A very Happy New Year to do. I do hope you managed to get some rest and relaxation and were able to unwind somewhat. I expect you are now back in school, although some southern hemisphere teachers may have some more holiday time left still.

Now the new course has been running for a few months, I thought it was worth giving you some thoughts / ideas as to how you could run your practical programme under the new course. That said, I am very aware that if you are in the southern hemisphere, you may be a few months behind us ‘northerners’!

To quickly recap, HL still requires a minimum of 60 hrs lab work, SL is 40 hrs.

The group 4 project still remains and counts as part of your 40 / 60 hrs.

The new ‘personal project’ (ie, the IA) is to take 10 hrs.

Then, there are the 10 or so ‘mandatory’ lab skills that you need to teach.Assuming each skill takes on average 1 hr that gives you 10 hrs to cover these.

Do the math …..

At SL you only have 10 hrs left for other lab work (for HL you have 30 hrs – significantly more). I do need to stress that the 40 / 60 hrs are the minimum but the course seems to have grown so realistically, can we offer the SL students more lab time anyway?

How you use this 10 hrs for SL will be really vital.

You want to use it for some meaningful lab work – one of the real highlights (one of its real strengths, something we should all applaud it for) of all the IB group 4 subjects is the emphasis it places on lab work.

However, at SL you want to make sure that this lab time is used very efficiently. It is my opinion that you now need to think of using the remaining lab time two fold.

Firstly, pick some interesting, challenging, exciting labs for your students to carry out. Plan these labs carefully and give the students lots of guidance / questions on (for example) data processing or error analysis.

With the shackles of the the old IA system now gone you can give your students some methods that work! They don’t have to design labs any more remember. If you extrapolate this line of thought you can also tell them how to collect data, what graphs to draw, how to process uncertainties and how to calculate the errors.

However, secondly, don’t miss the opportunity to also teach the students about the IA – give your students the IA criteria and let them use this criteria to pick out say, for the analysis criteria examples of quantitative or qualitative raw data, get the students to look for examples of processing of data and uncertainties. A plethora of highlighter pens will be needed but a well thought out and scaffold lab will allow students to really develop IA, as well as lab skills and chemical knowledge.

HL does give more time and perhaps every lab does not need to be carried out this way but please use your time wisely! Lab time and learning activities really need to be planned carefully.

As ever it would be good to hear your thoughts on planning the new practical programme – if you have any ideas / suggestions / websites, please feel free to share them with this growing community below. I look forwards to reading them!