Inkelas presents International Baccalaureate research in Japan

CASTL-HE Director, Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, traveled to Tokyo in March as an invited speaker for the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO).  Inkelas was asked to present research related to the International Baccalaureate curriculum to Japanese university administrators and senior admissions officers. Japanese universities are seeking to enroll more international students, but most are unfamiliar with secondary curricula outside of Japan and how to evaluate or interpret them. The International Baccalaureate Organization is one of the first agencies to work with Japanese universities and the Japanese government to introduce their secondary curriculum and how to compare it to Japanese standards.

In 2011-2012, the IBO partnered with the University of Virginia and CASTL-HE to investigate the benefits of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Extended Essay on University Studies.  Because a large number of IB students matriculate to U.Va., this partnership provided an appropriate sample and setting for research.  The IB Extended Essay is an important component of the IB curriculum as it asks high school students to engage in an independent, in-depth research project on a topic relating to one of the six IB areas of study (sciences, arts, mathematics, language acquisition, language and literature, or individuals and societies). 

As Inkelas shared with workshop participants, U.S. students typically finish high school without having rich experiences related to conducting research, writing research papers and completing long papers using a formal academic style typical in college assignments.  Meanwhile, U.S. universities have identified and promoted certain high impact activities that help students be more successful in college and increase persistence to graduation.  The opportunity to conduct research under supervision of a professor is considered a high impact practice.  Literature indicates students who conduct research while in college are more likely to persist to graduation as well as obtain higher college grades, pursue graduate education and have a higher academic self-confidence. 

Along with Inkelas, CASTL-HE researchers Amy K. Swan, Joshua Pretlow and Jill N. Jones set out to determine if it is beneficial for students to conduct research in high school in order to accrue even more benefits when in college.  Using quantitative and qualitative methodologies, data from U.Va. undergraduates were collected using student records, survey questionnaires, student interviews and focus groups.  Researchers then investigated the following questions:

• How well are the documented curricular aims of the Extended Essay achieved and sustained as college students continue through university studies?
• To what extent do college students perceive the Extended Essay to be valuable to university preparation and in what ways?
• What, if any, correlations exist between Extended Essay grade and university success in terms of grade point average, continuation rates, post-university destinations?

Results of this study indicate the Extended Essay experience influenced former IB students at the University of Virginia in multiple ways.  These students were more likely to participate in college-level research projects, felt prepared to conduct research while in college, were satisfied with and proud of their research and felt less anxious about college-level writing assignments.  Conversely, there was a relatively weak relationship between Extended Essay score and college grades and little-to-no relationship between Extended Essay score and on-time graduation, educational aspirations, and career aspirations. 

In addition to the results of this study, Inkelas offered important implications for both the IB program and universities.  Because former IB students were less likely to feel prepared to make and monitor a research plan, IB could be more explicit about this facet of the research process.  In addition, because former IB students, having already conducted a research project in high school, started college wanting to do more sophisticated, “real-world” research in college. This could provide interesting opportunities for universities.  Yet, despite these two limitations, former IB students clearly benefitted by participating in the Extended Essay —both in terms of developing research skills and academic self-confidence

According to Inkelas, “the opportunity to partner with IBO was a wonderful experience and the results of this study can impact the student experience both in high school and college.  Travelling to Japan and meeting with university officials allowed me to share ways in which the Extended Essay can be of benefit in the college admissions process.”

More information regarding this study may be found here: Exploring the Benefits of the IB Extended Essay

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