An Overview of the World Studies Extended Essay for IB and Economics

This week we were luckily enough to have a specific workshop on the World Studies Extended Essay option for students. Here are my notes, thoughts and some examples from the session and ideas on how it connects to Economics. This information reflects changes to Extended Essay in light of the new guide beginning for August 2016.

The World Studies Extended Essay is a rather secret option of the Extended Essay for students. It is a one of possibilities of the Extended Essay (EE) for students to choose this as an interdisciplinary option where instead of choosing one subject focus on at least two subjects in a combined fashion. It was initially a pilot connected to Harvard Project Zero initiative and available for examination since 2013. It is examined using the same criteria for all other Extended Essays.

An in-depth interdisciplinary study of an issue of a contemporary global significance.

Finding a focus for a World Studies EE

The following is a process for thinking about a World Studies EE (WS EE) The most important thing to keep in mind is find a link from something small (eg.local, micro) to the bigger idea (eg.global, meta, macro)

  1. should identify topic of global significance that resonates with them
  2. consider a local context or small aspect as an example which connect with the global issue or bigger concept.
  3. develop a clear rationale and research focus
  4. finally decide which subject disciplines are most useful to combine and answer the research question.

Using the following as a possible example:

  • Global Significance: Climate Change
  • Local Context: government policy to limit carbon emissions from cars in Singapore.
  • Research Question: What global lessons can be drawn from the Singapore experience to in limiting car emissions in Singapore support the global political agenda for Climate Change.
  • Subject disciplinary lenses: Global Politics, Economics, ESS

When we focus on the interdisciplinary nature of research we will see that the whole is more than the sum of the parts and the importance of disciplinary specific tools to assess the whole from different perspectives. A nice example of framing an interdisciplinary study is here on the IB website.

Some examples that got A’s in May 2016:

  1. Investigating the environmental and economics impacts of the ‘dead zone’ in the Chesapeake Bay and proposing what can be done. (Geography, Economics)
  2. What are the obstacles and possibilities with respect to Kurdistan establishing a fully sovereign and independent kurdish homelands. (Global Politics, History)
  3. How has the rapid development, industrialization, urbanisation affected the eutrophication ? A case on the Bay of Izmir in India. (Biology, Economics)
  4. How does the ‘The Quiet American’ by Graham Green reflect on American oppression and expectations of Indochina. (English, History)
  5. To what extend does caffeine use correlate with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and gout in Germany and India. (Economics, Biology)
  6. To what extend do oil revenue influence stability of political institutions in Alberta and Saudi Arabia and how can we pursue global economic and political stability by reducing our independence. (Economics and Global Politics)
  7. What is the situation of Palestine refugees in Lebanon with respect to their human rights and how is that affecting their economic status. (Global Politics, Economics)

Some common misconceptions:

Although students can must look at any two subjects, some combinations are ill-advised. One big suggestion is to find connections across the groups of IB subjects and be careful about choosing two subject lens from only one one IB Subject group. eg Chemistry and Biology are probably too overlapping and also Geography and History and obviously Economics and Business Management. The nature of interdisciplinary research is explained very clearly on the IB Extended Essay website.

The local vs global context is an essential aspect of WS EE but don’t take this literally as purely in geographical terms. It can also refer looking at a bigger meta concept vs a small subpart of the concept.

Essays should contain both primary and secondary data. This is no longer an explicit requirement within the EE rubric so many WSEEs can be completed using only secondary data. Very few can only be answered using primary data as secondary research provides the context.

Contemporary issues should be within the lifetime of the students completing the essay, so this excludes lots of historical events.

Themes exist for IB WS EEs but are purely used to organise the marking allocation and should not be at the forefront of the students thinking.

  • Culture, language and identity – most popular category
  • Conflict, peace and security – least popular
  • Equality and inequality
  • Environment / Economic stability
  • Health and development
  • Science, technology and society

How do you structure towards an interdisciplinary approach in 4,000 words?

It is important for students to think about how they will construct the essay. Will they speak to one subject area then the other then move to develop some conclusions ? Do they look at subjects together to identify differences or contrast subject based perspectives. For some students the following model might be a start.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 8.27.37 PM.png

The use of subject specific terminology concepts from both subjects throughout is really important so it makes sense that students should really study both subjects they have chosen. To pick up on Global Politics concepts without studying the course is possible but it was be hard to get up to speed with the many complicated subjects during the time frame of the EE.

Implications of the new Extended Essay guide and World Studies EE.

In the same way as other subjects the new EE guide has shifted the emphasis from a long set of 11 criteria to a newer set of five. Essentially the new criteria are a repackaging of the old criteria and are now more holistic with greater emphasis now on critical thinking, engagement and reflection.

  • Focus and Method (6 marks)
  • Knowledge and Understanding (6)
  • Critical Thinking  (12)
  • Presentation  (4)
  • Engagement  (6)

Giving the total of 34 marks. The new assessment criteria is available on the IB website. The biggest change focuses on the emphasis for reflection so you will want to look through some example prompts on the website to focus your 500 word 3 part reflection.

Who can and should supervise World Studies Extended Essays?

Any teacher can supervise but you need to point students towards subject specific resources and focus your meetings with the student on development on argument and looking for perspectives that other subject lens bring to the topic.

Should I do a pure Economics EE, or a World Studies EE with an Economics focus?

Tricky question….In our workshop a huge range of potential topics were discussed, many of which included Economics as a possible focus. The World Studies option gives you more flexibility to follow your passion in Economics but to also tie in another subject of interest. Many issues we look at in Economics are connected to other subjects. Just a few ideas that I find interesting are below but you will be able to think of others in your context.

  • Mekong Dam – development of the dam is creating electricity for Cambodia but creating complex transboundary, political and environmental, ecological issues. An article from the Economist is a good stimulus. In this case the global issue is the river, but micro looking at smaller villages along the river. (Connections could be…Geography, Economics, Global Politics, Environmental Systems and Society)
  • Unemployment – the social impacts of unemployment are really interesting in many countries and persistent long term and high youth unemployment are causing issues in parts of Europe. You could look at issues like motivation to work, social stress etc (Psychology, Economics)

The trick seems to be find a passion that connects a big idea such as Poverty to a smaller context small village and then looking at possible subject connections. Don’t begin with a subject in mind more with an interesting topic.

Happy to answer comments below about topic ideas.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “An Overview of the World Studies Extended Essay for IB and Economics

  1. Andrew McCarthy says:

    Hi, thanks for the nice comment. Would suggest being careful about having too many variables to explore. For instance by comparing countries and then also political and macroeconomic means you have four dimensions to discuss. A second caution is choosing subject that you don’t currently complete like politics. You need to have intellectual rigor for concepts in both subjects which is extremely tricky if you don’t have a teacher to help you. Global volatility in oil prices in the context of Saudi Arabia and the desire for political change might be a focus worth exploring. Think you need to simplify slightly

    • Helen Webley-Brown says:

      Hi Andrew, thank you for you quick reply and feedback. I agree that I definitely need to simplify my research question or consider another one. I’ve bought a couple of books on the socioeconomic impacts of oil abundance and dependence so hopefully I’ll be able to get a better focus. I’m going to do further research into global volatility in oil prices – thank you for your help!

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