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Andrew Davis, co-author of Pearson Baccalaureate Environmental Systems and Societies 2nd Edition, outlines the key changes to the new syllabus guide and how the new book has been specifically written to match it.
There are now eight topics and the course has been restructured so that material is covered in a more logical order. The first topic provides the framework for the course and touches on all the key concepts that are needed in subsequent topics (i.e. What are environmental values systems? What is the systems approach and how can it be applied? How do feedback mechanisms control equilibria? What is sustainability? What is pollution?).
Subsequent topics cover similar material to the previous syllabus but have been refreshed to bring the course up to date (e.g. the concept of tipping points is included in the section on equilibria). Topics are divided into subtopics, as before, although the syllabus content is less prescriptive and gives greater flexibility to how teachers deliver the course. Subtopics are no-longer broken down into numbered subsections, for example.
In the book, we provide material that fills out and expands on what is provided in the guide, so that teachers are provided with plenty of insight into how the course can be delivered. The format of the 2015 guide is significantly different to the previous one - pages are landscape, with examinable material listed on the left-hand side (Knowledge and understanding and Application and skills) with teacher guidance, ideas for ToK and International-mindedness, and links to other IB subjects on the right-hand side. At the beginning of each section, significant ideas covered by each subtopic are listed - these are also reproduced at the beginning of each subtopic in the book. The significant ideas are included in all group 4 subjects, and provide a pithy summary of what students are expected to learn in each subtopic.
There is greater emphasis in the new syllabus on the central concepts that underlie the course. The central concepts of the ESS course include sustainability, equilibrium, strategy, biodiversity and environmental value systems. In the new book, these concepts are highlighted in colourcoded text-boxes at appropriate places in each chapter, to put these central ideas into context. Many of the issues encountered in the course, such as resource management, conservation, pollution, globalization and energy security, are linked to these concepts.
Another new aspect of the 2015 syllabus are the 'big questions'. These are unique to the ESS course, and do not appear in other group 4 subjects (which have the Nature of Science theme running through all subjects). This reflects the transdisciplinary nature of the course (i.e. both in group 3 and group 4).
Relevant big questions are listed at the start of each subtopic in the book, and provide a focus for exploring the central ESS concepts in a variety of ways as the course progresses. At the end of each subtopic, big questions are used to review and highlight the central principles covered in the chapter. At the end of each section the big questions are put in context (e.g. applied to atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic systems, or linked to issues of energy and population), and cover a broad range, from local to global. For example, in topic 3 (Biodiversity and conservation) the big question 'How are the issues addressed in this topic of relevance to sustainability or sustainable development?' is addressed; suggested points for discussion at the end of the chapter include: What do diversity indices reveal about the state of an ecosystem?; How can diversity indices be used to measure the impact of human disturbance on an ecosystem and assess whether it is sustainable or not?
As well as being used to introduce and review topics, big questions can also be used as the basis for classroom discussions and assignments, and be used for revision exercises at the end of the course.
The IA has been refreshed in all subjects. In ESS, the new assessment provides a better fit to the transdisciplinary nature of the course. The 2nd edition provides detailed guidance on the new IA and how it is assessed, with recommendations about how to maximize your students' marks.
The new book has been written specifically around the new curriculum. It is comprehensive, containing all the information required for the entire course. The relevant sections from the IB ESS guide, significant ideas and the knowledge and understandings, are given at the start of each sub-section, with the guidance notes incorporated into the text. The Applications and skills are also built into the text and emphasized by margin textboxes so that they are clearly highlighted.
The book is written in student-friendly language with EAL in mind, so the text should be accessible to all, and contain many examples and case studies to help understanding. Knowing the importance of regular testing of your learning, questions from previous IB examinations have been included at the end of each chapter, with answers available online. Exercises that test student understanding are included at the end of each subtopic. For those who want to stretch themselves, there are also Challenge Yourself questions, which intentionally go beyond the expectations of the syllabus.
ATL are skills that underpin an IB education. Each of the ATL skills (thinking, communication, social, self-management and research) are addressed in this book in Challenge Yourself boxes and online worksheets. Exercises that test knowledge at the end of each section specifically address ATL thinking skills.
Andrew Davis teaches IB ESS and biology at St Edward's School, Oxford, UK. He introduced ESS to the school in 2008 and has subsequently led teacher workshops and is an IB examiner. He has authored four ESS textbooks.
Textbook + eText: 9781447990420
eText only: 9781447990437
Read more articles like this in our latest Pearson Baccalaureate update brochure.