Why you should attend an IB workshop
The real value of attending an IB workshop is not so much the materials you will receive (this site contains all that and more!) but the face to face interactions you will get with other teachers. You can get authoritative answers to your questions from the workshop leader and share ideas and experiences with other teachers. It is good to get out of your normal work environment and ‘escape’ from the business of ‘normal’ living to spend time reflecting on your subject and your teaching with like-minded individuals. After a good workshop you should feel refreshed and ready to return to work invigorated and full of new ideas.
Types of IB Chemistry workshops
There have been considerable changes to the way in which IB workshops are delivered in recent years. Previously workshops were essentially organised either for teachers new to the IB Chemistry Diploma programme or separately for experienced teachers. Sometime when they were run in areas where there are few IB teachers the two would be combined together which would be quite a challenge for the workshop leader. Traditionally in North America there were two workshop leaders for every workshop which would contain up to about 20 -25 participants and the workshops took place in conference rooms based in hotels. In Europe workshops were normally run by just one leader and they were usually held in IB schools. There are advantages and disadvantages to the two type of venue. In a hotel it is nice not to spend time travelling and they are usually used to hosting conferences so the catering and arrangements tend to run more smoothly. However there can be issues with Internet connection and of course there are no laboratory facilities. This is the strength of a school venue as the school laboratories can be used and teachers feel more at home in a school environment. The disadvantage of schools is that often long and tedious bus rides were involved to get there and back from hotels often located some miles away.
Some years ago efforts were made to standardise both the venue and the type of workshops irrespective where in the world it is being held. This is laid out in a document called IB Professional Development Global Workshop Architecture Goals and Objectives. Most workshops are now held in conference venues (I've even led one in Disneyland in Paris). They have also been divided up into three different categories.
The purpose of Category 1 workshops is to provide professional development and assistance for schools that are applying for IB authorisation. They are also aimed at teachers who have just joined a school with an existing IB programme or those that are planning to join an IB school in the future. This essentially is the old ‘beginners’ workshop. If you are new to teaching the IB (or are in your first year of IB teaching) then this is the workshop you should apply for.
The overall aim is to prepare you to be able to successfully implement the IB programme within your school. During the workshop you will look at the underlying philosophy of the IB ‘ Dart board’ including the IB Mission Statement and Assessment and also the importance of the Learner Profile as well as curriculum documents relating to Chemistry. By the end of the workshop you should be in a good position to teach Chemistry ‘the IB way’ in your school.
Whereas Category 1 gives the philosophy of the IB and the outline of the course, Category 2 workshops focus on delivery and best practice. Specifically it states in the IB PD Global Workshop Architecture document,
“The overall purpose of workshops in this category is to provide a forum for experienced IB educators, focusing on programme delivery. There is an emphasis on assessment, teaching and learning methodologies, and exploring best practice in the classroom.”
The workshop leader should place more emphasis on sharing the experiences of the participants to focus on ideas that work in practice. The importance of assessment, utilising different teaching methodologies in the classroom/laboratory and the sharing (and development) of good resources will be key to the workshop. This workshop is principally aimed at relatively experienced IB teachers who want to enhance the quality of their IB teaching.
These workshops take the Category 2 aims a step further. They are aimed at experienced IB teachers who want to enhance their professional development portfolio by engaging in in-depth investigations into specific areas of interest and expertise. The particular theme of the workshop is advertised beforehand and is led by a very experienced workshop leader. They may look either at the philosophy and pedagogy behind best practice (and its implementation) or may concentrate on a particular area of Chemistry such as Internal Assessment.
There is one further major change that has taken place in recent years. In the past all workshops were organised and delivered officially by the IB Regional Offices. This still happens, but in addition, there are many workshops that are run by outside organisations that are officially endorsed by the IB. InThinking is, of course, one of these providers. The rationale behind the three Categories is to standardise the delivery of workshops. In theory if you sign up for a Category 2 workshop then it should not matter where you attend the workshop or who the workshop leader is as the delivery and content should be very similar. However workshops leaders are human and of course there will be differences due to the personalities and experience of the different workshop leaders. All the workshops are advertised on the Find workshops page on the IB website and you can check the dates and venues of all the workshops in your region (or indeed in any other region) that are scheduled for the coming year. If you are interested in applying to attend a workshop then you should follow your own school’s procedure. This normally means requesting permission to attend from the IB coordinator or person on charge of staff training and development. In most schools it is the school that then makes the application on your behalf.
It might be useful here to just outline what you should expect from your workshop leader. A Chemistry workshop leader should possess all (or at least most) of the following:
- Enthusiasm for Chemistry
- Excellent knowledge and understanding of Chemistry
- Solid experience of teaching both SL and HL IB Diploma Chemistry
- IB examining experience
- Excellent people and presentation skills
In addition it can be extremely helpful if they have written some of the examination papers and attended Grade Award Meetings. However in 2013 the IB decided that writing examination papers is incompatible with running workshops so the people that did both were asked to choose which one they wanted to continue with.
The IB takes the view that all its workshop leaders are competent and properly trained so they do not advertise which leader will be running a specific workshop. InThinking feels that participants should know before they apply who it is that will be leading their workshops and publish this well beforehand on the Teachers' Workshops page on the InThinking website.
The workshops I run
I have run over one hundred IB Chemistry workshops for teachers in all parts of the world. These have been for the different regions of the IB, for InThinking and for individual schools or regions. You can find details of future workshops that InThinking are running for chemistry on the home page of this site or on the InThinking website. Some of the workshops are specifically for teachers new to the IB whereas others are for experienced IB chemistry teachers. When I run workshops I always try to convey my passion and enthusiasm for chemistry and place the emphasis on encouraging teachers and students to think critically. It is more important to train students and teachers how to ask the right questions rather than drill them to simply answer questions. In addition to IB Chemistry workshops I also run workshops on Extended Essays and workshops to train future IB workshop leaders and examiners. Recently I have taken on the additional role of Programme Field Representative working with the IB to represent them and monitor the quality of workshops in all Diploma subjects for the IB.
The photograph shows Chemistry and Visual Art participants collaborating on a project at an InThinking workshop in Paris.