Written assignment: Receptive and productive skills

Duration of formal writing: 2 hours maximum in one single session

Weighting: 20%

The written assignment tests the student’s receptive and productive skills as well as intercultural understanding, which is the ability to describe, compare and reflect on cultural differences and similarities between the student’s own culture and the culture of a country where the target language is spoken. During the second year of the programme the student will demonstrate this by choosing and independently researching one of the prescribed topics, presenting the results of his or her research in a handwritten continuous piece of writing in the target language.

The aim of the assignment is for students to:

  • describe the chosen topic
  • identify differences and/or similarities between their own culture and the target culture
  • reflect on these differences and/or similarities by responding to a set of guiding questions.

Sources

A source is any text or visual resource linked to the student’s chosen topic that will enable the student to explore and reflect on aspects of the culture(s) studied during the course and his or her own culture(s). The sources may be generated by the teacher or the student.

The sources can be in any language, but at least two of them must be in the target language.

All sources must be listed in the bibliography.

The sources brought into the classroom must be clean, unmarked copies. Students may annotate the copies during the undertaking of the written assignment.

The use of a bilingual or monolingual dictionary and reference material is permitted during the research and in the classroom during the writing of the assignment under the supervision of the teacher.

Resources may be taken from the internet, magazines, newspapers, adverts, brochures, textbooks, films, novels, and so on.

The requirements of the written assignment are as follows.

Length

Sources

Communicative purposes

When

How

200–300 words

2–4 sources in the target language

Description, comparison and reflection

Research during students’ own time

Writing of assignment: 2 hours maximum in a single session during the second year

Date of submission stipulated in Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme

Teacher supervises the writing of the assignment

Teacher must not help the students with their work during the writing of the assignment

Students must not communicate with each other

Students must not have access to the internet during the formal writing session

School provides stationery and IB coversheet

Students may bring clean, non-annotated resources into the class

Students may have access to dictionaries and reference material

The written assignment should take the form of short responses under three separate headings in the target language: A—description, B—comparison, C—reflection.

  • Section A: A description of the chosen topic
  • Section B: A comparison of the differences and/or similarities between the chosen topic in the target culture(s) and the student’s culture(s)
  • Section C: A reflection related to the chosen topic

The reflection must include answers to all of the following questions.

  • Which aspect of your chosen topic surprised you?
  • Why do you think these cultural similarities/differences exist?
  • What might a person from the target culture(s) find different about your chosen topic in your culture(s)?

Students who fail to write the minimum number of words or who exceed the maximum will be deducted 2 marks from criterion E: language. If the word limit is exceeded, the assessment will be based on the first 300 words.

Formal guidelines

  • The student must submit:
    • a coversheet completed by the student and signed by both student and teacher
    • a bibliography in standard format with references to all sources in all languages.
  • Quotations can be included but will not be part of the overall word count.
  • Quotations that are not appropriately referenced will be considered as plagiarism. See the IB’s policy entitled Academic honesty (July 2009) on the online curriculum centre at http://occ.ibo.org.
  • Students may annotate the source material once the written assignment begins.

Assessment

The written assignment is internally set but externally assessed and must be the student’s own work. The written assignment must be handwritten (unless special authorization has been obtained) in the target language in class under the supervision of the teacher. The title of the written assignment and the theme from which it comes (individual and society, leisure and work, urban and rural environment) should be the choice of the student with guidance from the teacher.

Assessment criteria

Six assessment criteria are used to assess the written assignment, which is awarded a total of 20 marks.

Criterion A

Description

2 marks

Criterion B

Comparison

3 marks

Criterion C

Reflection

6 marks

Criterion D

Register

2 marks

Criterion E

Language

4 marks

Criterion F

Formal requirements

3 marks

Total

20 marks

Criterion A: Description

The examiner will be looking for the inclusion of some simple, factual information gained from the research period on the chosen cultural topic. Where appropriate, the student should base this part of the assignment on the source material.

  • To what extent does the student succeed in stating factual information about the chosen cultural topic?

Marks

Level descriptor

0

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

1

Some relevant factual information is used in the description.

2

Relevant factual information is used in the description.

Criterion B: Comparison

The examiner will award a maximum of 3 marks to students who successfully present cultural differences and/or similarities (because there could be many overlaps between the various cultures) in a clear and coherent manner. Students should write specifically about precise differences and/or similarities rather than make comments that are so general as to be uninformative.

  • To what extent does the student succeed in identifying cultural differences and/or similarities between the chosen cultural topic in the target culture(s) and in the student’s own?

Marks

Level descriptor

0

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

1

Cultural differences and/or similarities are rarely presented in a clear and coherent manner.

2

Cultural differences and/or similarities are sometimes presented in a clear and coherent manner.

3

Cultural differences and/or similarities are presented in a clear and coherent manner.

Criterion C: Reflection

This criterion carries the most marks and teachers should think about how best to provide students with the strategies to cope with the questions. Students should use the individual questions as separate sub-headings in the assignment to demonstrate to the examiner that they have answered the question. Since the questions are addressed directly to the student, students are advised to write in the first person.

  • The reflection must include answers to all of the following questions.
    • Which aspect of your chosen topic surprised you?
    • Why do you think these cultural similarities/differences exist?
    • What might a person from the target culture(s) find different about your chosen topic in your culture(s)?
  • To what extent does the student succeed in demonstrating intercultural understanding?

Marks

Level descriptor

0

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

1–2

Only one of the questions has been answered.

There is little evidence of intercultural understanding.

3–4

Two of the questions have been answered.

There is some evidence of intercultural understanding.

5–6

All three of the questions have been answered.

There is clear evidence of intercultural understanding.

Criterion D: Register

Depending on the language, the student must carefully consider which register to adopt when writing the assignment. Where appropriate, an impersonal or semi-formal register should be adopted.

  • Does the student show an awareness of the appropriate register for the task?

Marks

Level descriptor

0

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

1

The register is partially appropriate to the task.

2

The register is appropriate to the task.

Criterion E: Language

The examiner will mark the assignment holistically and gain an overall impression from the entire assignment. It is important to remember that the student can commit orthographical and grammatical errors yet still be awarded the maximum 4 marks for this criterion. It is very important for students not to exceed the maximum 300 words (beyond an acceptable margin).

Students who fail to write the minimum number of words or who exceed the maximum will receive a 2-mark penalty. If the word limit is exceeded, the assessment will be based on the first 300 words.

  • To what extent does the student demonstrate an ability to use the language effectively and accurately?

Marks

Level descriptor

0

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

1

Language inaccuracies often obscure communication.

2

Language inaccuracies sometimes obscure communication.

3

Language is generally accurate and does not obscure communication.

4

Language is mostly accurate and communication is clear.

Criterion F: Formal requirements

The marks awarded for this criterion concern the administrative details of the assignment. If all the requirements are fulfilled, including a comprehensive bibliography of all the sources consulted in all languages used, then 3 marks will be awarded.

The four formal requirements of the written assignment are as follows.

  1. The written assignment is written in the target language.
  2. The coversheet is completed and signed by both teacher and student.
  3. All extracts from the source material are appropriately referenced.
  4. A bibliography in standard format is included with references to all sources in all languages.
  • To what extent does the student successfully fulfill the formal requirements of the written assignment?

Marks

Level descriptor

0

The written assignment does not meet any of the formal requirements.

1

The written assignment partially meets the formal requirements (one or two requirements fulfilled).

2

The written assignment generally meets the formal requirements (three requirements fulfilled).

3

The written assignment meets all the formal requirements (all four requirements fulfilled).

Topics

The following is a list of some of the language ab initio topics, with suggestions for a possible written assignment title. This list is not exhaustive. Other titles are possible within a given topic, and topics not listed below are also suitable for the written assignment. It is up to the teacher to judge the suitability of a title within a topic.

  • Personal details, appearance and character
  • Japanese ab initio: Why do Japanese students wear a school uniform whereas Italian students do not?

  • Daily routines
  • Italian ab initio: Why is la passeggiata an important part of daily life in Italy?

  • Physical health
  • Mandarin ab initio: Why are early morning exercises considered essential in China?

  • Relationships
  • French ab initio: The role of women—a French family and an American family

  • Food and drink
  • German ab initio: Food and drink festivals in Germany and New Zealand

  • Shopping
  • Malay ab initio: Shopping at the market in Malaysia and Canada

  • Employment
  • Indonesian ab initio: Young people and part-time employment in Indonesia and Scotland

  • Entertainment
  • Russian ab initio: Young people’s attitudes towards alcohol and smoking in Russia and Egypt

  • Holidays
  • Spanish ab initio: How is Easter celebrated in Barcelona compared to my community in Melbourne?

  • Education
  • Swahili ab initio: The ideal school day—the secondary school education systems of Kenya and Switzerland

  • Transport
  • Arabic ab initio: Finding sustainable methods of transport in Jordan and Greece

  • Town and services
  • English ab initio: The greenest way of getting around a capital city—London versus Paris

Preparation and completion

Teachers should follow these steps to prepare students for the production of the written assignment.

  1. Present the nature of the written assignment to students.
  2. Distribute:

    • list of themes and topics
    • assessment criteria
    • model coversheet.

    Discuss the above in the target language or language of instruction. Ask students to choose a topic related to the target culture.

  3. Discuss students’ choices and provide guidance.
    • Is the topic related to the target culture?
    • Is the title appropriate to the task?
    • Is it clearly worded?
    • Is it clearly focused?

    At this stage, the teacher may encourage students to work in small groups—students share information and ideas on each other’s topic.

    Ask students to identify at least 2–4 possible sources in the target languages for their written assignment. Remember that sources in another language may also be used.

  4. Explain the formal requirements.
    • Verify that students have selected appropriate sources.
    • Remind students that the written assignment must be their own work.
    • Remind students that no draft of the written assignment is permitted.
    • Provide adequate notice of the date on which the written assignment will take place.
    • Remind students to bring non-annotated source material, reference material (including a dictionary) and a pen. The written assignment must be handwritten (for Japanese and Mandarin only, a pencil may be used).
  5. On the day of the production of the written assignment, supervise the formal writing session.
  6. Ensure that:

    • students’ sources are not annotated
    • students complete and sign the coversheet
    • students are supervised at all times during the production of the written assignment
    • all written assignments are collected and attached to the coversheet
    • all coversheets are signed by both teacher and students.