DP Curriculum Corner: 23/11/2018


Welcome to our new edition of our IB Diploma Programme Curriculum corner

In this edition, we will be focussing on the importance of the IBDP core and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to two key members of staff working with me in this area: our TOK coordinator, Ms Adele Evans, and our CAS coordinator, Ms Steph Magri. They have contributed to our curriculum corner this month in helping families to understand in more detail what is meant by TOK: Theory of Knowledge and CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) within the Diploma Programme.

In addition, we will be hosting a family event on Tuesday, 4 December at 6pm, focussing on ‘Preparing my Child for University’. This event will include workshops on TOK and CAS.

What do we mean by the IB Diploma Core?

As a reminder from our previous DP curriculum corners, the IB Diploma curriculum is made up of the DP core and six subject groups.


It is the core that distinguishes the IBDP from all other educational programmes and is a key part of the interest in Diploma from Universities and employers. The main aims of the core are to broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills, and to:

  • support, and be supported by, the academic disciplines. The core interconnects all subjects together
  • foster international-mindedness – not just a global awareness but also an understanding of how, even within the local community, peoples’ lives are shaped by socio-economic factors
  • develop & build self-awareness and a sense of identity

Through the core, IB prepares students for employment, proving them to be “‘can do’ types who are broad-minded, sensible risk takers, with strongly developed collaborative skills and a respect for interdisciplinary relevance. It also encourages students to think critically, reflectively and in a broad-minded way, respecting others’ opinions and cultures.

The three core elements are:

  1. Theory of knowledge, in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know. This is taught within TOK lessons and is integral into all subject lessons. Our TOK coordinator Ms Evans tells us more below.
  2. Creativity, activity, service, coordinated by Ms Magri.
  3. The extended essay, which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper. This is an area in which I work closely with students from January through to October.

Keep reading to find out more from our Core coordinators!


Theory of Knowledge with Ms Evans

On 21st November, our DP students visited the Real Bodies exhibition in Milan. This exhibition continues to cause controversy for a number of reasons – but specifically it raises the question of ethics around the use of real bodies on display for educational purposes. A recent protest in Sydney, Australia also raises the question of how science obtains bodies. Standards and practises around this issue differs around the world. Opinions on such issues are diverse and our students have already started to debate and reflect upon the ethics around these issues.

Why is this included in an introduction to Theory of Knowledge? And what is Theory of Knowledge (or TOK) anyway?

The visit to the exhibition is what we would call a ‘Real Life Situation’ in TOK. It is a contemporary, often controversial situation, that prompts debate. DP students are invited to reflect upon sensitive and sometimes challenging information in order to reflect and explore the nature of knowledge. We use eight ‘Ways of Knowing’ to explore the acquisition of knowledge: sense perception; emotion; reason; language; faith; memory; imagination; and intuition. We then use these as a gateway to research into eight ‘Areas of Knowledge’: History; Natural Sciences; Human Sciences; Mathematics; Ethics; the Arts; Indigenous Knowledge Groups; and Religious Knowledge Systems.

TOK is a compulsory element of the DP Core, alongside the Extended Essay and CAS. It consists of two formal assessments: a presentation and a 1600 word essay. It is a course that aims to develop the ‘whole person’ and promotes open-minded inquiry. TOK is a subject where we explore the way in which we process knowledge and how we make connections with other academic subjects across the DP curriculum.

The IB’s mission is to “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect” and “encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right” (IB mission statement). TOK is central to this mission.

Creativity, Activity and Service with Ms Magri

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CAS provides an opportunity to inquire into the demands/needs of the local and global community. Diploma students will use their knowledge, inquire and ask questions on what may perhaps make a difference to their life and that of others. It gives them the power to take action and develop their ideas to make a positive change.

CAS complements a challenging academic programme in a holistic way. It provides opportunities for independent goal setting, collaboration, accomplishment and enjoyment. It allows students to develop their decision making and create their own authentic idea. It is an opportunity for students to show case and consolidate their prior knowledge, experiences and backgrounds. In other words, it is a continuum of a learning process; to inspire them to continue their journey and become life-long learners.

What are the three strands of CAS?


Creativity may be but not limited to leading a workshop or a club in drama. Students may choose to prepare a performance for our PYP students which may become the school production for the winter show.  They might be interested in developing the script, designing the set and costumes, and collaborate with others to develop the stage.

Activity in CAS may be the initiative to play for the school’s volleyball or football team. Students may choose to attend an activity outside school and try a new sport or develop their technique in a sports they already practice such as skiing, sailing, mountain biking, ice skating, dance, yoga or any other sport/activity.

Service – For example a student may realise the benefits to cheer children in hospitals. So he/she chooses to sign up with ‘Stringhe Colorate’(a charity organisation in Italy) to visit a children’s hospital on weekly basis over a term. He/she may be asked to complete a preparatory training course, which includes ethical procedures and ways to help children.

Please help to get involved…

Our diploma students have already started their CAS experiences and projects. We encourage parents and guardians to support their offspring. Should you wish to find out more about how you can be of support, please contact me at smagri@iscomo.com


Extended Essay with Mrs Pearce

The Extended Essay provides students with a practical preparation for undergraduate research at University and an opportunity for students to investigate a topic of special interest to them, which is also related to one of the student’s six DP subjects.

This is the student’s opportunity to push beyond the confines of the classroom and the exam to explore a topic of personal interest. Students that I have worked with in previous years have considered titles as diverse as ‘Movement and Stasis in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye’,  ‘A Study of the Effect of Ocean pH on the Luminosity of Bioluminescence’ and ‘The Role of the Berlin Wall in the Fall of Communism’.

Through the research process for the extended essay, students develop skills in:

  • formulating an appropriate research question
  • engaging in a personal exploration of the topic
  • communicating ideas
  • developing an argument.

Working with a staff supervisor, students will write a 4,000 word (20 page) academic research paper. Students are supported throughout the process of researching and writing the extended essay, and following the completion of the written essay, students will have a short, concluding interview with their supervisor, known as viva voce.

Most students do not undertake this kind of research until the middle or end of their undergraduate degree so it is no wonder that universities always refer to the Extended Essay when they explain why they want to enroll DP students. For students, it also provides a valuable stimulus for discussion in countries where interviews are required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university.

Assessment of the Core

Grades for the core elements are factored together to generate up to 3 additional ‘core points.’ CAS does not generate points, but students are required to demonstrate successful completion of the CAS programme by producing a portfolio of projects and activities, through Managebac, in order to receive the Diploma.

We look forward to seeing you at our workshop on 4 December. In the meantime if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact myself (npearce@iscomo.com), Ms Evans (aevans@iscomo.com) or Ms Magri (smagri@iscomo.com).