by Grace Oh
The Extended Essay, an assignment that all IBDP students are required to do, is a topic that many students worry about.
The Extended Essay is a 4000-word research paper that takes a year to write. It can be about a topic that the student has a particular interest in where they can carry out independent research or investigation.
Mr. Cokerdem, a psychology teacher, describes the Extended Essay as “one of the most valuable experiences you will have as a high school student. Often the most worthwhile endeavours are those that are most challenging, and so to is the case with the EE. It models life so much as it is about continuous, methodical, diligent, and deliberate actions. Students who complete an EE will have a big advantage as university students.”
With the EE comes the stress of finding a supervisor, an ASW teacher who can help you through the process. Students can pick their own supervisors by writing a proposal to a teacher. Supervisors are allowed to usually have 3 students, but there are cases where some teachers receive requests from more than 3 students and are forced to choose their supervisee.
“Over 20 students talked with me as they navigated their EE process. I think they were just looking for feedback and ideas and I was glad to weigh in as it was relevant, “ said Mr. Cokerdem.
Following the stress of finding a supervisor, in the Extended Essay process, comes the stress of finding a research question. “It has to be answerable with the tools that you have to answer it,” said Dr. Kirkpatrick, a biology teacher. “I think the other one is it needs to be something you cared about. It has to be answerable and not too broad and not too narrow and often students choose something too broad but through the research they get to narrow it.”
Most IB students agree that the Extended Essay is a very challenging process and a difficult assignment to finish, but not all teachers agreed.
Mr. Wyatt, a English Literature teacher, said, “An Extended Essay related to literature is not the hardest thing to do if you have a book you like, that might inspire interesting questions. It’s not as difficult as a lot of people think it will be”
Some teachers agreed that the Extended Essay was challenging. “No matter what area you decided to do your EE in, there are challenges,” said Dr. Kirkpatrick. “I think in some ways an Extended Essay on biology can be more challenging in some sense because most students who do an Extended Essay on Biology are required to design an experiment and gather data and analyze it.”
When asked about the teachers’ thoughts on the process of collaborating with the students and the overall Extended Essay process, they all had positive response to it.
“I can’t stand students!” Mr. Wyatt said jokingly. “I think the process of collaborating with the students is really great because in a lot of times I get to learn new things. The process of the Extended Essay is interesting for me because it allows me to read things I wouldn’t have read before and view books that I didn’t think about. I think a lot of times it’s a first time a student has look that closely to a text and so a lot of time it could be a very interesting thing to read closely and see what other people had thought about and how your perception accept on the body of criticism.”
Mr. Cokerdem described EEs as “some of the most meaningful growth experiences I have seen in students.”
“It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with students in this unique capacity,” he said. “I believe it’s also a reason why so many of our students find themselves better able to network with and serve as research assistants to professors as undergraduates. I have a lot of fun in my job. One of most special aspects of being a teacher is the built in learning that comes with the job. Every single Extended Essay I have ever helped to supervise has provided me with unique insights. It is incredible what the young minds of talented students can get adults to ponder, think, and marvel at.”
“For teachers, the process gives us an opportunity to guide students to dig deep down into some question,” said Dr. Kirkpatrick. “It is one of the few times we get the opportunity to guide students to dig in things they are interested and passionate about. And I find it the most fun thing. All of the research stuff is fun.”