Curriculum: A thematic approach

A final way to teach the course is to create your own units using the IB curriculum guide to determine what content must be taught.

This method allows each unit to feel much more focused and consistently asks students to apply knowledge and theory.  It also, however, takes some consideration as to when and how you will introduce conceptual understandings.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every approach, but this one is the least transparent in terms of the IB assessment at the end of the course.  Therefore, you will see that there is a lot more time for revision at the end of the course than in the other two approaches.

Sample thematic planner

I have never taught this scheme of work, so you may choose to change the order in which it is taught.

Year I

How do we study human behaviour?            An introduction to psychology and research methods.  Primary focus on experimentsFive weeks: August – end of September
The refugee experienceAn intro to sociocultural approach. Social identity, social cognitive learning theory, stereotyping, acculturation and enculturation and cultural difference. Ten weeks: October - December
Globalization (HL)A look at the effects of globalization on identity, attitudes and behaviour.Three weeks: December/January
CriminologyA look at eyewitness testimony and its role in criminal cases.  Models of memory, the effect of emotion on memory; reconstructive memory and schema theory.Ten weeks: January – March
Consumerism (HL)Decision making.  Followed by HL cognitive extension.April - May

Year II

Internal assessment                   Use class time to complete the IA.Three weeks: August –  September
DepressionOrigins of the disorder (neurotransmitters, hormones, genetics, plasticity). Treatments (HL only).Ten weeks: September - November
Qualitative research methodsTime to discuss key conceptual understandings in qualitative research and begin practice papers for Paper 3.Two weeks: December
The perfect coupleHelping behaviour and interpersonal relationships. Biological focus on oxytocin (hormone), neurotransmission in love relationships and pheromones. HL: animal models for understanding human behaviour.Ten weeks: January – March
RevisionTime to revise/review for May exams.Four weeks: March - April

Evaluation of a thematic approach


An integrative approach which allows for student-centred content.

Fewer “units” to manage

Takes a more integrative approach.


Lacks a clear focus on core and options as separate assessments
Students may falsely assume that there will be questions on units such as criminology or refugees.
Individual content points may be difficult to include in the course as designed.
More difficult to excuse SL students on a regular basis.
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