Secondly, how to more effectively support the EE process out of a deeper understanding of the inquiry process. This was driven by a sense that our EE timetable, which in many respects was exemplary, worked against the inquiry process at certain key points, for example, the requirement to identify a research question at the start of the process rather than allowing the research question to emerge from the process. This led me to Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process, which not only added an affective, cognitive and physical dimension to our understanding of the inquiry process, which allowed us to realign out EE timetable to work with the inquiry process, but also identified points of optimal intervention in support of the EE process (please see E&L Memo 0 | Developing inquiring minds: a journey from information through knowledge to understanding for more detail).
I would like to ask a question about what you have said relating to the inquiry process and the Extended Essay research question. I wondered whether you were suggesting that it is a requirement of the IBO that the student start the process of the EE with a research question or whether that was something that your school had required. I assume that it is the latter. For me as a supervisor, it has always been so exciting to see my students start with an idea and slowly develop their question through trial, error and inspiration.
Hello, Susan, and welcome. The requirement to start with the research question was internal, but I seem to recall that the previous EE specification contributed to this expectation, if it didn’t actually create it. Even though we have realigned our EE timetable to more accurately reflect our growing understanding of the inquiry process (see E&L Memo 0 | Developing inquiring minds: a journey from information through knowledge to understanding), we still have some way to go in helping all supervisors to fully understand and effectively support this process, which is, as you suggest, the difference between finding information to answer a question (that may not even be your own) to discovering for yourself a question is that worth the effort of answering. I’d certainly be curious to hear more about your supervisor training and/or support.
I’ve never been given training as a supervisor. Instead I came to the role of a supervisor in a round about way. I am the teacher-librarian for the secondary library at my school. When I started in the role 10 years ago, I developed a relationship with the head of I & S, Keely Rogers, and began working with her diploma students on research skills. Soon, I was asked by Ms. Rogers, as EE co-ordinator to assist her with the Extended Essay, which led me to taking over as the co-ordinator two years later. Three years ago we had an excess of students who wished to do a history EE and I was asked to supervise one student. I have to say that my academic background is in modern languages in which I received an MA in French. Thus, not only had I never supervised before but it was also not my subject area. I received a lot of support from Ms. Rogers relating to the writing of a history EE but as far as being a supervisor, I had to call on my library training and my understanding of the importance of the inquiry process along with what I read in IB documents and other literature. In 2015, I stumbled across Carol Kuhlthau and guided inquiry at the American Association of School Librarians conference in Columbus, Ohio, while taking a workshop on guided inquiry and the humanities. Though my school has been an IB World school for over 15 years, only the PYP program is truly inquiry based and though guided inquiry was somewhat of a revelation, it was more a eureka moment when I realised that this was what I had been trying to do all along.
As the EE co-ordinator till two years ago, I developed a handbook for supervisors and had several sessions with the newcomers but unfortunately we seem to have little time in our schedule for training. I did show supervisors the videos on supervisor-student meetings when the new guide came into effect but little more has taken place. This is a regret.
I’m surprised to discover that I have never written about our Extended Essay support on this forum, as it is really where our journey with FOSIL began, as Darryl mentions above. Darryl has often written about this elsewhere, and I recently wrote a post for the Ideas Roadshow blog on The Role of The Librarian in the IB DP, which explains our support in more detail if anyone is interested, so I am not intending to go into the background here. This forum gives me the opportunity to reflect on the design process for our support and how it is evolving over time.
For those unfamiliar with it, the Extended Essay is (as Darryl says above) an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper , which is a compulsory element of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. We are in an interesting situation as a school because we offer both the IB DP and A-levels (and two BTECs) as alternative pathways through our Upper School (and are a three year IB MYP candidate school offering GCSEs in Years 10 and 11). This mixed economy allows for a great deal of transfer of ideas between ‘codes’ – a number of our EE resources have been very helpful in supporting the EPQ, for example (see the forum topic FOSIL and the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and the resource Supporting EPQs at Oakham) and we are looking at developing this provision further.
I am going to outline below the basic structure of the support the Library provides for EE students, which runs alongside the compulsory support provided by the supervisor, a subject teacher who has expert knowledge of the broad subject area and is expected to spend 4-6 hours over the course of the essay (which takes about 10 months on our timetable) supporting the student individually. This includes 3 formal reflection sessions (after which the student must write assessed reflections) and feedback on the first draft. The supervisor may only offer comments on one draft of the essay.
This is an outline of what the Library, in conjunction with, Chris Foster, our Head of Student Research (a hugely important collaboration which I will elaborate on in a future post) offers, which has been developed over many years:
3 seminars for the whole cohort at critical intervention points
two near the start of the process to introduce the idea of the essay and the formal requirements, to help students to select a suitable topic and for them to learn how to investigate that topic effectively and efficiently, using all the resources at their disposal appropriately, and
one just before the Writing Days to explain the formal presentation requirements and remind them about citing and referencing
2 IT workshops
one just before the Investigation Days to teach them how to use the citing and referencing tools embedded in Word and the Investigative Journal, and
one just before the Writing Days to show them how to set up their document using features like contents lists, headers and footers and page breaks, and how to transfer their citations from their Investigative Journal to their essay.
2 off-timetable periods
three Investigation Days in February to jump-start the reading process and give students time to immerse themselves in their topics, and
two Writing Days in May to give them concentrated time to write up their findings before submitting their first draft to their supervisors. Both of these periods happen in the Library (unless they are doing a practical subject and need to be, for example, in the Science labs, Art studios or DT workshops) so they are surrounded by the resources they need and have easy access to support.
Some sort of subject-specific resourcing support (alongside that offered by their individual subject Supervisor). This has evolved over the years from individual reference interviews when the cohort was smaller and we were less involved in inquiry across the whole school, to compulsory subject specific seminars for small groups of students doing their EEs in similar subjects, to point-of-need provision with detailed subject support available in online guides, supported by drop-in sessions during the Investigation and Writing Days and the option to meet with me individually if they need specific support.
A range of FOSIL resources. The investigative journal, which we now use very widely, was originally developed for the EE, but there are also a number of very specific resources developed to support the process.
We also run Supervisor INSET every year, just after supervisors have been assigned. This is both to support new supervisors in developing an understanding of the process, their role in it and the additional support the Library provides, but also to update experienced supervisors on any changes in the rules and in the support we provide and advice we give. Anyone is welcome, all supervisors are expected to attend, and HODs are encouraged to come even if not supervising that year.
This is our current EE timetable:
And this is our attempt to explain how it links with both FOSIL and Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process:
Although this may seem like quite a lot of support for just one component of the DP, the skills that students learn during this process are vital both for other subject based coursework they will complete during the two year course and for subsequent university studies. Many post-DP students who have been in touch with us have remarked how much better prepared they felt for university studies because of the skills they learnt during the EE. This is also, to an extent, our ‘space program’. Because it is such a long, in-depth inquiry with an entire cohort of students across all subjects, that is guaranteed to be repeated every year, many of the resources we create and insights we have can easily be repurposed in other areas and trickle down throughout the whole school, and across into A-level courses.
I am planning to outline below how our support has developed over the last two years since I became Upper School Curriculum Librarian, and what I have learnt in the process (I am less qualified to comment before that!).
Our excellent and experienced DP coordinator has recently stepped down and, as the school looks to replace him, I realised how complex the relationship between the DP coordinator, Head of Student Research, Upper School Curriculum Librarian and supervisors is as we support students in their extended essays, and that this will be unique to a particular school. I produced this Venn diagram to help to explain the current situation to candidates (or to the new DP coordinator once appointed) so that even if they do choose to make changes, they are doing so from a position of understanding what we currently do. I am curious how this compares to the arrangement in other IB DP schools and would love to hear from others about this. For us, the high degree of collaboration, in particular between the Head of Student Research and the Upper School Curriculum Librarian is very powerful, and I will make time to write about that elsewhere at some point!
(Note that ideally, from an IB perspective, I would have included the role of the student too, but producing a four section Venn diagram in 3D stretched the format – I think a five section one might have broken it completely! Note also that these are not intended to be FOSIL colours.)