Bodies of Work
Thursday 23 May 2019
I can’t lie. I’ve been putting off this blog post because I know I don’t have all the answers to your detailed, specific, precise and sometimes hard-hitting questions about the idea of “bodies of work.” Because I don’t, I will often refer you to IB Answers, not because I don’t think I can’t give you a thoughtful response, but because I don’t want to mislead you or cause any confusion here. David and I are not the IB and we do not represent them. Rather, we are two very committed and experienced teachers helping you navigate the course.
However, I’m prepared to start tackling the bodies of work questions and I’m going to do so by giving some background information; connecting that background to the assessments; answering three of the tougher questions that have arisen on the site; discussing some of the implications of it all in terms of course design; and then I'm going to open up Pandora’s box.
If you are unfamiliar with it, this bodies of work idea has arisen at IB Workshops all over the world and it has come up on the IB Communities space on My IB as well. There has been clarification given by the IB in that space, but in some respects, it has caused even more questions.
The idea is that some (or is it many? most? all?) of your non-literary texts should have a body of work associated with it. This means that if you had previously taught a one-off advertisement that reinforces gender stereotypes (something we have done with Gap) you need to think very carefully about how you use that advertisement in your new course.
Why? Well, it’s a one-off advert. And the new Individual Oral requires students to connect a part (an extract) to a whole (the entire text). But the student only has a “whole” as in the whole advert. If they want to use this in their IO, they will need to connect to a “body of work.” In this case, it would be other Gap advertisements from the same campaign or other Gap advertisements that reinforce gender stereotypes. The “body” in this case could be Gap (the company) or the advertising campaign producers.
For the higher level essay, it’s a bit trickier. The assessment criteria do not mention the need to connect an extract with the entire text. Instead, a student would write using the entire Gap advertisement, if they could write an analytical essay – and not a commentary – on it. The guide states this: “Care must be taken to make sure that the chosen non-literary text or texts or literary texts or works are rich enough to support a developed, focused, and analytical argument. In the case of a collection of short stories, poems, song lyrics or any short literary text, candidates may choose to use just one literary text from the work as their focus. However, students and teachers should remember that the assignment is a broad literary investigation rather than a more narrowly-focused stylistic commentary task. It may be necessary to use more than one literary text from the work chosen in order to achieve this.
In the case of short non-literary texts, it may be necessary for the candidate to use more than one from the same text type by the same authorship, for example the same creative advertising agency, cartoonist, photographer or social media user. In this instance, at least one of the texts should be studied in class” (43).
Okay. So now we know how bodies of work connects to the IO and the HLE. But what about Paper 1? We have to cover so many different and various text types? And what about if we want to thematically link our units together? See the Q + A below because they start to answer all of those questions and more.
I’m re-posting and re-answering three specific questions that subscribers have asked in the last month. They concern how to construct the course, what is okay, what isn’t and more. Please note that the first question I did not initially answer. My apologies to Rashmi as I asked for more time. I’ve had that time now and I am responding here as well as on the site itself.
Question 1 (I’ve slightly modified it to fit my larger needs of this post)
I had a question regarding the "body of work" that we need to study alongside our literary texts. At a recent IB workshop in Mumbai, we were told that the entire "body of work" should emanate from a single author or production house. Nonfiction texts about feminism including critical readings, key feminist moments over time (1848 Seneca Falls convention, excerpts from A Room of One’s Own and more), gendered advertisements, and the #MeToo Movement, is that okay?
I frankly feel that the thematic linkages make a lot of sense but we were specifically told by the IB representative that the non-fictional body of work needed to have a common authorship or a common producer ( eg NYT editorials and music videos and speeches by Beyonce were some of the examples provided.)
I was wondering if you had some further clarification.
How I’ve answered Question #1
It's okay to organize units in this manner. However, you need to be aware of the pros and cons of doing so. With some of the non-literary texts, you will want bodies of work associated with them so they can be used in the IO.
For example, depending on the text type for the #MeToo Movement text, it could work or definitely would not work. A body of work from someone seminal in the movement (3 or 4 speeches by Tarana Burke) would be a great idea. How do I know it’s 3-4? I don’t. I’m making an educated guess here (and see my caveat below).
If you choose to work with a single text type, what I call a one-off, know that it will help with the unit of study, the conceptual understandings and so on, but it can’t be used for the IO. So, a single advertisement is not going to work well here or a range of advertisements from different companies also doesn’t work as it isn’t a body of work here. However, you may decide that you want to keep it, and that’s okay too. There are larger aims than just the assessments and we also have to keep Paper 1 in mind too.
A few other caveats. Virginia Woolf is on the Prl. Her work – A Room of One’s Own – would be one of your literary units of study, even though it’s nonfiction. And you will want to ask IB Answers for clarification on the number of speeches or PSAs or whatever non-literary text types you want to study. That information just isn’t available yet.
Question 2 – very similar to question #1
I am in the process of trying to design the new course for next year and feel I have a bit of a spanner in the works. After attending the training in February I came away thinking that the idea was to interlink nonfiction and fictional texts. So if I was teaching A Doll's House I might look at Baker's essay "Chicks and Pricks: a plea for persons" as it deals with the diminuitive; the always#like a girl campaign as it deals with assertiveness and perhaps also Adichie's Tedtalk on Why we should all be feminists etc. I have now heard from my German A counterparts that this is not allowed. I can only, they state, study nonfiction texts if they comprise a "body of work". This worries me enormously as most of my nonfiction texts are not easy to expand upon (e.g. the Baker essay); I don't know what there is to be gained from studying more than one advertisement and some other authors who I do teach (like Deborah Tannen) might be ok for a very high achieving HL group but I can't imagine a mixed SL class warming to multiple papers on sociolinguistics. Please help. I am so confused and not sure at all how to proceed in putting the course together.
How I’ve answered Question #2
David and I are in the process of learning more and having a greater understanding about this issue. There's so much to unpack here and so many implications. I think I now have it sorted, but every time I do, something else pops up and it baffles me all over again.
I'll say a couple of things in response to your question. First, ask IB Answers. Because there just isn't the clarity in the guide itself - and so much is coming after the fact (on My IB and elsewhere) - I don't want to unintentionally mislead you both.
Here's my current understanding, as of mid May 2019. Rebecca - what you proposed about A Doll's House and then all of the other non-fiction texts around it would have made complete sense to me. It still makes complete sense to me to create a unit of study in this manner. And I would argue you still might decide to do a unit of study in this manner. It's not that you can't. It's that is has assessment implications down the line.
For assessment purposes, for the IO, and to a lesser extent for the HLE, a student will need to make a part to whole connection. And that whole needs to be a larger "body of work" even if Adichie's Ted Talk is long and a student would only be using a very short snippet. Does that mean you should be studying 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 Ted Talks by Adichie? I don't know. Does she even have that many? This is where I think you should be asking IB Answers as this confuses me still. The same is true for your essayist, Baker. You only want to use this essay. It is relatively short (but so, so good). And while a part to whole connection can be made using just this essay, my new understanding of the IO is that you must connect to Baker's larger body of work in the IO. That doesn't mean you can't use it or work with it in class. It just means that students probably wouldn't be able to use it for their IO.
What your frustration seems to be, if I am reading it right, is why a wonderful TED Talk and a well-written essay aren't long and worthy enough pieces of non-fiction to be used for the IO even if there isn't a body of work associated with them. And that's something I don't have the answer to. You'll have to ask IB Answers.
As the course continues to be understood and we continue to get answers from the IB, I encourage you to share your responses with us so that we all - as a community - get this right.
AOE- Intertextuality: Connecting texts and Time and Space
Literary text (freely chosen) Things fall apart
Non- literary (autobiography) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
1. Is this an appropriate choice?
2. Can the students make their own non-literary choice to connect to the AOE?
3. Are we looking at potential IO texts in this choice?
How I’ve Answered Question #3
As I understand from what you wrote, I don't think this is possible. Why? Born a Crime is a memoir - a full length book. It would be classified as prose non-fiction or prose other than fiction, but not as a non-literary text. Why? It's my understanding that you could, if you wanted to, study Born a Crime as one of your 6 "literary" works. However, my understanding is still evolving in this area - as there is a bit of confusion surrounding how the new course classifies non-fiction. If in doubt, please do ask IB Answers (and get back to us so we know what they've said to you).
As for your second question, the answer is yes and no. No, students cannot just go out there and find non-literary texts that connect to the AoE without any guidance. It's not a free-for-all. And yet, there is still choice built in to the syllabus. So, students, in a very specific thing you are studying, could make their own choice, as long as it was dealt with in class - and the key is that you are "teaching" or working with it in class in some way, shape or form. Independent study alone, outside of class, isn't enough.
Finally, I don't think these two can be used for the IO. Why? The same reasons I stated for the first answer. Born a Crime is a memoir and could be considered a "literary work." That would mean the student is comparing two literary works and that's not okay. Again, I am not 100% sure about my classification of Born a Crime here and for absolute clarity, IB Answers will give you that.
Implications for Course Design
What does all of this mean? I think we have to be more considered and careful about our non-literary text selection. I think we – at times – have to build up bodies of work from one author. I don’t think we have to do it all the time, in all situations, in all units of study. It isn’t an absolute. Instead, it has implications for students when it comes time to assessment purposes. Question #2 asked about an excellent essay. The teacher will still most likely use it. It connects really well to A Doll’s House, is academic, and allows students to work with some scholarly work. Most likely, it can’t be used for the IO or the HLE. And that’s okay! Because in my understanding of it all, using that essay will help students better understand what Ibsen is doing in A Doll’s House and how he is characterizing Nora and why. So, I say go for it! Use it in class! Just know what can and can’t be used down the line when it comes to assessment.
It’s a bit scary to say “I don’t know” to a group of such committed teachers here on the site. Over time, I hope I won’t have to say that to you as we all wrap our heads around this issue and understand what is and isn't okay. From here on out, I’ll answer your questions about bodies of work. And from here on out I will still give you my honest and earnest advice with the caveat to also ask IB Answers just in case they say something different or contradictory. They are called IB Answers for a reason and their answer is the right answer in the eyes of the IB.
Lastly, do know that I've written this post in the first-person singular because it felt weird writing in the first-person plural (meaning David and I) as I started out taking about my fears. Let me make this explicit though: David and I will both answer your questions about this, or anything else about the course, in a timely and respectful manner. We pride ourselves in offering this service and we will continue to strive to meet your needs.