Dr Helen Weston, former QAHS Extended Essay Coordinator/Teacher Librarian (2016 – 2020), contacted me recently to share the exciting news that her research had been published in ACCESS, the Journal of the Australian School Library Association, March 2022 edition.
You can read Dr Weston’s peer reviewed article “Beyond Temporary Experts: Secondary Students’ Experiences in Autonomous Research” here.
The QAHS Class of 2017 were the subjects of Dr Weston’s research into the experience of students undertaking their Extended Essay (EE) research. The EE sees students develop their skills as independent inquirers through 4000 word extended research on a topic of their choice usually within a subject studied as part of the IB Diploma Programme.
Dr Weston’s research centred around the aspects students found rewarding and aspects they found challenging during their independent research. The findings illuminate the virtues of the EE as a transformative experience for students both in terms of student engagement and enrichment.
Discovery, digging deep into the research and doing research that others valued were some of the sources of excitement students shared from the EE experience. The reward of the writing process from building skills of data literacy were other commonly shared positive aspects.
Of course, as with other components of the rigorous IB Diploma Programme, the challenges of the EE were recognised. From defining a research topic, managing the time and cognitive load of research and the formal research paper writing process to navigating the choices of research question when there is information overload and endless possibilities for research topics.
Dr Weston was struck by the phenomenon of the term “temporary expert” which evolved through the research findings, a suggestion that the EE positions QAHS graduates for further research experiences.
The research validates that students emerge from the process of the EE:
• Research ready, a desirable trait for university, and
• With growing confidence in research through curiosity and discovery.
QAHS students have the opportunity to publish their Extended Essay in full in the annual METIS publication, which includes all EE Abstracts. During Term 3, Year 12 students can self-nominate to participate in the QAHS 180EE, an event which replicates the 3 Minute Thesis event usually organised at university level for PhD students. As Dr Weston’s research attests, the opportunities for publication and creatively sharing research produced by students ensures their voice in this important component of the IB Diploma Programme is made meaningful.