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An educator initiative that simplifies the EE process

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has greatly affected the way Diploma Programme (DP) students approach and complete their extended essay (EE). To speak more on this (and on behalf of the International Collaboration of the Extended Essay), we welcome Kuntal Bhandare, EE coordinator at Ecole Mondiale World School in Mumbai, India who shares how the ICEE is supporting students during this difficult time and how their international EE exchange is making the process easier through collaboration.  

An educator initiative that simplifies the EE process
The members of the International Collaboration of the Extended Essay (ICEE) group.

By Kuntal Bhandare

The International Collaboration of the Extended Essay (ICEE) is a group that was initiated by Ms Diane Lee from Chiang Kai Shek College in Manila, Philippines. The 12 enthusiastic extended essay (EE) coordinators saw great possibilities for global collaboration and engagement, which is in line with the IB mission to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. They wanted to give their students an opportunity to hear other perspectives on the EE and learn from each other.

International Extended Essay Exchange

On 22 January 2021, more than 250 students from 11 IB World Schools took part in the first International Extended Essay (EE) Exchange. The participants came from the following countries:

The International EE Exchange was a unique collaborative event organized by ICEE. It brought together 16 Diploma Programme (DP) two students and alumni who shared their extended essays (from different subject groups) with the DP one students. They led discussions on their extended essay activities which included their research topics, questions, approaches, challenges, solutions and outcomes. In addition, they also discussed the ideas that led them towards their research—inspiring the DP one students who are on their own extended essay endeavours as well as EE supervisors, DP teachers and coordinators and school administrators that were in attendance. During the presentations, DP one students were encouraged to ask questions on Padlet which were answered by the presenters, EE coordinators and supervisors during and after the event and moderated by Mrs Emily Stannard.

The presentations were followed by 10 breakout sessions to focus on the subjects that the DP one students were currently working on or interested in doing for their extended essays. They were facilitated by expert EE coordinators and supervisors who had a wealth of experience in handling and guiding students in those particular subjects. They were also assisted by the DP two and alumni presenters who joined them as student facilitators.

“Students felt that the international collaboration helped them understand the EE process better and they were able to help each other with different resources”.

In these breakout sessions, the facilitators led roundtable discussions with the DP one students where they shared their EE progress thus far and were given the opportunity to ask EE related questions during the Q&A. The facilitators’ feedback challenged and inspired the students to keep their motivation and enthusiasm up as they move forward in their research.

Reflecting on the event

The students’ reflections within each school summed up their takeaways and learning experiences from the event and have pointed out the need for more events such as the one presented by ICEE.

Students felt that speaking to the exam assessor helped them get better insight into the extended essay process

Students felt that they were able to ask questions to students and teachers from different IB World Schools

They liked seeing people from all around the world talk about the IB

Students understood the EE process and even found out how many primary sources were needed for their subject-specific research

They felt having a teacher from another school/country would help them understand the current EE situation

Students felt that the international collaboration helped them understand the EE process better and they were able to help each other with different resources

Students are looking forward to future collaborations so that they can understand the EE process through a global perspective

The impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic taught everyone new skills and EE coordinators from different IB World Schools shared their experience of how they helped students online during the regular ICEE meetings. Here are some of the examples they shared:

Emily Stannard from Bradfield College, UK says she touched base with her students every week. She set up a three-hour team call every Tuesday afternoon for students to join if they needed to talk to her about anything. She also ran a remote extended writing course, for our year 11 students coming to the IB the following year, which covered key skills for the EE and extended projects.

An educator initiative that simplifies the EE process

Shannon Wagstaff from Southbank International School in London, UK says ‘‘We’ve regularly documented, encouraged and supported students to take ownership of that process by scheduling meetings themselves rather than waiting for a supervisor to lead the way’’.

Agnieszka Gajewska from Warsaw Montessori High School in Warsaw, Poland says she organized workshops on research questions (RQ), bibliography etc. She regularly sends emails to their parents (who in some cases are their guards during online education) to remind them about deadlines and provide extra materials.

Sergey Alferov from The Romanov School in Moscow, Russia found online teaching reasonably well-suited for supporting most students, with Google Classroom offering excellent tools for brainstorming ideas and fine-tuning the students’ approach to research and writing. Having said that, he found that some students really missed face-to-face interaction with supervisors and peers as it would have helped create a better working environment.

Kuntal Bhandare from The Ecole Mondiale World School in Mumbai, India says that the biggest challenge faced was communication with students. In a virtual environment, it was not easy to communicate with them. To overcome that hurdle, she created the presentation, recorded it through Screen-o-Matic and sent it to her students for them to understand the different EE components. She also conducted an online workshop which was recorded on Zoom and shared with students and created a padlet with free online resource for students’ reference.

We also came across many interesting EE topics and research questions. For example, we had a student who explored rap music through the lens of inequality—with music and English as their subject groups. Another interesting topic, from a literature and performance perspective, was the use of performative elements to transform literary characterization. Finally, a student examined how extreme weather disrupts the UK economy in their world studies extended essay with economics and environmental systems and societies (ESS) as their subject groups.

The value of collaboration and advice to schools

The collaboration between the ICEE members has made us grow, helped us share best practices and look beyond our own four walls. We are always striving to improve our practices to provide the best EE support for our students and this group definitely provides some unique knowledge and expertise that we wouldn’t have access to as educators. It also helped us see how schools approached the different stages of the EE (timelines, methods of support, academic honesty and documenting the process in a way that helps students as well as their supervisor). We try to model being lifelong learners for students and this kind of global collaboration really enables that kind of professional development.

If you would like to connect with the ICEE members and other extended essay coordinators, check out their Facebook group for informal discussions about research questions and good EE practices.

Ms Kuntal Bhandare is the extended essay (EE) coordinator and secondary librarian at Ecole Mondiale World School. She holds a Master’s degree in library and information science and has over 19 years of experience as a school librarian, working with different local and international boards. She is a founding member and secretary of Liferarian Association and active member of the International Collaboration of Extended Essay (ICEE) group. You can connect with her here.

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