Team Collaboration for Online Learning

From the onset of COVID-19, we’ve learned that our current context can change overnight, and while we’re all aware of this, the constant changes and not knowing makes a transition to online learning especially disruptive. Working online means adapting to a new environment, battling a new set of challenges, and if working from home, the fusion of work and home life. In order to continue working efficiently and creating value under these new circumstances, we need to understand, accept, and support one other’s specific situations and needs. 

Whether we are in a position to work from school or home during a period of online learning, it is important for teams to consider how the way we work and collaborate might change as a result. If we need to transition to online learning at any point during the year, I am grateful that we have had the opportunity to work together in the “usual” way in the months prior. It takes time for a new team to “gel” and work to its full potential, and having had this time together as a team, you’ve established norms and working agreements and you’re likely well into the progression of team development.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the memorable phrase “forming, storming, norming, and performing” in his 1965 paper, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Forming, norming, storming, and performing in an offline environment is different to that of an online environment and to ensure your team is adequately prepared for a transition to online and a change to the way you collaborate, you may need to revisit some fundamental questions about who you are and what you are trying to do. 

I came across this Edutopia article, Four Guiding Questions for Effective Remote Collaboration by Zachary Herrmann, last year when we were preparing to transition to online learning over the winter break. Some of you might remember employing the four guiding questions to support your team’s transition:

  1. What is our team’s purpose?
  2. Who is on our team and what are our roles and responsibilities? 
  3. How does our team work together? 
  4. How does our team take pride in its work?

It is likely that most, if not all of these will change as a result of a transition to online learning, and while your team might be in a good place in its current setting, the stress and anxiety associated with online learning, can break down established systems and structures that have worked well for the team in the past. 

Purpose 

I think we can all agree that, in an online environment, it is impossible to replicate exactly what we would do if we had students on campus. With this, it is important for teams to recalibrate their purpose to ensure that they’re working on the right things at the right time. How have the team’s goals changed and how will you measure success? When we first shifted to online learning in February, 2020, without knowing how long the situation would last, we prioritized academics and a continuation of what would have happened had we been on campus. On reflection, our purpose had changed and until we were able to identify that, we were not in a position to talk about strategy and action. 

People 

Most teams at ISB will have agreements around who is responsible for what. This might be reflected in the responsibilities of a course or unit lead in Middle or High School or a Subject Area Representative (SAR) in the Elementary School, for example. In an online environment we shift to a more blended approach, with synchronous learning supported by asynchronous content housed on DX or Seesaw. How might the roles and responsibilities on your team shift as a result of this? Having a candid conversation about how team members’ efforts should be reallocated and how different duties may need to be assigned will be critical to team success.

You’ll also be collaborating with coaches, coordinators and facilitators in different ways than what you might when students are on campus. How might your team leverage the support of these people to identify high quality learning materials and ideas for online learning? 

Process

Even if we are in a position to work from campus, this does not guarantee that all team members will be able to do so. Last year we were lucky enough to have faculty children on campus, but after only a few weeks, this was no longer an option. This meant that those with children had the option to work from home. Whether you have one team member or the entire team working remotely, it is important to reestablish how you will communicate, share resources, make decisions, and how you will report on progress in this new working environment. 

Pride 

We’ve had time to build positive team culture in the on-campus setting, but how does this change in the online setting? Take time to consider what your team’s rituals and traditions might look like and how you will maintain that sense of pride and belonging. An online meeting as a team can be tough after a full day of teaching – how might your team achieve the outcomes for your work while connecting with each other as people? 

The Harvard Business Review article, 4 Tips for Effective Virtual Collaboration, summarizes the purpose behind team collaboration in an online environment well: “It’s to make sure that you and your team are aligned on your goals and most effectively moving ahead in accomplishing them. You can collaborate effectively from far apart, even when you have an incredible amount to do, if you collaborate with intention and focus” (HBR, 2021).

It’s right for us to be preparing for a transition to online learning, but let’s cross fingers and toes that we don’t have to!

 

REFERENCES

Herrmann, Z. (2020, April 17). 4 guiding questions for effective remote collaboration. Edutopia. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-guiding-questions-effective-remote-collaboration. 

Tuckman, B.W. (1965). ‘Developmental Sequence in Small Groups,’ Psychological Bulletin, 63(6). Available here.

4 tips for effective virtual collaboration. Harvard Business Review. (2021, August 27). Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://hbr.org/2020/10/4-tips-for-effective-virtual-collaboration. 

Welcome to Learning @ ISB!

Welcome to the learning at ISB blog! We’ve been pretty quiet the last 2 years, but we’re back and excited to continue sharing learning at its best at ISB.

At least twice per month, we’ll be publishing posts written by ISB educators sharing their thoughts & reflections on learning. Have an idea for a guest post? Let us know! Want to get inspiration delivered to your inbox? Enter your email on the right to subscribe! [Make sure to keep an eye on your ‘Other’ inbox tab for the emails!]

Have thoughts about something you read on this blog? We love comments! Feel free to leave your thoughts here or come chat with us in person.

As we relaunch this blog, we wanted to introduce Learning at its Best and our principles & approaches of learning. You probably have one of these posters up in your classroom or have seen them around the school. All of our blog posts will be written through these lenses. Want to dive deeper into one area? Check out the categories on the right to begin exploring!

Learning at its Best

ISB’s principles of learning provide a research-based foundation for how students learn best and insight into what makes our learning environments most effective. ISB’s Learning Principles are based on Tripod’s 7C framework of effective teaching: Care, Challenge, Confer, Clarify, Captivate, Consolidate, Collaborate, Classroom Management.

The approaches of learning are integral to how we design learning experiences at ISB, guiding our instructional practices.

Social-Emotional Learning – Research shows that explicitly teaching social and emotional skills increases student well-being, enhances positive behavior, reduces crises, and enhances academic achievement. A focus on social-emotional learning also creates a safe, positive school culture. At ISB, we prioritize building relationships and want every student to feel cared for every day. Our Social-Emotional Framework supports students in developing self-awareness, self-management, social and cultural competence, nurturing relationships, and taking purposeful action.

Personalized Learning – At ISB, we believe in a progressively learner-driven model of personalized learning to facilitate student ownership of the learning process and provide student voice and choice in their learning. We empower students to build strong relationships, leverage their interests, and assess their strengths and areas for growth to engage in deep, relevant learning.

Service Learning – Service Learning is infused into the curriculum and across the co-curricular program at ISB. It is a relevant learning journey that integrates meaningful action with instruction and reflection. We believe that Service Learning develops compassion and empathy, strengthens communities, and nurtures a global mindset.

C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework – The community at ISB is culturally & linguistically diverse, and we aim to serve our emergent bilingual and multilingual students so that they are able to access grade-level standards regardless of language proficiency. The C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework supports faculty in creating culturally responsive lessons that celebrate the diversity of our students.

Inquiry Pathway – At ISB, we empower students to ask questions, think critically, and reflect. Based on provocations and real-world phenomenon, students see & think, wonder & question, investigate & explore, make meaning & find patterns, and explain & construct arguments.

Design Process – Solutions to the problems of the world do not exist in silos and neither should learning. Students at ISB are given the opportunity to use design-thinking to create connections between traditional curricular areas and build empathy while solving real-world, authentic problems.


We hope you’re as excited as we are for this blog to be active again! Next week, keep your eyes open for a post from Angie (MS/HS Math Instructional Coach) with a focus on Challenge. Even better, get her post delivered to your email as soon as it’s published by subscribing on the right! After you subscribe, look in your email to confirm your subscription.

A Plea for Positive Education in Schools

Author: Simon Zopfi, HS PE Teacher

 

 

 

The rise of positive psychology

“Dr. Seligman, how would you describe the state of the field of psychology today?” “Good.” “Okay, Dr. Seligman, that won’t do. We better give you two words…” “Not good.”

“Look, Dr. Seligman, we can see you’re not comfortable in this medium. The best we can do is give you three words…” “Not good enough.”

Dr. Seligman, the Head of the American Psychological Association at the time describes his interaction during an interview with CNN in his TED talk about Positive Psychology in 2004.

Until the late 1990’s psychology was the science of finding out “what’s wrong with you” and trying to get people from a constant state of suffering into a state of coping with everyday life.

A lot has changed over the last 20 or so years. Psychology still concerns itself with relieving suffering but the field has expanded further into the science behind human flourishing. Dr. Seligman himself launched the era of positive psychology in 1998 when taking on the role of Head of the APA and stood at the foundation of the development and implementation of his work in schools, calling it “Positive Education,” working with and living on campus of Geelong Grammar School (GGS) in Sydney for 6 months.

Researchers and teachers put their heads together and developed the Geelong Grammar School Model for Positive Education. A science-informed framework that outlines and guides the usage of positive education in schools. The foundation of the framework is built on students’ and staff’s character strengths, linked with 6 different areas being positive relationships, positive emotions, positive health, positive engagement, positive accomplishment and positive purpose. The outer layer encourages anyone to learn about Pos Ed, embed its theories in everyday practices and live its philosophy by paying it forward.

By no means is this the only model out there, nor is it claiming that the implementation in our work happens through this framework alone. Outstanding educators and people are highly likely to already apply many elements of Positive Education in and beyond their teaching spaces. Positive Education is also not the same as “happiology” yet recognizes life’s challenges, ups and downs and the struggle in search for meaning.

Positive Education in Schools

Schools can be stressful environments for both staff and students. Getting through piles of paperwork, lesson preparations and staff meetings can overload the systems on the regular.

Navigating the social landscape as a developing adolescent of friendships and first loves while submitting assignments, taking assessments, dealing with not making the school’s varsity team while deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life, are experiences that most students go through too.

 

Positive Education might be the light at, what sometimes feels like, the end of a long tunnel. Positive relations can be built in classrooms, hallways and meetings if we are more aware in our conversations and use active constructive responding. We create a more pleasant learning environment if we focus on people’s character strengths and the areas that they shine brightest in. Teaching about neuroplasticity will help students understand and believe in the moldability of their capabilities. This will in turn nurture a growth mindset and the development of grit, paving the way for positive accomplishment.

Positive accomplishment encourages intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy causing us to continuously engage in activities that we thrive in. Dedicating your time to something you are willing to work for and develop a passion around, can lead to peak performance and flow states or “being in the zone.”

Providing regular opportunities for staff and students to exercise, reducing the workload to support getting enough sleep and providing healthy snacks at work, all fall under the domain of positive health. People do better when they feel better and people who feel better do better too. Placing ourselves in the service of others by the ways of caregiving, service learning and supporting others around us, can lead to a sense of purpose and meaning for ourselves. Concepts that make life truly worth living.

The field of positive education is a fascinating area from which we can all benefit.

If you have made it to the end of this plea and you are as enthusiastic about it as I am, I strongly recommend looking into the 8-week professional learning course “Discovering Positive Education 2.0” by Geelong Grammar School. Enrolling in this comprehensive program is by far the best professional development I have come across and has changed the way I approach teaching and learning from here onwards.

Go well, friends…

September 2021 TTTs

Several times a year, we turn professional learning over to our faculty & staff during Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTTs) sessions. TTTs focus on improving our collective professional practice, allowing us to engage with our colleagues. On Wednesday, September 22, we were excited to have our first TTTs of the school year.

90-minute Sessions
Coding Fun! Spiced up narrative writing
We will tell stories with animations using Scratch (examples). With voiceovers or speech bubbles, students can re-tell, summarize, or create stories with animations. We will also look at the scratch community and why it is a great world for students to get into.

 

Graffiti: Write your name in style
Take a chance to explore and play on the ISB Graffiti wall as we learn basic techniques and introductory methods in the skills of spray paint art. Limited to 14 people.

 

Jewelry Design
I’ll teach you how to use some software, and you’ll use it to design some jewelry. You’ll walk away with some new skills and some new bling!

I’m C6ed… Now What?
This follow-up session from C6 will dive deeper into Content, Language, and Cultural Objectives. Why do we write them? How do we write them? And most importantly how do we make these meaningful for students.

 

The Mindful Use of Power in the Classroom: How Authority Distorts Respect, Honesty, and Trust—and What You Can Do About It
Presentation of research on the distorting effects of power and authority on people’s perceptions and perspectives, followed by strategies and techniques to facilitate greater respect, honesty, and trust in school settings (and examples/case studies to discuss).

 

Ceramics – Learn to Play
Join us for some stress-relief ceramics fun, and to create something that you can take home and brag about it! 🙂

45-minute Sessions
Sip and Read
Love the smell of a new book? Come discover the delightful new books the ES library has purchased to support our SEL focus! ABAR, inclusivity, equity, LBGTQIA+, friendship, emotions, and more! Hey MS/HS folk, picture books aren’t just for little kids! These big concepts are often best deconstructed using accessible stories so come browse! Staff Resources

Exploring Backstage
Take an all-access tour of the ISB theatre venues to see what goes on backstage. If you are curious about all the theatre ‘hidden spaces’ or how the magic happens, then now is your chance. There will be stairs involved as we visit the highest and lowest spots in the theatre.

 

Singing for Mind and Body
In this session, we will learn a couple of easy songs to sing in a group and discuss how singing can positively affect your mental and physical health.

 

Wellness with Basketball
We will host a wellness option of a friendly basketball game! Co-ed and any skill level welcome, you can play in long pants and shirt or whatever!

 

Hill’s School of Hot Sauce 
Want to learn to make your own hot sauce? This is the wellness activity you’ve been looking for! This will be the first of two sessions. You’ll need to be able to come back on the morning of Sat Sept 25 or at 4:30 on Monday Sept 27.

 

ABAR Conversations 1
For those who want to know more about ABAR, ask some questions, and begin engaging in this work.

 

Deconstructing DX: Learning how to create beautiful lessons
In this session, we will learn how to create units, lesson pages, quizzes, and assignments in DX. This is a great way to make lessons accessible for all!

 

Having Fun With Glyths!
What are glyphs? Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection. Glyphs can be used as a fun SEL activity or as a summative assessment. Come and learn about a fun way to assess students using paper and glue.

 

Excel 101
Learn some simple Excel tips and tricks. In this session, we will focus on the basics of how to work with Excel. Bring your laptop and any burning questions you have and we’ll explore together.

 

 

Ideas for in-depth reading in Chinese classes
Wondering how to teach students to read? Want to know more about strategies for in-depth reading? Join this session to enhance our collective knowledge and skills on effective reading. Staff Resources

 

Making excellent graphics
Want to improve your graphic design skills when making resources for your classes? Join us as we look at some simple rules and techniques for improving your visual communication skills. Staff Resources

 

Integrating creative data collection and visualization with a Dear Data project
A Dear Data project gives students an authentic way to collect data about their own lives and present their findings with a creative visualization. Topics can include any content area, including SEL topics. Students keep a process journal throughout, integrating literacy and notebooking skills.

 

Executive Functioning Skills 101
This session will go into detail about what Executive Functioning Skills are, why they are important, how we can build on them at school, and tips on how parents can reinforce them at home.

 

Simplify Your Life with Power Automate and Mail Merge
How do you empower students and personalize communication quickly? Come see examples using two tools and brainstorm how you might leverage them in your classroom! Resources: Slides, Mail Merge Survey, TTT Automation Mail Merge Sample.xlsx, Student Interest Survey Template.docx, Power Automate Survey, Power Automate Home Page

 

Classroom management for TAs
Work with kids but not trained as a teacher? Come learn basics of managing a classroom and feel more confident while support students’ learning.

 

Practical Practice for Reading in DL
This workshop bases on Chinese reading and learning in DL program, but is applicable to other language reading. It focuses on using reading assessment data to plan and arrange reading activities; planning stations with word study, character learning, self-reading, and guided reading to students across a big range of language proficiency; sharing station examples.

 

ABAR Conversations 2
For those who are ready to have some deeper conversations, lean into some discomfort, and continue to engage in this work.

 

Fall 2021 Cohort 1 C6 Homework
Need some time and support to catch up on your C6 homework before our next session Saturday? Keen to collaborate with colleagues in the cohort? This session is for you!

Capturing Information from the Day to Day

I was having difficulty time finding a topic to write about that seemed to be applicable across all classes and grades. However, working in a kindergarten classroom last week provided me with inspiration on collection of data.
The alphabet chart – I bet it has been a while since you have thought about that unless you are a kinder teacher who is facilitating a class of word scientists currently exploring the alphabet chart. If you want to be amazed by all that a 5 and 6 year can learn about letters, sounds, patterns and more from one tool, I suggest you stop into a kindergarten classroom for word study.

Picture this, 18 young children sitting and laying on the rug with their alphabet charts that are missing pictures and a stack of pictures to add. Working in partners, they go about the task of identifying the picture, stretching out the name, catching the first sound, and matching that sound to a letter (whew)! As we walked around coaching into the students’ work, we realized the need to be capturing this learning as it is so rich in information. We walked around to snap pictures of each of their boards. Quick, easy data – using what you are already doing to gather information to guide future instruction and reflect on past instruction.

By taking a photo at the same time, we were able to look at partners’ speed and accuracy of the task. Several partnerships had a completed and accurate chart, indicating they had the vocabulary of the pictures, knew the concept, could apply the concept of hearing an initial sound, and then were able to connect the sound to a letter. Other partnerships were accurate but only halfway done, showing they understand and can complete the skills but are not yet automatic. Still a few partnerships only had a few on their board or pictures on incorrect spots, more investigation we decided is needed for those students to determine if it was the vocabulary, phonological awareness or letter sound connection that made the task challenging. On top of that, we gathered observational data on who could take turns and work with their partner. We didn’t have to add anything, just have a way to collect the data and then turn around and use it. We will reflect on this data in our weekly planning meeting to determine next steps for minilessons and groups and make notes on the previous week of lessons.

I write this for several reasons, one my love of data, as many of you have seen me nerd about over the years. Also, this one task reminded me that data is one topic that speaks to all teachers and faculty at ISB no matter the grade or position; we all collect and use data. It reminds us that collection of data does not need to also be additional work if we set up systems to collect data for what we already do.

We continue to reflect on our work at ISB and our alignment with our data belief, below are our data beliefs, updated as of November 2019.  As we know, data is collected and used in many different ways, in reflecting on our practices as described above I found the following most related for this example (shown with an *).

Data Beliefs at ISB

Updated Nov. 2019

Beliefs about the role of data:

  • The most valued data is teacher-collected formative data that is used to differentiate student learning. *
  • Quality, valid data from multiple sources creates shared ownership of student learning.
  • Data analysis supports both student and teacher growth.*
  • Data should be shared in a safe and open environment that depersonalizes ownership in order to support our understanding of student learning.
  • The act of reflecting on data is a part of our role and professional responsibilities.

How we use data:

  • Data is used to differentiate instruction to support all students.*
  • Data is used to inform instruction across a range of levels and for a variety of purposes.*
  • Data is used to document student progress for the purpose of reporting and school program improvement.*
  • Collaborative teams explore data for patterns.
  • Processes and protocols assist in establishing supportive environments to look at student learning.

 

The power of integration

The power of integration

We often hear about the changing demands of work and life in the 21st century due to rapid technological, economic and social changes, placing pressure on education to better prepare students for an uncertain future. One well-documented example of this is the impact of automation on employment, with workers in many different industries around the world being displaced by technology. While new opportunities are being created – often in congruence with those same emerging technologies –  we must prepare our students for the uncertainty and opportunity of a rapidly changing world.

In short, we must ensure our students’ skills remain relevant.

In response to the shifting demands on education, ISB developed the L21 Skills of; Communication & Collaboration, Creativity & Innovation, Leadership & Responsibility, Global Thinking, and; Inquiry, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. Our school is expanding the way we integrate discrete disciplines and skills into our teaching and learning, from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Integrated Learning is an approach that models real-world working conditions by connecting different disciplines within learning engagements, occurring within a lesson, a unit, or an entire course. Integrated learning is most effective when aligned with project or inquiry learning models as students experience the collaborative and interdisciplinary environments they will likely encounter in their future careers.

 

STEAM

“Rather than a nice add-on to our current formal education system, (STEAM) should be the concept around which the entire system is understood and organized” – Hans Vestberg, World Economic Forum, Sept 2018.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts and Maths) has become a popular system for addressing the educational needs of the future. At ISB, STEAM is gaining traction as a means for ensuring hands-on design and engineering projects effectively address our Science Standards while facilitating creative, authentic problem solving and personalisation in the Arts and Humanities. STEAM learning is often characterised by technology-rich activities such as robotics or coding, but in essence it needn’t be about specific technical skills. Yes, technology should be ubiquitous in STEAM lessons, but, as long as there is a conscious integration of the STEAM disciplines, technology needn’t be the main emphasis. STEAM can be a vehicle for building engagement in a single activity or entire unit, it should be intentional and offer students opportunities to consolidate and synthesise their learning.

THE META CURRICULUM

“(what’s needed is) …a personalised learning environment that supports and motivates each student to nurture his or her passions, make connections between different learning experiences and opportunities, and design their own learning projects and processes in collaboration with others” OECD Learning Framework 2020

Metacognitive skills such as collaboration, communication, organization and reflective practice are each integral for effective problem solving in integrated curricula. In fact, these skills can actually be the focus of integrated curricula, particularly at times when more domain-specific topics aren’t relevant to an entire unit. Further, integrated learning requires teachers to apply a similar set of meta skills toward planning, delivery, assessment and reflection, presenting opportunities for modeling of effective metacognitive skills.

ES Strategy
This year, Each ES grade has embarked on a process of designing integrated units of inquiry, and, while this process is still in the early stages, we hope to create a model for successful integration of a wide range of units. While further refinement is always required, a number of ES teams have planned and completed a round of integrated units in 2018-19:

Grade 2: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This integration point for this unit was around the topic of sustainable use of the earth’s resources. Students worked on personalized design projects that focused on campaigning the school for improved sustainability.

Grade 3: Forces & Motion

How can we, as designers, use what we know about magnetism to address a problem within our environment? This unit allows students to apply what they know about magnetism to design everyday products that help people they know.


Grade 4: Engineering Design

How can we, as engineers, use what we know about design to address a real-world problem? This unit is integrated through the theme “making good better” – using feedback, refinement and reflection as a common theme through which a number of different subjects are linked.

Grade 5: Global Citizenship

Foundations of a global citizen – what we believe = what we do = who we are. This unit is integrated around the theme of identity – that our values as people, learners, mathematicians, writers, scientists, engineers and artists are defined by what we believe and what we do.

 

See you next year in the HS!

As I prepare to move to the High School next year, I look forward to further opportunities for integration at ISB. In the meantime, I’d like to offer my thanks to the ES teachers, admin, support staff, students and parents for your support and enthusiasm during these two excellent years in the elementary school!

Sam

10 Reasons Librarians Are More Important Than Ever

10 Reasons Librarians Are More Important Than Ever

The article below nicely describes how librarians add value to the school communities. Apart from being invaluable sources for reading, librarians have fantastic tech skills and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They keep people safe, build community in a school, and are creative educators who are not afraid of taking risks. They have a unique set of skills as they know how to navigate the information landscape and how to communicate that savviness to the school community. Read on.
10 Reasons Librarians Are More Important Than Ever

Curriculum Change and Vertical Alignment

“My daughter has written memoirs every year for the past 7 years!” Matt Glover exclaimed to teachers the other day. “She’s so sick of this genre! And that’s not even the worst part! The worst part is, there isn’t a single adult in her school who knows this fact. There were no intentional decisions that this was such a valuable genre that it should be taught to the exclusion of other genres. It just happened, because the teachers aren’t talking vertically about what they’re teaching.” 
I’m sure you have heard of, or experienced similar stories in your years as an educator. The elementary kids who have studied dinosaurs every year for three years, but never studied space. The secondary students who have only read books by white authors for the past five years. With teachers laser focused on their own content, it’s easy for the vertical alignment to go askew. Clearly, no educators meant for their programs to end up repetitive and reductive. 
As teachers we tend to focus on those activities with more immediate impact for the students. But sometimes, serving our students means taking the time to collaborate with our fellow educators, to make sure our program will continue to serve our students’ learning as they progress beyond the doors of our own classroom.
To this end, the Office of Learning has come up with this handy graphic to let you check if a change you’d like to make to your curriculum is one that your team can make or one that should have a vertical review.  

If you would like to see the vertical view of our curriculum, we have made unit titles, essential questions, and enduring understandings public on our website, here!
https://www.isb.bj.edu.cn/page.cfm?p=515

Professional Learning in the 21st Century

With the onset of a new approach to professional learning at ISB, teachers have started blogging their professional goals and reflection using the new Teach blogging network. Currently, we have just over 50 faculty members participating in the pilot which involves student surveys using Tripod’s 7Cs framework and goal development through reflection on these survey results. The 7Cs framework groups components into three conceptual categories:

  • personal support (care and confer),
  • curricular support (captivate, clarify, and consolidate); and
  • academic press (challenge and classroom management)

The survey questions for students are designed in a way to provide teachers with feedback based on the 7Cs. For example:
Care       My teacher makes me feel that he/she really cares about me
Confer   My teacher gives us time to explain our ideas
By reflecting on the feedback from the survey, a teacher chooses to set a goal based on one of the 7Cs. The professional learning blogs are used to document goals and provide evidence to support progress throughout the year. Alongside ongoing reflection, the professional learning community contributes to the ongoing dialogue, in particular, those recognised as playing an immediate role. Modelling Life-long Learning & Reflection
There are many benefits to blogging our professional learning journey. Most significantly, the modelling of life-long learning and the importance of reflection being ongoing and evidence-based. Through this reflective process, a blog is a great way to collect and consider your teaching experiences and creates a landing page for your most important notes. You might choose to post curriculum ideas, resources, details of a conference you attended or even recaps from classes you’ve taught or observed – Sharing these with the professional learning community is a great way to keep track of what you’ve learned and seek feedback from colleagues or those beyond ISB. A professional learning blog makes looking back on what worked well and what didn’t a quick and easy task and it’s a way for us to recognise our professional growth over many years.

Increased Confidence & Idea Development 
Blogging has the ability to give you an important and necessary motivation boost. This platform is not only a space for goal setting it is also a place for you to showcase your achievements, in the classroom and beyond. Blogging about your passions and sharing student work can be a great way to get support from colleagues and education professionals. On days when we feel overwhelmed, a comment on a recent blog post can provide a much-needed boost!

Connecting & Sharing with Others
In 2018, a blog is a great way to stay current in the latest Ed Tech movements, expand your educational interests and helps to build your online presence. It may even shape a new interest or lead the way to consultancy work. Blogging can help us to teach with intention, start conversations, share professional experiences, new ideas, or carve out a professional niche. The Teach blogging network gives you an opportunity to read your colleagues’ blogs and discover unique ways to improve your professional practice. By responding to blogs you’ve read or engaged with, you open up a whole new world of professional communication and collaboration opportunities across the school. 

Show your support in building this professional learning community and pay a visit to Teach Some teachers are yet to post, but many have! Spend a few minutes viewing your colleagues’ professional learning blogs, some of whom are blogging for the very first time! Let them know you’ve been there by leaving a comment.

If you are interested in joining this community of online professional learners, don’t hesitate to contact your Ed Tech Facilitator and we can get you set up. You don’t have to be a part of the professional growth pilot so start your blogging journey with us NOW!

Data Doesn’t Have to Be Scary 

As we all know, data performs a significant role on improving teaching and student learning nowadays. However, data looks scary some of the time. There are always tons of data, and it takes brave of us to dive into it for figuring out what it can provide us on a higher level based on evidence on guiding our future work, so that it plays its role as what we think it is supposed to do!
How can we as a school uses data wisely? Actually, we are now in a collaborative process for using data in Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning, to pursue effective actions taken for improvement.
In order to make sure collaborative work being carried on positively and effectively, at the very beginning, we’d better set our norms, and besides, monitor our thinking process to maintain a relentless focus on evidence. In Data Wise introduced by Harvard University, assuming positive intentions, taking an inquiry stance and grounding statements in evidence can be good norms for team members for working together. And, something we’ve learned in our work is that human beings have a tendency to see patterns, make inferences and judgments, and draw conclusions quite quickly from just a small amount of data. This is an important skill but at the same time it can be dangerous for leading us to misinformed judgments when we are too quick to draw inferences from a small quantity of data. A mental model called “the Ladder of Inference” is especially useful in helping educators resist this tendency and stay focused on the evidence. The pattern is whenever I perceive something, I first select some data, then, I add some interpretation, draw conclusions, and finally take actions. The actions I take then influence what kind of data I collect next. Considering the loop, it can be very dangerous to go up the ladder too quickly. So it’s better for all of us to use this model to help each other maintain a relentless focus on evidence.
Holding the norms and the mental model when working and learning together, at ISB, we have organized for collaborative work, and we are working on building assessment literacy through several ways, for example, relevant books provided at OOL, staff training opportunity, outside specialist visiting, etc.. For a quick and better understanding of data, we have worked on to visualize our data as better as we can. We’ve prepared graphs and charts instead of large amount of data displayed in our meetings. Teachers are advised to answer questions like “what do I see, what do I notice, what do I wonder” to better understand, interpret data based on the evidence.
With the foundation laid, collaborative work organized and assessment literacy built, we are able to move on in our data driven process. Instructional team leaders choose a focus area for the coming semester or school year, some time, it has been declared from the top. The focus area tells team leaders which data sources on the data inventory should be paid attention first. They create a high level data overview that shows how students are doing in this focus area, for example, data from an annual performance assessment can be used here. In their meetings, they work together to see patterns, do analyzation and find the story behind the data. In their next meeting with the broad group of faculty, they’ve prepared the data being displayed by charts or graphs, so that it allows everyone to make sense to the data quickly. More importantly, opportunity is provided to teachers to find their own meaning about the data. However, this overview data will never tell how to improve learning and teaching, it brings curiosity among teachers about why the data looks like this, and teachers can then identify a priority question as the focus.
Although the overview data teachers looked at in the previous step may have given some hints about where students are struggling, it’s unlikely that it offered enough specific information to explain the reason for that struggle. So, another step, to dig into the student data, is important, because it makes sure that before jumping to conclusions about how to solve a problem, teacher and the whole team have a clear sense of exactly what that problem entails. Teachers examine a wide range of student data, then, come to a shared understanding of what student data show. At last, they identify a learner-centered problem, and are ready to examine instruction.
During this process, teachers examine a wide range of instructional data. They are all clear about the purpose of their observations in classrooms, which is not judging anyone, but finding out what happened! Then, they work together to gain a shared understanding. Through this whole process, teachers need to separate person from the practice, be reminded with the collaborative working norms themselves, and focus on practices itself not who is doing it, always stick to the fact, so that to identify a problem of practice. A problem of practice is directly related to the learner-centered problem based on evidence found when examining instruction, within teachers’ control. This problem of practice is a statement about practice, not a question. It is specific and small, so that it allows teachers to develop an action plan for addressing the problem of practice. There are some places to look for instructional strategies, such as rubrics for effective teaching, curriculum materials, external websites, and the expertise of instructional coaches who work in the school system.
Before jumping into action in the classroom, another step is needed. We’d better make a plan to assess progress. This is where we specify the evidence of student learning that we hope to see once the instructional strategy is in place. Our plan to assess progress will provide the information we need when we move on to the last step – Act and Assess. It’ll help us measure the extent to which our instructional strategy is working, or not working. We can choose assessments to measure progress and set student learning goals.
At last, we act and assess. We implement the action plan and the plan to assess progress. We also adjust the action plan, and what’s important, we celebrate the success! However, once we reach the last step, there’s still more to do. Noticing the shape of the Data Wise arrow, it points right back to step three “create data overview”. Each time we begin a new cycle of inquiry, teachers as a team bring the experience we gained from our previous efforts and use that to take on new and more challenging problems of practice with greater skill and insight.
Isn’t this something cool? When we work as a team, instead of looking scary, data does guide us on improving teaching and student learning when under design, carried out step by step!

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