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.

Beginning of the School Year Dreams: Teaching Leaders of the Future

Image Credit: Creative Commons from Pixabay

As teachers, we always look out on those first promising days thinking “we are teaching the leaders of the world”.
For some of us, it’s a promise, it’s a responsibility, it’s hope, or inspiration that gets us excited to start a new year, and sometimes it just gets us through a tough day, class or year. But it’s true. We are lucky. We can have that impact. We do influence future leaders, followers and everything in between.
Frequently, our students will inherit a family business or walk into leadership roles with little to no work experience.  They already have money, power, and influence regardless of their education.
But do they have the skills and experience to be a positive influence in their business, community and to their co-workers? How can we help guide our students to be more responsible, kind, strong leaders of businesses, industries, and even countries?
Most international teachers I’ve worked with have come from a middle-class upbringing which is very different from what our students and even our own children are experiencing.  Some of us started earning our own money and had to be independent and made our own decisions at a young age.  Most of us learned so much at our first or tenth job, and most of our students never will have these experiences and environments to learn, fail and grow. Often times, standard curriculums don’t provide this knowledge or skills sets to collaborate, lead, learn and be responsible citizens of the future.
So what are we doing to provide these students with leadership skills and opportunities to fail and grow? How are we fostering responsible consumers and producers?
While we don’t have all the answers, I think ISB is moving in the right direction to help our students be more prepared for being compassionate, responsible citizens or leaders in any field.  We are putting a stronger focus on social and emotional learning while providing more interdisciplinary experiences to engage in deep, relevant learning.  We are fostering cross-curricular skills by giving our students authentic tasks to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.  We are reviewing our experiential learning programs and we provide dynamic robust professional learning for our community. It is definitely work that has started, it’s not happening everywhere, we are growing as educators and these hopefully more deep, relevant hands-on learning experiences at school will become more prevalent over the next few years.

Image Credit: Creative Commons via PixaBay

We are very lucky to have bright, engaged students who do well in school, but what traditional schools have done for the past hundred years aren’t preparing our students for their future jobs or to be responsible, compassionate transformational leaders.

What I wonder is what happens when the qualified teachers, coaches & tutors are gone.  How do our students continue to learn and grow? I think then we will truly know how prepared our students are for their futures.

How Sustainability Lifts the Learning Foundation

Sustainability is one of the most flexible yet ambiguous terms out there. The boundary of its scope and focus can shift to fit the needs of its community. The resulting lack of clarity often results in one of two responses:

  1. You are talking about the environment, right?
  2. Yes, that sounds nice, but I do not think it relates to what I do as a [fill in blank profession].

There are a host of reasons for this, but the effect is the same – seeing sustainability as an add-on initiative rather than a foundational component. By the end of this post, my hope is you will begin to see the value in the latter.
Research is growing around the connection between learning capabilities/wellness and biophilic building/space design. The scientific consensus thus far shows that how you build spaces has a significant impact on learning. The research findings center on five design choices rooted in sustainable building thinking:

  • Natural light
  • Noise – specifically the minimization of outside sources and reverberation within the space
  • Inclusion of natural elements
  • What colors and how they are used
  • Indoor air quality

Here are a few examples underscoring the magnitude of the impact:

  • study in the Journal of Environment and Behaviour found the group of children exposed to chronic low-level noise had significantly worse memory recognition scores than their control group. [1]
  • The report Learning Spaces cites a year-long study of 2,000 classrooms by the Heschong Mahone Group, which found that: “Students in classrooms with daylight improved 20 percent faster in math scores and 26 percent in reading scores.”
  • The Heschong study estimates that the strategies of biophilia have statistically increased test scores by 5-18% and can continue to do so in schools across the country. [2]
  • report by Human Spaces states: “Research shows that optimising exposure to daylight alone can improve school attendance by an average of 3.5days/year and test scores by 5-14% whilst increasing the speed of learning by 20-26%. Trials have found that plants in classrooms can lead to improved performance in spelling, mathematics and science of 10-14%.”
  • A 2016 study in the Journal of Indoor Environment and Health on carbon dioxide and cognitive performance found that moderate amounts of stale air were linked with participants being drowsy and giving slower and fewer correct answers in cognitive tests.
  • A report by Human Spaces states: “Natural light was a crucial determinant of all three employee outcomes – well-being, productivity and creativity…Most commonly, it was views of greenery, water and wildlife that had the strongest impact upon these factors…Having no window view was frequently predictive of lower levels of creativity…Office color schemes that incorporated accents of green, blue and brown were more predictive of employee happiness, productivity and creativity than blank white walls.” [3]

The best part about these findings is they work at every grade level, every subject, every curriculum. With this perspective, sustainability is not an initiative; rather it just becomes embedded into the foundation on how we design spaces. For ISB and centers of learning around the world, sustainability is not just a nice to have, but a base expectation to provide the best learning environment for our students. Looking to the future, the ISB Sustainability Roadmap 2025 has identified biophilia design and its impact on students as an area for focus.
Curious to learn more?

  • Interface (a company focused on related building products) has posted a series of blog posts focusing on why school design matters at https://blog.interface.com/tag/education/
  • Check out any of the sources linked above and those below:
  1. Euronoise 2018 – Conference Proceedings. Acoustic impact on effective teaching and learning activities in open learning spaces [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.euronoise2018.eu/docs/papers/293_Euronoise2018.pdf
  2. Terrapinbrightgreen.com. (2019). The Economics of Biophilia. [online] Available at: https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/the-economics-of-biophilia/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].
  3. HUMAN SPACES. The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Human-Spaces-Report-Biophilic-Global_Impact_Biophilic_Design.pdf

Service Learning = learning to serve

ISB HS Student on a trip to Cambodia for the G10 Capstone Project

How does a person learn empathy? How can we teach it to our students? How do we know if/when students have really developed the skill of being empathetic?
These are questions I am pondering as I start my work here at ISB as the Service and Experiential Learning Coordinator. Service Learning is touted as having many benefits for students and one of the main reasons educators give for wanting to involve their students in Service Learning is the creation of empathy.
So how can we do it? I wish I could answer that question with certainty. However, I do know that, as teachers, we are used to creating learning experiences for our students with their learning in mind. Our students and their needs are always at the centre of our work. I don’t think this can be the case if we want to involve our students in Service Learning that is designed to create empathy.
The community, the people, the issue, the environment, whatever is the focus for service, must be at the centre of the experience of Service Learning. Students need to look outside themselves and see the needs of the other. Those needs, the needs of the beneficiaries of our service, should be at the very heart of this type of learning, rather than the needs of our students. If we design Service Learning by focusing only on what our students get out of it, can they really have the chance to experience the empathy that we are aiming for?
This is why we need to think of service as so much more than just the action of ‘doing’ the service. We also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about who service is for. I like these questions from Claire Bennet and Daniela Papi (2014) about giving service: ‘Is [the service] altruistic? Is it effective? And for whom?’
If it’s effective only for our students, then maybe they aren’t going to learn what we hope they will.
So perhaps it becomes not so much about Service Learning, but about learning to serve. The experience would then become not only the act of giving service, but also what we learn before, during and after it. This might include areas such as need analysis and evaluation of the service given. Incorporating these ideas could help students develop a deeper understanding of the service they are giving and the issues surrounding that need. Hopefully this will result not only in deeper empathy, but the ability to use that empathy to learn and take action in service of others.
Bennet, Claire and Papi, Daniela (2014). “From Service Learning to Learning Service”, Stanford Social Innovation Review, (https://ssir.org/articles/entry/from_service_learning_to_learning_service accessed 3rd of September 2018).

Skip to toolbar