The new history curriculum in a nutshell

Doubtless many of you have heard about the current IB History course but if you are starting the IB in the autumn of 2015 or later, you are probably a bit curious as to what the new syllabus entails.  There are just enough differences that the students currently taking IB History will not be entirely familiar with the new course.  And, the assessment of the individual components is changing as well.

Does this mean that current history students and/or textbooks that your schools have are useless?  No absolutely not; the essence of the subject is the same – it is just that the content that you are covering has been modified or changed with the new curriculum.

Summary of content comparison:

Prescribed Subjects

  • In the current model, there are 3 prescribed subjects – Peacemaking, peacekeeping 1918-1936; Arab-Israeli Conflict 1945-1979; Communism in Crisis 1976-1989.
  • In the new curriculum there are 5 prescribed subjects – Military Leaders; Conquest and its impact; the move to global war; rights and protest; conflict and intervention. Each of these consists of two case studies from two different regions, and you are expected to cover both case studies as you could be examined on either.

This section of the curriculum has the largest content change, and this was expected by your teachers.  With every curriculum change the prescribed subjects change significantly.  However, the skills set will remain largely the same, as you will see when we address assessment.

Core

  • In the current history model, there are 2 core routes – Route 1 is medieval history and Route 2 is 20th century world history
  • In the new curriculum, there is one core – World History, which runs roughly from 750 to 2000 AD. That means that there are now 12 world history topics; however, your school will still choose to focus on two of these. Most of the previous world history topics are present, so you may see that you are doing the same world history topics as your second years are doing.

HL Options

  • In the current model the HL options are either medieval history or modern regional history broken into Africa; Asia; Europe and the Middle East; the Americas. The time frame is 1750 to 2000 AD. The material is divided into 12 sections and you must cover 3.
  • In the new model, there are only regional options, and the Middle East has been moved to Africa. The new time frame is 700 to 2005 AD. The material is now divided into 18 sections, but you still must cover 3.

For the core and HL options, the material can remain as similar as a school would like, but there is room to move and cover other material if the school wants to focus on new core ideas.

Summary of assessment comparisons

Paper 1

This is a source-based test.  In the current model the exam lasts one hour.  You are given 5 sources on one bullet point in the prescribed subject that are a mix of primary and secondary sources.  There are 4 questions that progress in sophistication, culminating in an extended response in which you integrate the sources and your knowledge to answer an essay-type question.

In the new syllabus the exam is still a source-based test and still lasts one hour.  You are given 4 sources on case study in the prescribed subject that are a mix of primary and secondary sources.  There are 4 questions that progress in sophistication, culminating in an extended response in which you integrate the sources and your knowledge to answer an essay-type question.

Paper 2

This is an essay exam.  In the current model the exam lasts 90 minutes.  You are given 30 essay questions – six from 5 topics and answer two questions from two different topics.

In the new syllabus the exam is still an essay exam and still lasts 90 minutes.  You are given 24 essay questions – two from 12 different topics.  You still answer two questions from two different topics.

Paper 3 (HL only)

In the current model this is an essay exam that lasts 2 ½ hours.  You are given two questions for each of the 12 HL sections, and can answer any three of the 24 questions.  You can answer two questions from the same section, or three questions from three different sections.

In the new syllabus this is still an essay exam that lasts 2 ½ hours.  You are given two questions for each of the 18 HL sections, and can answer any three questions.  You can still answer two questions from the same section, or three questions from three different sections.

Internal assessment

In the current model this is a historical investigation divided into 6 sections.  Students create a research question, plan out how they will conduct the investigation; provide a summary of evidence, an analysis and conclusion in three separate sections; they evaluate 2 sources; and they provide a source list and must be within the word limit.

In the new syllabus this is still a historical investigation but it is divided into 3 sections.  You will create a research question and identify and evaluate two sources relevant to your study in the first section.  In the second section, you integrate evidence and analysis and provide a conclusion.  In the final section, you reflect on the historical process and what you learned about it based on your research for the historical investigation.  Although there is no point value assigned to it, you must reference your sources and provide a source list.  If you go over the word limit there is no affiliated point loss, but your teacher only reads up to the 2200 word limit and the rest is discarded, which may cost you points, especially in the final section (reflection).

In the coming weeks I will be providing more details on each of these components so you have a better grasp of the expectations for IB history.  In those detailed blogs, the content and relevant examination piece will be integrated so you can see how the content fits with the method of assessment.

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