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DP Science - the new Internal Assessment

The syllabuses and Internal Assessments for all three DP Science subjects are changing this year. Here, IB curriculum reviewer Dr Mark Headlee advises on what you can expect to change...

DP Science - the new Internal Assessment

The syllabuses and Internal Assessments for all three DP Science subjects are changing this year. Here, IB curriculum reviewer Dr Mark Headlee advises on what you can expect to change...

...the new IA consists of a single scientific investigation, worth 20% of a learner's mark

The Course Guides for DP Biology, Chemistry and Physics have recently undergone revisions - this includes revised syllabuses and new internal assessment expectations. Teaching the new syllabuses begins in September 2014 and will be first examined in May of 2016.

Teachers have been asking about the changes to practical work and the Internal Assessments (IA) – here’s what you can anticipate will change:


Practical work & what has changed for the IA:

  • The IA is now a single student initiated investigation, which includes research and an appreciation of the scientific context
  • Each student must produce an individual investigation, which should address a purposeful research question and incorporate a scientific rationale
  • The student comes up with the research question and methodology – the teacher acts as a guide along the way
  • A wide range of investigations is permitted: traditional hands on, open-ended, modelling and spreadsheet analysis, computer simulation analysis, online database analysis, or any combination of these types
  • New criteria are used for assessment as well as a new ‘best-fit’ method of assessment

The new IA is not an extended essay nor are students expected to do work in areas that go beyond the course level content. However, students may decide on a topic that is outside the syllabus, something of personal interest to them.


Practical work – what is not changing:

  • The hours for teaching practical work remain the same, as does the expectation of spending 25% of class time on practical work
  • IA work will still take 10 hours of class time and contributes 20% of the total course grade
  • Students still experience practical work in many areas of the syllabus, but there are now required and suggested experiments in the syllabus
  • The basic scientific skills of designing an experiment, implementing scientific techniques, the use of ICT, collecting raw data and processing data, the appreciation of uncertainties, method of analysis including graphing skills, and the evaluation of experimental work all remain skills that need to be taught
  • The final project is still assessed by the teacher and moderated by the IB – it should be between 6-12 pages long
  • The 4/PSOW remains but in a modified form
  • The group 4 project remains but there is no longer assessment of personal skills

Teacher Preparation

You will need to play an active role in preparing learners for the individual scientific investigation. This could include explaining the requirements, allocating class time, setting deadlines and consultation on issues like research questions and structure, as well as teaching the necessary analytic and ICT skills.

You may need to monitor student progress, guide the student into productive lines of thought and check for authenticity. You also might find it helpful to start work on the IAs towards the latter end of the two year DP course. This approach could enable learners to better build up the scientific skills they will need to draw on throughout the project.


Resources and support

Teachers have been asking about support for the changes - the  Oxford Course Books for IB Biology, Chemistry and Physics include dedicated support for the new IAs and are the only DP Science resources written with the IB for the new syllabuses. These resources are out from February 2014, giving you over 6 months to prepare.

Dr Mark Headlee has nearly three decades of IB teaching experience, and has taught in Germany, Scotland and the United States. In addition to being the author and instructor of numerous IB online and face-to-face workshops, he is an IB curriculum review member and author of teacher support material.

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