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Calendars, maps and circles: DP tips from an IB grad & educator

Diploma Programme (DP) graduate and IB educator Cecilia Villavicencio shares tips and advice for educators to support DP year one students. This is her third story in our graduate voices series.

Calendars, maps and circles: DP tips from an IB grad & educator

By Cecilia Villavicencio

Internal and external assessment components have proven to be so relevant in the Diploma Programme (DP) this  year … but it’s important to realize that they have always been relevant. These assignments are the product of several months of study, research, drafts, teacher feedback and revision. I wanted to offer some ideas to organize the internal calendar for student writing, to identify and seize the commonalities of these pieces of work across subjects and the core. I hope this will allow you to set a fresh beginning by promoting the creation of good research questions by our students.

Balancing the calendar

“We have to work in the collaborative planning time to reach an agreement on which components can be finished in year one (or quasi-completed, to be ‘polished’ in the second year)”

Without the need to formally survey students in the second year of the DP, it is enough to make a quick consultation to hear almost unanimously that they, “would have liked to carry out or finish some or more assignments during the first year of the programme”.

Is it possible to leave some finished or advanced tasks in year one of the programme? In some cases, yes. In others, the teachers will respond (and as a coordinator I have listened and respected them): For some internal (or external) evaluation work students, “need to have covered more content or topics of the subject”, or, “require greater maturity in skills for this component, which they only develop in the second year of the programme”.

OKAY, understood. Time to negotiate. As leaders of the programme, we have to work in the collaborative planning time to reach an agreement on which components can be finished in year one (or quasi-completed, to be ‘polished’ in the second year). To do this, the first step is to display the components of each of the subjects offered by your school and determine—as a team—which ones will be considered for year one and which ones for year two.

Working across subjects

“Since all IB teachers are language teachers, all of us are responsible for students’ communication skills and commitment to academic integrity”.

Another strategy would be to collaborate with your other educators to find ways for the content to align with mind-mapping. In addition to working with educators, you can also find roles for your students, so they have some agency to set themselves up. Work with your students on ways to  draw or organize ideas in a draft before  actually facing the blank page of the real piece of work—this strategy is also useful for essay-like answers you may find in several IB final exams. Train this ability and you’ll be able to help students progress though the DP, so make sure you build on these skills as early as possible. Journaling is also a time-saver: Using adequate lenses while reading literature and have a color-coded process to link ideas, mark quotes and underline situations in-text. Students can further organize by topic or character and even develop a list of questions to keep key themes ideas in mind as they read. By registering some of these ideas on the first read, students may avoid a second or a third reading of a piece of literature.

Another cross-disciplinary tactic that builds skills and saves time is having a school agreement on effective citing and referencing. You should include this in the school’s language and assessment policies, as it saves a lot of teaching time too. Dealing with only one way of citing and referencing across school will allow teachers to spend time on curriculum rather than working on developing these skills.

Since all IB teachers are language teachers, all of us are responsible for students’ communication skills and commitment to academic integrity. Learning how to acknowledge someone else’s ideas from a younger age is a very important skill  for students to grasp at the beginning of the DP for all subjects.

Asking good questions

“Exercise with splitting research questions into interchangeable components and ask your students to find a pattern. The resulting patterns will help them in creating research questions in the future”.

A good research question is key to all internal and external assessment components and even for some final exams. So, providing tools to build strong questions could be an eye opener and an opportunity for students to develop this skill for life. Think of a graphic organizer composed by a set of concentric circles. Split the components of these questions  into those circles. See some examples here:

  • “By what means / do Steve Jobs / and Martin Luther King / seek to inspire / their particular audiences?”
  • “How do / different newspapers / vary / in their reporting methods / of racist incidents / in English league football?”
  • “To what extent / do geographical factors / play a role / in the distribution / of multiple sclerosis cases / in Canada and Iran?”1

Think of these components as interchangeable. Exercise with splitting research questions into interchangeable components and ask your students to find a pattern. The resulting patterns will help them in creating research questions in the future.

As DP coordinators, we strive to make our team and our students’ lives easier. The value of these practices in planning out and building these skills will make every teachers’ life easier and teach DP students lessons for life.

1 These questions are quoted from the extended essay guide (first exams in 2018) and are available IB educators on the PRC here.

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Cecilia Villavicencio is a Diploma Programme (DP) graduate from Instituto Santa Brígida in Buenos Aires―Argentina. In 2006 she became IB staff, in charge of the DP evaluation process in all American schools. In 2013, she became the DP coordinator at Colegio Internacional SEK-Ciudalcampo in Madrid―Spain. At present, she is head of academics at Colegio San Ignacio in Río Cuarto―Argentina.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter Instagram and YouTube!

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