May 7, 2015
by Brad Opfer

Concept-based teaching and learning – links to PYP and MYP

by Leena Palekar 

September 2014 saw the introduction of the concept-based approach for IB Business Management. As a teacher having taught three Business Management syllabuses in the past 15 years, ‘concept-based teaching and learning’ was new exasperated by not having taught PYP or MYP before.

Concept-based teaching and learning is an integral part of the PYP and MYP programs. The concept-based approach introduced for Business Management not only ensures that students are able to develop a greater depth of understanding for Business Management in a global context, but also there is a continuity and progression of ATLs (Approaches to Teaching and Learning) in the continuum of IB programs.

Having undertaken Vertical Articulation at my f2f school (which is an all IB school offering PYP, MYP and Diploma) for nearly 2 years now, I can see the benefits of ATLs for my son who is still in PYP when he transitions through the MYP and Diploma IB programs.

For example, students coming from the MYP Individuals and Societies subject group are familiar with both contextualized teaching and conceptual approach to learning. Contextualized teaching is characterized through inquiry into historical, contemporary, political, social, economic, cultural, technological and environmental contexts. Conceptual approach to learning is demonstrated through the key and related concepts in the Individuals and Societies MYP subject group. These will only be further developed in the new Business Management program.

Six concepts have been identified as underpinning the new Business Management course and will form the basis of a Section C on Paper 2 for both Higher and Standard level students.

  1. Change
  2. Culture
  3. Ethics
  4. Globalization
  5. Innovation
  6. Strategy


Although the six concepts were already implicit in the old syllabuses, the new syllabus focuses on developing a holistic and integrated understanding of Business Management.


Tell me and I forget.

Teach me and I remember.

Involve me and I learn.

Benjamin Franklin


Preparing our students to a rapidly changing world is the most pressing challenge we educators face today. Our students need the 21st century skills – the ability to think critically, solve problems creatively, gain information from multiple sources instead of just the textbook, amongst many.

The following diagram shows how the 6 concepts are anchored in the business management tools, techniques and theories and come alive through case studies and examples.

concepts content and contexts in BM



(Source: IB Business Management guide)

In the words of Lynn Erickson, author and consultant of Concept-based Instruction, “A conceptual mind creates connections and builds patterns to prior experience and finds relevance”.

In doing so, students:

  • Can view the content of the Business Management syllabus through the lens of the 6 concepts.
  • Develop creative and critical thinking skills, questioning and research skills.
  • Know, learn, understand and master business ideas, rather than simply memorizing them.
  • Learn to appreciate the importance of business concepts and relate these to increasingly complex and ever-changing real world situations

The foundation laid in PYP and MYP serves very useful therefore in understanding the concept-based approach in the new Business Management course.

Written by Leena Palekar, IB Business Management Teacher

Leena Palekar

August 21, 2014
by Brad Opfer

The Journey Ahead

journeySeveral years ago, I came across a wonderful visualization of learning by Dr. Alec Couros, a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina. In his February 2009 blog post, Dr. Couros sets out to conceptualize and define open teaching, but ultimately provided something much more…a striking description and image of “social, collaborative, self-determined, and sustained, life-long learning”.

In his post, Dr. Couros provided two graphics. I am not sure if living near the Rocky Mountains or my love for hiking influenced me, but the one that resonated with me the most is shown below.

Image from Dr. Alec Couros blog post, University of Regina. Made available via creative commons.

Years later, as I have become involved in preparing Pamoja Education teachers and students for the upcoming school year, I return to this image as it provides an excellent metaphor to explain Pamoja Education’s learning space and the role of the students and teachers.

To me, the picture tells a story beginning with the student setting out on a journey, a quest for knowledge and understanding. It does not matter too much how the student got there, but in order to succeed, the student will need to eventually determine for him or herself that this is a journey worth taking.

In this story, students shed the traditional role as a passive learner and instead take on the role of an explorer, as an active and collaborative inquirer. Students constantly utilize, share, develop, and exchange their own gifts and talents while exploring all of the resources and opportunities provided in the course.

Along the journey, students are empowered to take the lead and pursue their interests and the objectives of the course. They do not do this alone, but rather are surrounded by a dedicated and caring support system (e.g., classmates, teachers, and parents).

Teachers “know the terrain” (i.e. the course), point out key concepts/ideas, and “guide students around obstacles”. They do not carry each student to the top of the mountain, but instead provide each student with the direction, skills, and inspiration they need to reach their destination.

So, as the summer comes to an end for students and teachers in the northern hemisphere and we begin the transition to the upcoming school year, make sure that you do not leave your adventuresome spirit behind. It just might help you find the right path to success.

Written by Brad Opfer, IB Teacher

June 26, 2014
by Brad Opfer

Collaboration in the IBDP Classroom

Collaboration in IB Business Management SL

Bringing students and teachers together from over 300 schools worldwide provides instant access to a variety of views and perspectives and unique opportunities for collaboration. In order to take full advantage of the global nature of the online classroom, Pamoja Education seeks to develop the collaboration skills of all of its students to encourage international mindedness and a more in-depth understanding of their subject. The following shares some of our experiences, challenges, and successes in developing student collaboration.

Ways we collaborate

Student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration takes place in a variety of ways at Pamoja Education. This includes discussion forums, blog, wikis, Google Apps, video chat, social media and email.

Five examples of collaboration in the Business Management SL course

#1 – Students create stakeholder dramas in small groups displaying the main interests of business stakeholders and the resulting conflict.  Students then watch their classmates’ dramas, identify the stakeholders, discuss the conflict, and recommend solutions to the conflicts.

#2 – Students organize their own groups to complete case study questions on organizational structure.  Then, they examine the effectiveness of how they structured their group applying relevant business theory.

#3 – Students complete a study guide as a class using a wiki to summarize key points from the unit by drawing diagrams, inserting text, creating videos, etc.

#4 – Students research, share, and discuss the external environment and the role of the public sector in their home country.

#5 – Students work in small groups on a problem-based learning activity applying business theory to decide whether a recent merger is a ‘perfect marriage’ or ‘tragedy in the making’.

Main benefits of collaboration

  • Collaborating allows students to see multiple perspectives and develop a more complete understanding of topics and concepts.
  • Students learn how to lead and work with others more effectively.
  • Many students increase their level of engagement on collaborative activities, as they do not want to let their peers down.

Main challenges and lessons learned

  • Time differences and demanding schedules can make it difficult for IB students to meet synchronously.  Students use a blend of synchronous and asynchronous tools and are encouraged to start projects early.
  • Group members can make uneven contributions.  Having students collaborate online is more transparent allowing a teacher to monitor activity.  Self and peer assessment also allows students to reflect on their level of participation and collaboration.
  • The use of idioms and slang can make written messages unclear in a global classroom.  Students tend to use more formal text when collaborating.
  • On occasion, group work can fall short of expectations.  Students must learn from their failures as well as their successes.


“By far one of the most advantageous aspects of online learning lies within the extremely lavish and rich nature of the class discussions, made possible by the very fact that Pamoja Education is hosted online. You’ll hear voices and perspectives from all around the world on every single item brought up for discussion by the teacher, which really gives me a deeper sense of personal, as well as international understanding.”

Hiroshi Moody
Pamoja Education Student


Online resources and tools for collaboration Howard Rheingold presents peeragogy, a collection of techniques for collaborative learning and collaborative work. Roman Krznaric’s blog on empathy and the art of living. Google Apps for Education Google Hangouts Skype in the Classroom. A free online tool kit to facilitate group work.

Written by Brad Opfer, IB Teacher

April 7, 2014
by Brad Opfer

A Global Learning Community


In the online Pamoja Education classroom we work as a global learning community to deliver the all aspects of the IB Learner Profile and help individuals and groups become responsible members of local, national and global communities.

As online teachers we are lifelong learners; there is a huge learning curve in terms of both new technologies and online pedagogy. This enthusiasm for learning is shared with our students who are encouraged through course design and delivery to develop their research and inquiry skills.

By sharing our online classrooms with teachers and students from all round the world the knowledge and understanding we develop is applied across a range of disciplines and global situations deepening application skills.

To overcome some of the issues associated with online education, staff and students have to think creatively and ethically to ensure that complex issues are explored critically.

The range and styles of communication employed in the online classroom are much more diverse than in face to face classrooms. This allows us to collaborate more effectively and access a much wider range of perspectives.

One of Pamoja Education’s overriding principles is that all members of our learning community act with integrity and honesty. We take responsibility for our actions and their consequences and instil this same ethical approach in our students, their work and their interactions with others.

The multicultural nature of Pamoja Education means that we are exposed to a wide range of cultures and viewpoints. We embrace this diversity in our learning community and grow from the interactions we have with others showing reciprocal empathy, compassion and respect.

As a learning community we are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change. We learn from each other and rely on each other as we are interdependent learners who explore new ideas and innovative educational strategies.

As reflective practitioners and learners we explore our individual and collective strengths and areas for development in both our educational and personal lives.

Across the Pamoja Education community we strive to continue to develop innovative ways to provide students and teachers with a collaborative and dynamic online learning environment to support students in achieving their academic potential, after all, helping students to succeed is what motivates us all to keep learning.

Written by:

Mrs. Ruth West

Mrs. Ruth West

Information based on:

February 7, 2014
by Leena Palekar

TOK in Business and Management

Business and Management courses structured towards understanding business environments and interactions expose students to real world business case studies.  Interpreting the business world from a ‘Theory Of Knowledge’ (TOK) perspective challenges students in unique ways.  For example, TOK requires Business and Management students to scrutinize knowledge in a critical manner in decision-making, which is central to most business activities.  So, by using the TOK lens, students can understand (a) how knowledge is constructed, and (b) what constitutes as knowledge in any given business scenario.

Below is an example of how TOK is applied to business case studies.  The example relates to the BP oil spill crisis of 2010.  The oil leak, which began on 20 April 2010 killed eleven men and leaked 4.9 million barrels of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. The spill caused extensive damage to marine and wild life habitats, tourism and fishing industries.

What has BP done to help the Gulf of Mexico recover from the oil spill disaster?

The fallout from this disaster raises many pertinent questions regarding the ethical and mandatory obligations on businesses to protect the environment. In this context TOK can be applied in understanding ‘how’ one begins to believe in something, supports those beliefs with the available evidence and responds to criticisms related to those beliefs.

First, in the oil spill case, the then CEO of BP Tony Hayward was blamed for the disaster and was forced to resign. Using TOK we can identify a knowledge issue viz. ‘How was BP challenged by environmental regulators or U.S. federal politicians?’ To further investigate the knowledge issue, we can query whether the study of issues in Humanities leaves us with a responsibility.

Second, we all know that ‘language’ is used for describing things.  But ‘language’ is also used for influencing views and opinions and persuading people to accept those ideas. This can be interpreted as ‘manipulating’ peoples’ understanding of things. In the oil spill case we can apply TOK’s ‘Ways of Knowing’ to ‘language’ for understanding the inherent weaknesses in interpreting knowledge issues. For example, emotive wording can be observed when U.S. President Barack Obama compared the oil spill crisis to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.  Likewise, there were hasty generalizations on the conduct of the then BP CEO Tony Hayward when the media quoted him saying “I would like my life back” while sailing around the Isle of Wight in baseball cap and sunglasses (Note: the comments were made six weeks after the BP oil rig exploded causing the spill).

On the other hand, other media reports portrayed Hayward’s challenging assignments when he joined BP in 1982. These included BP’s North Sea offshore rigs in the jungles of South America, the company’s attempts to avoid human rights issues in guarding its oil-drilling operations in economically poor countries and large investments in renewable energies.

In conclusion, since much of our knowledge in shaped by words it is important to understand that language is not as simple and straightforward as we believe it to be. We need to carefully interpret what a statement means in more than one way. In the BP oil spill case we observe that the personal life of BP CEO Hayward was intensely scrutinized by the media, public and politicians, which led to intense pressure on Hayward to resign. Whether that was a true reflection of who shoulders responsibility for the disaster is highly debatable. This is because there could have been many other triggers and causes to the oil spill disaster and the nature in which the disaster itself was managed. TOK accentuates the need for careful dissection of knowledge in order to interpret its precise meaning and contextual elucidation.  





January 7, 2014
by Brad Opfer

The SL Internal Assessment Commentary

Like many IB Business and Management students around the world, Pamoja students are in the process of finishing up their SL Internal Assessment Commentary.

Some important final reminders that all students need to consider are:

1.  Make sure the commentary follows the format outlined by Senior Examiners.

  • Title (in the form of a question)
  • Introduction (including a description of methodology)
  • Findings (based on the supporting documents)
  • Analysis of the findings
  • Conclusion(s)
  • Bibliography and references
  • Appendices: supporting documents

Note that you may choose to organize your findings and analysis under the heading of the relevant business theory/tool being used (e.g., SWOT Analysis, Financial Ratio Analysis, ecommerce, etc.). Easy points can be earned if you follow the proper format (e.g., including highlighted supporting documents).

2.  Probably the most challenging aspect of this assignment is to stay under the 1500 word limit.  To inspire you to use your words wisely, have a look at this short but powerful video appropriately titled ‘The Power of Words’.

3.  Use the IA Checklist and Criteria to make sure you have everything. Remember that this is your chance to show your understanding of the subject, apply business theory, and showcase your analytical and evaluative skills.  Also note that referencing your supporting documents and other sources (if applicable) is a critical step that shows up in several of the criteria.

4.  To avoid any undue stress and technical problems do not wait until the last minute or even the the last day to submit your IA.

5.  Continue to work closely with your teacher.  Questions or concerns can be solved much more easily if they are brought to the attention of the teacher well ahead of the final deadline.

6.  After completing and submitting your IA take a few minutes to reflect on the process.  What did you learn from the process?  What did you do well?  What will you do better next time?  The lessons learned from the process will be just as important to you in the future as the content covered in the final product.

Written by Brad Opfer, IB Teacher

November 24, 2013
by Brad Opfer

How do you get full marks in Business & Management?

Marks in IB Business and Management are allocated for four different areas. You need to be able to demonstrate all four to earn an IB level 6 or 7!

  1. Knowledge

You have to learn the basic theories, models, terminology and equations as outlined in the syllabus of the IB Business and Management Subject Guide.

  1. Application

This means using the information you are given about the business when answering the question. If the question is about Apple, then you should answer talking about iPads, MacBooks, etc.. If the question is about ice cream, then you answer should refer to ice creams, cones and tubes. Using the name of the business given is not enough.  You need to mention more specifics like their products and if possible give relevant examples.  In addition, you need to consider which of the theories, models, and terminology is most relevant given the specific circumstances of the business.

Quoting from the case study is also a good way of doing this although be careful not to waste too much time on an exam or word count on your Internal Assessment quoting long passages.

  1. Analysis

Analysis is showing the effect that something has. In B&M this is usually the effect of something, for example a decision or an external event, on the business.

For example…….. In the short term, following ethical objects can increase costs for the business. Ben and Jerry (from Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream) would need to use fair trade suppliers and pay them a fair amount for their product. This will increase the costs of making the ice cream which in term will lead to either making less profit for every ice cream which they sell or having to increase the selling price which would lead to a drop in demand.

Balanced analysis means that you look at both sides of the argument……….

For example……… However in the longer term, as customers become more aware of the approach and the fair trade policy that Ben and Jerry’s have adopted, they are willing to pay more for their ice cream. They also may become more loyal to the product as they feel good about purchasing it and supporting farmers in LEDCs. This means that in the longer term, B&J are able to charge a higher price and their profit margins will improve. They also will get a competitive advantage through increased customer loyalty.

To get full marks in a level 3 question you must show balanced analysis which is based on the question or information given.  You can accomplish balance by addressing both the pros and cons or, in other words, the benefits and limitations.  A balanced analysis shows that you are considering both sides and/or multiple views.

In the short term the effect will be………………… longer term it will be…………………..

The benefits of this will be……………………. However there could also be difficulties with this approach……. These include…………

On one hand…………….. however on the other………

  1. Evaluation

In a level 4 question, you will need to provide a judgement or conclusion based on your balanced analysis.  It might be a question asking if it’s wise for a firm to relocate, or invest in a new production line.  There’s rarely a straightforward ‘correct’ answer to these questions.  Instead, you’re being tested on your ability to say “hmmmm ….. well the answer depends on this and this.  But if such-and such were true, I might change my answer”.

That’s the basis of a good evaluation: that your final answer depends on a variety of things.  Here are some ideas:

  • A range of factors to consider.  An interesting question or case study will be expecting you to sift through some difficult choices, situations and issues.

  • A range of views to consider.  Remember that decisions often look different from the rival perspectives of different stakeholders.

  • A range of timescales in which events unfold.  Most significant decisions will have both short term and long term consequences.

  • A range of questions that still need to be asked.  It’s often smart to point out that the wisdom of any decision rests on several unknowns.  Say what new facts might come along that would change your decision.

  • A range of value judgements to be made.  Different people often come to different conclusion.

Ways you can finish your evaluation after completing a balanced analysis are:

Overall it appears that the best solution is………..because………..

In conclusion……

In the short term…………. however in the longer term……….…

On one hand…………….however on the other……………………..

Overall I believe………….……because………….

Remember you must justify your evaluation, i.e. say why you have come to that conclusion.

As a note point for a level four question, you can usually follow the same basic layout.

An example of a quality evaluation is to analyse two or three points showing one side (short term, benefits, one person’s view). Then analyse two or three points showing the other side (long term, negatives, another person’s view). Then, finally, YOUR overall view/judgement/recommendation/conclusion with reasons.


Mary is the Fashion Editor for a national style magazine, a job she loves. She lives in Dublin, Ireland. She needs to buy a new coat and has two different options, a rain coat for $20 or a fashion coat for $30. She has $35 to spend.

Recommend which coat Mary should buy? 9 Marks

Mary has two choices with coats. The rain coat has a number of advantages for her. Firstly it is the cheaper choice and Mary will still have $15 left to spend on a new pair of shoes or something else she wants. Additionally it is also a more practical choice as Mary lives in Ireland which is always very wet and therefore she will stay dry when she is out walking. However the fashion coat is much more stylish than the raincoat and Mary really enjoys feeling stylish. Perhaps more importantly Mary is the fashion editor is Vogue and it is probably important for her job to stay fashionable and up to date.

Overall I would recommend that Mary buys the fashion coat. Her job relies on her being fashionable and while it is more expensive, her job is very important to Mary. Being fashionable also makes Mary feel good which I think is necessary to a happy life. In terms of the rain maybe Mary could make a different plan and use the remaining $15 to look for a cheaper option, for example an umbrella, or save a little longer and buy the rain cost in a few weeks.

So remember

1. Knowledge

2. Application

3. Analysis

4. Evaluation

Written by Helen Brocklesby, IB Teacher

[Image of knowledge, application, analysis, and evaluation by Brad Opfer]

November 11, 2013
by Brad Opfer

Completing an effective SWOT analysis

Six points from Pamoja IB Business Management teachers to help you complete an effective SWOT analysis:

  • A SWOT analysis addresses both internal and external factors while a STEEPLE analysis will only address the impact of the external environment on a business. A SWOT categorizes factors into positive (strengths and opportunities) and negatives (weaknesses and threats) while the STEEPLE analysis categorizes the external factors by type (e.g., social, technological, economic, etc.)
  • Opportunities and threats are NOT factors that the organization may face in the future. Instead, they are current external factors that are outside the control of the company. Hence, O and T should not be described as company actions or policies.
  • SWOT is often mistaken to be an analysis of advantages and disadvantages, but it is NOT. It provides a framework to analyze the current situation of an organization.
  • The SWOT usually applies to a business or a division of a corporation, not to a project or strategy. The strategy is often the result of a SWOT analysis.
  • SWOT factors should be identified on the basis of evidence and data, not opinions. Each statement in a SWOT analysis should be a fact, not an opinion or recommendation. Therefore, it is important to document your sources to substantiate and strengthen each of your claims.
  • It is better to explain a few of the most significant factors rather than listing a whole bunch. Writing in paragraph form tends to help with this rather than using a table or bulleted list approach.

[image by cornflakegirl_ made available through creative commons]


October 30, 2013
by Brad Opfer

My Vision of Future Education…

If we accept that:

  • Learning is a capacity that all living beings share.
  • Humans need to nurture learning lifelong in order to survive, but also to flourish.
  • Humans survive by adapting to their environment, but flourish by actively shaping it using their material, social, cultural and cognitive artefacts.
  • We live in unstable times when the future is complex, uncertain and largely unknown.


  • Education in our times should be the systematic development of learning for a largely unknown future, rather than the transmission of teachers’ knowledge.
  • Education should be universally and equally accessible – irrespective of social, economic and cultural circumstances – as a matter of a universal human right.
  • Education should be re-conceptualized beyond schools as universal learning opportunities.

It follows that in order to build a learning society for the future:

  • Schools need to abandon their assumptions that learning occurs at the same pace, in the same sequence, and has the same scope and purpose for all learners.
  • New structures (‘learnscapes’) need to be designed to enable SOCIAL –Self-Organized Collaboration for Inter-Active Learning.
  • Education should be personalized, demand-driven, “minimally invasive” and develop SOCIALity, and based on projects of social, cultural, scientific and technological improvement in the learner’s community.
  • Teachers need to re-conceptualize their profession as ‘learnscape designers’, and see themselves as professional learners who catalyse others’ learning.
  • Learners need to regard themselves as teachers – of themselves and others with whom they collaborate in SOCIAL.
  • Schools need to become learnscapes, collaborating with real workplaces, and workplaces need to become schools, or support them.
  • Examinations need to be replaced by systems of evaluation of competence, evidenced by portfolios of authentic work or performance, and based on careful calibrations of competence between novice and expert.
  • The state needs to enable this universal and equal access to education; markets need to allocate resources freely to universalize education; and communities need to regulate the ‘learnscapes’ as a commons so that all their members can productively participate in public life.
  • Following Illich, educational structures need to be designed more as “networks” rather than only as “funnels” (i.e. schools).
  • The barriers that characterized education up to the 20th century need to be brought down in the 21st – barriers between disciplines, between schools and the workplace and the rest of society, between teachers and learners, and between the global and the local – connecting what the barriers separated, without extinguishing their differences.

Written by Mr. Gautam Sen
Originally posted in





[Image by  ºNit Soto made available through creative commons]

September 13, 2013
by Brad Opfer

The Future of Banking: ‘Fin-Tech’ Firms

Internet Banking

The Internet as a global network system consisting of millions of users accelerates the flow of information thereby propagating its own model of operation and communication. In recent times, a new phenomenon is emerging in this digital space, which is giving large and iconic financial institutions like traditional brick-and-mortar banks a run for their money. Through the Internet, financial-technology firms or ‘fin-tech’ firms as they are popularly known are offering people financial services such as international and local money transfers, short-term loans, peer-to-peer lending, and retirement savings plans, which once were only available through established banks. This is revolutionizing simple banking services whereby such services are offered at extremely low costs, available 24/7 and accessible through digital devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. These fin-tech firms are re-writing the rules of simple banking by offering convenience, speed and accessibility to banking applications, which traditional banks cannot provide but people demand. What is even more interesting is the ability of such firms to make quick profits due to lower operating costs due to limited overheads, human resources and low servicing and maintenance costs, which banks incur on large fixed assets. Therefore, it is not surprising that fin-tech firms such as Wonga and Xoom are attracting venture capitalists as well as boosting their market share by attracting mass users that demand instant connectivity, immediacy of transactions and user-directness of the applications and processes applied in making financial transactions. These firms use innovate technologies such as cloud computing (i.e. using remote servers hosted on the internet to store, process and manage data) and web 2.0 applications (apps that are dynamic as they provide interactive communicative capabilities between users). In addition, these firms also use creative algorithms to manage large customer and transactional data at much lower costs than traditional banks.

This phenomenon of low-cost digital banking can have serious implications on large banking institutions. Therefore, banks need to seriously understand these new models of digital banking in order to improve their existing practices as well as protect their organizations’ commercial interests. This raises some interesting questions such as –

1. Can fin-tech firms erode the market share of traditional banks similar to budget airlines offering a low-cost solution to the commercial aviation industry?

2. Should traditional banks partner with fin-tech firms or provide ‘fin-tech like’ solutions to their customers?

3. Could rich traditional banks simply buy fin-tech firms and destroy such competitors?

Written by Leena Palekar, IB Teacher

[Money Image by Don Hankins made available through Creative Commons]

“Revenge of the nerds – An explosion of start-ups is changing finance for the better”.  The Economist. 3 Aug 2013. Web.


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