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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PaperPile: Managing Research & References in GoogleDocs

As anyone involved in studying (or a job that requires looking up a lot of research) knows, managing citations and remembering sources is a challenge. This is doubly difficult when you’re balancing it with full-time work and use the same tech hardware for both. Alongside using tools for my own purposes, I look for alternatives (replacements or improvements) that I could with classes or show colleagues to make their lives easier.

With PaperPile (Chrome extension & add-on), I think I have found one of those solutions. This, to me, was the solution to the final problem that kept me using Micro$oft W0rd: reference libraries, one-click citation and auto-bibliographies. I’ll keep testing it as I go through the dissertation, but for now, check it out.

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Updated: January 2017

Long-Term Review

The dissertation is long-since completed, but I have kept my subscription to PaperPile going for now, as I found it worth the money for work. Now that my library access from Bath has been disconnected, I am debating whether to keep it or if I should downgrade back to the free version.

Here’s a quick user review, based on my experiences.

Things I loved

  • Connecting to the uni library was easy and super-helpful.
  • Researching from within a GoogleDoc make things more efficient that before.
    • Often I could bypass the uni library search tools altogether.
    • When searching through Google or Scholar, a button appears next to possible citations, which pulls the paper back into the system.
  • Automatic download of available pdf files is amazing – it backed them up into my Google Drive for reference, and was easy to download.
  • Live updates to citations helps a lot, as with the Word Citation Manager.

Limitations

  • Sometimes the citation format is squiffy and needs to be manually updated. Be careful with this if you refresh the paper references, as if you forget to check you might end up with some irregularities.
  • When I was finishing my dissertation I was working on a simple netbook on a sluggish internet connection in Indonesia. Drive with Paperpile is pretty heavy in terms of internet, and sometimes typing and citing were frustratingly delayed. Predicting this, I installed Office 365 and finished the dissertation using Word.
  • There doesn’t yet (as far as I can see) appear to be a reciprocal citation manager with Word. It would be awesome if switching between the systems would update in both.

Recommendations

If you’re a Google Suite user and active researcher, I’d recommend giving PaperPile a go. It looks like it is going to get better with further development and would be great in a Chromebook environment.

 

 


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The IMaGE of an International School

It’s crunch time for my MA International Education studies at the University of Bath, with a big literature review in progress and some data collection coming up, aiming to submit by the summer break. As much as I’ve loved the study, I’m looking forward to reclaiming some balance. 

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My plan for the dissertation is to update and pilot-test my web-chart of the international dimension of a school, aiming to tackle the challenge of defining a nebulous concept through visualisation, based on self-reporting, to generate “the IMaGE of an international school“. (IMaGE = international mindedness and global engagement). The small-scale case-study will generate an IMaGE for my own school, and the pilot study will help evaluate the usefulness of the visualisation and metrics.

Web8Sample (2)

A sample of the web chart in use, with the IMaGE showing the evolution of a school or a change in perception. The eight radials are still under development, and there will be descriptors for each in the final project. At first glance, where would you rate your won school? What do you see, think, wonder about the results of this (imaginary) school?

The idea of trying to evaluate or measure the ‘internationalisation’ of a school is not new: we already have metrics, practices or handbooks from various organisations, including the IB, CIS, ISA, ACE, OECD. This project aims to learn from, adapt and distil these qualities into an accessible tool that will generate a ‘visual definition’ for a school, as a starting point for further investigation.

Although some of the ideas within the chart have evolved a lot since the initial idea in 2012 (and I have found many more studies), here is the original assignment.