5 Things IB Schools Should Know about The IBEN Journey

Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead


When a teacher or educator becomes a member of the International Baccalaureate Educators Network (IBEN), there are a number of roles you can take on. You can become a consultant, content developer, site inspectors, workshop leader, site evaluator, IBEN trainer, and the list goes on. All of these opportunities have tremendous value for any IB schools who are looking to further their faculty's professional growth and development.


At Whitby we have a group of seven IBEN site evaluators and workshop leaders. We sat down with this team to gain insight on their journeys to become site evaluators and workshop leaders. Here are five things all IB schools should know about the IBEN journey:

1. The prep work before you even get to the IBEN Academy is a learning experience in itself.

Before applying to become a part of IBEN, you'll need to make sure you meet the IBEN prerequisites that are associated with some of the roles - including at least three years of experience at an IB accredited or candidate school.
When applying, you will need to submit a statement of philosophy and curriculum vitae. If these are accepted, this will get you through to round 1 of the process. For the second part of the screening process you will have to submit a video of yourself reflecting on the IBO standards and practices. Once you successfully pass these requirements, you will then be invited to the academy. 
Once you've been accepted to the academy, you can expect some intensive online work in advance of the face-to-face component and before you begin communicating with your cohort of colleagues:
Here's what you can expect with the initial online component:
  1. The online component runs for six weeks, and remember to factor in four to five hours of work for every week prior.
  2. This phase covers in detail all different areas of the IBO's standards and practices, as well as best practices in andragogy, or adult education.
  3. Once you've completed all the work associated with this phase, you prepare to meet with your group face to face in a central location.
I started the original application in February, found out I was through to the second round in March, made my [application] video and then was officially accepted [to the summer academy] in April. 
– Alissa Helgesen, IB Site Evaluator and Workshop Leader, Lower School Science & Math Coordinator at Whitby

2. The Academy is on another level of Professional Development for IB schools.

The IB Summer Academy is a four day face-to-face conference full of other educators on the same exciting journey as yourself.

When you're accepted to go to the Academy, you basically enter another level of Professional Development. 
– Bryan Nixon, IB Site Evaluator and Workshop Leader, Head of Whitby School 
What's even more exciting is that all the people in attendance have worked so hard to be there that they are truly invested in the experience. A few things you can look forward to:
  • There's an amazing network of people at your fingertips. In many cases, you tend to keep in touch with people from your group.
  • With so many different perspectives in one space, learning is an all-encompassing experience.
  • People are gung-ho about the IB and about learning, so it is a high energy conference.

3. The process continues after the Academy.

Congratulations, you made it through the initial online component AND the face-to-face. But wait - there's more! Now it's time to reflect on your journey so far and complete summative assessments to ensure your understanding of the IBO's standards and practices.

Post-Conference Reflection Period

  • This is a four week-long program with approximately two hours of work per week.
  • Site visitors have more extensive study of site-visits and "what-if" scenarios that are challenging.
  • Workshop leaders have to collaborate with other candidates in writing a workshop plan.
We had a summative task to write a plan for a workshop. We worked in small groups (myself and two others) to plan a 10 session workshop which was then submitted for review. This part was hard because one of my partners was in Texas and the other in Hawaii. It was a great practice for how to collaborate with workshop leaders from all over the world! 
– Alissa Helgesen, IB Site Evaluator and Workshop Leader, Lower School Math & Science Coordinator at Whitby 
  • As an individual activity, site visitors apply the accreditation process on a fictional school using the site visitor's rubric.
  • All participants must complete their reflection journals that they began at the start of the pre-academy. These journals track your learning process, things that were difficult or frustrating, as well as the "a-ha" moments.
After the reflection period is complete, members can then start to apply for workshop positions and site visits.

Upscaling Process - Sharing Best Practices

After the face-to-face component, you will also enter the Upscaling Process - also known as a time for sharing best practices. The upscaling process is a new month-long requirement for participants within the IB Americas. This is an online portion that consists of a wide range of people who have completed the Academy at various times and covers many areas that were not covered during the face-to-face portion.  With the upscaling, you can expect about three to four hours of work per week that reviews and extends upon your previous work.

Why is this a new requirement?

To give you some perspective, there are 400 active workshop leaders in IB Americas. This portion of the process acts as a refresher course for all workshop leaders and site visitors to stay current with their knowledge of the IB programs and also ensures a standard of quality for all participants.  Upscaling is a great opportunity for new and veteran educators to share best practices, and also serves as a required refresher course for those who have been inactive for a long period of time.

The upscaling was required for all participants in IB Americas. It was about sharing best practices and keeping your skills fresh. 
– Alissa Helgesen, IB Site Evaluator and Workshop Leader, Lower School Science & Math Coordinator at Whitby  

4. Even after this whole process, it may take some time before you are selected for a task.

Participation in the academy does not guarantee that you will be selected as a workshop leader or a site visitor. After candidates have completed their academy, the IBO asks that educators return to their schools, take more IB courses and seek out opportunities with site visits and workshops.

Why does this process take so long?

At the same time candidates are being trained for their potential roles, there is an ongoing evaluative process. As a global organization, the IBO has to be very mindful about how they prepare workshop leaders, site visitors and other representives from IB schools so the level of consistency in messaging and evaluating is high across the board.

Quality control is key for the IBO. Candidates have to be seen as so knowledgeable about the program that the IBO can trust you to go out and represent on their behalf. In order to gain this level of trust you have to know the standards of practices inside and out, and also be a good value match for the organization.

5. You should get as many faculty and staff involved in IBEN as possible.

In total, Whitby has seven members of IBEN - a mix of site visitors and workshop leaders. In a recent round of Primary Years Program applicants, only 19 out of 350 worldwide applicants were accepted to IBEN - two of whom were from Whitby. This should give you some insight into how rigorous this process truly is.
It's not easy to become a member of IBEN. Many people apply and many are qualified, but the IBO must also make sure they have a balance of people who represent different roles in a school.
All that said, there are countless benefits associated with this membership - two notables being the network you can access and the Professional Development resources at your disposal. When you get in you meet other educators, you have an online forum where you can talk with others about standards of practice.  Members of IB schools across the globe can easily connect with one another to share their questions, passions and ideas. 
Remember that this community is built up of people in many roles, not just IB coordinators. There are teachers across many different school levels as well as administrators.

On the fence about applying? Here are a few tips from our school's IBEN members:

  • Don't be afraid to try it
  • Everyone's experience is different
  • Trust yourself
  • Take a risk
  • Don't put yourself down
  • Support is key

Did we excite you?

Keep in mind as you near the end of this blog post that our intention is not to deter you from applying to join IBEN. This should show you how much time, thought and dedication our fellow educators are investing into Professional Development, and how members of all IB schools can benefit from being a part of this experience.

 You may be asking yourself - with all these unknowns, why should I be investing all this time and effort? Simple - the growth and opportunities that will follow are priceless.

 Link to download "10 Things to Look For In an Inspirational Classroom"

Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Whitby School. Sarah's mind is a stirring pot of thoughts and ideas on content marketing, blogging, photography, videography, storytelling, social media, and website optimization. Working at Whitby has inspired her to reeducate the world about education, and to spread the passion, wisdom and expertise of the school’s talented faculty and staff.