An unexpected and contradictory intersection between reading and empathy

This timing of this post arrives when two areas of thinking I’ve informally explored over the past few years are intersecting in unexpected and contradictory ways.

Part of the intersection occurred in October, when I attended a session by Dr. John Feland at The Nueva School’s 2019 Innovative Learning Conference titled, “Stumbling Toward Empathy; Lessons Learned in Building Cognitive Empathy in the Unmyelinated Teenage Frontal Cortex”. The research Dr. Feland shared revealed that teenagers are actually unable to empathize, as this requires a fully developed frontal cortex, which we now know does not occur until one’s early 20s. In fact, Feland further explained, when we expose teenagers to media intended to evoke an empathic response, the opposite can occur – these kinds of experiences can trigger distress in teenagers (Feland, 2019).

I made an immediate connection to the loud, collective voice from within the reading community of which I consider myself a participating member. We often speak of the power of reading, specifically that done by the pre-teen and teenagers I work with every day, to evoke empathy. I’ve come across this incantation, and uttered it myself many times. Most recently, I read it in Maryanne Wolf’s (2018) Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. Wolf’s primary concern is that readers today are developing a reading circuitry in the brain which differs from the one developed in the past, pre-digital era; a question she poses in the first chapter reads, “will the combination of reading on digital formats and daily immersion in a variety of digital experiences–from social media to virtual games–impede the formation of the slower cognitive processes such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that are all part of deep reading” (p.8)? 

Herein lies the contradiction.

If you are not familiar with Wolf’s work, it is important to know that she is at the forefront of neuroscience when it comes to mapping what the brain does when it reads. If Maryanne Wolf says deep reading is connected to the formation of the process of empathy, she likely has some brain imaging to support this claim. This leaves me in a bit of a dilemma: Is the claim that reading can support the development of empathy, specifically in teenagers, a false claim, or is a more nuanced claim out there that can show a connection, albeit one that occurs over time?

I also wonder, what exactly are we seeing in our teenagers when they do read something that clearly has an impact, if it is not empathy? I recently asked a counselor colleague about this, and she shared her understanding of the teenage brain and its capacity and desire to help others in need (K. Haines, personal communication, November 24). This line of thinking supported an earlier conversation with yet another colleague over the need to implement empathic habits in our teenagers, even if the act of true empathy evades our learners (J. Binns, personal communication, November 21). And there is a larger issue for me, as a Teacher-Librarian specifically: I need to be very careful with my rhetoric about reading and empathy. This lifelong learning requires constant adjustment of my beliefs.

This is what I am currently grappling with on a meta, behind-the-scenes level. If you would like to discuss this further and perhaps even provide some next reads for me, I welcome your interest.

References

Feland, J. (2019, October). Stumbling toward empathy; lessons learned in building cognitive empathy in the unmyelinated teenage frontal cortex. Presented at the Nueva Innovative Learning Conference, San Francisco, CA.
Wolf, M. (2018). Reader, come home: The reading brain in a digital world. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

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.

 

Translanguaging: One Monolingual Teacher’s Transfer of Power

It’s my first-year teaching third grade at ISB, and two kids are hunched over a math problem talking excitedly in Chinese. Still adjusting to teaching in a classroom where I can’t always easily jump into my bilingual students’ conversations, I ask, “Is this conversation helping your learning?” One child looks at me with sideways eyes and assures me that, yes, it is deepening their thinking around mathematics. The other child shimmies up to me a few minutes later to confess with all seriousness that they were actually talking about recess. I compliment him on his ability to notice how his conversation is supporting his learning (or not, as the case may be), and have a realization: my ineptitude to participate in my bilingual students’ talk actually empowers them to take a greater role in monitoring their discourse. Rather than taking on the role of the chatter-police, I can instead facilitate reflection on how conversations with peers support learning. As a monolingual teacher, I need to let go of control and acknowledge that my multilingual students bring a skill-set to their learning that I can actively encourage from the sidelines.
“Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the twenty-first century” according to Gregg Roberts from the American Councils for International Education. The linguistic capacity of our ISB students is a force that we teachers can harness no matter where we fall on the continuum of emergent bilingualism. While many ISB educators actually speak multiple languages, it is by no means a prerequisite for supporting our multilingual students. By seeking out opportunities for translanguaging, or “the deployment of a speaker’s full linguistic repertoire,” (Otheguy, 2015), we create conditions where children can bring their whole selves into the classroom for the betterment of their learning.
Translanguaging is a pedagogical tool that can be used to both scaffold and enhance. Erin Kent, literacy consultant, identifies a process for the intentional planning of translanguaging opportunities.
Begin by asking:
Is there anything about this content that might be inaccessible for some learners or might cause them to underperform because of limited target language ability?
If yes:
How might we have learners harness their linguistic repertoires to ensure that they’re working to their full cognitive abilities, not just their target language levels?
Consider the following as tools for scaffolding content through language:

  • Multilingual charts
  • Preview vocabulary
  • Strategic same-language partnerships
  • Multilingual texts
  • Family & community as resources
  • Multilingual turn-and-talks or discussions
  • Multilingual planning or journaling

If no…
 Are there any aspects of this topic/unit/lesson that make sense for learners to approach in their other languages? How might harnessing their linguistic repertoires enhance or enrich their learning?

  • Consider audience: How can we create for a multilingual world?
  • Choose topics related to identity
  • Compose bilingual texts
  • Metalinguistic word study
  • Cross language projects
  • Access primary sources

 
These days I know that I am faced with a choice. I can require my students to interact within the limitations of my own linguistic illiteracy, or I can put fresh eyes on my curriculum to identify small changes I can make to promote multilingualism. I can plan for children to use their language as a tool for their own learning, and when they make mistakes I can celebrate those instances as opportunities for reflection. I can give up a bit of control and expect that children will be whispering about recess instead of math from time to time. Because let’s face it, they’re eight, and they are going to be doing that regardless of the language.
 
Have a look at these resources from Erin Kent Consulting:
Planned Translanguaging Process
Honoring All Languages in Literacy
Amplifying Metalinguistic Awareness
 
References:
Kent, Erin (2019) Infographic: Planned Translanguaging Process adapted from Eowyn Cresfield. Retrieved October 28., 2019
 
Otheguy, Ricardo, García, Ofelia & Reid, Wallis (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281-307

The “Why” of Professional Learning Blogs

So we’ve started blogging our professional learning journeys, but why? 
21st Century Learners
A report from The Institute for the Future, claims that emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), are going to completely transform the workplace by 2030 (2017). This change is happening so quickly that an estimated 85 percent of the jobs that will make up the future workforce are yet to been invented (IFF, 2017). In light of such rapid change, preparing students for specific careers is of decreasing value, and the role of teachers becomes increasingly more challenging given the constantly changing landscape. The nature of innovation also suggests that most students can expect to change jobs several times throughout their career (Harper, 2018) making it imperative that education prepares them with the skills required for success. With this being said, no longer is it sufficient for us, as educators, to simply explain our subject-matter well, rather, we must motivate students to learn which requires us to take on new roles – challenger, activator, facilitator, coach, mentor and reflector of students’ learning processes (Vermont, 2014). These challenging and complex roles we face require us to be able to reflect critically. 
Reflective Practice & Metacognition
John Dewey’s book How We Think (1933) is widely accepted as the origin of the concept of reflective thinking as a key component of learning. In his later work, Dewey emphasised the importance of reflective thinking in teachers, discriminating between routine and reflective action (Dewey, 1933 in Liu, 2015). Reflection plays an important role in developing our metacognitive skills which can facilitate both formal and informal learning. 
The theory suggests that metacognition consists of two processes:

  1. the knowledge of cognition – knowledge of the factors that influence performance and the strategies used for learning
  2. the regulation of cognition – setting goals, planning, monitoring and controlling learning, and assessing the results and strategies used 

Blogging facilitates a number of metacognitive strategies including the fostering of self-reflection, self-questioning, access to mentors, self-explanations while offering an authentic audience to which we can ask questions and gain feedback. 
Studies have shown that learners often show an increase in self-confidence when they build metacognitive skills (Hacker, 2009) which leads to improved self-efficacy, motivation and learning success which is exactly what we, as educators, require in this forever changing educational paradigm. Whether it’s educators blogging about their professional growth or students blogging their learning journeys, the intention is the same – reflection and growth. When we curate artefacts and reflect on ourselves as learners, making connections from year-to-year, we develop our metacognitive ability. Our blogs provide a space to build a collection of reflective pieces that richly represents us, as learners, and provides authentic evidence of learning. 
Skill Development & Collaboration
Alongside our development as reflective learners, we are also developing 21st Century skills around web authoring and publishing, in the same way, we expect of our students. Within your blog, you can include text, images, videos and links to external sites as evidence to support your ideas. Considering the challenges associated with working in different divisions, the professional blogging network offers a place for us to connect as a professional learning community. The online community supports opportunities for collaborative learning that enriches learning performance, both for individual knowledge construction and group knowledge sharing (Shih-Hsien, 2009). By commenting on the posts of others, with feedback and questions, we spark further thinking and analysis to support critical reflection. 
So Why Blog?
Dewey (1933) insists that if we want to ensure our experience is educative, it is necessary to support ongoing growth as a process of continuing new inquiry. Blogging our professional learning journey encourages us to step back, reflect critically, and analyse our efforts while the community challenges us to be more thoughtful and mindful of our work. These processes prepare us to think reflectively and critically to foster continued professional growth. “To be a professional is not to have all the answers. Rather, a professional is someone who can reflect on tentative solutions, collaborate with others on the possible avenues available, and risk making mistakes because mistakes are an inevitable part of building new roads” (Lester & Mayher, 1987).
 
References

  • Dewey, J. (1933). How we think, New York: DC Heath
  • Hacker, Douglas J., John Dunlosky and Arthur C. Graesser (Eds.). Handbook of Metacognition in Education, 2009.
  • Harper, A. (2018). New approaches needed to prepare students for unknown careers. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.educationdive.com/news/new-approaches-needed- to-prepare-students-for-unknown-careers/529604/  
  • Institute For The Future. (n.d.). (2017) Retrieved from http://www.iftf.org/humanmachinepartnerships/
  • Lester, N. B., & Mayher, J. S. (1987). Critical professional inquiry. English Education, 19 (4), 198–210. 
  • Liu, K. (2015). Critical reflection as a framework for transformative learning in teacher education. Educational Review, 67(2), 135–157.
  • Shih-Hsien, Y. (2009). Using blogs to enhance critical reflection and community of practice. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 12(2), 11-1. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.proxy18.noblenet.org/docview/1287038236?accountid=43872
  • Vermont, J. D. (2014). Teacher Learning and Professional Development. In S. Krolak-Schwerdt, S. Glock, & M. Böhmer (Eds.), Teachers’ Professional Development: Assesment, Training, and Learning (pp. 79–95). Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: Sense Publishers. 

My Ongoing, Messy, Roundabout Journey Toward Cultural Proficiency

Do you notice yourself remembering the names of the white kids more easily than the names of the Asian kids?” 
This was asked of me last year by a close friend and colleague. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Because as I thought about which students I acknowledged by name in the hallway, who I would ask teachers about, who I took time to build rapport with I was unconsciously investing more time in the white kids. Research says that we do tend to have a natural affinity for  people that we see as like us. In fact, an article published by Phi Delta Kappan “recent studies have found that children as young as three months old can racially categorize people” (Hagerman, M.A., 2019). 
AND I am someone that sees myself as an advocate for marginalized groups. I speak out, often to the point where it makes my family shift in their seats, about injustices in the world. I recognize that as a white, heterosexual, cisgender, English speaking woman, I have a huge amount of privilege. I feel a duty to use my privilege to support others and dismantle systems of traditional power in the world. And yet, I still hold implicit bias and look for what’s familiar and comfortable. 
An article published this summer by actor N’Jameh Camara talks about why some names are more memorable than others. She speaks honestly about how when people don’t use her name and instead use a “generic substitute,” she notices. She challenges us to think that names are not “hard” or “difficult to say” but rather “unpracticed.” I love that. Perhaps my favorite quote is, “but as a person who was taught to respect and say Tchaikovsky, Brecht, Chekhov, Stanislavski, and Hammerstein, I know my name can be learned too. What matters most is that we see ourselves as people whose vulnerability and mistake-making hold the potential to bring us closer” (Camara, N., 2019).  
Fortunately, recognizing that we hold implicit bias is a crucial first step in doing something about it. Founder of the C6 Biliteracy Framework and honorary ISB Dragon, Dr. José Medina, shares the Cultural Proficiency Continuum in his trainings and I find myself referring to it constantly. It has supported me in recognizing when we are being culturally destructive. This continuum has given me the language and tools to reflect and speak up when I hear things that are not inclusive and supporting of our community. 

Original source of continuum: Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. Examples and quotes original.  

As a coach at ISB, I get the honor to work with and learn from the incredible educators here. I am so fortunate to see the high-quality teaching and care teachers share with students. I am all in when it comes to helping others who I coach, I care deeply about them as people and care completely about nudging them to where they want to grow. But as coach, as Elena Aguilar says in her article, “I have to keep the faces of all the children who [teachers] are responsible for, whose lives [teachers] affect, in my symbolic peripheral vision, equally in focus and present and part of the conversation. I am accountable to those children” (Aguilar, E., 2014). Coaching or collaborating without a focus of creating equity and access for our students is a missed opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.  
My journey towards cultural proficiency is not over. I still slip up, or occasionally bite my lip when I hear something that marginalizes others. But I am also committed to improving. If you have books, research, ideas, people you follow, tips and suggestions, or just want to talk about this with someone, I would love to learn. 

References: 
Aguilar, E. (2014). Why we must all Be Coaches for Equity. Education Week. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2014/12/why_we_must_all_be_coaches_for.html 
Camara, N. (2019). Names That Are Unfamiliar to you Aren’t “Hard,” They’re “Unpracticed”. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/names-that-are-unfamiliar-to-you-arent-hard-theyre-unpracticed?fbclid=IwAR0rwGC_Xxs59fUSKgBErE2vl9tA2ASVmmwHfqmNwdULnJm17cs0Qup3k_A 
Hagerman, M.A. (2019). Conversations with Kids about Race. Phi Delta Kappan. https://www.kappanonline.org/conversations-children-race-childhood-racism-hagerman/ 
Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. 

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.

Student Learning Data At a Glance

Last week I gathered my in-house focus group (yes, my daughters) to ask them what they hope that teachers will learn about them in the first few weeks of school. I was pleased when one answered, “I hope they understand my strengths and weaknesses, so they can help me and not get frustrated when I don’t understand.” 
“Wow!” I thought. “How great! I’ve just spent two years working on a tool to give to ISB teachers in order support them in doing just that.” 
The tool we’ve been working so hard on is a new data portal—a system that connects right into powerschool, that we can use to pull together all the disparate sources of academic data we have about each student and present that data to teachers at a glance. 
The data that’s entered into the data portal is customized by Elementary, Middle, and High school, but the basics are the same: we have two types of data: external assessments (like the MAP test and others), and internal common assessments (such as Writing, Math, and PE, as well as Science, Social Studies in middle and high school.) 
Want to know your students’ reading comprehension so you can check if they’ll be able to make sense of the text you’re handing them? 
We’ve got you covered.  
Want to see which students have similar strengths and growth areas, so you know which small group might benefit from a strategy lesson on a skill they learned last year? 
We can show you that!


 
Data like this will help us most if we keep in mind the strengths and limitations of the two types of data: 
External test data (like MAP data) 
Strengths: 

  • Reliable measure of students’ basic skills in reading, math, and language usage. 
  • Often you can look back at several years’ data to see the growth trends 

Limitation:  

  • Cannot measure very deep cognitive complexity, such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation skills 

 
ISB Common Vertical Assessment data: 
Strength: Measures more cognitively complex tasks, such as 

  • Analyzing the strengths and limitations of a primary source in social studies 
  • Modeling a math problem or scientific phenomenon 
  • Writing a short narrative about their own life 
  • Assessing their own fitness and making a plan to improve it in Health and PE. 
  • Identifying relevant evidence to support an argument  

 
The data on whether the student can achieve these more cognitively complex goals provides a useful counterpoint to the sometimes-limiting external assessment data. It’s not hard to imagine an emergent bilingual student whose MAP scores looks low because she doesn’t have the language skills to comprehend the questions, but who is an excellent critical thinker who can analyze and model a scientific phenomenon 
Limitation 

  • Sometimes the common assessment data is confounded by things like the way the question was worded (so the student got confused and didn’t apply the skill they were meant to be measuring).  

 
Together, these two types of data aim to provide a balanced view of what each student’s learning journey has been.  
Our job as teachers is to learn deeply about our students, so we can meet them where they are, give them just the right amount of challenge to help them grow.  
How can we help our students work in the zone of proximal development, that sweet spot for optimal growth, if we don’t know where they’re starting? 

Image from Verbal to Visual

 
So, a practical suggestion: 
After you do your first pre-assessment, put it side by side with the student view of the portal.  (If you need help getting in, here is a step by step instruction manual!)

  • Does anything surprise you?   
  • What are this students’ areas of strength and where might they need extra support?  
  • Has this student been growing? 

Next, consider your actions based on the data.

  • Do you need to reteach an earlier skill? 
  • Create a small group?
  • Collaborate with a coteacher to target specific skills?
  • How might this data influence what you assign as homework (independent practice!)

How you follow up on the data is up to your professional judgement, requiring all the art and skill you have as a teacher.
I want to leave you with a caveat: a data portal will never tell you which student was the lead of the school play last year, or which one worked for ages perfecting his design for a robotic animal or which one loves reading graphic novels.  Listening to your students, making that connection, combined with providing just the right amount of challenge—there’s nothing that can improve your students’ learning more effectively than that. 

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.

Purpose: 

  • 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!

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

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