HS students working together in flex space 2019
Different by Design
ES students creating art
Different by Design
Dragon Design in Middle School
Different by Design

Our Approach to Learning

At ISB, we strive to make the learning experience for every student 'different by design.' From our curriculum to our facilities, from individual student experiences to our school-wide culture and community, we are constantly reflecting on what we can do to offer relevant, modern, and intentionally designed programs for everyone.

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Real-world and Impactful

Students across the school take part in work that is authentic, relevant, and engaging. Whether it is helping to understand the big picture through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or leveraging the rich history and amazing context of living in Beijing, students at ISB are connecting with the world around them. Our grade 2 students look for novel ways to help our local community Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle as they explore our plastics recycling initiative on campus. The grade 10 Action Research class is committed to making long-term connections with villages in Cambodia as they learn the importance of survey work to promote sustainable service learning opportunities.


The curriculum and instruction at ISB are based on compelling and vital educational research. All of our curriculum is aligned to standards. These standards are like the skeleton upon which we build our curriculum. They define worthy goals for our students to learn: a progression of crucial skills and concepts within each discipline.

Our instructional practices are also built on research. One value we hold at ISB is inquiry, and we hold this value because of brain research about how students learn best – when a task is meaningful, when it sparks student curiosity and the desire to know more, and when students get to discover some important idea for themselves.

Another value we hold is growth-oriented assessment. This means that teachers communicate to students that learning is a process, and that they can learn from their mistakes. The research on learning suggests that students learn best when they are given clear goals to work towards and regular, targeted feedback about their performance.

Our Dual Language program is based on the research around language acquisition. That research emphasizes that students learn a second language best when their home language is valued and continues to be developed.

Student Centered and Driven by the Learner

We believe learning should be student centered. What this means to us is that different students will need different things from the teacher in order to achieve the learning goals for that lesson.

All students benefit from teachers who know them personally and respond to their needs and interests. We believe in equitable access to learning for all.

For students who are continuing to learn English as another language, the EAL Co-teaching Model will be particularly beneficial, as their subject teacher works closely with the EAL teacher to design and deliver lessons that are scaffolded to support the language learning.

For students who need extra support to achieve the learning goals, the Learning Support team is specially trained to offer that extra help.

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ISB Design Cycle

Design & STEM

Solutions to the problems ofthe world do not exist in silos and neither should learning. Students at ISB are involved in interdisciplinary Design & STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) work that integrates traditional curricular areas and allows students to develop novel and innovative solutions to problems that they help to define. Our ISB Design Process is a way to help students from Early Years to grade 12 put their critical thinking, problem solving, and reflection skills into action.

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Chinese Integration

Where we are matters. ISB operates one of the region's leading Chinese language programs in an international school, with Chinese programs offered school-wide, from Early Years to grade 12. Importantly, our teachers also recognize the importance of grounding students in the context of the local culture to give them a better sense of how the language reflects and pulls from China's past. We believe drilling language proficiency is not effective unless it's in tandem with a push for cultural proficiency. This integration is the primary mission of ISB's Chinese Language and Culture Center (CLCC), established to enrich students' and expatriates' life in China and to develop educational partnerships with the community.

Standards-Based Learning Environment

The Learning 21 (L21) Wheel is the heart of our curriculum model and visually conceptualizes everything that's important to us. At the center of L21 is our standards-based curriculum. The standards are more than lists of facts to memorize; throughout the school, the standards focus on what is most important in each discipline, those deeper and more complex skills like interpreting mathematical or scientific data, using evidence to construct an argument, analyzing a historical source or literary text, using models to explain scientific or mathematical reasoning, or connecting with an audience in theater, music, or visual arts. The standards set rigorous goals for our students to meet, and our curriculum ensures that the students can achieve them.

The goal of a standards-based learning environment is for the curriculum, instruction, assessment, and reporting all to align to make the learning journey transparent to all. Teachers use these standards to create their assessments, and report on them in report cards. The report cards are opportunities for students to learn where they are as they progress towards these worthy goals. This alignment allows for students, teachers, and parents all to be clear on the key goals for each class.