The “Levels of Analysis” are out, and so are “Perspectives”, so now we have “approaches to understanding human behaviour.” But what does this mean?
In short, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a term used to separate the IB Psychology course into meaningful units. I would define the approaches as a description of behaviours, as well as a set of variables that are affected by and/or affect human behaviour and mental processes. It’s really just a collection of topics related by a general theme.
While from a curriculum publication perspective it might make sense to separate psychology into these approaches, from a curriculum design perspective it does not. By focusing on just biological variables in behaviour, for instance, one is encouraging a very minimalist and reductionist view of complex mental processes and behaviours. We want students to understand that something like prejudice is not just a product of our thinking, we also want them to know that it might have biological origins and it’s heavily influenced by social cognition and other sociocultural factors. So why not teach this together?
Students are recommended to address the approaches towards the end of the course as they prepare for their IB examinations. During the course we wholeheartedly encourage avoiding focusing on “approaches” and instead focus on the study of human behaviour and mental processes. It’ll be more enjoyable this way 🙂
Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.