  • Alireza Sedghi

    A suggestion if I may. If examiners from the IB were expert in Anthropology, they will be able to discover more about the IB students around the world. This is coming from an IBDP student, and I am not sure if you are familiar with the MYP curriculum, but looking into that is a good notion. If you have any questions or would like an interview, I am happy to participate. I am currently studying in an IB school in Oslo, Norway. Thank you for writing this article, I highly appreciate it.

    Thank you,
    A fellow 11th grade IB student

  • Dr. Max Sharma

    Although I have two children enrolled in IB diploma program schools, this study itself, although likely well intentioned, does have conflict of interest since it was funded by a grant by IB. I believe the data could be more impactful with independent funding. Perhaps this study will be the background needed to apply for an educational research grant from another body.

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