In the second of this three-part series on the IB, we have been taking a candid look at what the IB Diploma core components are; this week we examine the extended essay. Is it worth the effort? Why is writing a paper a “core” item? And lastly, why do both we and universities love it?
The IB says “the extended essay is an independent, self-directed piece of research, on a topic of the student’s choice, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.” What the IB does not say is how daunting this can be for some of our students, and conversely, how ultimately rewarding the product and process can be. I might be getting ahead of myself, but every university that I speak with is totally sold on the EE and what it can do for a student; the deeper educational goals of research, communication, synthesis and ultimately thinking are specifically developed during this process and continue to pay rich dividends throughout one’s educational and professional lives. The real question becomes, why should I not do the extended essay? Mr. Alan Dick is our Extended Essay Coordinator, and he has aptly described the EE below:
What is the significance of the extended essay?
The extended essay provides:
- practical preparation for undergraduate research
- an opportunity for students to investigate a topic of special interest to them, which is also related to one of the student's six DP subjects.
Through the research process for the extended essay, students develop skills in:
- formulating an appropriate research question
- engaging in a personal exploration of the topic
- communicating ideas
- developing an argument
Participation in this process develops the capacity to analyse, synthesize and evaluate knowledge. How is study of the extended essay structured?
- Students are supported throughout the process of researching and writing the extended essay with advice and guidance from a supervisor who is usually a teacher at our School.
- Students are required to have three mandatory reflection sessions with their supervisors. The final session, a concluding interview, is also known as viva voce.
- The extended essay and reflection sessions can be a valuable stimulus for discussion in countries where interviews are required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university.
I would like to thank Mr. Dick in all his efforts in working with the Diploma students and helping each one to maximize the learning process through the completion of the EE. The students who work through the process of the extended essay develop an enhanced sense of self-efficacy; they either know the answer to a problem, or they know how to systematically obtain a solution. In a general sense, rather than the question being, “When will I use this?”, it becomes the obvious notion that these skills are used all the time by the thinking person.