It goes without saying that 2020 has been challenging. Yet, amid all the challenges, it has also been one of the most exciting years for the Kognity IB team: the year we decided to go into IBDP Language B.
We were receiving an increasing number of requests for a potential Language B resource. Teachers were looking for options and many had seen Kognity in action within other departments at their schools. Compounding the demand and interest in a project, the IBDP Language B syllabus (first assessment 2020) had introduced new components, such as Listening – motivating us to further explore how our digital platform might provide effective support.
The process has been highly iterative. We were aware that this is a new subject area for us – and we did not want to assume that we could provide the necessary support. This is why we chose to test ideas gradually throughout the year, in various forms – from prototype to pilot.
We started by evaluating Language B as a whole. Following our first round of interviews with teachers across the language spectrum – from Spanish to French to English – we went into a ‘design sprint’. It was messy and pretty psychedelic, as we chucked ideas on to colourful post-its and tested our sketching skills.
Our discussions were driven by two fundamental questions:
- What do Language B teachers and students need?
- What can we do to address these needs?
This led to our development of a prototype on our platform, which we then showed to willing teachers. We were particularly seeking answers to the following:
- How can we support practice-centred, discussion-based learning?
- To what extent can we support the four main skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking)?
- How can we support varying abilities within a class?
The teachers’ observations helped us to refine our ideas and fuelled our desire to develop something more substantial.
Over the Swedish summer, we beavered away and, with the support of our advisory and authoring team, created a pilot for English B: a fully-developed, expert-reviewed piece of content for one subtopic (‘A healthy lifestyle’ from the IB-prescribed theme ‘Identities’).
In parallel, we continued to speak with teachers around the world, many of whom become part of our pilot test group. To our delight, the interest in languages was so strong that we had over 100 teachers in this group – many more than we ever could have expected!
In August, we released our pilot. We asked our test group to use it with their students, and to deliver frank feedback – an invaluable (albeit somewhat daunting!) part of the process. After a month, we collected comments on all aspects, from structure to learning design, and to the integration of key IB elements, such as TOK and CAS.
There were plenty of excellent suggestions about how to enhance our offering. Thankfully, too – in the spirit of introducing idiomatic phrases as per the pilot – it was evident that a Kognity Language B resource ‘had legs’.
We have been committed to embedding the teacher voice at every stage of product development. For me, this has been the most energising part of the whole project.
In addition to our global test group, we:
- Recruited IB subject matter experts, workshop leaders and examiners to be our lead advisors
- Recruited teachers and experts to be authors
- Formed an expert panel of teacher reviewers.
These groups have challenged, encouraged and supported us. There has been a tangible sense of community and generosity – a real willingness to share ideas. The only downside is that there have been too many good ideas: how to include everything?!
Małgosia Kudra (Lead Advisor),
To see more about the process of creating new subjects on our platform, you can watch the video below.
How will this look going forward?
We are now developing resources for English B and Spanish B. Operating on a rolling basis, we aim to release the first batch of content for both languages in February 2021. This will be followed by another two batches – in April/May and June/July (indicative timings).
Each batch will comprise a selection of subtopics, aligned to the five IB-prescribed themes of Identities, Experiences, Human ingenuity, Social organisation and Sharing the planet.
Want to get involved?
We welcome all interest in the project, whether you are keen to contribute content in the future, or if you would simply like to stay updated!
If you are a Language B teacher, feel free to join our private Facebook group to share your ideas and have the first say in what you’d like to see – we’d love to connect with you there!
To try out the new English B book on our platform – sign up here!