Planning your two-year IB Diploma Psychology course for next year

This is a post mainly for teachers, but students also will gain a good overview of the Psychology course, so read on!  Whether you are teaching HL & SL classes together or apart this post will help you. If you are still teaching your course online, this will give you a useful and flexible plan to get you started.

1. Note the recommended hours and course requirements for SL & HL.


This is not to say that you can’t be flexible. SL do not have to do all of the topics from ONE option, for example, though many teachers prefer it this way. i.e. teachers teach the development option to both SL and HL, and then another option for HL only.

However, especially if you are more familiar with the course, maybe you would like to teach the etiology of one disorder from abnormal psychology and the treatment of that disorder, plus personal relationships from the human relationships option at SL and add in three more topics for the HL students, maybe social responsibility from human relationships and developing as a learner and the influences on development from the development option? 

2. Backwards plan from the options to minimise the numbers of studies to be learnt. 

The core is compulsory, so two of the core approaches (maybe Biological and Cognitive – your choice)  should be taught to at least AO3 (essay) level and the other one to at least AO1 and AO2 (short-answer) level. Whichever two you have taught to AO3 level, at least one of these should also be taught to your HL students at the HL extension level. Look through the requirements and content details for these approaches. Use a textbook or online psychology course to identify the studies that will support your chosen option  areas, and plan where these can also be used in the core. See examples on this blog, such as Planning your course effectively – the biological approach and development to understand how to plan this. Psychology Sorted will also help.

3. Know how many hours (not lessons) you have per week with your students and how many teaching weeks you have in Y1 and Y2.

Plan so that your extra HL option, the HL extension(s) and extra research method hours needed for the HL Paper 3 are taught separately from your lessons with SL and HL together. It is not the IB’s intention that SL students should have to do as many hours as HL students. The suggested plan below is for a school that has 3 hours per week for SL students and 5 hours per week for HL students, with 36 weeks in Y1 and 24 in Y2. You will need to adapt it and – like all the best plans – it is only a suggested guide.

This is quite a generous allowance of time, but note that drama rehearsals, sporting events, assemblies, etc. will cut into this. If you need to reduce anything, research methods can be integrated well into the content teaching. SL and HL are together for the first week’s introduction to the course, and for the IA group planning and conducting of their IA. 

Two-year plan