Ripples & Reflections

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


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Bath MA International Education: A Review

This year I successfully completed my MA Education (International Education) programme through the University of Bath. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to others in international schools, and I’ll be back in the summer for graduation. Here’s a wee review. 

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Why Bath? 

In 2011, after eight years in Indonesia and on the way to Japan, I decided to study further. I felt I had enough practical experience to be starting to dig into academics and although my PGCE from Exeter had MA credit, this had timed-out and it was back to the start. I was looking for a well-regarded UK programme that would be challenging and rewarding and was intrigued by the development of the IB Teacher Award. I wanted “International Education” in the title of my Masters degree, wanted somewhere within reach of home and was drawn to the department as a particularly strong example of international education research. I definitely made the right choices.

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Overview & Pacing

With five ‘taught’ units (30 credits, 5,000 word assignment) and one dissertation (15,000 words), and a time limit of five years, you can work at a reasonable pace alongside real life*. As I was completing the programme for personal and professional learning (and not for external forces), I took the full time allowed. This gave me time to think, process and make good use of the library for research and for professional uses. I found that I was most effective when blocking out periods of time for research and writing, rather than trying to do a little each week – with work and family this would have split my mind too many ways to be efficient.

*The last five years have included: moving countries, significantly changing roles, taking on a bit too much, family (I started when my kids were 4 and a newborn) and travel. I rarely felt over-stressed by the MA, though there were some crunch times. 

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My Units

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My weekend view.

I liked the balance provided by these options. As a new returnee to academic writing, I opted for the familiar Assessment as a first unit, though in hindsight it limited my choices later in the programme; I would also have liked to take Leading and Managing Educational Innovation for my role, and probably should have started with EIC to set the foundation for the pathway. Where my first assignments (Assesssment, Curriculum) were concerned with MYP: Next Chapter developments (pre-2014), ULL gave me a great focus on inquiry and the rest (EIC, RME, Dissertation) formed a thread on what it means to be an international school. The flexibility of the programme allowed for clear personal coherence.

Essential Units: Research Methods in Education, Dissertation

Int. Ed.  Pathway Essential Unit: Education in an International Context

Core Units: Understanding Learners & Learning

Optional Units:  Curriculum Studies, Assessment

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Teaching & Assessment Model

I can’t stand the required-participation model of some online courses, where you have to log on frequently and ‘contribute’ your comment to a discussion board and where grading tends towards compliance over quality. I much preferred the Bath MA model, with a good set of resources provided on the course Moodle and Wiki pages, some assignment prompts to get you going and then six months to produce a well-researched piece of writing. For most of the units, I negotiated a research question of personal interest with my tutor, providing motivation to power through and produce something of worth. Tutors provide decent feedback on a draft of your work and tend to be very personable and supportive. I did like the academic rigour of the assessment rubric, and once I tuned into what was required, I found the research to be stimulating and the writing enjoyable. Though I can see where the assessment bands describe success, I’ll still never fully understand where the percentages come from – but I think this is a university-wide system rather than the Department of Education. It certainly made for some lively discussion on the last day of the Assessment summer school ;>

Although I was initially drawn to the IB Teacher Award** element of the programme, I abandoned this as I found that their reflective questions pulled my writing in a more personal descriptive direction that seemed at odds with the critical analysis of theory and literature required by the higher-level assessment descriptors, and I simply struggled to get both done in 5,000 words. I might revisit the IBTA if a portfolio model becomes available.

**Now the IB Educator Certificate

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Summer Schools

Summer 2011, between Indonesia and Japan, I attended summer school for my first unit, Assessment. I’m super-glad I did as a way to get to know other students, faculty and the beautiful city of Bath. Fresh off the train at Bath Spa, I was looking for the bus to the university when I overheard an obvious reunion of classmates at Pizza Express. We’re still friends. Attendees at the summer schools come from all types of schools, but it was great to bond with others in similar positions and with diverse interests. The taught course at summer school gives a good foundation for the unit and a head-start on the assignment. In two subsequent summers, I attended the university for a week during summer school, but did not register for the class – instead I used the time to research in the library, write and get tutor support. For me, this was the ideal balance as I needed to make the most of time away from family with significant headway on the assignment.

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Faculty

If you read anything about international education, you will soon enough come across the Department of Education at the University of Bath: it is a brains trust of international education researchers and publications, and being able to work with and get feedback from them was a huge draw. To a person, from tutors to support staff, the Department are lovely, supportive and highly knowledgable. I really feel like my learning has been enhanced by their expertise and support, and I hope to keep contact with them in the future.

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Advice

If you’re keen, go for it. There are times when I overthought the task at hand and wished I’d got stuck in sooner. I found it helped to protect time from family and work (weekends or holidays), rather than try to do it during work weeks. “Tune in” to sample dissertations through the MA wiki. Keep in contact with your tutor and get drafts in early. Go old-school and print the important articles; it helps to highlight, annotate and gave me valuable time in the sun, off the screens. Write on issues of personal significance – the motivation helps, and I loved being able to connect a thread between assignments and the dissertation. Attend a couple of summer sessions, if only to meet people, use the library and feel like a student again. Write, write, write, then cut, cut, cut; writing to reach the word limit will tend towards fluff, but cutting words makes the writing more focused. Use a citation manager with discipline – my favourite by a mile is Paperpile for GoogleDocs.

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Personal Reflections

I’m sad that this is over and am really missing the library access, but to be honest I’m not missing the added load. Life and work are beyond busy right now, and it’s great to be done. There’s not much I’d have done differently, except maybe rearrange some units. Had it been available (and had I been able to afford the time and loss of income), I’d have loved to take the new pathway in International Education and Globalisation. Although I would love to continue to the doctorate level, I’m not sure that now is the right time as my kids are growing up way too fast. I’m certainly not keen on paying for it, but might keep my eyes open for future opportunities. The research has been useful in my professional roles and I am happy to have had some work published in IS Magazine as a result of the assignments.

Thank-you to the Department of Education at the University of Bath, in particular to Mary, Elisabeth and Kath for being awesome. I am looking forward to seeing friends and tutors again at graduation in the summer and of course visiting beautiful Bath one more time… this time with my family.

 


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Book Recommendation: The SAGE Handbook of Research in International Education

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

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

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

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


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Down the Rabbit Hole: Professional Learning for International Educators

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

 

 


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Seven Reasons to be an #IBEN Site Visitor

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

So… here are seven reasons you should join #IBEN

1. It’s a community

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

2. Bringing the Standards & Practices to life.

No really, wait, stop giggling.

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

3. Being right up to date.

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

4. It’s a privilege

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

5. Time to focus.

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

6. It’s free.

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

7. It works for your school.

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

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

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


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Live Fully Now

I included this short clip, built on a short piece of a talk by philosopher Alan Watts, in my #GAFESummit session, Ready, Steady, Flow. There was some quiet contemplation (expected) and some tears (unexpected).

It had been doing the rounds on Twitter, and I felt it captured some of my feelings about education and the anxiety we can face as we “get them ready for XYZ.” It becomes all too easy to suck the joy out of learning, to focus on the grades, to get caught on the treadmill. We risk losing our creativity and spark in the process.

At the same time, we hear so much about ‘shift happens‘ and educating students for the future, for ‘jobs that don’t exist yet’ and trying to play crystal-balls about what knowledge and skills the big innovators want in their workforce. We can’t do that; we’re probably wasting our time if we try. But we can educate the kids we have now, with the knowledge we have now, the tools and research that we have now so that they’ll become “better” people nowand for the future.

What if, by making all of us love learning now, we can make our students balanced, motivated inquirers ready for what the future throws at them?

There’s a name for that job.

Teachers. 

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As a parent I watch it and worry – am I making the most of my own kids’ childhoods? Am I helping make memories that they will love? Am I living in the ‘now’ with them? Do I have the right career-life balance?

I’ve seen this video many times. Each time it gets me.


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Ready, Steady, Flow: #GAFESummit Presentation

This weekend we had the good fortune to host a Google Apps for Education Summit (#GAFESummit) at the school. With a range of keynotes from the EdTech Team and a couple of day of interesting (and useful) breakout sessions, we had a good time, learned a lot and got to meet some new people.

On the second day, I presented a session entitled “Ready, Steady, Flow!” aimed at showcasing a workflow that gives us more active time in class, reduced clicks and stress and makes use of high-impact practices when we’re working on assignments. In essence, we make the best possible use of the tools we have to change our relationship from giver and doer of work to writer and editor. I refer to some of Hattie’s ideas, define inquiry, and look at some of the issues that hold teachers in harmful old practices (such as clinging to the time-suck of Word docs).

Some big take-homes (the tL;dR version): 

  1. Design good tasks, and communicate this clearly to students.
  2. Don’t cause others to click around unnecessarily. If you want a certain formatting, do it on the task-sheet and share it out!
  3. Don’t send out emails with word docs that you then have to collect, save, rename…
  4. Do value the task with enough class time – but keep that time as active as you can
  5. Force early drafting/commenting on work so that we can all see – and take action on – the ‘gap’ as soon as possible.
  6. Give up marking; the sea of red wastes your time and puts the student in the wrong mindset to receive it. Instead go for the three-levels of feedback (task, process, self-regulation) and make it clear.
  7. Separate the grade from the feedback to have a higher impact.

There’s quite a bit more on the GoogleSite I created for the session here: Ready, Steady, Flow. This includes resources, links, the slides and details of the two “Demo Slams” I did on the main stage at the end of the first day.

The experience was fun and nerve-wracking, as always when you present to an unknown group of adults. The talky bit took longer than I expected, but it ended up being appreciated as there were lots of opportunities to discuss, think and challenge our thoughts. At the end, participants had access to the template document and other resources to take home and play with.

It was a good experience to have the GoogleSummit here at CA, from a number of perspectives. Personally I enjoy these things, but am not a huge fan of being away from the family. As a school I think we’re doing some interesting things and it’s good for others to see those – and add their ideas and perspectives. And thinking about my role for next year, it’s great to see that CA can pull it off, and do it effectively. Kudos to all the CA-based organisers, they did a great job.

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Here are the slides:


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Global Contexts & Avoiding the ‘Single Story’

This last couple of weeks we’ve been busy preparing faculty PD on the Global Contexts and their role in developing International Mindedness & Global Engagement (IMaGE) in our students. It has been a lot of work, but as we kicked off the sequence (3 x 1hr PD sessions) this week, the discussions began on some real areas of interest.

Key to the discussion was an excerpt from Chimamanda Adichie‘s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” (thanks @LizDK for suggesting it!). We played the first 6 minutes, with the follow-up question “could her college room-mate have been a CA graduate?

So far, so interesting. I’ll follow up this post later once the sequence is completed. Next steps: taking action in the curriculum, teaching & learning.