Emma has produced an excellent workbook of graphic organisers to go with this inquiry and has kindly agreed to share it with the community. Full workbook now available for download from the Resources section as a PDF. The original is a Publisher document which I can’t upload but if you would like access to it in editable form, please do contact us (either Emma or me directly if you have our details, or via the Contact Us page of the site) and we will happily share it.
Following Joe’s “eating your vegetables” approach in post #1426 above, in 2019 we wrote a post entitled “Broccoli” about our Politics essay wraps for Oakham School’s “Beyond the Classroom” teaching and learning blog. Recently that blog has disappeared in a revamp of the school’s website but we wanted to preseve the post, so I have reproduced it in full below:
Natural detoxification, improved digestion, keeping you regular. These are the main benefits of eating broccoli. Nothing to do with actually liking it. Perhaps they’ve never properly tried it, gulping it down and moving onto the roast potatoes as quickly as possible, failing to appreciate its versatility, vibrancy and taste. Children and adults around the world try to hide their little trees under the half-chewed Yorkshire pudding or tough bit of beef left at the side of their plate. Though, in the end, all that matters is that they eat their broccoli, we can’t help feeling they are missing out.
A Form 6 Politics student recently provided us with our own broccoli moment, when they stated, greeted with one of our FOSIL essay wraps in Politics, “I don’t like it, but it works”. The ever-enthusiastic refrain of students when we spend a bit of time creating resources for them. But we didn’t mind (well, we did a bit). Their motive for this comment, far from malevolent, was to pay us a complement on our resource design. And though it missed the point that the FOSIL wraps are aesthetically stunning, it got to the heart of their real purpose; to provide a clear structure in a subject by using the FOSIL cycle.
We knew that our broccoli looked and tasted great, but from its inception, its main job was to get results. The academic demands of the three assessment objectives in A-level Politics were taking their toll on some students, who were suffering from issues such as surface-level application of evidence and a lack of analysis. From a subject-specialist point of view, something needed to be done to provide a structure that would illicit higher order thinking across each assessment objective. Added to this was a curiosity on both sides over how we could intertwine the specific needs of an exam specification with the FOSIL cycle which, in many people’s opinion, was only useful for inquiry.
What we discovered, however, was that the metacognition required for A-level examination success was actually crying out for a framework such as FOSIL. Each stage of FOSIL is closely linked to the thought process students should be going through as they prepare and plan for essay-writing. Though we are always tweaking aspects of our FOSIL wraps to fit the needs of the students (a little more Connect and Wonder, a little less Investigate in this case), we know that what we have produced offers a simple, well-signposted and easily-revisable framework for assessment. The collaboration between a FOSIL specialist and a subject specialist is what made this possible.
One of the premises of the FOSIL cycle is that it becomes, after early scaffolding and modelling, second nature to the students and the explicit resource can drop away. If we have to firmly nudge students into making good use of the amazing resources at their disposal to begin with, by, for example, marking not only the essay, but the entire FOSIL cycle of the wrap, then so be it. To produce effective metacognition amongst students, we have to teach them how to do it in the first place. Over time, this becomes self-regulated learning and students begin to the follow the FOSIL cycle without thinking about it explicitly. Much like broccoli’s roles in building strong, healthy bones, heart and immune system and in preventing cancer, internalising FOSIL helps to build strong, healthy thinking habits and defences against panic under pressure. A much younger student, prone to panic when asked to give presentations, observed that “when I use FOSIL I am confident that I know what I am talking about”. Confidence plays a huge role too in exam success.
But what about staff? Can we just ignore the positive effects of collaboration between FOSIL experts and subject specialists, like we do with our broccoli? For us, what began as curiosity and a reaction to academic concerns, has now morphed into a longer-term collaboration into more broccoli-based resources, with prep investigation sheets and an entire pressure group inquiry project, culminating in debates and exhibitions of students’ own creations. This, of course, sounds like a big job, a burden on your time. I can guarantee, it is the opposite. Through a little investment of time, specialism and experimentation, teachers are left with quality resources that are ready to use year-in, year-out. For librarians, the insight into preparing students for a subject-specific exam that only a subject specialist can provide gives us vital tools that we can use to support both teachers and students in other subjects using similar skills. Librarians have a vital role as knowledge brokers, helping different elements of the school community to connect and share their expertise – and this only happens through collaboration and relationship. Most importantly, we both have a deeper understanding of the role of FOSIL as a tool for thinking with, and have both become far more creative and reflective in our resource design.
In our case, the broccoli has provided lasting benefits to students and staff alike – and we’re actually starting to really enjoy it!
Thanks Emma for this wonderful summary and reflection of what turned out to be a super inquiry from the sound of it. Something that came across so strongly in your write-up was the value of teachers and librarians collaborating very closely on inquiry and learning from each other with a real focus on the students’ needs. From my own experience I know how much I have learnt from such close collaborations, and how important they are for the teachers involved too. Thank you so much for sharing (and very sorry it has taken us so long to respond – it has been a busy few weeks here preparing for the IFLA mid year meeting, among other things). We are really looking forward to hearing about your reflect stage.
What a super idea for inquiry – I love it! Such a rich wealth of ideas to explore and a fascinating product. How long have they got for this?
In answer to your questions:
Yes, it is always a good idea for an inquiry to have an overarching question to stimulate curiosity. In this case, how about something quite broad and enigmatic such as “What’s behind the mask?”. The person leading the inquiry can then guide the student question generations along the lines of why people wear masks, what kinds of masks they wear and how that has changed (or not!) through history. Maybe in Connect start with a stimulus passage from the play around the masquerade to root them originally in that time period, and look at a small selection of resources relating to the play and the time period. This will also help with your ultimate aim for them to “gain a greater understanding of the play, its themes, the social and cultural context of the time” as the bulk of the inquiry doesn’t seem to focus on this and it might be lost if you don’t emphasise it in Connect.
I think the direction you take in Wonder depends how much time you have. In a completely free inquiry you might let them do entirely their own thing and follow their own individual lines of inquiry, however one of the most liberating things I realised through our work with Kevin Heppell on Mondrian Wall is that it is fine to have a focus inquiry stage for each inquiry. You do need to work through every stage every time, but you don’t need to give every stage equal prominence. Definitely work on generating questions, perhaps together, but you can channel which ones of those are suitable for this inquiry, should you wish to. Between you, you will need to bear in mind both the intended product and the resources available (a lesson that my involvement with the EPQ, the ultimate in wide-ranging free inquiry, is hammering home!). Perhaps you should tell them that they will need to choose a masquerade/mask style (perhaps from a list of ones you have resources on?) and theme and then investigate their own questions around this style?
For a tricky topic where there are limited resources, particularly if you have limited time, I would definitely provide a curated set of core resources. If, having used those, they have time to go beyond on their own then that’s fine. In terms of Investigate skills you can focus on selecting appropriate information from within the resources and making suitable notes rather than on finding resources, so you are still developing skills in this area.
For Construct, it is really just a case pulling all their ideas together in one place. How about a graphic organiser where they list ideas about masquerade and mask design in their given style on one side, ideas about their theme on the other, and have a box in the middle of the page where they bring these together into ideas for a mask design of their own? Don’t forget to leave space for referencing. If you think that’s a workable idea then I can probably generate something fairly quickly by pulling together other things that I have. I don’t think there’s a ready made one that does exactly this job – most of the ones we have centre on comparing different arguments and coming to a conclusion, which isn’t quite the same thing.
Glossary is always good. Maybe get them to run it alongside their Investigate stage, treasure hunt style… give them some prepopulated words that they must find definitions for and space for a couple of bonus extras.
One other thing to watch out for – this looks like an excellent inquiry but it is quite complex for Year 8 and they will need plenty of guidance along the way, in terms of what they should be doing, where they should be looking and how long they have for each stage (but I’m sure you know that). Watch out for cognitive overload as they will be investigating two things simultaneously (style and theme) AND producing a glossary at the same time.
So looking forward to seeing what you produce and how they get on. Let me know if I can help with the Construct sheet.
Darryl and I spoke to 55 Year 11 students for half an hour in the hall for the Sixth Form Taster Day. We started with one of the amazing “Shift Happens” YouTube videos that gave the statistic that “If you are one in a million in China there are 1,300 people just like you”* and used the hook throughout the talk that there is NO-ONE just like you and the EPQ gives a chance for your unique interests, ideas and approach to shine through. That fits really well with the AQA tag line “Be seen with an EPQ” because we talked about an EPQ allowing you to really be seen for who you are.
I gave students an A4 ‘booklet’ (printed double sided, flipping on short edge, and folded into 4. Word version. PDF version.) to take away and asked them at various intervals during the session to fill in:
Things they like to talk to friends and family about
Things they do in their spare time (could be hobbies, computer games, shows they watch)
Things they really care about (could be causes, pets, hobbies…)
Topics that interest them in subjects they are studying or are about to study
Pathways they are considering taking in the future (could be university courses, A-level courses, careers)
This gave little ‘micro breaks’ where they had a chance to do something and weren’t just listening, but not long activities where I risked losing them as a group. There were some really animated conversations about their interests during these breaks and I felt they did a lot towards maintaining student enthusiasm and putting them at the centre of the EPQ picture. At the end I invited them to go away and consider links between these five areas of interest as they thought about what direction they might go in if they chose to do an EPQ.
The session went really well but the test will be what happens next year, both in terms of students who chose to return to the school for sixth form (which is very new, only in its second year) and of those who choses to do an EPQ. I have a great cohort of 5 Year 12 students and 5 Year 13 this year. What I am hoping for next year is to empower some of the less academically able who have a special interest area where they could really shine with an EPQ. I think the key here though is not to encourage students who are failing in other courses to take up an EPQ “for the UCAS points”, but to find those with a real passion for something that they can’t demonstrate through the conventional A-level routes.
It would be interesting to hear others’ approaches to EPQ marketing. Who do you present to and what do you say? I have been involved in 2 other EPQ events since taking over as co-ordinator in October – Year 11 choices evening and an assembly ‘recruitment pitch’ to Year 12 just prior to beginning the taught element. In February we will have the 5 Year 13 presentations in sixth form assembly, but my aim is that the upcoming Year 12 will present in the October of Year 13 in the run up to the new Year 12 deciding whether to opt for an EPQ.
(*actually this is an old number now, it should be 1447…but we used one of the older Shift Happens videos for historical context, because it has great music and because not all the updated ones include the “one in a million'”intro. Darryl did explain this to the students)
We moved schools (and countries) over the summer and are now at Blanchelande College on Guernsey. An exciting learning opportunity this move has brought is the chance to develop EPQ provision from two perspectives as I have been appointed both a Librarian and the EPQ Co-ordinator. Blanchelande is not an IB school so I am no longer involved with the Extended Essay, but the school has a very new sixth form so I have the opportunity to design the EPQ provision from scratch, building on my experiences with independent inquiry in the EE and with starting to support Chris with the EPQ at Oakham. I am very aware that the EPQ has some very significant differences in structure and delivery to the EE so have been reading and attending as much training as I can. AQA run some excellent free courses, but only allow one person to attend from each centre per exam session, so being a brand new co-ordinator it has made sense for me to attend.
I’m painfully aware that there is only so far that reading and courses can get me, so I’m going to post as much as I can of my journey here in the hope of drawing on the wisdom of those of you who already have considerable experience in supporting the EPQ as Librarians, Supervisors, Co-ordinators or some combination of all three. Here are some of my initial thoughts:
Before I was appointed Co-ordinator I was trying to clarify the ‘triangle of support’ for the EPQ for our senior management (based partly on a similar diagram I produced for the Extended Essay). Diagram below. I would be very interested in any feedback. This is now complicated by the fact that I am both Librarian and Co-ordinator for Year 12, and Librarian, Co-ordinator and Supervisor for Year 13 (we have quite a small cohort), but it is important for me to understand the different roles. I was very encouraged to hear the AQA Chief Examiner telling both Co-ordinators and Supervisors on the courses I went on over the last two weeks how important Librarians are to the process and that they should be involved in the taught element.
In picking up the Year 13 students (our first EPQ cohort) who were all stuck at various stages, it struck me how important a deep understanding of inquiry is here and why the Librarian has an important role in the process. For example:
i. One student was still stuck in Connect. He had a wide range of interesting superficial stimulus resources (photographs) and was still in the process of finding more, but seemed unable to focus his interest on a topic that would be reasonable to cover in 5000 words and needed some support to focus. He needed support to Wonder about his images and generate suitable questions for futher exploration.
ii. A second student had a really good idea for a question but was struggling to find resources for the Investigate stage. Without giving him specific resources I pointed him towards banks of scholarly resources he could access and local library options to help him get unstuck.
iii. Another student was starting to write while she was still gathering resources (because she’s “not really a planner”….) and needed help to understand the importance of Constructing her ideas.
iv. A fourth student was stuck in a cycle of refining and refining her artefact based on feedback and had lost sight of the fact that she needed to put a time limit on this and begin to Express her research in her 1,000 word report.
Understanding which inquiry stage each student was stuck at both helped me to unstick them AND gave me ideas about how to plan the Year 12 course to pre-empt some of these issues next year. I’d love to hear where your students tend to get stuck and how you help them.
I started delivering the 30 hour taught element of our course this week. Because it is optional for us it is off-timetable, so I checked with all the students who were interested and then put it on as a 1 hour a week after school activity, with the expectation that they then put in at least another hour a week of independent study themselves during term time, and 2 hours a week during holidays (to make up to the 90 hour independent study element). I am so excited about this because I have so much more (and more regular) contact with these EPQ students than I did with the EE students. I can genuinely design and run a hands on ‘taught course’ rather than needing to deliver this through 3 lecture style seminars and 2 workshops. It also feels like quite a responsibility though. In order to get started I had to rough out the whole course so that I know what I’ll need to get done by when and so that I can be clear with the students. First I came up with a general course outline (below – credit to AQA as this builds on and refines their process diagram), before beginning to produce a very rough week-by-week plan. What do others think? How does my proposed outline compare with what you do?
The introductory session with eight students went really well this week, and they began brainstorming ideas and interests to make a start towards a topic. I’m out of time this week, but will post how I’m getting on as I go along. Next week as well as the regular Year 12 activity I need to check in with Year 13 (as I’m supervising all 5 of them) AND I’ve got a ½ hour ‘lecture stye’ session with 50 Year 11s to introduce the idea of the EPQ to them as part of a sixth form taster day….. I’d love to hear any ideas for ‘activities’ that might work with groups of 50 in a hall as I don’t really want to just talk at them for half an hour, and I want them to come away really excited about the idea of an EPQ
Welcome Valerie, Matt and Emma. Our move to Guernsey has been hard work and I’m only just starting to get my head back into the forum, but you’ve drawn me back in Emma – it’s so exciting to see how small things have ripple effects that come back to you years later! Having spent a fair bit of time supporting the IB Extended Essay I’m now at a non-IB school and have just been appointed EPQ Co-ordinator (as well as part-time Librarian and part-time Science technician. An odd combination, I know!). My EE experience will help considerably with using what I know of the inquiry process to support the EPQ more effectively, and I had just begun working with the Head of Student Research on supporting the EPQ at Oakham before we left. However, I am very aware that the EPQ is a very different beast in many subtle ways and that I have a great deal to learn. The most exciting bit for me is the ’30 hour taught component’ (we do AQA), which has allowed me to insist on a 1hour compulsory weekly activity for skills teaching. Now I just need to design the course… (AQA have a wealth of materials available but I need to reshape them to my situation and my understanding of the inquiry process). This regular weekly access to our EPQ students (it’s voluntary here – I know in many schools it is compulsory for Year 12) is a real opportunity to deliver skills teaching and support at exactly the right stages in the process and is very different to the seminar ‘info-burst’ approach that was forced on us by the EE structure. I think we did a pretty good job under the circumstances with that, but this could be so much more effective!
I’ve got some thoughts and ideas, and hope to start posting them later this week (hopefully tomorrow) in the EPQ discussion here: https://fosil.org.uk/forums/topic/fosil-and-the-extended-project-qualification-epq/ but I’m really looking forward to learning from those of you on the forum who have much more experience than me with the EPQ – definitely including you Emma, but also Sally, Emily, Sarah and Rachel to name just a few who immediately spring to mind. It’s one of the many reasons I am, as always, very grateful to be part of a collaborative community of inquiry.
I’m so sorry I missed this one over the summer. We moved schools (and countries) to Blanchelande College on Guernsey which was quite an upheaval and took a lot of time and energy! It may be a bit late for you now, but in the next week or two I will post some more specific detail about what we did in each of our seminars in case that is helpful to you or to someone else in this situation. Broadley though you can see the content of each session on our LibGuide (check the Seminar 1 tab, for example. You can access the tab for each seminar either from the dropdown menu on the Seminars and Workshops tab at the top of that page, or by using the ‘Next’ button at the bottom of that page). You won’t be able to access the videos (which are on SharePoint) but you should be able to see the slides (Which are on Slide Share). I’m currently struggling with my internet connection and can’t see all the slides in that presentation on the LibGuide site for some reason, so will try to post some more stable links for you at some point as well. Be aware that at points where I mentioned the LibGuide in the presentation I usually then dropped out of PowerPoint and did a ‘live’ tour of whichever section of the guide I was discussing.
In answer to your question about FOSIL, the majority of our IB students were a new intake into Year 12 so I did not assume any prior knowledge of the cycle from lower down. The whole of Year 12 (IB and A-Level) had a short introduction to FOSIL during their induction days, but this was quite brief. While there wasn’t time to dwell too much on the cycle in isolation during the EE seminars, we always started with an overview and made it clear when we were stepping between stages (a simple transition slide in a presentation is often enough there). There was also a tab on the LibGuide giving more detail about the inquiry process for those who wanted to explore it. I think the most important feature of the guide and accompanying resources was the FOSIL colour coding as it helped to locate students in the cycle whether they were new to it or not. Whether or not you have an online space like a LibGuide for EE students, consistent use of colour coding and mention of the cycle in your presentations and resources can help locate them, and also makes FOSIL an integral part of the process rather than something that is just mentioned at the beginning and then forgotten. Students then learn to internalise the cycle by working through it rather than being told about it. Another important aspect is that FOSIL is both important for the students, but also for you in your planning and understanding of the inquiry process. The end goal is clearly for them to be able to internalise, understand and use the inquiry process rather than to ‘name the stages in the FOSIL cycle’.
I’m not sure if that rambling is helpful, but I am short on time this morning and wanted to make sure I had made a (very belated) start on answering your question. I will return to it as soon as I can….
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.
This is also a good opportunity to look in a bit more detail than I did last year at the LibGuide that supports the inquiry, which was one factor that made it very easy to deliver online at fairly short notice. The guide has four main tabs:
1. A basic introduction to the topic
2. An introduction to the debate “This house believes that …. is a successful pressure group”, with note taking resources, search tips and advice on determining whether a source is appropriate (CRAAP testing). Students search for their own resources about their group, so this is the point in the inquiry most suited to developing information search and evaluation skills.
3. An introduction to the Orwell Youth Prize, explaining what students need to produce, giving information about the prize itself and giving students the resources they need both to plan their own articles and to work with other’s articles. The emphasis in this part of the inquiry is working with information and using it to develop arguments. To save time, students are not expected to find any of their own sources.
4. The last tab is actually a cluster of four – one for each type of pressure group looked at in this stage. Students are assigned to one type of group and then use the work of others to learn about the other types. These tabs have links to a carefully collated set of articles designed to allow students to critically evaluate the groups in question.
An important part of the presentation of the resources is the modelling of a very basic level of resource evaluation to encourage students to think about the source of their information as a matter of course.
I think this kind of modelling is very important – as Librarians we are very used to providing curated sets of ‘trustworthy’ resources, but a step towards educating our students to locate such resources for themselves is explaining (in a relatively unobtrusive way) the merits and limitations of the resources we have curated.
This very successful inquiry is about to run again for the third year. The joy of running something like this over a number of years is that it gets better every time AND the effort required to make it better becomes less. Last year’s adaptions proved very successful (as I am sure Joe will comment on later. I wasn’t involved in the delivery last year due to the COVID situation) so this year all we have needed to do is tweak the final task. The Orwell Youth Prize changes its focus every year. Last year it was “The future we want” and this year it is “A new direction: starting small”, which will work just as well as a vehicle for critiquing Pressure Groups of various kinds – I just needed to update the resources to reflect the new title and prize deadlines.
Joe asked me the challenging question “If you could improve one aspect of [the inquiry], what would it be?”. I think in one sense I am both too close to it (in terms of working on the resources) and too far removed from it (in terms of not having seen it in action last year) to make an informed comment at this stage. I am very happy with it as it is! However, in an ideal world (without the demands of the rest of the syllabus to contend with) I think the only change I would make is to move it slightly earlier in the year so that students who really wanted to would have enough time to work on a genuine entry for the Orwell Youth Prize before the ‘feedback deadline’ of April 26th (rather than just about being able to make the final deadline of June 4th). This is small criticism though of a tightly planned three week inquiry unit designed from scratch to guide students through an important unit of A level work – and one that worked just as successfully last year online as it had in the classroom and we are hoping will do so again this year in a potentially hybrid situation.
We are delighted that Sally has kindly allowed us to add her excellent “Scientifically speaking” FOSIL workbook for her Science in the Media Year 7 inquiry to the FOSIL Group Resources section. We can’t add Publisher documents to that section so only the PDF is available there, but she has asked me to make the Publisher version available here via the forum too, which makes it easier to edit should you wish to. As with all the resources on the site, this is made available under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 ), so please do credit Sally if you reuse her work.