Biology Guide Pre-publication
Thursday 2 January 2014
First impressions of the 2014-2021 IB Biology Guide
The most reassuring thing is that there is no great change to the Biology content of the new guide. Lots of the sub-topic titles are familiar and there isn't any revolutionary change to the topics. There seems to be a slight reduction in the quantity of concepts for students to understand but no great change to the breadth and depth.
One of the most striking changes, which should help teachers to finish the course in time to prepare for the exams, is that students will now only study one option. Some will miss the old Evolution option but a new SL topic called Evolution and Biodiversity has been created. There are no specific standard level options but the popular options of Neurobiology and Ecology remain. The reduction in options studied has an impact on the paper three exam. This will now have a boosted first question including practical techniques as well as the usual data analysis.
Another important change is to the Internal Assessment (IA). Students will be required to submit one investigation worth 24 marks as the only piece of moderated work. This will undoubtedly save time for teachers in administration of the sample but as the students will now want to suceed in all the assessment aspects in one piece of work, preparation of students before this assessed investigation will need some careful thought. The PSOW document will also remain a requirement of the teacher, and so will the obligation to complete a given number of hours and to include ICT in the programme.
The group four project seems to remain largely unchanged but I could see no requirement to assess personal skills during the project. I fear this might detract from the seriousness with which students approach the project, but the old assessment didn't discriminate very well between students.
There is a whole new emphasis on 'The Nature of Science' which seems to have been developed with some thought, and the illustrations of how biologists have arrived at new discoveries by disproving hypotheses or using new apparatus will be welcome by most I think.
One last change is the layout of the guide itself. The new layout makes better links to International mindedness, TOK and the learner profile, but it leaves more room for individual interpretation of the biological aspects. Better from a learning perspective but potentially dangerous in preparation for exam papers.
Time will tell if the new Biology guide is an improvement on the old one but I find myself reassured to see some of the details. There are some discussions on the OCC forum which may be worth following until you can get to a training course.