Mr. Gan's classroom

Monthly Archives: October 2016

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Chinese 9/10 Standard: Building skills and language fundamentals

The grade 9 and 10 Chinese Standard class is currently reviewing the basic word order and some sentence patterns to further strengthen their command of the language. This is built using oral tasks, writing tasks, and reading tasks. A holistic approach combined with regular guidance and practice will strengthen this fundamental skill that will be incredibly important when they reach IBDP Chinese B SL.

Relevance. Students are made to construct their own sentences that are relevant to them. Relevance of the sentences to the personal lives of students is key to learning and retention. Students will experience great difficulty in learning a concept if they cannot relate to it.

Inquiry-based. This goes both ways, students ask questions, but the teacher also asks questions back at the students. Students are encouraged to keep on asking questions, this is how active learning works. Teachers can also ask a question in response to a question. This question is structured in a way that would encourage the student to rely on previously learned knowledge and skills to arrive at an answer to the student’s original question. This is also active learning.

When students passively receive information from the teacher, this information is easily lost. When the answer comes directly from the students’ own thinking, it tends to develop into a skill and they retain it for a much longer time.


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IBDP Chinese B SL: Fast and efficient reading comprehension; reflecting on how humans process language

This year’s 12th grade Chinese B SL class is currently training reading comprehension skills. The students must be aware that the IB Paper 1 exam for Chinese B SL is only 1.5 hours long and they have to make good use of their time if they want to perform well.

Language students sometimes make the mistake of getting themselves stuck on a single sentence because they couldn’t understand one or a few words. If students are made to reflect on how they process language and information in their mother tongue, they notice that they don’t necessarily know all of the words in the texts that they’re reading but in the end they still know the main idea of the text. The same applies to learning a second language.

Learning how to reading texts either as a whole, or by strategically chunking information such as by paragraphs can result in increased comprehension, better reading efficiency, and more confidence in handling large texts.

Students don’t need to know every single word in the dictionary to be fluent in a language. They should instead aim to understand the intricacies of the language. In Chinese, parts of the character can give clues as to how the word is read or what it could mean. As for Chinese words, these are composed of individual Chinese characters which when combined form the meaning of the word.

When students are made aware of these along with regular guided practice in reading texts, they will not only perform well in the IB assessments but also carry these skills later in life, maybe even applying these skills in areas other than the Chinese language.

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IBDP Psychology: Pioneers

Jean Piaget has contributed substantially to the study of cognitive development. His work laid the foundation for much of the early work on the field.

This year’s 12th grade Psychology class under Mr. Gan is currently studying the different theories of cognitive development. While Piaget’s work is notable worldwide, it is not without criticisms. Students are learning how different factors such as scientific rigor, proper sampling, and age-appropriateness of tasks can affect the validity of experiment results. Pioneers ask the right questions, it’s up to the rest of us to help in finding the right answers.

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Writing with evidence of critical thinking in IBDP Psychology

One of the problems that students often have is how to include “critical thinking” into their exam essays. It is often clear that students know the strategies – that is, writing MAGEC about research (Methodological considerations, alternative arguments, gender considerations, ethical considerations, cultural considerations) – but they don’t know how to write about them in their argument. Weaving those arguments into their essays is an essential part of writing a top level essay.

One strategy to help students is to repeatedly remind them to use the words “because” and “that is” to “complete the sentence.” In other words, they shouldn’t just write that a study is not cross-culturally valid, but they should then write “because….” and explain why this is not the case – for example, because the sample was made up exclusively of white British males from an individualistic society.

In order to help students practice using “because” and “that is,” here is a simple worksheet. Suggested answers are provided..

1. Loftus’s study lacks ecological validity.

Loftus’s study lacks ecological validity – that is, what she observed under controlled conditions may not be predictive of what happens in a natural environment. OR Loftus’s study lacks ecological validity because when you watch a film of a car crash you experience different emotions than you would if you were actually at the scene of a real car crash; emotions may play a part in how memories are formed.

2. Bouchard et al’s study of intelligence may lack construct validity.

Bouchard et al’s study of intelligence may lack construct validity because the definition of intelligence which they have used may not be accepted by everyone as a valid way of defining and measuring intelligence.

3. Bandura’s Bashing Bobo study may be considered unethical.

Bandura’s study may be considered unethical because it could not be determined whether any aggressive behaviour that the children might learn would be reversible in the future.

4. The Bouchard study may have problems with contamination.

Bouchard’s study may have problems with contamination because of its fame and the fact that twins which then join the sample may base their statements on what they have heard that other twins have said.

5. Many memory studies suffer from maturation.

Many memory studies suffer from maturation because as participants repeatedly take a similar type of memory test, they will develop/learn skills to improve their performance over time.

6. Meany’s study of the role of stress on memory may not be generalizable.

Meany’s study of the role of stress on memory may not be generalizable because it was performed on animals, and it is not clear whether they process stress in the same way that we do; however, there does seem to be evidence of hippocampal cell loss in people who self-identify as highly stressed.

7. Studies of relationships often suffer from demand characteristics.

Studies of relationships often suffer from demand characteristics – that is, the participants will say what they think the researcher wants to hear, or what they feel is socially acceptable.

8. The Loftus study has sampling bias.

The Loftus study has sampling bias because the sample was made up of American university students – this may not reflect the traits of a larger population.

9. The Bouchard study suffers from the equal environment fallacy.

The Bouchard study suffers from the equal environment fallacy – that is, it is based on the assumption that because twins were raised together, they shared the same environment. There are several reasons why this may not be true; for example, a parent preferred one twin over the other, they were in different classes in school, or they have different peer groups based on extracurricular interests.

10. Many studies on the effect of television violence on children suffer from bidirectional ambiguity.

Many studies on the effect of television violence on children suffer from bidirectional ambiguity – that is, it is not possible to know whether violent children watch more violent television, or whether violent children makes children violent.

11. Schachter & Singer made use of a placebo.

Schachter & Singer made use of a placebo – that is, they gave a fake treatment to one group in order to make sure that it was not just the fact that the group was receiving a treatment that led to the change in their behaviour.

12. Case studies often use method triangulation.

Case studies often use method triangulation – that is, more than one research method is used (interview, observation, experiments, etc) in order to guarantee that it was not because of the choice of research method that the results were obtained.

13. Scarr & Weinberg (1977) contradict the findings of the Minnesota Twin Study.

Scarr & Weinberg seem to contradict the findings of the Minnesota Twin Study in that they found that the environment played a highly significant role in the determination of IQ, rather than biological factors.

14. Wahlstein (1997) supports the findings of Scarr & Weinberg (1977).

Wahlstein supports the findings of Scarr & Weinberg because in both cases children’s IQ increased by changing their environment.

15. The problem with many health studies of stress is that they are retrospective.

The problem with many health studies of stress is that they are retrospective – that is, we do not know the health of the individual before the stressful life situations, only after. They are also based primarily on self-reporting which can lead to problems due to reconstructive memory.

From: Inthinking for IB Psychology

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Psychology and Theory of Knowledge

Psychology and TOK:

Memory as a Way of Knowing.

Memory is one of the named ‘Ways of Knowing’ on the IB Theory of Knowledge course. This is because “most of the knowledge that individuals have is in the form of memory and therefore how we retain information and how past events and experiences are reconstructed is an important aspect of how personal knowledge is formed”.


If we consider much of the content that we cover on the IB Psychology course at the Cognitive Level of Analysis when studying memory, there are several important knowledge questions raised for this way of knowing.


Schema Theory suggests that we interpret new information based on previously held knowledge. Therefore, can new knowledge ever be interpreted in the same way by different people? 


How reliable is our memory? Well, according to Elizabeth Loftus and many other cognitive researchers, not at all!  Therefore, should we trust our memory as a way of knowing?


Cole and Scribner show us that individual’s from different cultures use different memory strategies to retain information. Therefore, to what extent does our culture affect our memory?


Brown and Kulik proposed the theory of Flashbulb Memories. How do the ways of knowing of emotion and memory interact in the gaining of knowledge?

From: Pamoja Education