IB History IA workshop, Day 2

Work in progress! These are my notes from a three day workshop for the IB History IA (New course), held at Wesley College Melbourne, on June 25, 26, 27, 2016.

My notes for Day 2 will be shorter because there was far more reading of sections and more discussion about marks awarded.

Day 2, Session 5: Section 3 – Reflection

The reflection is not in terms of content, but in terms of process. The student is the historian.


Section 3: Reflection

This section of the internal assessment task requires students to reflect on what undertaking their investigation highlighted to them about the methods used by, and the challenges facing, the historian. Examples of discussion questions that may help to encourage reflection include the following. 

  • What methods used by historians did you use in your investigation?
  • What did your investigation highlight to you about the limitations of those methods?
  • What are the challenges facing the historian? How do they differ from the challenges facing a scientist or a mathematician?
  • What challenges in particular does archive-based history present?
  • How can the reliability of sources be evaluated?
  • What is the difference between bias and selection?
  • What constitutes a historical event?
  • Who decides which events are historically significant?
  • Is it possible to describe historical events in an unbiased way?
  • What is the role of the historian?
  • Should terms such as “atrocity” be used when writing about history, or should value judgments be avoided?
  • If it is difficult to establish proof in history, does that mean that all versions are equally acceptable?

In this session, we used reflection prompts based on the questions above. The participants are responded to their prompts, lots of conversation ensued. (Session 5_reflection section prompts)

Day 2: Session 6: Reflection Part 2

Check list for reflection, for students: (Created by me, so just a suggestion)

  • What has this investigation highlighted to you about the methods used by the historian, you?
  • Have you clearly identified the methods you as a historian have used?
  • Have you reflected on the methods you used?
  • Have you identified the challenges you, as the historian, have faced?
  • Have you identified the limitations of the methods used by the historian?
  • Generally: Does the reflection demonstrate a clear awareness of challenges facing the historian and/or limitations of the methods used by the historian?
  • Is there a clear and explicit connection between the reflection and the rest of the investigation?

We read sample Reflection sections, and there was an enormous amount of discussion. We were generally surprised with the marks, as they were generally higher than expected. Personally I think this is a good thing, will IB History be more positive in its marking, (mark what is there, rather then what the marker thinks is missing) as they have said? It will be a welcome change in my opinion.

Good comment from a participant: There is a danger that over time, students and teachers will discover the right words and language to tick the IB boxes and that semantics will be rewarded.

More comments: This section is pure TOK. We’ll need to work more closely with the TOK teachers.

Day 2: Session 7: Academic Honesty and the IA

General note: Pen choice is important on the exam. Black best for print, blue best for cursive? Black pen scans better? Students should aim to write legibly. If it can’t be read, it can’t be marked.

“Teachers should model good academic honesty and cite all their sources on worksheets, powerpoints and handouts.”

Some good ideas regarding Academic Honesty policies:

  • Mention it on each assessment task.
  • Get students to sign it each year at the start of the school year
  • Keep it short, the longer it is, the less they’ll read it
  • Enforce it, there must be clear steps and consequences
  • Make it easily accessible.

Day 2, Session 8: Evaluation of the IA

We spent the last part of the day looking at samples from the TSM section on the OCC.Capture

We marked the sample here: http://share.nanjing-school.com/dphistory/files/2013/02/Sample-IA-from-OCC-2017-2dw97y3.pdf. I was amazed at the grades it received. It taught me that I had let myself be influenced by what WASN’T there, rather than what was. My marks were too low. I read the examiner’s comments and could sort of see why they awarded the marks they did. The key is really in the best fit approach, and applying it literally. You should also reward what is there, rather than judging a piece on what isn’t there. You should start with the highest markband and then work your way down, if needed, until you find the absolute best fit.

This is the second sample we read:  (Example 2 on this site: http://www.tracesofevil.com/p/examples-of-internal-assessments-for.html). This one was fantastic and I did much better on the marking. IB History teachers can log onto the OCC, access the Teacher Support Materials and find the examiner comments there. I recommend you do this same exercise. Mark some of the exemplars without knowing the grades. You could even do this with the students.

The two photos below really convey how the marking went. Rajesh asked us to stand in four corners of the room according to the grades we gave a section. As you can see, the room was almost evenly split! Just goes to show how hard it is to reach a consensus on a mark. It’s also a bit worrying, I hope the IB’s moderating processes are as good as they say they are…