Viva Voce for the Extended Essay: A Great component of IB

“Are we being graded on this?” a student timidly queried as he entered the room with his lab report supported tenderly in his hands.  Apparently our response was reassuring and he and the other two sat down with relaxed smiles on their faces.

Today my colleague and I administered the viva voce for three seniors who completed an Extended Essay (EE) in Science.   We had a chemistry and two biology EEs.  They shared with each other the results of their experiments and then answered our questions.  They were very open and reflective about the EE process.  All of them felt proud of the work they had done. They commented on how this was the largest project they had ever participated in and how satisfying it was to have completed a research experiment that spanned nearly a year.  There was definite relief in the room as they carefully slid their hard work into the bright yellow cover sheets.  I told them the current 11th graders were selecting their advisors and topics this week.  What was their advice for these students?  Start early!  Get the data collected THIS YEAR (as opposed to in the fall of the new school year).  Keep track of sources from the beginning, maintaining a running bibliography throughout the process.  Good advice.

It was wise to combine the three students as it created a relaxed yet formal environment where they could sincerely share their experience in the presence peer support.  The conversation was much more natural and flowing as compared to the viva voce I had completed last year with a single student.  The meeting provided needed closure for both advisor and student.  This is a critical and valuable piece of the EE experience in the IB and I encourage all teachers to give appropriate time for this process.

It also confirmed a value of the IB program.  As I've posted about before, I am evaluating the IB experience from perspective of parent this year.  On February 22 I posted about the EE being a definite element of the IB that is worth it.  Today, it was clear to me that this EE experience provided growth and development for these students.  Additionally it was an opportunity to complete a long-term, in-depth project that left them with a huge feeling of accomplishment.  It is an experience I am glad that both of my teenagers are participating in.