One of the significant concerns at schools is the fairness of assessments. There is usually one type of evaluation, an examination consisting of either multiple-choice or long answer questions or, in a few cases, a mixture of both. Students get “implicit and explicit messages” about the specific assessment with a particular teacher and find their way to getting a high score, sometimes even without understanding the concept. Therefore, a sizeable portion of a student’s energy might go toward “passing the subject” rather than learning it. Experienced tutors have seen these cases, and they can easily relate to these kinds of unfair situations.
Making the assessment fair, however, is a very challenging task. One of the International Baccalaureate (IB) system’s main goals is to make sure that students receive their fair score. It also wants to make sure that the range of assessments has a definite “backwash effect” to engage students in more in-depth activities. A detailed analysis of assessment principles and practices in IB can be found here.
IB uses a range of assessments, including multiple-choice questions, short answers, extended response questions (Papers 1,2,3), essays, personal projects, research assignments and group assignments.
WHAT IS INTERNAL ASSESSMENT?
Internal assessment is a personal project done during the last year of the diploma programme. Ideally, students start working on it before the end of the first year. Some schools start working on specific subjects during the summer before to lighten students’ tasks during the school year.
For science and math, IA is a written project involving around 2000 words that should take between 10 to 20 hours of a student’s time, including the time spent in class and in meetings with the teacher. In different cases and for different subjects it can take more or less time. It also accounts for a whopping 20-25% of the final score.
The teacher marks the IA project because he/she has more detailed knowledge of the amount of work done and the student’s dedication toward the project. IB’s experienced examiners monitor a few of every classes’ IA papers and intervene when they are sure that the teacher’s evaluation is inappropriate. If the examiner observes a general trend of over-scoring or under-scoring outside the allowed tolerance (e.g. one or two marks) for a specific class, the class mark may be lowered or raised. IA for languages is different, and we will get into the differences later.