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The first month of the DP

Class discussion is one key part of the student experience in the IB Diploma Programme (DP).


by Ocie Grimsley

What can students expect when they sit down in an IB Diploma Programme (DP) classroom? The DP is offered to students ages 16-19 at IB World Schools, and parents often hear a lot about the concepts and the ideas—like critical thinking and reflection—but how does this work day-to-day? Here are the four main things an IB student will experience during the first month in IB courses, across most subjects.

1. Reading

Many IB courses involve reading: novels, plays, memoirs, and abstracts. From my experience, my DP English HL course had me read a new literary work every four-to-six weeks or less, depending on the piece. No matter the subject, a DP student can expect to read in their course (and expect to be asked to talk about it later). The humanities classes tend to have more of this aspect, but reading itself is a universal IB task. Much of the reading in DP courses is meant to be thought-provoking or influential. Students will also be assigned other coursework to help guide them in their understanding. This may include guided questions for a chapter, a character-tracking worksheet, or a related reading that expands on the primary assignment.

2. Reflection

In the first month of classes, expect to actively reflect on reading assignments. Reflections might take the form of written responses, classroom discussion, or mini projects. Reflection is much more interactive than a standard in-class assignment, and how it is conducted can vary by instructor. Reflections are designed to help students begin to think about the material more deeply and develop the skills needed to do this type of analysis independently. No matter the method, these assignments engage students in the material and show them how to think about its meaning.

3. Discussion

DP students can expect to be engaged in discussion in class. These in-class events are normally related to the reflection and reading portion of assignments. Discussions often take the form of a seminar (guided discussion sometimes known as a Socratic seminar, in which students are encouraged to ask and respond to questions). Students not only voice their opinion on classroom topics but actively listen to another’s point of view. Discussions can consist of asking questions, providing commentary to a work, think critically on sensitive topics, and engage in classroom-wide debates and exchanges of ideas. DP students will also lead discussions in small groups. This may include discussion related to completing a specific project, group paper, or presentation. In any form, these discussions challenge students to work together to find collaborative solutions to the questions offered in class.

4. Projects

Finally, the discussion of projects will begin within the first month. These will normally tie together all the discussion topics, readings, or unit lessons – but results in a tangible piece of work. Normally, projects will be communication and research-based, delving into the world of inquiry and discussion from both the presenter and the audience (the class). Projects can be done by groups of students or as solo pieces, and some could be designed to have a question and answer segment, making these assignments focused on both demonstrating knowledge through the completion of the project and being able to engage with others about the information they’ve presented.

The work completed early in the DP is all preparation for the second year when students will be expected to read and comprehend with much greater independence. By the end of their studies, they will be ready for DP exams and look back on the experience knowing it was all worth it.

Ocie Marie Grimsley graduated from Clarke County High School with the IB diploma in 2015. She is currently a student at George Mason University and interns at the IB.