The IB learner profile in DP Chemistry
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The IB learner profile in DP Chemistry

When you ask a DP chemistry student what they like most about the course they will often refer to the experiments. When you ask a DP teacher you will often hear the same! Experiments are an essential part of a science course especially when you want the students to apply the full IB learner profile in your lessons.

By Geertje van Hal, Chemistry teacher

Experimenting does not always mean mixing substances in a laboratory setting. In the first part of the Chemistry course a large number of the experiments conducted is a simulation. These simulations allow students to inquire things, like atomic structure, ionization energy and shapes of molecules, that 30 years ago were presented as facts. These simulations help students become more knowledgeable thinkers using their natural curiosity as they would do during a “wet” experiment. 

Where it is possible to, safely, mix substances in a real laboratory we do this. This school year in DP 2 HL Chemistry we are full on with the experiments as we have some making up to do from last year. 

More than just collecting data

During the “wet” experiments students build a range of skills from designing an investigation to using a pipette correctly. We emphasize the importance of safety and fair use of resources which helps students to be principled when selecting materials for their individual investigation* in DP.

In the practical lessons our students bring their own background knowledge and skills. Coming from different schools and having practiced different skills the students need to work together carefully and be caring and open minded to be able to learn from each other and collate the skills required for the individual investigation. 

What if?

The most fun part of designing your own investigation is being a risktaker when considering potential research questions. In science we hope students always ask, “What if?”. That means that if students come with a what if question that could safely be tested, we let them test. Over the past weeks this has resulted in human salt bridge for voltaic cells and a quick inquiry into the electrolysis of an egg (and the effect of mixing the egg in advance). 

Reporting

The part of an investigation students often dread is the reporting. This is the part that cannot always be completed in class and students struggle to balance this with other tasks that need to be completed. As teachers we aim to help them with this balance by creating a focus, like hypothesis, procedure, graphing, interpreting dat or evaluation of methodology, for each activity. After each experiment students receive a form of feedback, this ranges from verbal and plenary to written and individual. This helps the students reflect on their progress from novice to science investigation master. 

*Individual investigation
The internal assessment in the sciences is an individual investigation. It is a big research task for which the students need to complete background research, develop a research question, design their own procedure, and then collect data. After data collection the students need to carefully process the data and evaluate the quality of the methodology.