For years, the extended essay, considered the epitome of IB’s various challenges, has pushed students to their limits. Recently, however, the schedule has been altered to allow students more time to complete their essays before the college application deadline requirements.
Theory of Knowledge, or TOK, teaches students to think critically and discover all of the different perspectives that contribute to the overall structure of a given subject. The class is ultimately devoted to writing the extended essay and prescribed title, which are a huge portion of the IB diploma. One change the program has undergone is to begin the required extended essay junior year so that students would have the assignment completed by the time they become seniors.
“IB wants to create a concurrency in learning,” where subjects are studied simultaneously, IB coordinator Laurie Ainsworth said. “Students usually finished their extended essays during senior year; however, the problem was that it was running into the college deadlines., so students would be trying to finish their extended essays while finishing their college applications, putting a lot of extra pressure on the students.”
Previously, teachers had to fit both the Ways of Knowing and the Areas of Knowledge into a three-semester course. Ways of Knowing, now taught junior year, teach the nature of knowledge including the various types of truths, Areas of Knowledge, now taught senior year, focuses on the relation between knowledge and many other school subjects such as math and science.
The course extension now allows teachers to spread out the curriculum, moving the studies of the basic subjects such as mathematics, English and science to senior year as opposed to cramming both portions of the curriculum into one year. “I saw how it had the potential to be more stressful for my students,” TOK teacher Sarah Day said. “I know that when my students were less stressed, I was less stressed.”
Along with the extended essay, TOK students are required to write a prescribed title, which is a 1,600-word paper based on a prompt assigned by the teacher. This, on top of the extended essay, made for a the stressful combination for some students. “I feel so stressed already,” senior Spencer Brigman said. “It’s really hard balancing football and this extended essay and I can’t even begin to imagine what will happen when we start our prescribed titles,” Being a newly implemented policy, only time will tell whether or not the change will truly have any effect on the stress level of the IB students.