Managing the Exploration

I have updated my Student Guide for the Exploration to version 13 which can soon be viewed on the Exploration Student Guide page or downloaded here. Th Exploration Student Guide page has been marked as 'student accessible' so the Exploration Guide can be shared with your students using Student Access. The 11-page PDF file contains fillable fields for teachers to enter their own deadline dates on page 3 of the Student Guide.

Exploration Timeline

I have thought about the possible chronological stages for the Exploration in terms of: (1) sufficient time for students to understand their responsibilities and completing the written Exploration as well as they can, and (2) fitting the Exploration sensibly into a 2-year teaching plan for the Analysis & Approaches course (SL or HL). From the perspective of a teacher, I've broken down the task of managing the Exploration into seven stages as outlined in the diagram below. There are further comments on some of these stages in the boxes below the diagram. Certainly the process of managing the Exploration with students can be scheduled differently from what I've illustrated below. This timeline is just my suggestion of what I think could work well. However, I do think that the factors I've considered when devising this particular plan (or timeline) need to be considered by any teacher devising their own IA plan.

Exploration Student Checklist  - student checklist to remind them of key do's and don't for the Exploration

Exploration criteria-scoring 1-page  - criteria on one page (both SL and HL for criterion E); can use as a scoring sheet

Exploration teacher feedback form  - optional feedback form that can be included with moderation sample

Further Guidance on Exploration Stages

Stage 1: Introduction / Preparation (ongoing up until topic choice)

The primary objectives of this first stage for the Exploration is to familiarize students with what constitutes good mathematical writing and with the rules & requirements of the IA component for IBDP mathematics.

Stage 2: Topic Choice (about 2 weeks)

I consider this to be the most important stage of the IA process. The IB suggests that students are initially given a short list of stimuli (e.g. water. climate, sport, architecture, etc) and then they need to narrow one of these down to a topic suitable for an Exploration. After much work and thought on this stage, I think it is far better to provide a long list (very long) of topics that may need little or no modification ("narrowing") in order to be suitable for an Exploration. The list I give students has 200 topics (see IA Exploration - 200 ideas) organized into 11 different areas. I tell students to browse this list and do a little (emphasis on 'little') research on any topic which catches their interest (e.g. Google, Wikipedia, etc) and to come up with a short list (4 max) of topics in which they are generally interested. At that point, I talk with each student individually and they consult with me about the topics on their short list. Usually that gets narrowed down to two - or just one - after the initial consultation. If they're deciding between two, I give them 3 to 4 more days to research and then - with my advice and approval - they choose the topic that will be the focus of their Exploration. During all consultations with students while they are making their topic choice, I emphasize the need for the mathematical content of their Exploration to be at a suitable level - for either HL or SL; and I continually refer to the criteria (Exploration criteria-scoring 1-page) and an Exploration Student Checklist to keep them focused on the primary objectives and characteristics of a good Exploration.

Stage 3: Writing Draft (3-4 weeks)

After settling on a topic that you, the teacher, has acknowledged as having good potential to include mathematics that will be at a suitable level for the course (HL or SL) and that has sufficient opportunities for personal engagement - a student will be given 3 to 4 weeks to write a complete draft of their Exploration. It must be complete in that it has an introduction, a conclusion, is 12 to 20 pages in length, and there are no sections that still need to be written. It may very well require some significant revision - but not significant re-writing or writing sections that will be added later. A student will put themselves in a very disadvantageous position if they submit a draft that is incomplete. A student submitting an incomplete draft of their Exploration will receive limited feedback and consequently may have difficulties in sufficiently revising the draft into a high-quality final version.

Stage 4: Teacher Feedback (amount of time for this is up to the teacher)

I am suggesting that a teacher could take 2 to 3 weeks to provide written feedback on a student's draft, but the amount of time devoted to this could vary greatly from one teacher to another. This is one stage in the Exploration where a teacher could strive to provide feedback quicker than 2 weeks if there is a need to shorten the overall time for the Exploration. It is very important that a teacher focus on the wording of the criteria when writing feedback - and endeavor to make written comments as specific as possible. For example: "There is no indication of personal engagement (criterion C) in either your introduction or conclusion - and limited evidence of personal engagement elsewhere in your Exploration."
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