How “international” is your school?

As I have been reading more about international education and how difficult it can be to define, it has become clear from the readings and resources from the University of Bath that there are certain elements that make up the international dimension of a school. In thinking about my own assignment, I realised it would be useful to have a visual metric or estimate of the level of realisation of these elements, so that I could use this to discuss how my school has changed in recent years and how it may be affected by potential short and long-term change.

This post and presentation are to be more fully fleshed-out over time; for now this is a store for the idea: a proposal for how we might create a quick snapshot of the level of international education promoted by a school. To turn this into a valid and reliable product is a deeper academic job. 


A Radar Chart of the International Dimension

Radar Diagram of elements of the international dimension. Click to open the presentation.
Radar Diagram of elements of the international dimension. Click to open the presentation.

I like this form of data visualisation, where the elements can be identified and arranged, then evaluated and connected.

What are the elements in this radar chart?

The categories (elements) attempt to identify aspects that can promote international education in a school. None exist in isolation: they are all closely related to some or all of the others. I have tried to place the most closely interacting elements next to each other, though this is debatable.

  • The elements of students, curriculum, culture, values & ideology and global citizenship education have come directly from the Bath Uni readings.
  • I have put faculty & leadership together. I wasn’t sure to what extent leadership and policy needed their own category: the effects of leadership should be evident throughout the school.
  • I have added the element of Action, as a way to differentiate between the culture and written curriculum of a school and its visible impact in terms of student learning and action. The written or intended curriculum could be a shining example of unit plans and mapping, but if this is not put into practice, it is not promoting the values of international education. Action plays an important role in the centre of the IB programme models, encompassing not just service learning, but any actions that lead to change in the students and those affected by their learning.

How should the radar chart be interpreted?

  • As the axes radiate from the centre, the resulting plot shows a greater shaded area with a higher degree of realisation. I have chosen an arbitrary IB-style 1-7 scale here, as it allows for sufficient variation between levels. However, this is not to suggest that the IB’s approach to international education is the only way to deliver an effective international education.
    • A school that reaches the ‘ideals’ of international education would show a high degree of coverage, and this would be balanced around the chart.
    • A huge caveat here is that for each of the seven elements, the seven levels of realisation need to be given a carefully-considered set of descriptors for the evaluation to have validity and reliability. This in itself is a big task (and perhaps another MA assignment), which could be achieved through an in-depth literature review of each element.
      • Each element needs to be reviewed in-depth based on the literature, to produce a rubric.
      • Otherwise the scales are based on perception, rather than critical evaluation.
  • My initial idea was to invert the axes and have the greater degree of realisation – the ‘7’ – at the centre, suggesting a bullseye or target. This turned out to be too difficult to create, but also the natural interpretation of a radar chart is that ‘bigger is better’, so I didn’t want to cause confusion.
  • Radar charts are good for identifying skew and change. A school may be strong in some elements, but weak in others, pulling the data to one side of the chart. An intervention, programme change or other factor might cause change in some elements over time. As the elements do not exist in isolation, these changes could impact other elements, and therefore the overall international dimension of the school.


Some questions to consider:

  • How might the radar chart change over time for a school that is just starting out? For example, a ‘national-plus’ type school that opens with a generally homogeneous population of students and teachers, gradually introduces IB programmes, grows, hires more expat teachers, attracts a greater diversity of students, strengthens curriculum and action?
  • Does an international school need to be a good international school in order to be a good school?
  • How might market forces change the international dimension of a school? Would this tool help visualise the difference between a school that runs the IB Diploma as a product versus one that runs it as part of its core philosophy?

My Own Assignment

My plan from here is to consider the impact of the introduction of the MYP to CA on its level of realisation of the ideals of international education and to predict what might happen as a result of the upcoming summative evaluation of the programme. To do this, I’ll draw on the literature about the elements and ideals of international education, before focusing on the role that curriculum plays in this, and then use this to evaluate our current state and possible future.


Further Reading

IB Publications (access through the OCC with login)

Academic publications (library access or purchase might be needed)







3 responses to “How “international” is your school?”

  1. Pocahontas & International-Mindedness | i-Biology | Reflections Avatar

    […] I think more about what makes an international school ‘international’, it comes back to the visible outcomes in terms of student learning, action and attitudes. Are our […]

  2. ATL Tracking Ideas | Wayfinder Learning Lab Avatar

    […] started working with radar/web charts as part of my MA studies in 2013, developing into a dissertation on The IMaGE Of An International School? Radar charts have a lot of […]

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