Reflections on planning and progress

Essential information - Form EE/RPPF

A reflective central american squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii) taken by Ben Neuss ( in the Corcovado N.P Costa Rica

During the Extended Essay process you must arrange to meet formally with each student you are supervising for three reflection sessions. These are mandatory sessions and should not be confused with the more general on-going supervisory meetings you will have with the student throughout the whole of the Extended Essay process. The first reflection session should be quite early on in the process, the second should occur once a significant amount of work has been completed and the third session should take place once the final extended essay has been handed in by the student. This last session is similar to the viva voce that was recommended (but not compulsory) for the old (pre-2018) extended essay programme.

One of the purposes of the reflection sessions is to ensure authenticity of the student’s work. After each reflection session the student must record his/her reflections on the form EE/RPPF (Reflections on planning and progress). The amount written by the student for the three reflections should not exceed 500 words in total. You will then need to sign and date this form after each of the three reflection sessions. You are also required to write your own comments at the end of the final process. There is space on the form for you to write about 200 - 250 words. The completion of this form is mandatory and will be taken into account when the external examiner assesses Criterion E: Engagement.

Reflection sessions

The first reflection session

Before the session

Before the session takes place the student should have done some preliminary research, including background reading, and have a record of their work and thoughts in their Researcher’s Reflection space. They should be beginning to develop a research proposal and already have given some thought to  the why they are interested in the area they have chosen, why it is important and whether the topic is appropriate for Chemistry. They should also have considered whether the topic poses any possible ethical or safety issues and given thought to possible approaches or methods  that could be used to research the area of the topic.

To ensure the session is productive ask each student to send you an outline of their research proposal before the meeting so that you have some time to consider their plans.

During the session

During the session you should try to:

  • Review the requirements and assessment criteria for chemistry
  • Review any ethical, legal and safety implications.
  • Engage in a dialogue about possible approaches together with any possible  problems that might arise.
  • Engage in a discussion of strategies the student could adopt to develop ideas for the essay and expanding the research so that the essay begins to take form
  • Ask probing and challenging questions to help the student focus their thinking and lead to the development of the student’s working research question
  • Discuss possible steps that the student should undertake next so that they can refine their question.

At the end of the session agree a date by which the student must complete the first reflection on the form EE/RPPF and return it to you for signing and dating.

The interim reflection session

This should take place after the student has attempted to refine an appropriate and sharply focused research question and recorded relevant evidence and data in their Researcher’s reflection space. They should have reviewed and consolidated the methods they are using and formulated arguments based on the evidence they have collected.

During the session the student needs to demonstrate to you the progress they have made. They should be able to discuss any challenges or set-backs they are facing and offer possible solutions. Suitable areas for discussion might include:

  • Looking at some of the student’s initial writing to ensure they are following academic requirements and properly recording references.
  • Evaluating whether an appropriate range of different resources has been consulted and how authentic and reliable they are.
  • Determining what else has to be done in order for the student to complete his or her first draft of the essay and how this can be broken down into manageable steps if necessary.

By the end of the session both you and the student should be confident that the there is a clear and sharply focused research question, the essay is based upon a viable argument and a sufficient range of appropriate sources has been consulted. Finally the student should be clear about the necessary steps required to complete the writing process.

As with the first reflection, agree a date with the student for them to complete their second reflection on their form EE/PRRF and return it to you for signing and dating. Impress upon them that if he or she needed to change direction in their research or alter their research question the thinking that led to this should be recorded in their second reflection; they should not simply start a new ‘second reflection’.

Final reflection session (viva voce)

This takes place after the student has handed in the final version of their Extended Essay and after you have read it. The student should bring extracts from their Researcher’s reflection space to the meeting which illustrate how their reflections have helped them grow as learners.

Unless you suspect the authenticity of the student’s work this final reflection should be more of a celebration of their work rather than an examination. It should begin and end positively and be constructive throughout the 20-30 minutes it lasts. It should give the student an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned from the whole process. Note that no alterations are allowed to be made to the final version of the EE after this viva voce has taken place

Essentially the viva voce is an opportunity to ask the student a variety of open-ended questions with the aim of providing holistic evidence of the student’s learning experience.  It provides confirmation of the authenticity of the student’s work (ideas and sources) and gives the student the opportunity to reflect upon the challenges and hurdles that have been met and hopefully overcome during the research process. Finally it provides you with material to include in your supervisor’s comments on form EE/PRRF.

Some examples of the type of questions that could be asked.

  • Have you enjoyed the process of research and writing the Essay?
  • What did you learn from the whole process?
  • What were the high and low points?
  • If you had to give advice to first year students what would it be?
  • Do you feel your understanding and knowledge of Chemistry has improved?
  • How could I have been a better supervisor?

If you are not certain whether they fully understand what they have written then probe them with questions like:

  • I see that you have used this formula to calculate your results. Can you tell me how this formula is derived?
  • You have assigned these peaks in the 1H NMR spectrum of compound X to the various hydrogen atoms in the molecule. Can you explain why this particular peak gives evidence for this particular set of hydrogen atoms?
  • On page x you quote from a particular reference. I could not find this reference when I looked up the website. Please tell me a little bit more about it.

Supervisor’s comments

After you receive the student’s reflections made on the form EE/PRRF and you have signed and dated it you also need to add your own comments. Remember that this form is part of the assessment and should accurately reflect the discussions you have had with your student during the three reflection sessions. You should comment on whether the student’s own comments are a true reflection of the meetings and give your overall view of how the student has engaged with the research process. Give relevant information that the examiner may not be able to infer otherwise such as unusual intellectual inventiveness, or how the reflective process enabled the student to overcome set-backs, but do not attempt to do the examiner’s job and give a mark to the essay. If you feel that it is not obvious from reading the essay that the student fully understands a particular point then include your question and the student’s answer from the viva voce which will help the examiner to decide whether or not this is actually the case.

Remember that you when the form is uploaded you will also need to declare that you are satisfied that the essay is all the student’s own work and no plagiarism or other form of academic misconduct has occurred. If you suspect that academic misconduct has taken place then you must not authenticate the essay.

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