An idea for the next IB Psych’ curriculum…

Travis Dixon Assessment (IB), Curriculum 6 Comments

Could an infinite number of chimps typing for infinity eventually write a perfect curriculum?

Originally posted to the MyIB Psychology forum, May 18th, 2018


One thing I think is missing from the new IB Psychology guide in the guidance column is some suggested studies. I know Christos and others would like to see a prescribed list of studies, but I can see some issues with this (e.g. it doesn’t allow for adapting one’s course to fit a local context).

So how about a compromise? Why not for the core approaches (assessed in Paper 1) have a long list of studies to choose from, that cover a range of cultures and regions (This would be like how English teachers have a text list they must choose from). This would increase validity in marking and would be a massive help to new teachers.

One reason I share these ideas is because I might not be part of the next review – I may not be asked or I may not be teaching IB Psychology – so I want as many people to hear the ideas to increase the odds they’ll be shared during the review process.

We could keep Paper 1 assessment as is, requiring use of studies.

And then for the Paper 2, why not disband with the requirement of studies? Let students just explore the behaviours and explanations in the options, using studies to help their learning sure, but not needed for external assessment?

A justified complaint with IB assessment is that it’s all about memorizing studies, which comes at the expense of conceptual understanding. We don’t need to do it to death in all external assessments – they can still show knowledge, understanding and critical thinking without studies.

But to ensure we’re sticking with evidence-based knowledge, what we could also have is an internal, project-based assessment for the options where students choose an area of applied psychology, pose a question, explore it and then present/report on it, using research they’ve independently sourced and analyzed. This also allows for flexibility and making sure that our teaching is relevant to “local and global contexts.”

Psychology is a perfect subject to allow for internal, project-based assessment. It’ll be a great shame if this isn’t improved for the next IB Psych’ review. 

Cutting our time to 20hrs in the options has made allowing independent student research into areas of interest very difficult, if not impossible. But with a different type of assessment we could kill many birds with a couple of stones.

Just a thought.

Comments 6

  1. Hi Travis,

    I like the idea of a list of studies for Paper 1 as long as it is not prescriptive. However, I would argue against no studies in Paper 2 !!

    Hilary (Rowark)

    1. Post

      Really? Why’s that? We could still assess knowledge, understanding and evaluation of studies, just in internally assessed work. (Just curious 🙂 )

    2. Post

      Hilary, after reading a number of Paper 2 answers that make no reference to supporting evidence, I’m not inclined to agree with you that if we keep the current assessable topics as they are, the use of studies is helpful (otherwise it sounds like the student is just writing anecdotally, even when what they are saying could be empirically demonstrated). So while it could work for some topics like biological etiologies of disorders (which is hard to “fluff”), it might not work for all.

  2. I like all of these options. A list of studies to chose from for Paper 1 wouldn’t need to be exclusive, but would give new teachers time to figure out ways to help students understand the concepts, not spend their time digging for studies that students will just memorize. I think having paper 2 be not based on studies is also a good option, decreases the student idea that the course is ALL about studies. I think the project based option is also great! I’m pushing more and more inquiry based techniques into my curriculum because the students respond best and remember these details best, but sometimes I feel like it is a drain on time because the knowledge that they gain is anecdotal, which I learned recently, is not what is expected on the exam, but in my opinion more valuable to students’ growth in understanding psychology.
    As always, thanks for the great ideas Travis!!

    1. Post

      Gregory – I so agree about the compromise of time when doing project-based stuff. In an ideal world, I’d love to have 2/3 of any unit teacher-selected content and directed learning, and then the final 1/3 opened up to allow students to pose questions they want to explore further about what they’ve learned and let them go off and do their own thing and then come back and present. BUT, as it stands now I can’t feel completely confident doing this without the fear that we’re “losing time.” And this is even after cutting back the content in my course drastically by combining core and options. This is why I’d love for the next review to include an internal project-based assessment where the time is built into the course.

  3. Imagine if there was some sort of passion project for Psychology. I know that they have the option of undertaking a Psyc EE and this is great, but how amazing would it be to see our students connect with people in the field from around the world and create some sort of TedTalk style presentation on an area of interest to them related to Psychology.

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