The ‘new’ IB chemistry course is now in its fifth year. With this in mind, when was the last time you evaluated your IA programme? Is it time for a rethink? Have you settled into a routine that is more of a compromise as opposed to a system them works for you and your students?

When carrying out your evaluation, it is important to think about three things:

1. When you carry out the IA

2. How you internally standardise the students work

3. How you keep records.

To me, the timing of the IA is of utmost importance. Carry out the IA too early and the students are not mature enough for it. You teaching needs to cover a number of topics before they can carry out some IA’s that are going to generate a good set of results (for example, you may wish to teach up to the energetics or kinetics units). You probably also want to use the write up of the other labs your students carry out to teach them about the IA criteria and how to interpret them. If the IA is too early, this job won’t have been successfully carried out.

However, if you carry out the IA too late the students may not be able to give it the dedication you would like due to the pressure put upon them in other subjects with regards to finishing the course.

You also need to juggle things such as the EE and TOK essay’s, university applications, as well as pressures from other IA’s in other subjects.

You may want to ask yourself if there is any flexibility in the timing that you use to work things to the students’ advantage in this respect?

How about internal standardisation? How do you do this? If there are two or more chemistry teachers you should really be working together to decide upon a common level or marking. This may involve marking all of your IA’s and then having a meeting where you look at a sample of each other’s work and adjust your marks accordingly. You may choose to not mark all of the IA’s but only a selection. Things can get heated in these standardisation meetings – do not fall out with each other! But do try to work together to agree on a common standard – this will involve compromise and give and take on both sides. The other thing to bear in mind is to agree on the total first – this is the important number. Finally, ask yourself if the mark you have awarded is fair – if you have given a grade that is the equivalent of a ‘7’ but you only expect the student to get a ‘4’, you have probably been too generous somewhere.

Finally, don’t forget to keep a record of the labs you carry out on the PSOW. You don’t need to send these off to the IB anymore but the IB may choose to ask to see them when they carry out the five year review.

By J Brew – originally posted to Flickr as Nuclear fission Deutsches Museum, CC BY-SA 2.0,