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 (pictured above), 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, just because we, we kind of 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.”

3 Comments
  • 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.

  • 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.

Leave a Reply

Send an Invite...

Would you like to share this event with your friends and colleagues?

Would you like to share this report with your friends and colleagues?

You may enter up to three email addresses below to share this report