From August 2023, Diploma Programme (DP) teachers will need to ensure they are using the recently published biology subject guide (first assessment 2025).
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.
David Mindorff has spent most of his career as a biology teacher and has been teaching the International Baccalaureate (IB) syllabus since 1994. He has taught in schools around the world including in public schools and a private school in Canada as well as international schools in Hungary, Romania, Scotland, China and in the Bahamas. He has been a deputy chief examiner and this past review of the biology curriculum is the third time David has participated. David is now the Principal of Lyford Cay International School in the Bahamas, an IB Continuum School.
Why did you get involved in the curriculum review?
This is the third syllabus review that I have been involved in. Having been an Online Curriculum Centre faculty member for 17 years and a longstanding DP teacher, I have historical perspective as well as an understanding of the perspective of a broad range of IB teachers teaching in diverse contexts. I am aware of the good reasons why certain things are core components of the IB learning and teaching framework. My doctoral research is related to the incorporation of practical work in science education with a focus on data literacy.
What are the key changes educators will notice in the new biology subject guide?
One of the key elements of IB teaching and learning recommendations is that learning should be conceptual. This has strongly informed the changes to the subject guide. If you think of education as a child or young person beginning the year in your class, they will have a mental map of ideas related to the natural world and to the living world. The purpose of education is to provide students with the opportunities to modify their mental map to enhance it, correct misunderstandings, and to make links. Some of the key things to note about the updated curriculum are:
- The way the syllabus has been organized. It has been ordered in such a way that there’s a road map at the beginning which has four themes and four levels of organization with linking questions. The idea is that you’re encouraging students to view the content through particular big ideas.
- Data literacy within the syllabus. Students will gain a greater understanding of data literacy, which is supported by research that is coming from governments and international bodies which suggest that data literacy is becoming increasingly important in science education.
- Retention of the strong link to nature of science, with more explicit linking of theory of knowledge (TOK) and nature of science.
- The four options are no longer included and instead all of the material in the guide is to be taught.
- There is a summary of key skills which is a useful guide for teachers and can be mapped to specific parts of the syllabus.
How will these changes benefit both educators and students?
The addition of categorized tables for the Nature of Science (NoS), the Learner Profile and Approaches to Learning (ATL) will help teachers in addressing these elements in their teaching plans. Additionally, the road map included in the guide suggests flexible approaches to structuring the course while linking key concepts of biology together as themes.
For students, the linking questions will guide students to view the content holistically through multiple lenses and the removal of the options takes away the ‘fear of missing out’ and gives a more common experience to all students.