Pedagogical Strategies in Practical Report Writing and Teacher Perceptions of the IBDP Biology 2016 Internal Assessment: A Multiple Case Study

Author: Jacqueline Smoler

Smoler, Jacqueline, 2018 Pedagogical Strategies in Practical Report Writing and Teacher Perceptions of the IBDP Biology 2016 Internal Assessment: A Multiple Case Study, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


The internal assessment (IA) is an integral part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) Biology curriculum, requiring students to design and execute an open-inquiry investigation and document results in a written practical report for summative assessment. The IA is internally assessed by teachers and then externally assessed by an International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) moderator. Many IBDP Biology teachers find the IA process is pedagogically challenging. This study explores practical assessment reform in the 2016 IBDP Biology curriculum from two perspectives: (1) teacher perceptions concerning introduction of the 2016 IA protocol; and (2) pedagogical strategies teachers utilise to develop student understanding of practical report writing.

A multiple case study was conducted involving three, highly qualified in-service IBDP Biology teachers, with varying degrees of teaching experience from three different International Baccalaureate (IB) schools in Australia. Participants undertook semi-structured interviews and provided various teacher-generated documents that were analysed using a grounded theory approach.

Key findings were broadly classified into two themes: (1) pedagogical strategies and (2) teacher perceptions of the reformed 2016 IA practical assessment. Key findings revealed teachers utilised a variety of mostly planned formative feedback strategies to develop students’ practical report writing skills. Teachers primarily used a transmissive, teacher-centred pedagogy that focused on low-order cognitive skills during inquiry lessons. Overall, the teachers supported and appeared to prefer the 2016 IA compared to the previous 2009 IA due its broader mark-bands, which were perceived as enabling a more valid and fair assessment method.

Teachers reported having engaged in several different formal (IB and/or school-initiated) and informal (teacher-initiated) professional development experiences to develop their understanding of the 2016 IA, which were mainly beneficial. Low self-efficacy was generally experienced with planning, interpreting and implementing the 2016 IBDP Biology IA over both short- and long-term periods. Ten core pedagogical challenge types (PCTs) were identified in relation to the 2016 IA that appeared to significantly influence teacher self-efficacy at some stage. Most of the PCTs were successfully resolved, leading to significant enhancement of teacher self-efficacy in relation to future use of the 2016 IBDP Biology IA protocol.

Keywords: Key words assessment, curriculum reform, formative feedback, internal assessment, open-inquiry, pedagogy, teacher perceptions, practical report writing, professional development, self-efficacy.

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Grace Skrzypiec