Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Wayfinders: Respecting The Journey

After a decade acting in coordination/leadership/HOD/coaching-type roles, I think one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned – and want to encourage in others – is to respect the journey. This generates more questions in my head than most topics, as it is so nebulous and complex, yet so important.

Where I like to think of curriculum as a compass, not a calendar, in my experience so far the same rings true for developing people and practices. Schools, teams, teachers and students alike are all on a combination of shared and personal journeys to growth, with different starting points, strengths and needs.

We are all Wayfinders

Not all departments or individuals can be treated in the same way and they certainly won’t respond in the same way to standardised approaches. Sometimes – often – we need to go slow to go fast, to listen and respond accordingly. This can be challenging if we feel like there’s too much to get done.

As a community of wayfinders, it is important to respect the journey so far, and for it to be told in a respectful way. Large-scale change doesn’t necessarily mean that what used to be was bad, but the future direction must be good and be clear to all, built with the culture in mind. Being dropped into this culture on the move can be a shock the system as we try to find our place and role, especially if we were well established in our last role, and we might want to establish credibility early on.

So as schools what are we doing to “respect the journey” in transition? 

  • How can we best support and encourage the experience and expertise of new faculty, whilst enculturating them to the positive elements of “what we do here”?
  • How can we best support and respect diverse teams where everyone is working on varying degrees of expertise in terms of the vision or mission? Where some see the vision as aspirational and yet to others it’s already their daily practice?
  • What can we do to protect teachers from unnecessary burdens that become the blocks to forward movement? To “move your ‘BUTs’, in Teresa Tung’s sense?

………o0O0o……….

As I  move on I want to ensure that the stories of change here are passed on faithfully and respectfully. As I prepare to find my way with a new community going through its own changes I want to be sure to listen respectfully to their journey so far, and avoid as much as possible falling into the trap of “in my old school…”.

Exciting times ahead.

grandma-tala-advice

………..o0O0o……….

 

 

 


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Tankyuu (探 究): A Quest for Teacher Professional Inquiry

One of our big projects over the last few years has been to shift the focus of professional learning and goal setting from competence in the programmes and practices into genuine teacher inquiry. As a lot of foundational work had been done in curriculum, assessment and differentiation practices; it was time build on this and create opportunities for teachers to focus their own professional growth through inquiry. We’re now in our third year of the process, and this post is a summary so far. A lot has gone into this process, and there is bound to be something forgotten in the post. 

………o0O0o………..

Context

We’re an international school in Kobe, Japan. With 600+ kids from ages 3-18 and around 80 faculty. We have IB PYP, MYP & DP, as well as our own Pathways programme in high school. Although the school had been running IBDP for many years, PYP and MYP were much younger, and so a lot of teacher effort had gone into getting the programmes up and running (including shifts in curriculum, assessment and differentiation).

We’re pretty well funded for professional learning with consultants visiting each year for workshops, teachers heading out on workshops and conferences and a personal PD application fund for continued study. We are also very fortunate to have two-hour PD sessions every Wednesday (early dismissal), so that a lot of development and PD work can be accomplished in protected time.

There’s a pretty robust teacher evaluation system, though it can always be improved (and is an operational action item for this year). While the school was in the implementation phase, teacher goals were very structured, focusing on curriculum, differentiation, etc. As the programmes and practices became more embedded, it became clear that we could do better by tapping into teachers’ own interests, expertise and passions in professional learning. One year we gifted teachers Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, and encouraged groups to form around issues it rose, or topics worthy of investigation (not as a handbook, but a signpost). The next we encouraged Teacher Learning Communities (TLC’s) to form around other books or ideas. This started to generate more questions, more inspiring projects.

In 2014-15 we had the Strategic Planning process for the school, setting the Vision and goals for the school until 2020. We needed a professional learning strategy to complement our mission of inquiry, reflection and compassionate action and that would meet the vision of becoming a vibrant international learning community that fosters creativity, personal fulfilment and local and global collaboration in a compassionate, adaptive environment.

Education Victoria’s (Australia) Seven Principals for Effective Professional Learning (pdf here) were critical in developing the projects further: a teacher-empowering, research-based, student-centred, practical (useful), collaborative and supported expedition into teacher inquiry.

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Book Recommendation: The SAGE Handbook of Research in International Education

Title: The SAGE Handbook of Research in International Education [SECOND EDITION]

Editors: Mary Hayden – University of Bath, Jack Levy – George Mason University, Jeff Thompson – University of Bath

Update Dec 2017: I fleshed this out into a full review for the Journal of Research in International Education. My first official journal publication, and available online ($$ or DM me) here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1475240917744288 

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Summary Recommendation

This 2015 edition of Hayden, Levy & Thompson’s book is a worthy update and makes  for a useful ‘state of the union’ overview on current research in international education. With a rogue’s gallery of contributing researchers and a collection of reference lists that’s guaranteed to send you down the rabbit hole, this is a useful reference for researchers and international school leaders.

There is a striking contrast between the original 2007 Handbook and the 2015 second edition. Where the first was gathering the “what is…?” of international education, the second consolidates the ‘canon’ and restructures the sections to build outwards into studies of internationalising national contexts, future issues in and potential threats to international education.

I would recommend having a copy of this in conjunction with a more standard ‘research methods’ text, such as Cohen, Manion & Morrison. Enjoy.


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Down the Rabbit Hole: Professional Learning for International Educators

Eyes-deep in reading for the MA dissertation, with 200 links in my Paperpile and counting, concurrently thinking about future professional learning at school, and following the threads of developing the IMaGE of a school, I keep stumbling across articles, books and papers that offer distractions from the work at hand. The result is a bent mind and a head full of ideas; a productive pseudo-procrastination that I’m trying to weave into a narrative, or at least keep stored for later reference.

Launching out from Lesley Snowball’s chapter on International Teacher Certification in the SAGE Handbook of Research in International Education, I find myself asking questions about how we develop IM in our teachers and what we might do to enhance this in the future. She proposes seven standards of development:

  1. International Education in Context
  2. Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms
  3. Multiculturalism
  4. Student characteristics and learning
  5. Transition
  6. Internationalising curricula
  7. The reflective international teacher
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Snowball’s (2004) International Teacher Certification Model. How are we approaching these standards as international schools? Source: http://sk.sagepub.com/reference/hdbk_researchintledu/n22.xml

 

It looks like a streamlined ITC certificate can be earned through the European Council of International Schools, with five main standards.

  1. Education in an intercultural context – teachers will be involved in creating opportunities for developing intercultural understanding

  2. Teaching competencies for the international teacher – teachers will develop skills particular to the challenges of international schools and international curricula

  3. The language dimension – teachers will develop their depth of knowledge of the many aspects of language learning, and share this through a workshop and during classes

  4. Student transition and mobility – teachers will explore specific ways to support students in transition, in the many different types of transition they face during their school lives

  5. Continuing professional development as an international educator –teachers will develop their own reflective practice as a way of deepening the value of their continuing professional development.

Although much less recent, I like Tim Brighouse’s five principles for development of global education, in the foreword of Miriam Steiner’s 1996 ‘Developing the Global Teacher: Theory and Practice in Initial Teacher Training‘:

  1. Schooling and education should be based on the goal of everyone achieving success, rather than allowing success for some and failure for others.

  2. Schooling and education should be based on the assumption that intelligence is multi-faceted not general, environmentally-affected as well as inherited, and limitless not fixed. [Gardner, yo

  3. Schooling and education should be based on the assumption that learning is lifelong, not a ‘once and for all’ activity.

  4. Schooling and education should be based on the assumption that competition is best when ipsatively rather than normatively based.

  5. Schooling and education should be based on the assumption of inclusive not exclusive practices.

………o0O0o………

Clearly there is much to read once I get past this dissertation. With Faculty & Development being just one of eight radials in the IMaGE of the school, I find my mind being expanded with every day of reading. It will be a challenge to martial this all together, for sure.

Sources

Snowball, Lesley. “Becoming more internationally-minded: international teacher certification and professional development“. Chapter in the SAGE Handbook of Research in International Education. (2006)

Steiner, Miriam. Developing the Global Teacher: Theory and Practice in Initial Teacher Training. 1996. Foreword by Tim Brighouse.

 

 


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Seven Reasons to be an #IBEN Site Visitor

Over the last couple of years I’ve started to get involved in #IBEN, the IB Educators’ Network, as part of the Middle Years Programme authorisation and evaluation process. After initial training as a School Visiting Team Member (SVTM), I was out on a visit as a team member for a synchronised visit (PYP, MYP, DP, CIS & NEASC). More recently I have been team leader (SVTL) for the MYP section of another synchronised visit, and have completed consultancy training, to be part of a process that supports candidate MYP schools in their journey towards authorisation. This has all been phenomenal PD – learning through authentic inquiry that can only help me in my programme leadership role at school. 

So… here are seven reasons you should join #IBEN

1. It’s a community

There are lots of venues to meet others in the same role – workshops, conferences, online – but this is one that has a special focus: to help the IB community grow around you. Someone has done it for your school, you can do it for others. Along the way, we realise that the community is human, that “the IB” is not a faceless auditor and that we can share the responsibility of bringing the IB’s mission to fruition in the region.

2. Bringing the Standards & Practices to life.

No really, wait, stop giggling.

The S&P’s are our quality-control guidance as a school, yet we probably don’t learn about them or engage with them as often as we could. Being in a room with a team of people picking through them and thinking about how they look and how they can be interpreted is powerful learning – and immediately applicable in your own context.

3. Being right up to date.

Training for these roles is delivered by the experts, with an oversight of all the most relevant challenges and updates. It’s a great opportunity to clear up misconceptions and to make sure your own approach is on point. Are we using the right guidance? Is our approach in line with the expectations? How have other schools taken on this challenge?

4. It’s a privilege

The Standards & Practices set the direction of a school and the feedback from readers, consultants and site visitors helps keep the school on course. To be able to do this effectively, we are given access to a lot of information about a school. There is a lot of trust and respect in the process. We all learn and we all work with the best intentions in mind: to give our students the best international education they could have.

5. Time to focus.

How often do you really get to focus on one job for your role? Being away for a few days, with a singular role, can be as energising as it is engaging and exhausting. Even the time in the airport can be time to clear some of your to-do list. IB visits are usually no more than three days, so they’re not going to set you too far behind (some other agencies are there a week).

6. It’s free.

If you’re invited for training or to go on a visit, it doesn’t cost you anything but time, so on the learning-per-dollar scale, it’s pretty high-impact for your school. Better still, you get a little honorarium. It won’t make you rich, but it will offset the guilt-gifts you buy your family in the airport on the way home.

7. It works for your school.

It is impossible to separate your learning about the process (or during a visit) from your own context. Are we doing this right? Would this work in my school? Hey, that’s a neat idea…

By taking a careful, analytical approach to the S&P’s, we are becoming more competent as coordinators. By finding out about a school from its many stakeholders we can be inspired to be better pedagogical leaders in our own contexts.

……….o0O0o………..

So get involved! Find out more here. I’m not a workshop leader, but I hear those guys have a blast, too.


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Growth Mindsets & IB Programme Evaluation

Please encourage your own school to see the ongoing programme evaluation process as a growth process, using the standards and practices as a reference.

Please encourage your own school to see the ongoing programme evaluation process as a growth process, using the standards and practices as a reference.

Reflecting on Carol Dweck’s Mindset got me thinking about the process of IB Programme Evaluation and some of the many conversations I’ve had with people about it over the last few years.

Although I know the IB and its representatives in the IB Educator Network aim to reassure schools that the process is one of self-evaluation and growth, I commonly hear people stressed about ‘re-accreditation’ (it’s not) and the fear of being judged from outside. It is entirely natural to feel a sense of judgment when someone evaluates your programme and curriculum (or even internally in teacher evaluations by admin or students). It is very difficult sometimes to see suggestions for improvement as personal criticism; after all, we have put a *lot* of hard work into the product. There may be strong extrinsic or external motivations for an ‘excellent’ report, but validation is not the sole purpose of evaluation. It is important to recognise that as educators we are agents of change and should apply the ‘growth mindset’ to evaluation in order to use feedback to improve; in the process modeling the actions of learning for our students and community.

It’s not ‘re-accreditation‘!

The table below is my attempt to apply fixed and growth mindsets to the process of programme evaluation. What do you recognise in your own experience? What might you seek to change? When it’s time for your school’s evaluation process how will you aim to make it a growth experience rather than a fixed judgement?

Personal Reflection

When I was DPCo in Bandung, we were careful to frame it as ‘ongoing programme evaluation‘, completing the self-study survey early in the process, then again just before submission. We tracked each department’s perceived changes in levels of implementation of the standards and practices and used the information to generate action plans. In the end, after using the evaluation as a growth process, we were happy with the report and there were no surprises. We had been able to predict and already start to set action plans for the Recommendations. Although I didn’t know the language back then, we were trying to frame the process in a ‘growth mindset’ manner. We plan to do the same for the upcoming (and first) five-year evaluation for CA, in conjunction with the new PYP Coordinator.