Thinking of how to introduce the Extended Essay to your DP students?

If you’ve ever introduced IB students to the Extended Essay (EE), the chances are you’ve had one or more of the following responses:

  • A look of absolute fear spreads across their faces;

  • A thunderous eye roll;

  • An incredibly quick change of subject; and/or

  • A deep worry that they will be buried under a ton of paperwork and deadlines for the next 2 years.

Of course we get students who are eager to just “get through it” and the ones who are excited to get started. But, there are many students out there who struggle to engage with the independent nature of the EE and that’s because they see a 4000 word essay as an absolute mountain they must overcome. What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we could get them to see that the EE could lead to a positive change in their worlds?

Luanda International School in Angola have found a way to not only accomplish this feat but have also devised a way to introduce the IBDP Core so it works synonymously and synchronously with all it’s parts. Knowing that the students in the school were passionate about CAS, the IBDP Core team placed CAS at the centre of the initiative and were able to help their DP 1 students realise that their inquiries into CAS could become part of their EE and their EE could lead them to action.

Rene Bradford (IBDP Coordinator), Shei Ascencio (CAS Coordinator), Todd Richer (TOK Coordinator) and I (EE Coordinator) introduced the IBDP Core by taking the 2019 DP 1 students on a Core retreat to a village outside of Luanda, Angola. This two-day event had students working in teams to get to know the context of the village and the issues that affect the village and its inhabitants. They did this using action research (developed by Cathryn Berger Kaye), specifically the MISO method (Media, Interviews, Surveys and Observations).

After the initial observations and interviews, the students’ worked in groups to concentrate and research a single issue or need from the community. They recorded their research on a physical Researcher’s Reflection Space and revisited the village to obtain more primary data. As part of the media component of their research, students conducted secondary research on the context and their chosen issue. As they researched, the core team challenged students on their knowledge, thus encouraging them to be critical of their sources. This led to TOK connections as the students used their research focus to explore elements of the knowledge framework. They were also able to use the areas of knowledge to explore their issue or need, thus helping them recognize potential lenses they could research for both EE subject selection and CAS. After primary and secondary data was collected, the students used this knowledge to find ways they could take action. Students were abuzz with ideas for potential CAS projects for months afterwards.

These CAS projects formed from this retreat became the basis of their EE. They now knew what they wanted to do and had the start of a topic, all they have to do is choose an appropriate subject through which they will examine their issue and their EE is no longer a mountain to climb but a vehicle for change.

As a result, students’ have undertaken EE’s that will serve as research for their action for CAS. One student was particularly interested in the surrounding mangroves and found through her research that they were being destroyed due to urbanization. She applied a Biology subject lens and researched the impact of mangroves on the community and the concentration of minerals in potential sustainable planting areas around Luanda. Her planned action is to use her EE research and work with a local environmental organisation (Otchiva) to replant the Mangroves in a sustainable location. More specifically, on the coastline of Luanda, where they can grow, flourish and be protected by students of Luanda International School and the local community. This research and action will benefit the environment, increase biodiversity and improve the villages surrounding the Mangroves.

At a PYP Exhibition training, my wife heard her trainer say “all inquiry should result in action”, this is not exclusive to the PYP; this is the way we raise engagement throughout the continuum of the PYP exhibition, the MYP Personal Project and culminating in the DP Extended Essay. The way we can get DP students to view it as a part of their process to take action, is through CAS. This approach can transform the students' view of the EE, from a mountain they have to overcome to a step that can change their world.

Gavin Smith

Extended Essay Coordinator, MYP and DP Language and Literature, MYP Drama

Luanda International School

Callido's Extended Essay Companion is a structured roadmap that enables students to acquire and demonstrate skills for each subject group in accordance with the EE criteria and frees up supervisor time for individual guidance. Visit this page to know more!


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