The DP Core Requirements

The Extended Essay

The Extended Essay is a hallmark of the Diploma Programme. It provides students with a wonderful taste of intellectual adventure. Students pursue their own interests at length and in depth. The research essay can be on math or music, chemistry or choreography. This is the student’s opportunity to push beyond the confines of the classroom and the syllabus to explore a topic of personal interest – to follow a passion within a set structure. Under the direction of a faculty supervisor, students delve into their topics for a year and write a 4,000 word (20 page) research paper. In the last few years at Stratford Hall, we have had some very successful and highly diverse extended essays. Consider these titles, for example:

• 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 in the Dinoflagellate Species Pyrocystis Lunula
• The Role of the Berlin Wall in the Fall of Communism

These were ambitious projects for high school students; in each case, they were also labours of love. Students were able to follow their own interests to their logical conclusions. They faced dead-ends, overcame difficulties, and produced impressive results. Most students do not do this kind of research until the end of their undergraduate degree, if then. No wonder universities always mention the Extended Essay when they explain why they want to enroll DP students!

Assessment of the Extended Essay is external. Students’ essays are sent to professional markers around the world and are graded. Combined with the ToK essay, students’ EE standing earns them a possible 1-3 core points in the IB Diploma, out of a maximum 45 points.

Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge (ToK) is an exciting course particular to the Diploma Programme. ToK asks students to consider what they (really) know and how they know it.

They begin by exploring several principal Ways of Knowing: sense perception, emotion, faith, reason, memory, intuition, and language. A selection of these will be investigated in detail to ascertain its benefits and limitations. What, for example, can we know only through emotion, and how reliable might that knowledge be? How credible is our perception, and why does that matter?

Once students are comfortable with the Ways of Knowing, they move on to consider the Areas of Knowledge: Mathematics, the Natural Sciences, the Human Sciences, History, the Arts, Ethics, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and Religious Knowledge Systems. Several questions naturally arise here: Are these distinct areas or do they overlap significantly? How do the various ways of knowing apply to the areas of knowledge? Can the arts be approached through reason, or is the only valid approach to the arts emotional?

Theory of Knowledge is a reflective, engaging course which unites the academic courses in the Diploma Programme: students will learn about the topics distinct to TOK, but they will also explore—in a more philosophical way—topics that they already study in their six chosen DP courses. This process supports and deepens their IB experience.

Assessment in ToK is comprised of the internally-assessed Presentation and the ToK Essay (1600 words on a prescribed title). This essay is submitted electronically to external markers. Combined with students’ Extended Essays, their ToK standing earns a maximum of 3 core points towards the Diploma Programme final score, tallied out of a maximum 45 points.

Creativity, Action, and Service

Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) is at the heart of the Diploma Programme. It is one of the three essential elements in every student’s Diploma Programme experience. It involves students in a range of activities alongside their academic studies throughout the Diploma Programme. The three strands of CAS, which are often interwoven with particular activities, are characterized as follows:

Creativity: Any experiences that involves creative thinking;
Action: Physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle, complementing academic work elsewhere in the Diploma Programme; and
Service: An unpaid and voluntary exchange that has a learning benefit for the student. The rights, dignity, and autonomy of all those involved are respected.

CAS enables students to enhance their personal and interpersonal development through experiential learning. At the same time, it provides an important counterbalance to the academic pressures of the rest of the Diploma Programme. Individual CAS experiences should be both challenging and enjoyable — a personal journey of self-discovery. CAS is not an instructional course. Rather, it provides students an avenue to get out of the classroom and meaningfully interact with their local and global communities. Sports, volunteering, directing a play, learning an instrument, building a computer—all of these can be CAS experiences. This means that students’ lives will continue in the DP, but it will also extend and expand interests and abilities in ways they may not have expected.

CAS must involve:
• real, purposeful activities, with significant outcomes;
• personal challenge – tasks should extend the individual and be achievable in scope;
• thoughtful consideration, such as planning activities and maintaining a CAS portfolio; and
• a variety of approaches for reflection on outcomes and learning.

It is essential that CAS activities do not replicate other parts of the student’s Diploma Programme. Concurrency of learning is also important in the DP. Therefore, CAS activities should continue on a regular basis for as long as possible throughout the two years.

Assessment in CAS concerns the successful completion of all CAS requirements, essential for an IB Diploma. Students need to regularly document their CAS experiences and provide a thorough reflection for each completed activity. Reflections need not just be a typical document; rather, students are encouraged to use a variety of media for their reflection. For example, students may create a blog or website to chronicle their experiences and reflections. The options for reflection are endless, just as long as they are introspective, thorough, meaningful, and enriching. Students must provide evidence through a variety of CAS activities that they have achieved the learning outcomes.