Extended essay first drafts

Wednesday 22 July 2015

September is the time when I begin reviewing first drafts of my student's extended essays.  Over the summer holidays we encourage students to try to get ahead and use this quiet period to break the back of the essay.  Sometimes students collect data of their own during the holidays but I prefer, if possible, for them to get this done in school before the break. This leaves the analysis of graphs and the conclusion and the development of structured arguments in response to their research questions.

Last year I had two students who dared to write extended essays which analysed data which they hadn't collected themselves in the lab. I think I was more nervous than the students, but they both approached the task in quite novel ways and it was clear that they had chosen which data to include. The aspect of designing the study seemed OK

One student was in contact with a young ecologist who was investigating populations of deer on an island in Canada. He had published a paper about deer populations and aspen growth but without looking for relationships with wolves on the island.  In another source my student had found that populations of wolves had been increasing on the island during the same time period and she wanted to test if trophic cascade could be seen. This is a phenomenon famously observed in Yellowstone national park but recently under scrutiny by the ecological community.

Another student, a keen athlete, was measuring photos and videos of long jumpers to test her theory that the biodynamics of the long jump leads to successful long jumpers having longer legs (essentially)

To cut a long story short they both collected lots of data and drew some nice relevant graphs with some statistical analysis.  What also happened is that they also wrote an awful lot of  paragraphs each addressing points of the extended essay but without a very clearly structured argument.

Consequently the hardest part of the review of the first drafts involves trying to pick out the thread of the reasoned argument.  I think students are so worried about filling the 4000 words at first that they write about all sorts of things and never dare to delete any of it.

To try to make life easy this year I have made a quiz ( Extended essay - self review questions)  My students will have to complete it before I review the essay draft with them.

This quiz is aimed at helping students to understand the assessment criteria and work out which parts of their essay are good and where there is need for improvement. Students answer the questions and then click "check". Parts which need improving will be highlighted in red, aspects which are already good will be green. With each question is an explanation of the assessment criteria which will help guide students to making suitable improvements to their first draft. 

I'm hoping the review task will be easier this year.


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