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Updates to Diploma Programme business management: An educator’s perspective

From August 2022, diploma programme (DP) teachers will need to ensure they are using the recently launched business management subject guide (first assessment 2024). 

How do DP students perform at UK universities?

To mark the launch of the new subject guide, we asked an educator who was involved in the development of the curriculum to speak about the course and how the key updates will benefit both students and teachers. 

Alistair Nelson - Business Management

Alistair Nelson is currently taking a sabbatical and is studying a master’s degree in Inclusive Education. He has been teaching business for more than 15 years and has been heavily involved in the business management curriculum review including developing professional development materials. 

How were you involved in reviewing the course guide, why did you get involved? 

I became involved in the curriculum review process after seeing an item in the DP coordinators’ notes. At the time, I was dissatisfied with how the concepts were integrated. In my eyes, they were little more than add-ons. We all know that conceptual understanding is critical for lifelong learning, and I felt, as a subject, we could do better. I wanted to make conceptual understanding an integral piece of the course. I did not just want to complain about something, so I decided to contribute. I sent a letter of application explaining my ideas and was lucky enough to be selected as part of the curriculum development team.  

What are the key changes and how will these benefit educators and students? 

  • A common internal assessment task for all students across standard and higher level. This has been introduced based on feedback from teachers and examiners. I personally loved the old higher level internal assessment, but examiners continually reported that it disadvantaged those students who did not have close contact with and access to suitable businesses. In addition, a combined internal assessment should reduce the load on teachers when they are supporting their students. The new internal assessment has a conceptual focus. Students must research and apply a chosen key concept to a real-life business. This can be done with or without primary research. The 20 hours allocated for this in the guide should give students time to consider their chosen key concept. 
  • The external assessment model has been reimagined so that each component has its own unique flavour. It could be argued that, in the old guide, all papers tested a similar set of skills. They started with some simple knowledge-based questions, moved on to data response and finished with an extended writing task. Under the new model, we worked hard to give each paper its own identity. For example, Paper Two is now a structured paper with a heavy tilt towards quantitative decision making. Students will now write directly on the examination paper rather than in answer books. I admit this sounds trivial. However, consider what a difference this could make to how students use their time. For example, students can now find the axis pre-drawn on the paper rather than spend ten minutes painstakingly drawing the axis for a break-even chart. Then be asked simply to calculate and plot the various lines needed to show their understanding of break-even. The same holds true for so much of the guide, from balance sheets to critical path analysis. A structured examination allows examiners more time to test higher-order thinking skills in meaningful ways.  
  • Replacing the paper one pre-seen case study is probably the most debated change to the guide. The pre-seen case study has been a feature of the subject for over 20 years, so the decision was not taken lightly. Discussions continued over many sessions of the review process. Factors such as how the change might affect English language learners and how teachers might structure their in-class revision sessions were debated at length. A brief pre-release statement will be released before each examination session. This will provide a brief context for the case study that will be assessed in paper one, along with any topics that might be included that fall outside the regular syllabus. This allows contemporary ideas to be included throughout the lifetime of the guide.  
  • Another significant achievement was further differentiating the experience of students studying at higher level (HL) from those who take the standard level (SL) course. All content has been reviewed, and where appropriate, updated with contemporary ideas. A significant amount of content has moved from the SL to the HL syllabus to better reflect the recommended teaching hours. A new higher level paper was also added to assess these ideas.  

I am incredibly proud of the new guide and have also written many of the professional development workshops that will support its implementation. The real test will come in business management classrooms globally, and feedback will come from the community as to what we got right and what we could have done better. If you have strong views and want to make a difference, lookout for the next curriculum review.