For the past few months, work has been a little busier than usual. We have been busy wrapping things up at the end of one accreditation cycle and launching into a new accreditation process — Excellence by Design. Although things have been busy, I find the accreditation work very engaging and worthwhile. I think it is because I always enjoy the collaboration and thinking about the potential that our learning community holds. I believe it is important to recognize where we are, celebrate our wonderful accomplishments, and start to envision where we want to be. The accreditation process has certainly provided me with a tremendous amount of food for thought.
Recently, friends who work in other professions were sharing what was happening in their work and personal lives. Both also happened to be in the midst of some sort of accreditation / self-evaluation process similar to ISO 20000 certification. I was struck by the similarities of purpose, process, and importance of accreditation in their work. I was also surprised by the ease and simplicity with which they could clearly communicate the work that they do, be it producing a good or providing a service. Both shared the great lengths that are taken in their professions to establish a simple, common understanding of what they do. It was central to their growth, development, and how they monitored the quality of their work.
So, I found myself wondering, what is it that we do in schools? Do we have a common understanding of what we offer our children, their families, and the greater community? My guess is that if I asked this question to my colleagues, LEARNING would likely be a top response. But do we have a common understanding of what it means to learn? Could every member of my school community share the simple, common understanding with a parent or colleague? Would we be able to consistently identify learning throughout the grade levels and across the curriculum? I must admit I am not so sure.
I believe that International School Bangkok offers some great ideas for helping develop a simple, common understanding of what they offer the members of their community. A simple, clear and concise Mission and Vision Statement is a great place to start.MISSION To be a model of excellence for educating students for success in the world community. VISION Through outstanding teaching in a nurturing environment, ISB inspires students to:
- achieve their academic and personal potential
- be passionate, reflective learners,
- becoming caring, global citizens
There is tremendous power in being able to simplify a complex idea and I believe that International School Bangkok does a particularly good job at it. However, what I find most impressive is that as a community, they have established a common understanding of “learning” and what it looks like.Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:
- Explain its relevance
- Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning
- Communicate it effectively to others
- Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations
- Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning
- Ask questions to extend learning
- Create meaningful solutions
If learning is an essential component of any school, why do more schools not have a definition of learning at the heart of their Mission and Vision statements? It is these documents that help shape and provide direction for a school and its improvement plan. In the world of education, just like the world of business, having a shared, common understanding is essential for establishing a cycle of continuous growth. ISB’s definition of learning provides an essential framework for collaboration, a tool for monitoring the quality of student learning, and a means of adjusting professional practice because stakeholders are looking at things through a shared, critical lens.