Curriculum: A sequential approach

The most straightforward way to develop your course is to simply teach the units as the IB has laid them out in the guide. This usually follows most textbooks and guarantees that you cover all the required content.

Although this requires less conceptualization of the "big picture" at the start, you should still decide which option(s) you will teach before you begin to lay out your units. If you decide to teach abnormal psychology, for example, it would be good to try to make many of your examples in the core based on abnormal psychology.

By thinking about the course holistically before you begin planning out what to teach, you may be able to have a lot of overlap. This cuts down on the amount of content that a student would be required to know, while at the same time allowing for more in-depth examination of the learning objectives.

When thinking about the options, you may also want to consider whether you want to teach two rather than three sections of an option.  This will give you more time to do project work in the core or explore areas of student interest and not feel the pressure to "get through" the curriculum.  The following curriculum proposal does just that.

Sample sequential planner

Year 1

How do we study human behaviour?An introduction to psychology and research methods.  Primary focus on experimentsFive weeks: August – end of September
Sociocultural approachSocial identity, social learning, stereotyping and culture.  Introduction to SAQ and ERQ assessment rubrics. Research methods (HL) - observations.Ten weeks: October - November
Globalization and behaviour (HL)Sociocultural HL extension: Effects of globalization on behaviourTwo weeks: December
Cognitive approachMemory and decision making.Ten weeks: January – March
Internal AssessmentCognitive HL extension: the digital world - and Internal AssessmentFive weeks: April/May
Biological approachBrain, hormones and genetics. Animal research included for the HL extension.Six weeks: May - June

Year 2

Abnormal psychology  (HL)

Diagnosis, the study of depression and treatments

SL:  once a week for revision material.

Twelve weeks: August - November
Qualitative research methodsHL only - a deeper study of qualitative methods.Three weeks: December
Relationships (SL/HL)Prosocial behaviour and personal relationships.Twelve weeks: January - March
RevisionThree weeks: April

Evaluation of a sequential approach


Coherence for students with regard to assessment

Helpful for teachers who need to follow a textbook in order to build confidence in teaching psychological content.

You could push the IA to the second year when the students have more developed skills.

Dropping some content from options allows for more project-based learning.


Potentially leads to more content than students really need.

Second-year SL have too much time off to maintain critical thinking and conceptual understandings

Pushing the IA to the second year when students are applying to universities makes the process more stressful.  It also makes predicted grades more difficult if IA in November/December of year 2.

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Comments 19

Psychology ASGBSA 29 January 2018 - 11:25

Dear John,

I'm wondering this arrangement is based on how many lessons/week ? and how long is each lesson?

Thank you

John Crane 29 January 2018 - 17:25


I teach students every other day for 80 minutes.

You will see more clearly outlined unit planners for sociocultural and cognitive under the approach. Choose "unit planning".

Monali Sharma 8 March 2018 - 17:45

Hi John,
The Abnormal Psychology section has been kept for the HL and social psychology bit for bothe SL and HL. Is it a good idea to do Abnormal for the SL?

John Crane 10 March 2018 - 07:28

Dear Monali

It is fine to do any of the four options for SL. It is up to you and what you are most comfortable teaching.

Monali Sharma 18 March 2018 - 17:13

Dear John
Thank you for the response.

Amanda Sturchio 7 May 2018 - 03:51

Hi John. When is the IA usually due by? When do you assign it?

John Crane 8 May 2018 - 06:47

The IAs are due by March 20th to the IB in the second year of the program (or first if you are doing the SL course in one year). I start my IAs in year 2 in mid-October with all planning and introductions written before we go on mid-term break. When we come back, we run the experiments and then they have a rough draft to me by mid-November. Final copies are due right before the winter holidays.

Amanda Sturchio 10 May 2018 - 02:42

Thank you!

Christina Daughtery 31 May 2018 - 15:27

Hi John,
Do we teach two of the extension topics or do we teach all three? Thank you!

John Crane 1 June 2018 - 04:59

Dear Christina,

It is up to you. Here is the problem. If you teach only two, then students will only be able to prepare for those to ERQs. If, say, you don't teach the SCLOA extension and a student prepares for the ERQs for SCLOA, then if they get the extension on the exam, they have nothing to answer. Many of us tell students to prepare for all SAQs, but that they should prepare one of core units on the essay level. I expose my students to all of the extensions so that they have a general sense of the content. Then, in year 2 I will have them work on deepening their understanding as they prepare for their ERQs. So, a student preparing for biology would prepare the essays for the extension for that unit, knowing that they will answer the bio ERQ, come what may.

Christina Daughtery 5 June 2018 - 14:29

Thank you for the response.

Ian Latham 21 July 2018 - 10:42

And the BLOA HL Ext...? Skipped or within somewhere? Thanks!

John Crane 22 July 2018 - 19:09

Ah - sorry, Ian. I will add it. I teach it as part of the biology unit.

Ian Latham 23 July 2018 - 16:27

Thanks for all replies.

Loretta von Rentzell 2 September 2018 - 20:34

Dear John,
In the sample sequential planner, what does it mean when you have, for example, the HL extension assigned to two weeks in December? What are the SL students doing during this time? (I feel like I'm in for an "OHHHH, I get it!" moment.) Thanks!

John Crane 3 September 2018 - 05:46

Dear Loretta

SL students do not have class when the HL are working on HL material. This is why the IB has a different number of hours recommended for SL and HL classes.

Loretta von Rentzell 3 September 2018 - 09:34

Thanks, John
I'm more curious now, because in our school SL(3 hours) and HL(3hours + 2hours) meet every week...I just had my "OHHH, I get it!" moment. Thank you so much!

shawna Brenna 19 September 2018 - 10:34

Hi John,
I have been informed there are minor changes to the syllabus for testing in 2010, might you have a link to access this?

John Crane 20 September 2018 - 05:22

Dear Shawna,

Do you mean 2020? You have to go to the MYIB site to access it. If you are on the IB Psychology teachers' Facebook page, you will also find it there.