ISB FLEX Program

ISB FLEX Program Philosophy

Students sharing their service learning projects during the FLEX Service Share Fair

The ISB FLEX programme provides authentic learning opportunities that support the IB Approaches to Learning. Critical Thinking, Research, Communication, Social, and Self-management skills have been identified as critical to learner success beyond secondary school. The ISB FLEX programme aims to provide students with learning opportunities that challenge, enhance and provide learners with opportunities to make a difference in our and the greater global community through these transformational learning skills. The framework for this program is supported by the ACE dimensions of learning core areas of Creative, Moral, Social, Experiential and Entrepreneurial.

In addition to supporting our students as they build vibrant portfolios that demonstrate the breadth of their learning journey at ISB, FLEX allows students the opportunity to try different activities, discover new passions, and build upon existing ones through choice and autonomy. While individual enrichment activities may look slightly different in each grade level, one thing is consistent throughout, commitment to providing worthwhile experiences that enhance and enrich each student’s learning experience.

Linking the ACE Dimensions of Learning with the IB ATLs

Connecting learning activities that focus on

Approaches to Learning

  • Thinking skills

    • Critical-thinking skills (analyzing and evaluating issues and ideas)

    • Creative-thinking skills (generating novel ideas and considering new


    • Transfer skills (using skills and knowledge in multiple contexts)

    • Reflection/metacognitive skills ((re)considering the process of learning)

  • Research skills

    • Information-literacy skills (formulating and planning, data gathering and recording, synthesizing and interpreting, evaluating and communicating)

    • Media-literacy skills (interacting with media to use and create ideas and information)

    • Ethical use of media/information (understanding and applying social and ethical technology)

  • Communication skills

    • Exchanging information skills (listening, interpreting, speaking)

    • Literacy skills (reading, writing and using language to gather and communicate information)

    • ICT skills (using technology to collect, investigate and communicate information)

  • Social skills

    • Developing positive interpersonal relationships and collaboration skills (using self-control, managing setbacks, supporting peers)

    • Developing social-emotional intelligence

  • Self-management skills

    • Organization skills (managing time and tasks effectively)

    • States of mind (mindfulness, perseverance, emotional management, self-motivation, resilience)

FLEX as a way of Developing Metacognitive Skills

The importance of metacognition

Metacognition refers to an individual’s ability to plan, monitor, evaluate, and change their learning behaviours to confront challenges more effectively. The importance of metacognition is critical for student development and becoming life-long learners. For students, having metacognitive skills means recognizing their cognitive abilities, directing their learning, evaluating their performance, understanding what caused their successes or failures, and learning new strategies.

The potential benefits of metacognition in learning are as follows:

Higher achievement levels for the students. According to research, metacognitive practices can also compensate for any cognitive limitations that a student might have.

Increased ability to learn independently. Monitoring progress lets students take control of their learning, inside and outside the classroom.

Improved resilience. The ability for students to identify successes and failures and which strategies work best for them – or which have failed – increases learners’ perseverance in getting better at their work.

It aids disadvantaged students. According to research, teaching in a way that supports metacognition is beneficial for students at a disadvantage to their peers. Metacognition is becoming increasingly important, as the performance gap has widened again due to COVID-19.

Cost-effectiveness. This teaching method does not require specialist equipment or any other large purchases – it only requires teachers to be trained in the technique effectively.

Transferable knowledge. Metacognition helps students transmit their knowledge and understanding across tasks and contexts, including reading comprehension, writing, mathematics, memorizing, reasoning, and problem-solving.

Effective for all ages of students. Research shows the benefits for both primary and secondary students.

Emotional and social growth. Gaining awareness of mental states allows students to think about being happy, respected, and confident in themselves. They are also better able to understand other people’s perspectives.

How does FLEX help Develop Metacognitive Skills and the IB ATL's

The ISB FLEX Program develops metacognitive abilities by allowing students to plan, monitor, evaluate, and change their learning. As discussed in this article, these skills are essential to the effective development of life-long learning. The Design cycle implemented in the FLEX program guides students through an iterative process that engages students to assess their understanding through this cyclical process. Through this reflective process, students evaluate their learning (assessment as learning) and learn to find ways of improving their skills and transfer them to other areas of the curriculum. Students' assessment as learning should be completed at the end of each season and used as part of their student-led conferences and learner impact reports.

Beyond the development of Metacognitive skills, FLEX:

  • Allows students to explore their unique interests in a way that traditional schooling does not. FLEX makes learning more exciting and gives students ownership of their education – it thus increases their intrinsic motivation and autonomy, helping them become lifelong learners. Through genius hour projects, they might discover hidden skills or interests that they didn't know they had; this might influence what they choose to do in the future.

  • Fosters critical thinking and research skills. The research aspect of the FLEX Program ensures that students develop skills in finding relevant, reliable sources and evaluating their information.

  • Encourages creativity. Rather than being passive learners, FLEX lets students generate their ideas and think about exploring them through an active learning experience. Active learning will be helpful later on when they need to create and carry out work projects in their adult lives – in today’s world of work, soft skills like creativity and curiosity are critical.

  • Builds social skills and confidence. FLEX sessions are more like workshops, encouraging collaboration between students when they need help or want to share their ideas. This process increases social skills and confidence levels in the classroom.

ISB FLEX Program Development Plan

Year 1 overview

The focus in year one of the FLEX program is familiarising students and teachers with learner choice and autonomy by providing an environment that has structured projects but offers students opportunities to pursue areas of interest. Students will work through three key areas of the Dimensions of Learning, including creativity, entrepreneurship and social. Students will focus on assessment as learning by self-assessing their creative thinking, research, social, communication and self-management skills.

The critical development area for both students and teachers in year one is a process. Developing a culture where students feel empowered to drive their learning and teachers shift their role as classroom leaders to a facilitator of learning.

Year 2 overview

Year two of the FLEX program will continue to focus on the five dimensions of learning as the framework for the program. Students' focus on ATLs will provide the skills developed during their projects. The shift from year one will be the level of learner choice over the direction of the projects and areas in which students can explore. Pursuing learner interests and passions provides intrinsic motivation toward individual and group learning goals. Students will research, plan, create and reflect on student-led projects over a 16-week season.

Year 3 overview

Building on year two's FLEX Program of autonomy, choice and learner agency, students will now have the opportunity to initiate student-led programs that develop essential ATL skills while building critical leadership skills. Students will have a greater level of choice as they may wish to pursue an individual or group passion project that fits within the five dimensions of learning. The second opportunity will be for students to propose a student-led FLEX/CCA program. The activity could be anything from a service-learning experience with students to a robotics team that competes within the CEESA league. Teachers will continue to facilitate these sessions and supervise the various programs students lead.