Although we have been using FOSIL to enhance our support for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) Extended Essay (EE) since 2012, it is only since the appointment of Chris Foster to the position of Head of Student Research in 2018 that support for the EPQ has begun to benefit from these FOSIL-based interventions and resources.
Chris should be able to elaborate on where we are with EPQs shortly.
As Darryl suggests, FOSIL has helped us to better support the EPQ at Oakham. In particular, engaging with FOSIL has:
enabled us to understand the EPQ process in terms of stages in an inquiry cycle,
made it easier to develop and adapt resources that help pupils through the difficult stages of the inquiry process, and
think about the EPQ assessment criteria and how we can better provide evidence that shows how the pupils have engaged with the process of carrying out a project.
I’ve attached an EPQ assessment framework to this post. I produced it to help me think about what resources might support the pupils and how we can use them as evidence for their engagement in the inquiry process. The framework lists the resources we use, and links the assessment statements to the FOSIL stage they fall into. The FOSIL resources are marked with an ‘F’ in the framework.
I’ve based the framework on the AQA assessment criteria, but I hope that it might be useful for those of you who are supporting pupils through EPQs with other exam boards. The Investigative Journal and CRAAP Testing Rubric have really helped pupils think about how they select and use information.
I’ll add more resources as I produce them. At the moment, I’m working on a reflection aid to help with the summary and reflection pages of the production log.
I’d be very interested in hearing what other forum members use to support the EPQ in their schools.
For me, the FOSIL tool that has made the most difference to the quality of EPQ research at Oakham has been the investigative journal. For this reason, I thought I would share with the forum a couple of examples of the investigative journal in use. These examples are interesting because they show how how FOSIL tools can be used to support pupils in the trickier stages of an inquiry. The journal is suitable for all abilities. It scaffolds the process of constructing understanding from a source of information. The pupil who produced these was very able, and her journal shows just how deeply she engaged with the sources she selected. Frustratingly, she hasn’t included page numbers in her citation, although these were used in her final essay. She used the referencing tools in Word to produce a bibliography which followed APA 6th Edition (our preferred ‘in-house’ style) at the end of her journal.
What’s also worth noting is that these examples show an earlier draft of the investigative journal than the one we currently use. It shows how our thinking has developed. To make the inquiry process more visible, later drafts of the journal use the FOSIL colour scheme and the icons bottom left to indicate the stages of the inquiry process it draws upon. The right hand box has been simplified and a CRAAP testing prompt added to our current draft, which can be found on the resources pages.
Do post if you have any questions about use of the investigative journal or suggestions for improvements.
Last year I managed to embed myself more into the delivery of the EPQ with two Library-based sessions. In the first I focused on how to approach research by identifying areas of investigation, effectively combining keywords in search engines and critically judging the quality of source using the CRAAP test. The second session looked at how the literature review fits within the EPQ and Harvard referencing.
Having to adapt my session to online-only delivery this week it occurred to me how I was already partially following the FOSIL cycle. I have just spent a happy couple of days developing my first session to be more in-line with CONNECT, WONDER AND INVESTIGATE and finding materials from the resources collection here to adapt, namely the Focussing Your Topic sheets and the CRAAP test rubric.
Thinking ahead to the second session I have picked out the investigation journal and the sheet on drawing conclusions from multiple perspectives which are far better designed than anything I had before!
Thank you for these resources! I feel that I am now following something much more structured and in-line with a generally accepted way of teaching these skills.
I need to create a lesson on questionnaire design for our HPQ & EPQ students, does anyone have any ideas for this – I am thinking of using a poor questionnaire for them to analyse with ways to ask questions to achieve maximum results? Thank you
I will alert Chris Foster – Head of Student Research at Oakham School with responsibility for EPQ’s – to your question. He is also in the process of finishing off his PhD, which relied heavily on questionnaires, so he should have some thoughts on questionnaire design 🙂
I will also mention it Jenny Toerien – Curriculum Librarian for Upper School at Oakham School – as she is a Mathematics graduate and has been of enormous help to me in this regard.
I will also flag your question with the community more widely.
Hi Sara. Thank you for the really important question, and sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I had been thinking that I needed to add something on questionnaire design to our (very new and still developing) Extended Essay LibGuide, but it would be even better to be able to offer a lesson on it. Next year I would love to add an optional session during our February EE Investigation week for all those planning to use questionnaires, so am very keen to hear feedback from your session when you deliver it. [Note: the LibGuides are new this year so are still in the process of being written as we work through the IB Extended Essay process with the students. Most of the guidance beyond the initial subject selection is in the individual subject-specific guides e.g. IB English A ]
How long is the lesson likely to be? Is it for EPQ and HPQ students together, or two separate lessons? What stage in the process will they be at (i.e. do they already have a good idea of their area of interest? Could they come out of the lesson having made some practical decisions about their own questionnaires?). It also depends on the group size and level of interaction you are able to have. Are you doing this online during the lockdown, or planning something for afterwards?
Frustratingly we have a couple of really good books on questionnaire design, which are currently under coronavirus lockdown at school. However, it seems that there are two key angles to address:
1. The background to writing the questionnaire:
What information are you trying to find?
Who do you need answers from? (what is your target population?)
How are you going to administer the questionnaire? (paper, interview, online – what are the options and tools available? The online tools are important to explore before students get started. I had a student come to me during our EE investigation week in February who had designed a SurveyMonkey survey and only discovered once she had finished that she was only allowed 10 questions on a free account, but she needed more. Like many schools, however, we use Office 365 and Forms would allow her up to 100 questions, so she had to remake her questionnaire in Forms. This is my first year in this particular role in the school and this was a lesson to me that we need to address this earlier.)
The vital role of a small pilot study to check it works the way you think it does!
2. The questions themselves:
Open vs closed. Important to think about what you want to do with the data – open questions can produce some very interesting answers that you wouldn’t otherwise have considered, but are very difficult to analyse, particularly with larger sample sizes. Closed questions are good for quantitative analysis, but do (sometimes artificially) restrict the answers you get.
Bad questions: ‘Leading’, confusing and double-barrelled questions
Scales of agreement/disagreement (lots of interesting discussion to be had about Likert scales if you have the time)
Forced choice questions
Keeping it short, relevant and interesting for the respondent and ordering and grouping questions appropriately.
Explaining what it is for and levels of confidentiality
I’m sure you know all this better than I do though – I’m just starting to think about a session for next year, and I have to think through the content I want to deliver before worrying about the format. You were actually asking for ideas for the format of the session. I think your idea of a ‘bad’ questionnaire is a good one – although perhaps it could be more nuanced and have some good and some bad questions.
How about getting students to take a short survey at the start, as a ‘lesson starter’ as they come in perhaps, or even electronically before the session using something like Forms? If you design that with some deliberately bad and good questions, you could ask them to critique the survey. Which were ‘bad’ questions? Why? How could they improve them? Which were ‘good’ ones? Why?
If they submit their answers before the session, you could look at some of the results and show which answers are difficult to analyse, and which questions produce what they might consider to be surprising results. Likert scales are quite interesting to look at for acquiescence bias and central tendency bias but you probably won’t have time for this!
It would be good for them to emerge from the session with something concrete for their inquiry if they are at a suitable stage. Perhaps you could design a form for them to fill in looking at those five background stages above in relation to their own inquiry: What? Who? How? Ethics? And Pilot (how are they going to do one?) or ask them to design one good question for their survey and test in on a partner.
One final thought, which is perhaps more challenging given the current situation – is there any opportunity to connect with subject-teaching colleagues in subjects that use questionnaires (off the top of my head Geography and DT are obvious examples) to ask what they teach about this and when, and what they would like students to know but don’t actively teach? What are common problems they see that they would like you to address? One of the advantages we have in libraries is that we can be a point of connection between subject departments and provide students with a joined up experience.
I would love to continue this conversation and to hear your thoughts and any feedback on how you get on – this is definitely something I need to develop for next year.
Some really good thoughts here Jenny! I would just add that in the past 4 years I have seen (and completed!) some terrible surveys for EE and EPQ where it was patently obvious what they wanted the answers to be. As a result I ran a session (pretty short as we didn’t have much time – approx 20 mins) on data collection which focused on surveys/questionnaires and interviews. I invited one of our Marketing team over to talk to the pupils who were doing primary data collection and he was able to tell them that it is crucial they think about their questions before they write them. They have to spend time planning their survey design and they can’t ask leading questions or try to manipulate the field because it’s much better to analyse data where there might be anomalies and things you didn’t anticipate.
It was good to have another voice other than mine added to the research morning, especially someone who does surveys as part of his job. It would be worth looking out examples of poor surveys (if you have copies of previous years’ EPQs you will most likely come across some!) and maybe anonymise and get your students to evaluate and rate them as surveys? The Study Skills Handbook by Sheila Cottrell was my go-to resource for this – she goes into some depth on questionnaire design – but there are plenty of other resources out there. It’s not rocket science but like anything it requires careful planning – pupils have to think hard about what they want to find out and craft questions which aren’t leading and which will help them to best answer their research question.
We are keen to expand our EPQ support this year, using resources developed for our IBDP Extended Essay cohort. Currently Chris Foster, our Head of Student Research supervises all of our EPQ students (for us it’s a smaller cohort than for the EE) and delivers an excellent support program for them, including some crossover from the EE support, but this year Chris and I are keen to build a specific LibGuide for this group and develop a similar co-operative support relationship to the one we have for the EE. Support for the EE and the EPQ has a lot in common, so for anyone interested it might also be worth exploring the FOSIL and the IB Diploma Programme Extended Essay (EE) topic too (there are some interesting conversations going on in that Topic at the moment around the use of LibGuides vs OneNote vs a VLE, and on support for citing and referencing).
We have recently made some progress in terms of expanding our Library support for the EPQ. Chris, our Head of Student Research, already does a great job of supporting and supervising all the EPQ students and has for many years but, compared with the IB Extended Essay, the Library has not historically provided any coordinated support. As the cohort has grown in recent years Chris and I have been discussing for some time how we could best collaborate to support the students. As a result I have put together a new EPQ LibGuide, which gives students central access to all the resources they need and guidance on the structure of an inquiry.
Something I have discovered as I have worked with our guides (and I would imagine this is very similar using other online platforms such as VLEs) is the importance of creating central guides/resource collections that are useful for large groups of students (e.g. in this case Upper School students) and then linking to them from other more subject/topic specific guides rather than dispersing that information throughout the system. This both saves lots of time because you aren’t always reinventing the wheel but also, critically, makes it easier to keep the resources up to date. It seems so obvious now, but when I started this journey I had a lot to learn about making a connected, easy to navigate and maintain online space (and I still have a long way to go!). It is very easy to focus too hard on making a site or collection as easy as possible for users to navigate OR as easy as possible for creators to maintain without considering both these needs together. And if I set something up in a hurry both these needs can go out of the window in favour of the immediate need to get something up quickly that does the job – and I always regret that later!
My involvement with EPQs has been very indirect compared with IB EEs and this EPQ guide is very much a first effort and will certainly evolve over time. All constructive criticism and advice welcome.