The supervision of process for the EE
Students can be successful in completing of the extended essay if they work with their supervisor (also referred to as a mentor) for 3–5 hours during the process of writing the EE. The meetings with the supervisor should include three formal reflection sessions between the student and the supervisor as well as supervision sessions called check-in sessions.
The recording of reflections on the RPPF is mandatory and must be submitted with the completed extended essay for assessment under criterion E (engagement). To prepare for these sessions and ensure that they are meaningful and purposeful, the student needs to undertake preparatory steps which are outlined in the following:
Students will verify their choice of mentor with the EE Coordinator. The student will have to meet with the supervisor/mentor during the spring of their junior year to establish the teacher’s role as their supervisor.
Students are encouraged to meet with their supervisor in between (and in addition to) the formal reflection sessions. Supervision time should meet the needs of the individual student; therefore, the frequency and duration of these meetings will depend on the needs of the student and the supervisor’s requirements. Supervision time may consist of an occasional 10-minute check-in to discuss a timeline or clarification of a comment made by the supervisor. It may also include a lengthy discussion issues, for example, regarding access to resources, etc. These sessions do not form part of the formal reflection process and do not, therefore, need to be reported on the Reflections on planning and progress form. However, they nevertheless form an important part of the supervision process.
Formal reflection sessions
These are the mandatory sessions that must be recorded on the Reflections on planning and progress form. It is recommended that these sessions last 20–30 minutes. During these sessions students should share excerpts from their Researcher’s reflection space with their supervisor. These sessions should focus on progress made so far and set clear objectives for moving forward in the research process. Students should be prepared for these sessions and the meetings should be a dialogue guided by questions posed by the supervisor.
First formal reflection session
This initial reflection session should be a dialogue between the student and the supervisor based on the student’s initial explorations. It is recommended that the student sends their supervisor an outline of their research proposal ahead of the meeting in order to give the supervisor the opportunity to review their work. This will ensure that the reflection session is focused and productive.
Topics of discussion that should arise during this session include:
- a review of the requirements and assessment criteria for the subject
- a review of ethical and legal implications, if applicable
- a dialogue about possible approaches and potential problems that might arise
- a discussion of strategies for developing the student’s ideas for the essay and expanding the research so that the essay starts to take form
- probing and challenging questions that will help the student focus their thinking; this should lead to the development of the student’s working research question
- an outline of the next steps that the student should undertake in order to refine their question; this should take the form of a research and writing timeline.
Following this first session, the student is required to complete the first student comment section of the Reflections on planning and progress form ( First Reflection) and submit it to their supervisor who must then sign and date the form. Please refer to the section “Protocols for completing and submitting the Reflections on planning and progress form” for more information.
Preparation for the interim reflection session
Between the first and second reflection session, students can engage in informal conversations with other people, such as subject teachers, the extended essay coordinator, the librarian or their supervisor. They must also ensure that they are progressing with their research plan.
In preparation for the interim reflection session, students should have:
- attempted to refine a focused and appropriate research question
- significantly deepened their research and recorded pertinent evidence, information or data in the RRS
- reviewed and consolidated the methodologies they are using
- formulated arguments based on the evidence that they have collected
- added to the working bibliography for their research.
The interim reflection session (Second reflection)
This session is a continuation of the dialogue between supervisor and student in which the student must demonstrate the progress they have made in their research. They must also be able to discuss any challenges they have encountered, offer their own potential solutions and seek advice as necessary.
During this session the supervisor might discuss:
- a completed piece of sustained writing from the student to ensure that they understand the academic writing requirements, including referencing formats
- whether an appropriate range of sources has been accessed and how the student is critically evaluating the origin of those sources
- what the student now has to do in order to produce the full draft of their essay, and ways and means of breaking down the task into manageable steps.
By the end of the interim reflection session both student and supervisor should feel satisfied that there is:
- a clear and refined research question
- a viable argument on which to base the essay
- a sufficient range of appropriate sources
- a clear vision for the final steps in the writing process.
Between the interim session and the completion of the extended essay, students should continue to see their supervisor as appropriate to their needs, although the third and final reflection session should not take place until after the extended essay has been completed and uploaded for submission.
Following this interim session, the student is required to complete the second student comment section of the Reflections on planning and progress form and submit it to their supervisor who must then sign and date the form. Please refer to the section “Protocols for completing and submitting the Reflections on planning and progress form” for more information.
Commenting on a draft version of the extended essay
Commenting on the completed draft of the essay is a very important aspect of the latter stages in the process, and the last point at which the supervisor sees the essay before it is finally uploaded for submission. It is therefore important that the level of support given is appropriate—too little support and the ability of the student to meet their potential is compromised; too much help and it will not be the work of an independent learner.
The best way of conducting this last stage is for the student to submit the essay prior to a supervision session to allow the supervisor to add their comments. This should be followed by a one-to-one discussion between the supervisor and the student in which they go through the comments together as these become a starting point for a dialogue about the essay. This advice should be in terms of the way the work could be improved, but this first draft must not be heavily annotated or edited by the supervisor.
What supervisors can do
Comments can be added that indicate that the essay could be improved. These comments should be open-ended and not involve editing the text, for example:
- Issue: the research question is expressed differently in three places (the title page, the introduction and the conclusion).
Comment: is the student research question consistent through the essay, including on the title page?
- Issue: the essay rambles and the argument is not clear.
Comment: the student essay lacks clarity here. How might the student make it clearer?
- Issue: the student has made a mistake in their calculations.
Comment: check this page carefully.
- Issue: the student has left out a section of the essay.
Comment: the student is missing something here. What is it? Check the essay against the requirements.
- Issue: the essay places something in the appendix that should be in the body of the essay.
Comment: are the student sure this belongs here?
- Issue: the conclusion is weak.
Comment: what is it that the student is trying to say here? Has the student included all the student relevant findings? Has the student looked at unanswered questions?
- Issue: the essay has an incomplete citation.
Comment: the student needs to check this page for accuracy of referencing.
What supervisors cannot do:
- Correct spelling and punctuation.
- Correct experimental work or mathematics.
- Re-write any of the essay.
- Indicate where whole sections of the essay would be better placed.
- Proofread the essay for errors.
- Correct bibliographies or citations.
If students give their supervisor sections of their extended essay to read, this is permissible, but the same section of work should not be looked at repeatedly by the supervisor, nor should it be heavily annotated or edited. Students and supervisors must be clear that only one complete draft of the essay is permitted to be looked at by the supervisor.
Final reflection session (viva voce)
The viva voce is a short interview between the student and the supervisor and is the mandatory conclusion to the extended essay process. Students who do not attend the viva voce will be disadvantaged under criterion E (engagement) as the Reflections on planning and progress form will be incomplete.
The viva voce is conducted once the student has uploaded the final version of their extended essay to the IB for assessment. At this point in the process no further changes can be made to the essay. The viva voce is a celebration of the completion of the essay and a reflection on what the student has learned from the process.
The viva voce is:
- an opportunity to ask the student a variety of open-ended questions to elicit holistic evidence of the student’s learning experience.
- an opportunity for the supervisor to confirm the authenticity of the student’s ideas and sources
- an opportunity to reflect on successes and difficulties encountered in the research process
- an aid to the supervisor’s comments on the Reflections on planning and progress form.
The viva voce should last 20–30 minutes. This is included in the recommended amount of time a supervisor should spend with the student.
In conducting the viva voce and writing their comments on the RPPF, supervisors should bear in mind the following.
- The form is an assessed part of the extended essay. The form must include: comments made by the supervisor that are reflective of the discussions undertaken with the student during their supervision/reflection sessions; the student’s comments; and the supervisor’s overall impression of the student’s engagement with the research process.
- An incomplete form resulting from supervisors not holding reflection sessions, or students not attending them, could lead to criterion E (engagement) being compromised.
- In assessing criterion E (engagement), examiners will take into account any information given on the form about unusual intellectual inventiveness. This is especially the case if the student is able to demonstrate what has been learned as a result of this process or the skills developed.
- Examiners want to know that students understand any material (which must be properly referenced) that they have included in their essays. If the way the material is used in context in the essay does not clearly establish this, the supervisor can check the student’s understanding in the viva voce and comment on this on the Reflections on planning and progress form.
- If there appear to be major shortcomings in citations or referencing, the supervisor should investigate thoroughly. No essay should be authenticated if the supervisor believes the student may be guilty of plagiarism or some other form of academic misconduct.
- The comment made by the supervisor should not attempt to do the examiner’s job. It should refer to things, largely process-related, that may not be obvious in the essay itself.
- Unless there are particular problems, the viva voce should begin and end positively. Completion of a major piece of work such as the extended essay is a great achievement for students.
Following this final session, the student is required to complete the last student comment section of the Reflections on planning and progress form, sign and date it and submit it to their supervisor, who must then add their own comments, sign and date the form. Note that the maximum total word limit for the three reflections on the RPPF is 500. The supervisor must then upload the form into the e-coursework system, confirm the authenticity of both the form and essay, and submit them to the IB for assessment as one portfolio.
A blank or unsubmitted RPPF will score a 0 for criterion E.