The IB Group Four Project – What is it?

The IB Group Four Project is an obligatory part of the IB science course for pre-university students usually aged 18-19. Teachers can design any relevant project that is:

  • Multidisciplinary: involves students from all science subjects, including computer science

  • Collaborative: provides students with a platform to mix with other subject specialists, just like real scientists do.

  • Reflective: Students fill out a short reflection on their experiences in their project.


Here’s the points I’ll be discussing in this article (active links): 

1. A Teacher’s Viewpoint On The IB Group Four Project

2. What Do Students Do During The Group Four Project?

3. How Are Students Graded During The Group Four Project?

4. Group Four Project: The Reflection, what is it?… And Some Examples: 


1. A Teacher’s Viewpoint On The IB Group Four Project:

As a head of science and an IB science teacher I have been running group IV projects with large groups of students for the past 15 years.  I am a huge fan of the group four project for the following reasons:

  • It brings students together from all types of science subjects. 

The purpose of the group IV project is to gel together students of all science disciplines. So students are usually put in mixed groups of biologists, chemists, physicists, computer scientists. This is how the real world works – biologists don’t only work with biologists , they consult with chemists and collaborate with physicists to complete their research. So the group four project is a small step to recreating these similar situations. 

  • It’s a rare chance for students and teachers to relax and not worry about grades.

The only task at the end of the group IV project is to hand in a 50 word, yes only 50 word, reflection. There’s no final grade and projects are not marked – although they can be. Students can enjoy this rare opportunity to work and collaborate without worrying about meeting criteria in a rubric. The relief can be palpable and students really enjoy the experience.  

  • Teachers can be creative in the themes and objectives for the IB group four project.

The IB is very open with the requirements of the group four project. Multidisciplinary, Collaboration and Reflective. That is all. So why not be creative and set the students an exciting challenge that is different to their normal challenges they encounter on a daily basis. Are you a teacher stuck for ideas? Or are you a student that would like to suggest more interesting ideas to your teacher? Check out the article on this website that I wrote: Group Four Project: 13 Effective (and fun) Ideas for IB Sciences. I outline my favorite ideas that I have used over the past 15 years teaching IB science. Note: none of these ideas are the classic ‘Plan an investigation, prepare a presentation and then listen to everyone’s presentations in the library at 3pm’ type projects. I have to say I really don’t like these types of projects. They are, well, BORING and UNINSPIRING. Sitting through 8 poorly hatched and hacked together presentations based on data collected in a rushed two hour session is no one’s idea of fun and there is no need for this. Make it fun and interesting – see my article for some starter ideas on how to do this. 

  • The right sort of project can be a truly meaningful learning experience
Scientists Collaborate: this is the underlying purpose of the IB Group IV project.


If you get it right the IB group four project can be amazing. As a teacher you will see effortless and fully independent learning happening. Collaboration between small sets of students, sharing knowledge. Great teamwork. You and your teaching team will barely have to intervene as the students work throughout the day, up to the final minute. Students will report that they learned new things about how to set up pulleys, how to use google sheets as a collaborative tool, how to slow down a chemical reaction etc etc. All of my ideas I outline in the article Group Four Project: 13 Effective (and fun) Ideas for IB Sciences will achieve this – you just have to add a little organisational spark and pitch it at the right level depending on the students you are working with. 

  • The project can be a day that student will remember when they look back ten years later

If you plan a day where social, fun, collaborative and rewarding learning takes place, then you’re on to a winner. You can invite other students and members of the community to watch the finale to make the day even more memorable. Students and their families will remember the IB group four project day. When they come back to see you two years later they will point out the equipment they broke used. They will point to the prize or trophy they won/lost. They will laugh at the creation they made that still has pride of place on the top shelf in the lab.  


2. What Do Students Do During The Group Four Project?

Students simply need to be involved in a collaborative project that involves other students who don’t study their science subject. I usually have 2-3 planning and preparation sessions before a full day off timetable for the project itself. I often assess students on approaches to learning, but this is not obligatory. Assessing ‘Approaches to Learning’ is sometimes useful to keep students on task and motivated. But I have found that if I pick an interesting topic they don’t need any additional motivation.

3. How Are Students Graded During The Group Four Project?

The good news is that there’s no grading required by the IB. Some schools may grade IB group four projects, but I think this may be a mistake. Student usually have little time for planning and preparation and the day of the project goes very quickly.

Planning is an important part of the IB Group IV Project

For this reason the emphasis is on cultivating a multidisciplinary and collaborative experience, the quality of the final product is less important. So grades would be unfair and distract from the objective of the experience.   Following the project students have to write a short 50 word reflection on their experiences, this is usually done as soon as possible after the project. And that’s all. 


4. IB Group Four Project: The Reflection, What is it?… And Some Examples:

As soon as we meet back as a class after the project I ask my students to email me their reflection. This reflection needs to be saved in case the IB asks for it later on when it comes handing in coursework.  The recommended word count is set to a mere 50 words so the emphasis here is definitely quality over quantity. 

Examples of Group Four Project Reflections

Here’s some examples of reflections from students following their group four project. Which ones are best at outlining the challenges the student faces and how they overcame them? Do not attempt to copy these reflections – that is plagiarism and you will be caught. Read them and think how could you improve on these for your reflection of your group four project?

Reflection #1

“The task for my IB Group IV project was to construct a Rube Goldberg machine. We accomplished our goal of combining aspects from all three natural sciences, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry, into our machine. Along with five other peers, we were able to include two chemical reactions, a basic baking soda and vinegar reaction, and a potassium water reaction. The goal of the potassium reaction was to create a flame, which would burn through a piece of paper, and as a consequence trigger a pulley. In total, we used three pulleys, and multiple ramps, to cover the area of physics and engineering, and finally in regards to biology, we had one of the pulleys tip over a beaker with water, resulting in the watering of a plant.
My group and I did face a few challenges while working with our machine, specifically regarding time management, and ensuring that our potassium reaction would succeed. However, as a team and through multiple trials and errors, we were able to finish the day with a Rube Goldberg machine that we were satisfied with”


Reflection #2

Prior to starting the IB group 4 project, I was expecting all my initial ideas to be able to work and that collaborating with my group members would be easy. However, in reality, most of our initial ideas either did not work or had to be tweaked. Because we only had one day to finish this project and the goal was for it to run for 2 minutes while also including aspects of chemistry, biology, and physics, my group decided to split into two different groups. One group worked on the beginning of the project while the other group worked on the ending of the project so that we would be able to maximize the time. While working, we encountered a lot of obstacles, however, by collaborating we were able to share and come up with new ideas on how to overcome the obstacles. Although we did not achieve our objective of having the project run for 2 minutes with no interventions, as we did not have enough time to run a test run of our project before the final showing, we did learn that by collaborating together, we were able to work more time efficiently and create a more complex project by sharing ideas with each other. If I were to do this project again, I would try to be more aware of time as I feel that my teammates and I somewhat forgot about the time, causing more obstacles when time was limited. ”

During the group 4 project, I feel like I immediately took control of the team. I made sure every part of the machine was complete and all the connections were made. I also helped work on several sections of the machine, like the zip line aspect. My team mate and I worked together to create the chemical and biological reactions. Our chemical reaction involved touch paper and the combustion of alcohol to let the marble roll down the slope. Although our biology project took too long during our machine, we made an attempt using yeast and the formation of carbon dioxide to pop the balloon. When we won, it was clear the rest of the team felt I was the group leader. “


Reflection #3

For the IB Group 4 project my peers and I engaged in a challenge with the goal of completing a Rube Goldberg machine which lasted 2 minutes. I had to collaborate with students that I typically wouldn’t interact with, in a scientific context, such as Physics and SL Biology students, which exposed me to different ways of thinking and approaches to problem-solving which I hadn’t considered. I have stubborn tendencies and typically lead projects which I am a part of, however, it quickly became evident that this approach wouldn’t lead to the most successful outcome possible, as even during the planning process I was made aware that each individual in the group was contributing their own strengths, and that it was pivotal to take into account each person’s opinion. Simply taping or gluing things together proved to need more than two hands and two minds.


Reflection #4

As issues arose and we came up with ideas that couldn’t be executed due to a lack of materials or other obstacles, improvisation became crucial. Though we had taken precaution in the planning stage of the project, being able to think on our feet and really listen to each other was essential. We were able to come up with solutions to the problems we faced, and the minor issues of our final product were primarily due to unluckiness, as they hadn’t occurred during our test runs.

My overall opinion of the project is that it was a very meaningful experience, as that I got more, and learned more about myself than I could have expected. Although I struggled with compromising at first, I really feel that it allowed for a better end result, and provided more complexity and functionality to our machine than there would have been otherwise.”



So that’s the IB group four project – an enjoyable day in our school’s calendar and something I look forward to every year.

Don’t forget to check out my article on this website on Group Four Project: 13 Effective (and fun) Ideas for IB Sciences. Maybe you’re a student or parent wondering about how the IB sciences IA (coursework) works?
Check out another helpful article of mine on this website: IB Biology IA Coursework: A Detailed Guide For Students and Parents.

Any questions? Thanks: HolaTutorTom.