March 2022 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, March 9, we had our second TTTs of the school year. For these TTTs, we challenged faculty to focus their sessions through our Learning At Its Best framework for their 45-minute sessions. (Re-visit our first TTTs of the year.)


5 Types of Non-Fiction
Principle: Captivate, Approach: Inquiry Pathway
Come check out the ES Library brand new collection of narrative non-fiction books: an engaging sub-genre of non-fiction writing that will spark joy for readers of all persuasions!

Basic PowerPoint animations
Principle: Captivate, Approach: Design Process
Learn how to add basic animations to your PowerPoint presentation


Level Up Student Projects with the Studio
Principle: Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Recording techniques for audio projects. Explore ISB’s recording facilities and familiarise yourself with our studio equipment. Go through the recording process from tracking to print. Then, take your learning to student projects!


How To Use WTW Data to Target Your Instruction
Principle: Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Now you have your middle of year data, so what? This session you will learn how to break down your current Words Their Way data to see exactly where the students need direct support and instruction. Come learn how to support and challenge all of the learners in your class!


Supporting LGBTQIA+ students in your classroom
Principle: Care, Approach: Social Emotional Learning
It’s Pride Week at ISB, but what does that mean for you? If you know you want to make LGBTQIA+ students feel safe and included in your classroom, but you’re not sure where to start, this session is for you. Topics will include: addressing homophobic comments, using inclusive language, and more.


Cooperative Learning Structures
Principle: Clarify
Raising the number of Opportunities To Respond will increase the learning in your classroom. How can you get every student to engage with every question you ask as a teacher, rather than just one student who raises their hand. We will look at a number of Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures. Hopefully you will walk away with some new ways to engage your learners.


Clarify with COLOCOs
Principle: Clarify, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
This session is intended for those who are currently attending the C6 training (or those who need a refresher) and would like to revisit the work on COLOCOs (and complete their homework in the process!).


Using Visuals to Support Organization and Independence in the Classroom
Principle: Classroom Management
I will share two strategies using visuals I learned at a PD session in 2019 and have since used with co-teachers in the classroom. We’ll also share ideas about how to use and adapt these visuals to our classrooms.


The Working Genius Model and YOU
Principle: Collaborate
Resources, Podcast
Improve your collaboration skills by exploring Patrick Lencioni’s Working Genius model, a simple and powerful 6 step model for all work. You will reflect on your personal Working Genius type and learn language to apply personally and in teams. This session will include chunked learning, reflecting and application individually and in small groups. This model is useful for anyone who works or is on a team.


Round Table: Sharing ideas on unpacking the Teachers College reading units
Principle: Collaborate, Approach: Inquiry Pathway
Let’s come together to share our processes around how we go from the planned lesson in the TC units to teaching our individual classes. Bring an example to share or a topic to discuss!


Making Thinking Visible
Principle: Confer/Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
This session will seek to share the ideas from the Making Thinking Visible training and book in a condensed and applicable way, including the core concept, and sets of teaching moves/strategies that can be used for all learners. Making Thinking Visible is a philosophy that seeks to promote engagement for all learners, intellectual curiosity and exploration, and to shift the focus in teaching towards ‘thinking’ above all.


Excel Basics
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
Looking for ways to organize and analyze student data? This session will explore some basic tips and tricks for using Excel. Bring your laptop and any questions you have about using spreadsheets.


What works to improve student literacy in Chinese class?
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
In this session, we will share what we have studied and learned about the Balanced Literacy components that have been used to effectively teach Chinese in some international schools.


Rubrics and Feedback in DX
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
Learn how you can use assignment rubrics and other feedback tools (including the new iPad annotation feature) in DX.


Diversity and Inclusion Conversations in Chinese
Principle: Confer, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
The purpose of this TTT is to create a space where educators can have conversations around Diversity and Inclusion in Chinese to explore it through the lenses of non-western perspectives. This session provides an opportunity for equalizing access to conversations around Diversity and Inclusion and building a foundation for contextualizing Bias and Racism to our global international school environment.


Spotting the Signs–Structure and Function in the Head, Neck, and Mouth
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: Personalized Learning
Spotting the Signs is geared for teachers and TAs of younger students. We will focus on spotting students who may need an SLT referral in the areas of articulation and feeding/swallowing–whether you teach in English or Mandarin! Normal and atypical anatomy of the head/neck/mouth and developmental milestones for articulation and feeding/swallowing will be taught so that you can spot students who may not be meeting these expectations.


Save the Rainforest! Digital Planning and Journaling with iPad
Principle: Consolidate
Tired of losing sticky notes with your to do list? Want to reduce your reliance on paper and taking notebooks everywhere? Move your planning and / or journaling to the digital realm to save your sanity. This session will be most beneficial if you bring an iPad, Apple Pencil, and have access to either the Good Notes or OneNote app.


People, Systems, Power, Participation
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: Service Learning
In this session we will explore the People, Systems, Power, Participation Thinking Routine. We will use this routine to examine Gender, Migration, and Racism, then talk about how it can lead to service learning.


Literacy is Learning
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
Various literacy activities across subject areas that can enable students to acquire depth of understanding and consolidate their learnings.

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.

What Do We Value?

Welcome back, everyone!  It always feels like it takes forever for the kids to show up and it was so exciting to see them all with big smiles this morning as they arrived. I am nearing the end of week three back in Beijing. It has been a busy three weeks welcoming new teachers and getting ready for the start of school. There is always a bit of a lull for us at this time of year, we work hard to get things ready and support teaching and learning as you come back to school, but then once the kids are back…you are busy and we are always a bit at loose ends as we wait for things to settle down. 

As we welcomed new teachers back this year we made a shift in how we spoke about some of our work here at ISB. One thing that is always clear when we are working with new teachers is that ISB has a lot of systems and structures and acronyms…we love acronyms. This year in an effort to be less overwhelming, we thought…we have all these systems and structures to create alignment and consistency to our curriculum, but why? What are the core values that underpin the work we do in the Office of Learning to support student learning? Why do we have things like the curriculum review, common formative assessments, data meetings etc.  For us, it was easy to answer the question about why we have the systems and structures we do at ISB: equity, purpose and deep, relevant learning.  The goal is to bring clarity to what we do at ISB.
Equity is achieved by:

  • Consistent learning goals at grade-levels and in shared courses
  • Consistent level of challenge so that students have consistent expectation across grades and courses
  • Students with varying needs are provided what they need to succeed 
  • Experiences will vary from classroom to classroom, that is the art and craft of teaching and what you were hired for, and the quality fo the education you receive at ISB should not depend on who your teacher is.


  • Although we’re a highly mobile community, we don’t change our curriculum just because a particular teacher happened to leave—we make purposeful decisions about curricular change. 
  • We aim for purposeful increases in challenge from grade level to grade level. 
  • Our decisions are researched-based and intentional.  If we cannot answer why and back it up, we should not be doing it.

Deep, Relevant Learning:

  • Students should spend their time inquiring, solving problems, analyzing, and creating, not only memorizing. 
  • Students have voice and choice in their learning as we seek to deepen our work and understanding around personalized learning.
  • We are working on integration because the world we live in does not present us problems in silos. They are complex and sticky, requiring a multi-disciplinary approach to understand them and think about solutions.
  • We have a focus on design because we feel this is a vehicle by which we can engage our students in these deeply relevant learning experiences

 As we work together this year, these values around our work and learning together will come up again and again.  We are excited for another year of collaboration and support and looking forward to seeing and learning form you as you deliver amazing learning experiences to your students. 
Let the year begin!

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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