When covering content-heavy programmes of study, time is always tight. Rather than delivering lengthy, in-depth lectures or getting students to deliver time-consuming presentations after conducting independent research, simply provide students from the outset with a model essay on the subject. Then, get them to analyse it, break it down and build it back up with fresh, targeted research. Finally, test their knowledge with a factual test and consolidate their understanding with a timed essay on a related question on the same topic. Job done!

Case Study – The Rise of Pinochet

One of my favourite topics in IB History is the Chilean Coup of 1973 which saw the overthrow of the democratically elected Salvador Allende by a military junta led by Augusto Pinochet. With its Cold War background and shady influence of Kissinger, Nixon and the CIA, it lends itself particularly well to source analysis through the study of declassified intelligence documents. For these reasons though, it also takes up quite some time to investigate thoroughly.

Therefore, as I approach the end of the examination course with my IB students and time is running particularly short, I choose to study the rule of Pinochet in Chile in a more compacted manner. Firstly, and with absolutely zero prior knowledge of the topic, I provide students with the model essay which I usually give to them right at the end of the study after they have finished their own essays to use for comparative purposes. We then “work backwards” from the essay by proceeding through the following tasks.

Student task 1: You are the examiner!

Step 1: Analysing the essay

Read through the sample essay provided.
Highlight in yellow the opening topic sentences and be prepared to discuss its obvious structure.
Highlight in green any quotes used.
Put into bold the most important pieces of evidence (names, terms, statistics) used in each paragraphUnderline any interesting words / turns of phrase that are used by the author.

Step 2: Improving the essay

Consider how this essay FAILS to incorporate any critical evaluation of the evidence. How could we improve the essay to make up for this deficiency?
The following terms are NOT included in the essay (disappointing!)
Conduct your own research on how each of the following fit into the story of Pinochetís rule of Chile. Make notes on each, and then decide how to develop the essay further to incorporate them.
Finally, add your additional research into the essay at appropriate points. Highlight all such research in red like this so that your teacher can easily identify and evaluate the improvements you have made.

The Missing Links:

  • Margaret Thatcher
  • General Leigh
  • General Prats
  • Operation Silence
  • Womenís March 1985
  • Vicariate of Solidarity
  • Operation Colombo
  • Valech Report
  • Colonia Dignidad

Sample result (additions highlighted in purple):

Student task 2: You are the student!

You will subsequently be given a factual test and / or an essay question to complete in timed conditions to demonstrate that you have successfully manipulated this information and consolidated your understanding of Pinochet’s rule.

Taking it further

If the essay is uploaded to a collaborative environment like Google Docs, further time can be saved by getting each member of the class to make their personal edits ‘live’. The ‘crowd-sourced’ essay can the be commented upon by the teacher watching the edits taking place, and the finished work saved by students for later use.


Russel Tarr, The Rise to power of Pinochet in Chile, 1973 – ActiveHistory (Available at: https://www.activehistory.co.uk/Miscellaneous/menus/IB/Pinochet/index.htm)