Planning activities with the new IB Guide - using the Understanding by Design format
The 2014 IB guide has been written with a new focus on concept based learning and for this reason the command terms and the details of the syllabus to be covered is not so much a list of facts as they were before.
One good thing is that someone, or rather a group of people, have spent quite some time working out what the students will need to understand. It's reassuring to compare the new guide to the old familiar guide because in many sections there doesn't seem to be a great change to the biology we will cover.
So why not make some good use of the new guide's 'understandings' section and use it as the first stage of planning. This fits nicely with the ideas of Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins in their Understanding by Design (1998).
In a very simple form the idea is this. First identify what the students need to understand, what skills should they have and what are the key questions which they will need to be able to answer. The next step is to imagine what it will look like whant a student has these skills. This is really the first stage in design of a performance task, or an assessment. Once these two steps are clear it is possible to identify learning activities which will will lead the student step by step to the desired goals, and the understanding. One great advantage is that your assessment tasks will always fit the learning activities, and no student will complain that, 'we never covered question three' but more importantly careful planning of the curriculum will promote a deeper understanding and help our students to cope with the new IB exams.