by Susie Clifford, Director of Learning and Jacquie Pender, Elementary School Principal
Our teachers are continually pursuing opportunities for professional learning in order to facilitate learning so students develop skills, acquire knowledge, create new understandings and apply their learning to all facets of life. However, we also love learning for ourselves. We read, listen, watch, discuss, share, reflect and engage in professional learning every day. We also develop new skills and acquire new knowledge and understandings with the intention of applying these in the classroom to improve learning and growth for all students.
During our Professional Learning Days on February 3rd and 4th, educator, author and researcher at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ron Ritchhart, worked with faculty across the school as we explored Cultures of Thinking and the 8 Cultural Forces. Like our students, we learned online over those days, using Zoom to discuss, share and learn. We had breakout rooms for small group discussion, time to reflect, conversations as a large group and we were led through our learning by an experienced, insightful and passionate presenter.
Some key thinking and learning from our sessions included:
- Creating spaces where thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted
- Developing engaged and empowered students and the difference of learning in a culture of thinking
- Understanding the principles of a culture of thinking and putting this in action
- How the cultural forces shape our learning environment
- How we lead, coach and support the development of cultures of thinking across a school and in individual classrooms
We have two more sessions with Ron later in February and we will be continuing our learning and engagement with cultures of thinking in our faculty meetings over the next few weeks. One engagement Ron asked us to conduct was to consider what is happening when we say we are ‘thinking’. If you have a moment, make a list of some words that come to mind to describe the thinking you are doing...this could include processing, comparing, listing, considering, reflecting. We are excited to share our learning with the community in the future and explore a culture of thinking together.
YIS has a long standing professional relationship with Educational Consultant, Kath Murdoch, whose expertise lies in inquiry based learning. Kath has taught, researched, published inquiry texts and shared her thinking about inquiry based learning for many years. She has previously worked with the elementary teachers on campus, supporting us in our approaches to inquiry learning.
Over the past few weeks Kath has been working with our elementary teachers remotely with a focus on inquiry pedagogy and supporting teachers to consider, within the framing of their inquiries, how they can use teaching approaches that target deep understanding and mastery of skills.
When teachers are planning for learning they engage students in ideas that are of historical, geographical, scientific and societal significance within the host country (Japan) as well as other locations e.g. student home country and/or places of interest. The focus of this professional learning with Kath Murdoch has been in supporting teachers refine their competence in and understanding of planning that incorporates student voice and needs, whilst incorporating the curriculum knowledge.
Kath challenges us to deepen our thinking of inquiry learning whilst encouraging student investigation and responsibility. We have learnt the importance of positioning the student as the researcher to build knowledge that leads to conceptual understanding.
In a few weeks time, Kath will join us again to follow up with teachers so they can share some of the action research they have been doing with their students and classes. The teachers will share examples of students’ work and the teachers' inquiries, noting what they have observed, what they are wondering and how this can inform future planning and learning for their students.
In a typical school year, our teachers participate in professional learning on campus, at other schools in Japan, and internationally. YIS also hosts professional learning conferences such as the annual IB Regional Workshops and the Special Education Network in Asia (SENIA). Our mission, Live Learn Lead, applies to all members of our school community; our teachers take the lead in their own learning, just as our students do in theirs, to broaden our horizons and grow together.