The Common Ground Curriculum


 ISB has been at the centre of a major global curriculum initiative to re-define learning for the 21st Century.  The Common Ground Curriculum was founded by the school and today offers a powerful framework for learning.

At the heart of this programme is a question: what’s worth learning?  At ISB, we believe that every student should be given an opportunity to master the ‘traditional basics’ of literacy and mathematics, as well as be exposed to a range of learning situations that prepare them for life beyond school.  

The large majority of our students who stay until High School successfully complete the International Baccalaureate Diploma and continue their studies in universities around the world.

So how do we make this kind of learning happen? 

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 How do we define learning at ISB?

Our starting point is the belief that we can never be effective in making learning happen until we decide what it actually is. At ISB, we have therefore defined learning as building three types of capacity in our students: 

Conceptual Learning

This is happening when students are connecting new, potentially disruptive, knowledge to prior understanding and to important concepts; constructing and re-constructing theories of how things work and why things are the way they are; testing their evolving theories in different contexts to refine them so they have increased explanatory power and to see when, where and how they apply.

Competency Learning

This is happening when students are deconstructing expert performance and comparing it with their own; identifying the adjustments they need to make; and practicing a skill in order to refine it and make it increasingly automatic.

Character Learning

This is happening when students are considering what particular dispositions and values would ‘look like’ when applied in specific authentic contexts; acting as a result of these considerations; and reflecting on the effects of these actions.

These different kinds of learning constantly interact together and, today, we tend to think of it as the DNA of our approach to learning across the school.

 What are the standards and content that frame the ISB learning experience?

Having defined three kinds of learning – Conceptual, Competency and Character – we developed clear, assessable standards.  But learning does not happen in a vacuum.  It needs a body of knowledge in which to become meaningful. But, for international students, what body of knowledge? Here’s a key question:

“1500 students, 70 nationalities, whose history do we teach?”

Our response to this question has been to develop a framework for an international knowledge-base that is relevant, engaging and challenging for all learners, regardless of language, culture, time or place. 

We created a global context for learning, eight Human Commonalities that organise well selected illustrative content, providing the ‘common ground’ for all our learners.

We made a series of short films, exploring the common ground that is the basis of learning at ISB.


Click below to watch our films about Learning at ISB and the Eight Human Commonalities











What does the ISB learning experience look like in practice?

The ISB learning experience is designed as a continuous journey of self-development from Preschool to High School graduation. 

We believe that every year spent at ISB is a unique opportunity for each student to engage with a coherent curriculum that is developmentally appropriate, tailored to their individual learning needs. 


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How do we know our students are successful?

We measure our success at ISB by the extent to which we make our values of inclusion, challenge and success a reality for each student.

Over the past few years, the school leadership and Board has put into place a number of key success indicators to ensure that we continue to provide an outstanding educational opportunity for all our students.


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