Reflections from ISS President Liz Duffy

November 2017

Aligning Learning for Students, Faculty, Staff, and Parents

Shekou International School (SIS) has long been committed to challenging, authentic, and personalized student learning. Located in Shenzhen, China, this ISS School is also a 21st Century Learning and Apple Distinguished School. SIS has an inquiry-based curriculum and pedagogical approach designed to nurture each child’s curiosity, and intentionally designed classrooms to facilitate daily exploration. 


from left: Kasey Burns, Liz Duffy, Carlene Hamley

Several years ago, under the direction of Carlene Hamley (Director of Learning) and Kasey Burns (Director of the Early Childhood Center) the School adopted a similar approach to faculty and staff learning. Rather than rely on visiting experts, they identified the strengths and expertise of faculty and staff, as well as their learning needs, and organized a schedule of workshops that leveraged the School’s internal resources and addressed their particular learning priorities.

Since then, SIS has made professional learning even more challenging, authentic and personalized, by arranging targeted class visits with pre- and post-reflections. At the same time, SIS has de-privatized teachers’ practice by making extensive use of #sisrocks and #issedu to promote collaborative learning.

Last year, SIS went one step further by redesigning their parent education programs to also be challenging, authentic and personalized. This school year, parents can participate in dozens of hands-on workshops highlighting both the schools’ curricular and co-curricular programs. The offerings, which range from quick drop-in sessions to half-day workshops, are led by all members of the school community. The results so far have been encouraging, with parents not only understanding more deeply SIS’s programs and pedagogy, but also being better able to support their children by reinforcing schoolwork at home and in many cases becoming strong advocates for SIS ‘s educational approach and practices among the broader community.

While SIS’s learning initiatives for students, faculty, staff and students, remain very much a work in progress, as all good learning should, SIS is well on its way to aligning learning for the entire community. And, in the spirit of sharing, SIS has created a professional learning portal that describes their learning adventures: Follow #sisrocks and #issedu, and share comments, suggestions and your own learning journeys.