IB Psychology Internal Assessment

The Internal Assessment (IA) process within the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP) is one of the many reasons I like the Diploma Program. A couple of years ago I wrote this post about the IB Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) IA project, which is a fantastic, authentic, problem-solving, and client-based process. Now that I’ve been teaching IB Psychology for a couple of years now, I want to express my similar exuberance for the authentic internal assessment learning process that occurs in this class.

Image Licensed from Shutterstock

The IB Psychology IA has the students doing a simple replication of a known psychology experiment. In essence, the students do an experiment and write a research report the same way an actual research/experimental psychologist would do and report. The students have to follow the same kind of ethical guidelines real psychologists follow, including getting informed consent from and maintaining strict confidentiality of their participants. The students have to work with a clear and measurable independent and dependent variable, so they can’t just do a survey (Higher Level students do study qualitative research methods- observations, interviews, case studies- separately from this IA process). They have to delineate their methodology, design, and procedure clearly enough that anyone reading their work would be able to replicate it. With their gathered data in hand, they need to analyze the results, explaining the significance in context of their research environment and in comparison to the original researchers results/conclusions. Lastly, they draw a conclusion that relates to the hypothesis they presented in the introduction.

The Higher Level (HL) students have to do a little bit more work than the Standard Level (SL) students in the IA process. HLs have to do a review of the literature relevant to their research topic as part of the introduction whereas SLs don’t. The HLs also have to do an inferential statistics test (Chi Squared, Mann Whitney U, or Wilcoxon Signed Ranks) as part of the analysis of the results. The SL only have to do a central tendency (mean, median, mode, standard deviation) calculation. As we know, studying statistical methods is very important to understanding and making informed decisions about many different issues occurring in today’s world. So, it’s nice that this requirement is included in a Group 3 course.

There are some limitations as to what they can do, however; thus, the emphasis on simple in the second paragraph. Students can only manipulate one independent variable. Students can’t use animals, nor can they replicate any experiment involving unjustified deception, invasion of privacy, or inappropriate use of information technology. Students also have to take care that the participants don’t experience any physical and/or emotional pain. If any participants experience any discomfort, they must be allowed to withdraw at any time. Students can use children as participants, but they must get informed consent from the children’s parent/guardian. Finally, there is a word count limit to their report: HLs get 1500 – 2000 words, while SLs get 1000 – 1500 words.

Though this process is very academic, it is authentic to what real research experimental psychologists do. There is critical thinking and rigor involved throughout the whole process and the students are expected to reflect on their design and methodology and consider possible extensions. Moreover, since students get choice about what experiment they replicate (as long as it falls within the guidelines), there tends to be a high level of engagement in the process, as well.

Below is a video that overviews most of the experiments the students are replicating this year.

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About togalearning

Technology Learning Coach, High School Social Studies and online IB Psychology teacher

Posted on May 10, 2011, in Education, IB, Psychology, Social Studies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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