Managing the Exploration

Student Guides for the Exploration (internal assessment)

I have written a 10-page Student Guide for the Exploration - one for HL, and one for SL. Each Student Guide is available as a PDF such that the dates for the different steps can be filled in by you, the teacher, before printing it to distribute to students. There is also a section for additional 'Notes' below the timeline with dates (bottom of page 3) where you can write further information for your students. Clicking on either image below will open a new window displaying the particular Exploration Student Guide that you want - and then you can download it.

Exploration Plan / Timeline

I have thought about the possible chronological stages for the Exploration in terms of: (1) sufficient time for students in terms of understanding 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 either the SL or HL course. I've broken down the task of producing an Exploration into seven stages as outlined in the diagram below - and commented on in the boxes further below. Certainly the process of completing the IA requirement for HL and SL could be scheduled differently from what I've illustrated below. However, I do think that the factors I've considered which lead me to devise this particular plan (or timeline) need to be considered by any teacher devising their own IA plan.

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

Exploration criteria HL laugh - IA criteria for HL all on one page; can use as a scoring sheet

Exploration criteria SL smiley - IA criteria for HL all on one page; can use as a scoring sheet

IA_HL_SL_feedback_form_optional - optional feedback form that can be included with moderation sample

Stage 1: Introduction / Preparation (during 2nd half of 1st year)

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 Maths HL & SL.

Stage 2: Topic Choice (2-3 weeks during first month of 2nd year)

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 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) 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 consult. If they're deciding between two, I give them 3 to 4 more days to research and then - in consultation with me - 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 HL Exploration criteria and SL Exploration criteria and a student checklist to keep them focused on the primary objectives and characteristics of a good Exploration (student report investigating a mathematical topic).

Stage 3: Writing Draft (3-4 weeks following topic choice)

After settling on a topic that you, the teacher, has acknowledged as having good potential to include mathematics that will be suitable for the course (H or SL) - 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 6 to 12 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 submit a draft that is incomplete. In my opinion, the next stage (teacher feedback) is the most significant change in the IA component compared to the previous IA requirement (two portfolio tasks) where teachers did not give formal written feedback on a draft of the student's written report. 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 (3-4 weeks)

I am suggesting that a teacher could take 3 to 4 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 3 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 report."
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