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The Supervisor's Role

Supervisors are required to: 

  • undertake three mandatory reflection sessions with each student they are supervising
  • sign and date each reflection summarised on the Reflections on planning and progress form and provide comments at the end of the process.
  • provide students with advice and guidance in the skills of undertaking research
  • encourage and support students throughout the research and writing of the extended essay 
  • discuss the choice of topic with each student and, in particular, help to formulate a well-focussed research question which is suitable to the subject of registration and ensure that the chosen research question satisfies appropriate legal and ethical standards with regard to health and safety, confidentiality, human rights, animal welfare and environmental issues 
  • is familiar with the regulations governing the extended essay and the assessment criteria, and gives copies of these to students 
  • monitor the progress of the extended essay to offer guidance and to ensure that the essay is the student’s own work (this may include presenting a section of the essay for supervisor comment) 
  • read and comment on one draft only of the extended essay (but do not edit the draft); this should take place after the interim reflection session, but before the final reflection session, the viva voce
  • ensure that the final version of the essay is handed in before the final reflection session (viva voce) takes place, and that no changes are made to it subsequently 
  • read the final version and, in conjunction with the viva voce, confirm its authenticity. 

Supervisors are strongly recommended to:

  • read recent extended essay reports for the subject
  • spend between three and five hours with each student, including the time spent on the three mandatory reflection sessions 
  • encourage the development of a Researcher’s reflection space for students
  • set a clear schedule for the reflection sessions
  • ensure that the chosen research question is appropriate for the subject
  • advise students on:

The following resources might be helpful in supporting the supervision and reflection process: Pedagogical support for the EE

(IBO Extended Essay Guide)

External Mentor

Ideally, students should carry out the research for the essay solely under the direction of a school supervisor and within the school. However, in circumstances where the school deems it appropriate, students may undertake their research at an institute or university under the guidance of an external mentor. This must be with the agreement of the school, and the external mentor must be provided with a letter outlining the nature of the extended essay and clear instructions about the level of guidance that is permitted. Schools are responsible for ensuring that these external mentors are aware of the limits of their role in providing this service. It is important to note that if this is the case the student must be allocated a supervisor within the school and undertake his or her reflection sessions with this person. Only a supervisor within the school is permitted to complete the reflection process for the extended essay with the student and provide both signature and comments on the Reflections on planning and progress form (RPPF). The nature of these comments may be informed by the external mentor but must not be provided by them. For further clarification please see the accompanying teacher support material. 

The letter, which must be electronically signed by the external mentor, must be inserted in the appendix of the essay as part of the document file rather than as a separate document. If a student has had an external mentor, this signed letter is an important part of the authentication of the essay. 

As the extended essay is an independent task and a formal assessment component, students must not receive assistance with any aspect of the research, writing or proofreading of the extended essay beyond that which is permitted through their supervisor. If a supervisor suspects that the extended essay submitted for assessment by a student could not have been completed without assistance they are required to bring this to the attention of the Diploma Programme/extended essay coordinator, who in turn must inform the IB. This may then be investigated as a possible case of academic misconduct. 

(IBO Extended Essay guide)

Supervisor Support

The supervisor–student working relationship is probably the most important one in the extended essay process. The supervisor must be a suitably qualified member of staff at the school in which the student is registered. 

The supervisor plays an important role in helping students to plan and undertake their research for the extended essay. The relationship should be an active two-way process with the supervisor primarily there to support and guide the student, during the supervision and reflection sessions, at the planning stage, and when the student is carrying out and writing up their research. This is done through the supervision process, including the three mandatory reflection sessions and the completion of the Reflections on planning and progress form

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that students are familiar with the requirements of the extended essay. Supervisors and students must discuss: 

  • the nature of the extended essay
  • their chosen subject, topic and research question
  • the most appropriate research methods to be used given the subject for which the student is submitting their essay 
  • the formal requirements for the completion of the task. 

Students should be encouraged to initiate discussions with their supervisor to obtain advice and information and the role of the supervisor should be explained to them so that there is a shared understanding of expectations and responsibilities. Supervisors must ensure that they understand the important role they play in supporting students in this process. However, if a student could not have completed the work without substantial support from their supervisor, this should be reported to the Diploma Programme/extended essay coordinator, who in turn must record the details on the appropriate form. Additionally, if the student has received substantial support from a teacher but has not declared this, then this too must be recorded in the summative comment made by the supervisor on the Reflections on planning and progress form. If academic misconduct is suspected, supervisors must report this to the Diploma Programme/extended essay coordinator initially.

(IBO Extended Essay guide)

The Teacher-Librarians's Role

Librarians are uniquely positioned to play an important and effective role in the extended essay process. As interdisciplinary educators they are able to work across subject areas to help students become lifelong learners through inquiring, gaining and creating new knowledge, and pursuing personal interests. With the necessary educational background and training they are able to support students in the development of information literacy and research skills. Students are often overwhelmed at the amount of unfiltered information available to them, so they need to develop the skills to be able to raise questions and evaluate the authenticity, validity and reliability of sources. Utilising the knowledge and skills of a school librarian will help students to navigate and plan their extended essay more effectively and to become independent researchers. 

In order to prepare students to be successful in the extended essay process, librarians can help to lay the foundations for the development of research skills. Ideally, some of these skills will have already been developed several years before the extended essay process, thus giving students a chance to demonstrate their learning. However, in situations where the concept of research is new to students, librarians have an invaluable role to play. The school librarian can provide leadership and expertise in the selection, acquisition, evaluation, and organization of information resources and technologies in all formats, as well as expertise in the ethical use of information. These are all important concepts and practices students need to understand.

(IBO Extended Essay guide)

Created by Luciana Cavallaro 2018 | Updated Sept 2020