Learning Together Out in the Field: ISS School Site Visit Collaborations

Laura Benson, ISS Director of Curriculum and Professional Development

September 2017

The start of each school year means the launch of another year of professional learning for teachers. Travel with me to ISS schools in Cayman, Madagascar, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan, and learn along with the faculty! 

With the faculty of Cayman International School, we studied Writer’s Workshop by writing ourselves. We then reflected on the key rituals and routines of the workshop model to plan instruction for CIS students as growing writers. Our professional studies were richly edified by The Common Ground Collaborative’s Kevin Bartlett as he shared wisdom about learning and working from a shared language of learning.

To gain a window into some of the research and resources we studied and are implementing as writing teachers, please check out our Writer’s Workshop Padlet which provides an online and constantly updated well of cutting edge thinking and professional assets for you and your colleagues.

Writer’s Workshop Padlet    Password: forronnie

With the faculty from Ambatovy International School (Madagascar) and new friends from the American School of Antananarivo, we studied standards-based learning and assessment. Investigating the research of progressive assessment thinkers such as Thomas Guskey, Susan Brookhart, Ken O’Connor, Ron Ritchhart, Shirley Clarke, and Douglas Reeves, we discussed how to create a culture of feedback for and with students by responsively implementing formative assessment processes. To monitor and support students’ growth, we developed standards-based tools such as focused conference notes, Unit of Study rubrics, and Priority Standards Checklists as we collaborated with one another. Brad McClain, Head of Ambatovy International School, thoughtfully shared our professional learning efforts with parents profiling our efforts to give and gain their feedback about their children’s progress and growth.

Our live binder well of assessment resources can be accessed with the following links:
Assessment and Evaluation Padlet    Password: relationships

Grading for Growth
Grading for Growth    Password: edifyingfeedback

I was very fortunate and inspired to work with a school new to the ISS family – American English Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria.Each day of professional study opened with a full faculty workshop focused on building understanding and confidence in developing and/or using standards-based curriculum, (Developing and/or using because we have provided AEA with wells of curriculum in their own Rubicon Atlas site and because we want to nurture teachers’ capacities and courage to, over time, develop their own curriculum and gain insights about how to best refine the curriculum we have provided them.) Throughout the week, active learning strategies and discourse were intentionally modeled and used to help teachers experience and envision constructivist, student-centered pedagogy (Clock Partners; Stirring Statements; Turn and Talk; Strikes and Wonders; Chalk Talk; Cloze Passages; Prediction; Lines of Communication/Speed Dating; Chalk Talk; Visible Thinking Routines such as I used to think…but now I think… and Connect-Extend-Challenge).

On Day 1, I engaged the faculty in an overview study session to detail the what, why, and how of standards-based curriculum and curriculum design. We worked to model how to access and navigate curriculum on the AEA Rubicon Atlas portal.

Day 2 focused on Curriculum Mapping with a special emphasis on studying the scope and sequence of their current curriculum calendaring to consider how to best pace learning for students for an early Unit of Study and across the year. Together, we again practiced navigating key actions on the AEA Rubicon Atlas portal especially to gain examples of mentor curriculum in considering thoughtful roadmaps of study for AEA students.

On Day 3, we studied formative assessment methodology (as part of our ongoing work to develop our Stage 2 of the Understanding by Design curriculum process – Evidence). We unwrapped Priority Standards to identify the key concepts and skills for a Unit of Study (These represent the evidence of student learning – the look fors and key teaching points and learning targets.). We then used our unwrapping notes to develop standards-focused conference record notes and to draft a Standards-based Checklist tool for an upcoming Unit of Study. As a group, we reflected on utilizing the Active Learning Strategies we had engaged in this week as potential learning experiences and formative assessment tools for their students.

To gain a window into some of our professional studies focused on curriculum, please check out our Curriculum Padlet:
Curriculum Padlet    Password: curriculummatters

With the dedicated faculty of Dostyk American International School in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, we collaborated on Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum. We worked to articulate essential agreements of literacy learning and teaching to further our efforts to share a common language and offer growing writers (especially) descriptive feedback. We discussed why and how to best utilize professional resources such as Columbia University’s Teachers College Units of Study and Vicki Spandel’s 6 Traits of Writing to customized writing lessons for DAIS students. We deepened these collaborations by investigating and refining some of our own assessment tools and practices so that each lesson was responsively guided by student data.

Some of the professional research and tools we studied can be found on our ISS Writer’s Workshop Padlet. I hope you find these helpful!

Writer’s; Workshop Padlet     Password: forronnie

As you build a community of learners with your own students this year, I would love to stay in touch with you and hear how your students are growing and progressing (lbenson@iss.edu). Please know that I am cheering you on and wishing you all the best!

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