As I am writing this, our U6th IB students are putting the finishing touches to their extended essays – the culmination of a six-month process of planning, research and writing that has allowed them to go beyond the confines of the syllabus and into a particular topic of their own choosing. The end product is impressive; a 4000 word essay or project that begins with a clearly stated research question, and sets about answering that question through a careful review of the literature and a critical analysis of the evidence available. Examples of this year’s titles include “How far do contemporary depictions of the Arthurian legends reflect the concerns of that age?”, “What is the mitogenetic effect of A. quercuscalicis & B.pallida extract on A. sativum meristem cells?” and “Inwieweit hat der Einfluss der Familie die Identitätssuche der Protagonisten Phil und Jeanette geprägt?” – yes it doesn’t need to be written in English. It is very much a dry run for the type of extended writing that will become the norm at university level for many of our students.
While many students feel very pleased with what they have accomplished, the real value of the exercise is more about the process than the end product. With much of education at senior level inevitably driven by narrow confines of exam focused study, this is one opportunity for students to be let off the leash and discover the joys and pitfalls of planning their own learning experience. For many, this is a significant challenge, whether that is one of organisation and time-management, or just knowing where to begin or how to express their ideas in a rigorous academic format. Students are supported by a supervising teacher, who can help and advise – but not do it for them. They will not get everything right, but the development in their independent learning skills will be a stepping-stone to greater things at the next level. Well done to all of you.
By Martin Bluemel, IB Coordinator