Presented at the IB Global Conference in Hong Kong (March 2019)


Introduction: Service Action (SA), Creativity, Activity & Service (CAS), and Service Learning (SL), collectively referred to as ‘service’ in this document, is a core element of the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) Middle Years (MYP), Diploma (DP) and Careers (CP) programs. Arguably, service is the IB mission in action; service is the education that remains long after the exams are done; service is the point of an IB education. With significant changes in IB program designs in 2019, one of the progressive curricular moves the IB has made is requiring the integration of service in the written, taught and lived curricula. Typically, in most IB schools, SA/CAS coordinators hold the core of knowledge and understanding about service – this is not enough. With the IB’s realignment of curriculum, a need for all IB teachers and students to be independently teaching/integrating and learning service has arisen. Designed to be used by any IB student, subject teacher, and service supervisor/coordinator, the ‘IB Service Ladder’ is one dedicated IB practitioner’s offering to address this need and empower our students (and us, their teachers) to be the change our fragile and complicated world needs.

Goal: To empower IB students and teachers with their learning and teaching by mapping their service journey in the MYP & DP programs. The ‘IB Service Ladder’ equips students and teachers with researched-based, outcome-linked, developmental pathways to link service to all aspects of the IB curriculum. This tool is meant to enhance teaching, learning and assessment of service and assist with the integration of service in all subjects in the MYP/DP/CP programs. Designed to be used for student self assessment/planning/reflection and teacher professional development/self appraisal, by no means is the ‘IB Service Ladder’ an exhaustive list covering all the minutiae of service in the three programs and neither is it a checklist. Rather, the ‘IB Service Ladder’ conceptualises the complex service learning/teaching journey in order to make progress visible, tangible and achievable. This ladder can be used in any IB context – it is a conversation starter, a launchpad, a means to develop essential skills of empathy, needs analysis, and principled action. The ‘IB Service Ladder’ reduces the chances of students being tokenized for service; rather, it empowers students to be informed and consulted as young leaders as they share decisions with adults, to eventually initiate service independently. Assessment as learning is the focus, not measurement. By using the “steps” of the IB Service Ladder to progress themselves: stakeholders first identify where they stand in relation to IB service outcomes and what they can do next to deepen their service learning and do their bit to “make the world a better place” (IBO).  

Research Method: Document analysis and literature review were the two main methods used to develop the ‘IB Service Ladder’. I have also trialled and co-authored the ladder with my students, and their voices are an essential part of this approach. Principles of developmental design (Griffin, 2018) have been applied to create an adaptation of Krathwohl’s taxonomy, aligned with IB’s six Approaches To Teaching (ATT) and conceptualise a stepped service journey for students and teachers. On the taxonomy, I have created the steps of ‘conceptualise’ and ‘problematise’ to capture the essence of an IB education – conceptual and complex. All the verbs used to describe teacher & student actions are visible and tangible – there is no vagueness. There are no adjectives, numbers or negative attributes. The steps are numbered for ease of use – they are not scores and the steps do not need to used in a linear fashion, if users are confident about their service learning. The focus is on a can-do attitude and a growth mindset which allows for development of ATL skills and the IB Leaner Profile.

TEACHER GUIDANCE: The vision for the use of this document is for teachers and students to be on the same page, literally and metaphorically speaking, in their understanding and implementation of service teaching and learning. For the purposes of visualisation and tracking, the service learning process has been simplified and put in a linear format with signposts for periodical self ‘check-ins’. In practice, service learning is nonlinear and stages will overlap. Reflection/self evaluation should be happening at every step. Yet, a pitstop at the ladder will clarify next steps, and promote reflection and the examination of ethics. With a new service activity/cohort, students and teachers would return to step one/two, armed with deeper insights based on previous experiences and reflections. The seven MYP/DP service outcomes have been adapted and aligned to the teacher actions using Griffin’s developmental principles, paving parallel pathways to self-educate students and teachers as they track and advance themselves down the ladder. Conceptual and practical in its design, the ‘IB Service Ladder’ requires stakeholders to combine subject knowledge, use their interests/passions, activate their ATL skills, examine their ethics and develop empathy. Done meaningfully, teachers should inspire and students should be inspired to initiate principled action in response to a local/global need, and live the IB mission to the fullest.

Conclusion: This document is the first iteration of what I hope will be a useful tool in the implementation and integration of service teaching in your IB MYP/ DP/CP programs. My intention is to empower users by deconstructing, demystifying, and strengthening IB service learning. This ladder is the product of my ongoing research at the University of Melbourne. In the spirit of service, I am sharing this with you. In the spirit of internationally minded constructivism, I invite feedback from IB practitioners; in the spirit of collaboration, I invite IB practitioners to use this tool, as is and without edits, for educational purposes only, with sources credited.  Please do share your stories of use here.

Note of thanks: This teaching and learning tool was presented at the IB global conference in Hong Kong in March 2019. A subset of the ‘The MYP Ladder’ (Solomon & Francis, 2018) unveiled at the IB World Conference in Singapore 2018, the ‘IB Service Ladder’ was developed in the framework of the MA studies in IB DP at the University of Melbourne, while working at the ISF Academy in Hong Kong. This ‘IB Service Ladder’ has benefitted from feedback from Mr. J. Rafael Angel. I am also most grateful to my university teachers (Ms. Dulfer), my school, the ISF Academy in Hong Kong, my school leaders (Dr. Pritchard & Mr. Forde) and peers (Ms. Francis & Mr.John) for their invaluable support in making this project happen.

References (Limited List)

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.      

Griffin, P. E. (2018). Writing Assessment Rubrics in Assessment for Teaching. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.                                                                          

Jones. L, Allen. B, Dunn. P, & Brooker. L. (2017). Demystifying the rubric: a five-step pedagogy to improve student understanding and utilisation of marking criteria, Higher Education Research & Development, 36 (1), 129-142.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

International Baccalaureate Organization, (2018). Assessment principles and practices – quality assessment in a digital age, Cardiff: IBO.                                                                            

International Baccalaureate Organization, (2016). Career Related Program Brief, Cardiff: IBO.                                                                                                                                                  

International Baccalaureate Organization, (2014). MYP: From Principles into Practices, Cardiff: IBO.                                                                                                                                            

Hart, A. R, (1997) Children’s Participation: The Theory and Practice of Involving Young Citizens in Community Development and Environmental Care, London: Routledge.            

Stiggins, R. J. (2001). Student-involved classroom assessment. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA.: Prentice Hall.

Please download and trial the IB Service Ladder (save image)!
Please also use this Poster and Student Version.
The Empathy Continuum is also a useful tool.


  1. Hello Elizabeth,

    I acme across this gem of a resource as I was preparing to lead a PD. This is fantastic-it’s simple, yet direct and provides clarity and “tangibility” to so many abstract ideas. I hope I have your permission to use this. Thanks so much-Priya.


  2. This is absolutely amazing and inspiring work. I hope to link service across all departments in my school and will be showing them this model during our next PD sessions to get the ball rolling. Thank you so much for sharing such a valuable resource and for the time and energy you dedicated to it. We would love to help in anyway we can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Naomy. What you are describing is fantastic – this is the purpose of my document- and I am glad you saw this straightaway- let me know how else I can support you.


  3. Elsie, this is a triumphant effort!
    My most sincere acknowledgment for your dedication and hard work- you’re an example of a lifelong learner!
    As we evaluate SA in our curriculum as well as students’ experiences, count on further input from our end.
    ¡Felicitaciones, maestra!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an incredible provocation! Missed the conference this year but so glad to have found this. Thank you for such in-depth thinking, research and sharing this excellent piece of work. Can’t wait to share this with my staff and try to scaffold the learnings here to the PYP. Keep up the inspiring work!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Elizabeth, This is incredible effort as it means a lot to be connected to like minded people with similar thoughts, passion and intents to take up actions.
    I think the ideas coming together is the need of the hour and if we as educators could contribute to it will be great service to begin with.
    Am planning a pd around your blog if you allow.

    Liked by 1 person

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