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Roles in the IBDP Extended Essay: Where does everyone fit in?

As you may know from my earlier posts, this year I have taken on the role of Extended Essay (EE) Coordinator at my school. While I have had quite a few years of experience teaching the IB Diploma Biology course and had acted as supervisor for quite a few Biology, World Studies & ESS Extended Essays over the years I have learned so much about the entire process over the last 8 months in my role as EE Coordinator. In supporting both students and supervisors, as well as seeing a bit of the inside perspective regarding the EE Upload to IBIS my knowledge of the EE and the various requirements has grown exponentially. The goal of this blog post is to share some of those learnings with you all so that you don't have to do as much reading of the EE Guide as I did.

Role of the Student

The most important role in the list is that of the student, the EE is an independent, critical thinking essay and students should be doing the work themselves. They will certainly need support and guidance from a variety of adults around campus, but the work needs to be the students work. While your school may set specific internal deadlines for your students it is up to them to set any other deadlines for themselves and meet these goals.

Key tasks for students in the EE process:

  • Choosing a subject & topic of personal interest

  • Developing a focused research question with support from their supervisor

  • Making the most of their supervisor's time

  • Regularly reflecting in their RRS (Researcher's Reflection Space)

  • Meeting all school deadlines for outlines, drafts etc.

  • Maintaining a careful list of references, ideally in an annotated bibliography

  • Writing the EE!

Role of the Supervisor

The second most important role in the EE process is that of the supervisor, this adult must be a staff member at your school who ideally has expertise in the subject area which their assigned student(s) has chosen to write the EE. For example, as an experienced IBDP Biology & Environmental Science teacher I tend to work with students on Biology EEs, ESS EEs and World Studies EEs where either environmental science or biology is a component of the research question. The supervisor is not meant to be the students' babysitter or editor, but as their guide and sounding board through the EE process. I recently learned that EE supervisors are only allowed to read over the EE once before submitting it and that they should spend only 3 - 5 hours with their students over the entire process. This is much less support than I had previously though. In my role as EE coordinator at my current school I developed this EE Feedback form for supervisors to use to give feedback throughout the process by just skimming the essay draft. Feel free to use it with your students, I find that it helps to.keep expectations in check and is more efficient for everyone.

IBDP Extended Essay Draft Feedback Form
Download DOCX • 15KB

Key tasks for supervisors in the EE process:

  • Guiding students as they plan, research and write their EE

  • Help your student(s) arrive at a fully focused research question, but DO NOT write it for them!

  • Conducting three reflections with their students, including the Viva Voce at the end of the EE process using the Researcher's Reflection Space (RRS)

  • Reading one complete draft of the EE and giving the student commentary feedback (no edits)

  • Using Subject-Specific guidance and their subject knowledge to help ensure the student is gathering appropriate evidence and making solid arguments

  • Make sure you are available for meetings with students throughout the process, you should spend from 3 - 5 hours with each student

  • Should any students require substantial support supervisors should report them to the DP or EE Coordinator

Role of the External Mentor

Sometimes student may want to work with an external mentor, this is someone who does not work at the school, but could provide guidance to students in their research process. The IBO clearly states that external mentors cannot write or edit the students work and they must enter into a written contract with the school so that the parameters of the role are clearly defined. Sometimes an external mentor can be helpful for accessing data collection tools, such as in a lab or with documents for a local case study for business or economics.

Role of the Librarian

The librarian is an important resources in the Extended Essay process and I am very fortunate to work with a librarian who is a very active member of the IB Diploma team, she is in fact our CAS coordinator! The most important aspect of the EE which the librarian can help with is of course research, both in accessing books, databases and journals as well as in helping students learn how to identify reliable sources and how to cite them correctly. A lot of this learning is ideally done before students enter the IB Diploma in the MYP program or in earlier grades, but some support for current students will most likely be necessary. Our school librarian joins me in one of the EE sessions for students to discuss the research process and to remind students how to access the various resources available at our school. Librarians can act as an EE supervisor if they feel that they have sufficient knowledge in the students' chosen subject area to do the job well.

Key tasks for librarians in the EE process:

  • Support students in accessing and evaluating resources such as books, databases and research papers

  • Providing consistent information about an appropriate referencing style (we use MLA at my school)

  • Librarians can provide lessons &/or workshops on literacy skills, research skills, citation skills and even on using word processing software; however, they cannot conduct research for students or correct their bibliographies or citations for them

Role of the DP/EE Coordinator

The Diploma Program Coordinator or Extended Essay coordinator (my role) is one of support and management for students, supervisors and other individuals who are part of the EE process. In some schools the role of EE Coordinator is part of the DP Coordinator's role, while in some schools it is a separate role. For example, at my school the DP Coordinator is also the Assistant Principal, so she cannot also take on the task of EE Coordinator, so I got took on that role. The coordinator should provide resources such as subject reports, exemplars and checklists for students, many of the resources I have made in my role can now be found in my TPT shop so others can use them as well. The Coordinator will also determine and manage internal EE deadlines set by your school, I highly recommend chunking this task for students to help break down the 4000 word task into more manageable chunks spread over several months. You can see how I break down the task over the course of the first three semesters of the Diploma in the checkpoint document below.

Sample Extended Essay Checkpoints
Download DOCX • 24KB

I hope that his post was helpful for you. If you would like I have made infographics about each of these roles which I use for an EE bulletin board, post on the EE class page and include in emails to supervisors, students &/or parents. You can find the bundle of all 6 roles here in my TPT shop. I am always working on new ways to improve the EE experience for my students and their supervisors and these ideas often lead to resources which I make for my school & sell on TPT, so check it out if you are looking for tools and scaffolds.

Thanks for reading teachers, travelers and curious souls of all kinds!

The Roaming Scientist



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm the kind of teacher who is always trying something new, new labs, new Apps, new scaffolds and even new countries to live and teach in. I'm looking forward to share what I learn with you all through my weekly blog posts. 

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