As part of the IB Diploma each student has to write a 4000 word essay on a topic of their choice. The essay should be in the form of an argument and the student will have to conduct their own research in order to successfully complete this task. This is an excellent opportunity for students to practise the skills of research, writing argumentatively and referencing in preparation for university or the world of work. This is an independent task in which students are supervised by a member of staff for support and motivation. Some examples of recently completed Extended Essays are:
• To what extent were ancient Egyptian women equal to their male counterparts?
• Being a good astronaut: is in all in the genes?
• Is motivation the most influential psychological factor in being an elite athlete?
• To what extent is Vonnegut’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ a postmodernist novel and how is this theme presented in Rudolph’s film adaptation?
• To what extend did the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) collapse due to corruption within the Government?
• To what extent has the global spread of the HIV and Ebola virus been influenced by biological and geographical factors?
CAS is a non-assessed requirement of the IB Diploma course. Students record the activities in which they partake and reflect upon the skills they learn and develop. It is an integral part of the Core of the IB – encouraging students to be involved in a variety of roles, positions and activities outside of their academic lessons. Some examples of activities that students do which count for CAS are:
Creativity – learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, knitting for a special care baby unit in a hospital, choreographing a performance for a dance show
Action – starting a tennis club, running for a 5km charity race, hiking in the Lake District, dancing
Service – volunteering at a care home, helping out at a parents’ evening at school, mentoring younger students in a specific subject
The wisest man in all of Athens, Socrates, claimed that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing, which raises the question as to how much knowledge we really possess. The Theory of Knowledge course is part of the core of the IB, as it provides the skills necessary to analyse, question and dissect what constitutes valid knowledge. The course provides students with opportunities to discuss the knowledge that they encounter on the IB course, as well as through their own experiences out of school and particularly within CAS.
Students are encouraged to direct the course of discussions in class and to use examples from current affairs to consider how knowledge can be gained and distorted. Topics that are currently studied include looking at the knowledge we can gain from the senses, through to how useful memory is for providing accurate knowledge, and from knowledge inherent in maps, through to whether art is able to be used as a tool for propaganda. Students are always excited to follow up discussions in lessons, which they are able to do in TOK film club, where they consider knowledge questions integral to films ranging from The Oxford Murders to Inception.
The Theory of Knowledge has two means of coursework assessment:
At the end of year 12, students give a 10-minute presentation on an aspect of knowledge that they have chosen. Students are well-prepared for this through a number of “mock” presentations and feedback. This is worth 40% of the total grade. In the past titles have ranged from “How far does the media use language to manipulate knowledge?” through to “Does a map allow us to gain simplified knowledge about a phenomenon?”
In the second term of year 13, students write a 1600-word essay on a title chosen from 6, provided by the IB. They are given guidance and writing-frames, as well as seminar and discussion time, in order to plan this. One full draft is then looked at by the teacher. This is worth 60% of the total grade.
The results of both of these assessments are plotted against the Extended Essay, to give a maximum of 3 points.