In the past the term 'Internal Assessment' was applied to the whole 40 hours (SL) or 60 hours (HL) practical programme. Now it very specifically only applies to the Individual Scientific Investigation. The Individual Scientific Investigation is scheduled to take ten hours of the Practical Scheme of Work and is the ONLY part that forms the 20% of the final internal assessment component mark. There will be a few marks devoted to the type of skills and understanding covered in the mandatory laboratory components in Section A of Paper 3 in the external examination (see Experimental work questions for practice examples) but none of the practical work counts towards the internal assessment mark apart from the Individual Scientific Investigation. The great strength of this is that it enables teachers to plan their own practical programme as an integral part of their 150 hours (SL) or 240 Hours (HL) teaching course without having to worry too much about assessment. It means that students can learn through practical work and reinforce their understanding and they do not have to write up each and every practical to an agreed set of criteria. The downside is that all the 20% of the internal assessment marks are placed on just one single 10 hour investigation. This means that many teachers will use the practical programme to 'Scaffold' the Individual Scientific investigation, i.e. to teach students the skills necessary for them to achieve a high mark in their individual investigation.
The point of internal assessment is that it allows students to demonstrate they can apply their skills and knowledge, and at the same time can pursue their personal interests, without the exact time limitations and other constraints associated with the written examinations. The internal assessment task consists of just one scientific investigation which should take about ten hours and be presented for assessment in a 6-12 page write-up. The investigation should be complex and commensurate with the level of the course although Standard Level and Higher Level students will be marked according to the same set of criteria. It should have a purposeful research question together with the underlying scientific rationale for it. Although the investigation can follow a traditional hands-on approach there is much more scope that can be used and, in fact, it is permissible that all the data employed can be obtained from secondary sources. This is perhaps to accommodate the fact that in the near future students will be able to do an online IB Diploma chemistry course where traditional supervised practical work will no longer be possible. The IB lists some of the possible tasks that could be used. These include:
• a laboratory investigation using a hands-on approach.
• analysis and/or modelling using spreadsheets.
• using a database to extract information leading to graphical analysis.
• a hybrid of the above three, i.e. using a spreadsheet or database together with a more traditional hands-on investigation
• the use of an interactive and open-ended simulation.
Note that some of the tasks could consist of appropriate and relevant qualitative chemistry that is also combined with quantitative chemistry.