Highlighted Articles

Discovering the DNA of Learning: How the CGC Cracked the Learning Code

September 3, 2020


Introduction

In a previous article we looked at how the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC) set about creating a complete, connected, Learning Ecosystem, using Four Guiding Questions. The first of these, ‘What is Learning?’, the CGC’s ‘Define’ question, has provided an answer far more powerful than we anticipated. Now read on…

What is learning and how do we do it?

When we set out to re-engineer learning, it felt like common sense to start by defining it. We’re all in the learning game, so wouldn’t it be sensible to decide what learning actually is before we start trying to make it happen? 

Of course, there are lots of statements about learning out there, some of them presented as ‘definitions’. Eventually, though, as our own definition of learning evolved, we realised that it was ‘different’. Rather than cozy generalizations about, for example, ‘lifelong learners’, ours was a practical definition of the actual learning process, designed to drive the teaching process.

Developing experts

We worked backwards from an understanding of the behaviours of experts, based on the common sense notion that an expert has probably learned well. We determined that experts have a deep understanding of the ideas of their domain and the relationships among them and that they are highly competent in the skills of their domain. We were also committed to the importance of developing expert human beings, with strong, positive values and dispositions. 

With this in mind, we felt our definition needed to address the learning of ideas, skills and personal traits. Since we are also committed to simplicity, we turned this raw material into the powerful, memorable CGC Learning Definition, known in all our member schools as ‘the 3 Cs’: Conceptual, Competency and Character Learning.

The reason for separating out these forms of learning was not just to give us a simple, memorable definition. We knew we needed to think differently about building learner capacity in conceptual understanding, competency and character because the pedagogy required to build each of these capacities is different. 

From learning process to teaching process

Knowing this, we unpacked each form of learning into a clear methodology that is simple enough for large-scale applicability in multiple school contexts, yet deep enough to genuinely drive learning. For example, we believe that inquiry-based learning is fundamental to building conceptual understanding but we were wary of over-complicating inquiry-based methodology or falling into the trap of presenting one inquiry-based process as dogma. Our own approach is to strip things down to their essence, making them, in the words of Einstein, ‘As simple as possible and no simpler than that’. Hence our take on building conceptual understanding as a process of Connect-Construct-Contribute. For Competency Learning: Deconstruct-Identify-Practice. For Character Learning: Consider-Act-Reflect.

Having built our learning definition we set out to ensure that it drives our learning model. We developed learning standards for each of the 3 Cs, each with their own, simple sentence stems, as follows:

  1. Conceptual Learning: I understand that…
  2. Competency Learning: I am able to…
  3. Character Learning: I am becoming more…

These standards drive all CGC Learning Modules, so that the learning definition shapes the learning goals and the teaching methodology. Within this ecosystem, teachers plan, teach and assess for conceptual, competency and character learning. When students self-assess, they do the same:

  1. I used to think that, now I understand that….and here’s my evidence
  2. I used to struggle to, now I am able to…and here’s my evidence
  3. As a person, I am becoming more…and here’s my evidence

Just as we had hoped from the outset, we had found a ‘process’ definition that shapes everything that follows. We realized, of course, that our definition is, like all ‘curriculum’, simply a human construct. We realized that, with any kind of authentic learning, any and all of our 3 C’s may be in play, although one or other may be more dominant, depending on what is being learned. We saw each kind of learning, not as a cycle, returning to its original starting point, but as a spiral, constantly evolving, one step leading to the next, throughout a lifetime of learning. 

The DNA of Learning

The idea of three spirals, constantly interacting, evoked a powerful image.  The 3 C’s as a living construct, a triple helix, the DNA of learning. It’s a bold claim, to claim to discover a learning DNA, and it’s obviously purely a metaphorical one. But the metaphor works. It works to explain, and to remember, what’s happening when we’re learning, and to remember to plan, teach and assess for what matters. It brings teacher clarity and collective teacher efficacy.  It helps in our quest to build our young learners into experts, with deep conceptual understanding of important ideas, high levels of competency in key skills and strong, positive moral character. We think that matters.

In the next in this series, we’ll extend the metaphor. A DNA doesn’t live in a vacuum. It shapes a body. So we’ll be asking questions about the 4th C: Content…a body of knowledge that really matters.  We’ll be asking, ‘What’s Worth Learning…and Why?’

This article was submitted by Kevin Bartlett. Kevin led international schools for over 30 years in 4 different locations, while working on a number of fronts to systematize international education. This work included designing accreditation systems including ACE, leading courses for the Principals’ Training Center, initiating and leading the IB Primary Years Programme and co-founding The Next Frontier Inclusion and the Common Ground Collaborative.

www.thecgcproject.org
kevin@thecgcproject.org
#CGCKevin




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Information for Members

ISC Helps You to Compare the Salaries at 750+ International Schools

August 19, 2020


A survey that we did a few years ago made it clear which information international school teachers want to find out about when recruiting; and that is Salary Details.

salaries

What if you are only considering working in Shanghai? Or maybe you are only interested in working in Germany and flexible about the city in which you would live. It would be invaluable information if you could access details about the salaries of all the international schools in that area of the world. Once you are able to take a look at the different salary details of a number of international schools, it could help you make a better decision on whether to accept an offer or not or which school you should put most of your focus on.

Compare School Salaries page: A unique feature on International School Community

Currently, we have over 1367 individual comments about international school salaries that have been submitted on our website (August 2020).  The specific comments and information about salaries have been submitted on 769 different international schools (August 2020).

The topic related to salaries (that members have left comments on) is on the Benefits tab which can be found on each school profile page.  The comment topic is called “Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?”  Members are encouraged to leave informative details on a typical teacher’s monthly take-home salary at that school.

When you first visit the School Salaries page (premium membership access is needed), you will find that all the international schools (that have comments about salaries on their profile pages) are listed in alphabetical order. You can have a browse though all the schools there. But if you want to just view the schools from a specific region, country or city in the world, then make sure to use the Filter button on the right.  The filter feature allows you to filter the schools listed here and narrow down the list. You can more quickly find the specific schools at which you are most interested in checking-out.

For example, let’s say you are only interested in working at an international school in Central/Eastern Europe.  Just click on the Select Region tab and select Central/Eastern Europe. After that, press the green Search button and voila…only the schools matching your criteria show (currently 48 comments from 28 different international schools).


To see the exact salary comments, just click on the school. Here are some examples:

You could say that international schools like to keep their exact salary details secret.  Rarely do you find specific information about take-home salary on their websites.  Even on other websites where international schools display their vacancies, specific salary details are sometimes hard to find.  In turn, our Compare School Salaries page is quite special, useful and unique!

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Highlighted Articles

SAME GAME, NEW PLAYBOOK

August 13, 2020


The Common Ground Collaborative (CGC) is re-inventing the learning game as one simple ecosystem. In this series of articles we’ll unpack the CGC story, sharing our work with ISC readers.

A few years back, the CGC team looked at the current state of play in ‘the learning game’ and saw too many things that didn’t make sense to us. Where there should be connections, we saw gaps. We saw gaps between what teachers wanted to do for their students and the ways in which they were obliged to spend their time. Gaps between students and what they believed was worth learning. Gaps between mountains of standards and the time available to teach them. Gaps between parents and schools, between disciplines, between departments. Ultimately, a major gap between what we promise and what we deliver. We looked at it all and thought, ‘We’ve had it with that!’.

So we set out to change it. To bring clarity to schools confounded by complexity. To work with schools constrained by compliance to co-create contexts where teachers and leaders could follow what they believe, instead of jumping through someone else’s hoops. We set out to transform the learning game into one where we teach learners how to play. We re-imagined learning as a game where every child feels like the M.V.P. every day, where every parent is a player, where every teacher is a coach. The only game in town where everybody is a winner. We imagined the game as one connected ecosystem and we set out to write a new Learning Playbook.

But where to begin? We identified four key questions for getting learning systematized, and then we gave each a name, and the system emerged, like this:
Define: ‘What is learning?
Design: ‘What’s worth learning and why?
Deliver: ‘How do we build our learning culture?’
Demonstrate : ‘How do learners show what they’ve learned?

These 4 D’s provide a clear, connected framework for a coherent Learning Ecosystem. We knew that if we answered our questions faithfully and provided practical learning solutions for smart, hard-working professionals we would achieve our goal.  We would find the elusive ‘holy grail’ of the articulated curriculum and we would co-create learning cultures in which that curriculum would thrive.

We would move from silos to systems, increasing learning while reducing stress. We’d have learners and teachers feeling that their work had purpose and their energy was well spent. We’d have replaced common nonsense with uncommon sense. We’d have redefined the learning game, for the benefit of all learning stakeholders. We liked that idea. So that’s what we’ve done and now we’re ready to share…

In the next article in this series we’ll share the DNA of Learning, a simple, shared definition of the learning process that is transforming learning conversations around the world.

This article was submitted by Kevin Bartlett. Kevin led international schools for over 30 years in 4 different locations, while working on a number of fronts to systematize international education. This work included designing accreditation systems including ACE, leading courses for the Principals’ Training Center, initiating and leading the IB Primary Years Programme and co-founding The Next Frontier Inclusion and the Common Ground Collaborative.

www.thecgcproject.org
kevin@thecgcproject.org
#CGCKevin


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Information for Members

Get to the Comments you Want to Read Faster with our Keyword Search Feature

July 30, 2020


Our Comments Search feature is what makes our website unique.

One major goal of our website is to help our users get to the comments (specific to the topic they want to know about) easier and faster!

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say that you want to read some comments related to the topic of “teaching couples“. Simply enter in the keyword/s in the Search Bar at the top of our homepage (or at the top of any page of our website) or go directly to the Comments Search page on our website to search your keyword directly there.

Then it will take you to our Comments Search results page (Premium Feature). There you will find all the comments (out of over 37372+ comments on our website – 30 July 2020) that have that keyword/those keywords in them. You can also just search by school name here as well, which will show all the comments about that school in one list!

You will find your keyword/s in bold as you browse through all the comments that fit your criteria.

When we searched the keyword “teaching couples” we got 196 comments (up 10 from last year) that had those keywords; ordered by the date they were submitted.

As you scroll down, if you find a comment that interests you and you want to learn more about that school (i.e. check out the other comments about that school), just click on the school profile link to the left of the comment.

Other keyword search results (performed on 30 July, 2030):

Retirement – 299 comments (up 20 from last year)
Communication – 119 comments (new search)
Savings – 139 comments (new search)

Relocation – 89 comments (up 10 from last year)
Shipping – 258 comments (new search)
Gay – 95 comments (up 11 from last year)
Singles – 163 comments (up 24 from last year)
Morale – 145 comments (new search)

morale search

Affordable – 100 comments (new search)
Hospital – 222 comments (new search)
Happy – 277 comments (up 48 from last year)

Search your keyword here!

We are so excited about this Comments Search feature on our website as it really makes finding and reading comments easier for our members.  It is one of the many unique features on International School Community that makes us stand out when compared to other international school review websites.

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Information for Members

Which Regions of the World Have the Most Comments on ISC?

July 24, 2020


Finding comments and reviews on the schools we want to know about is a top priority for most ISC members.  We have a number of features on our website that help our members do just that!

Using the School Search feature on the ISC website, members can specifically search only for the international schools that have had comments submitted on them. All members need to do is use the filter feature + tick the “schools with comments” box. Here are current results we got (from 24 July 2020) along with five random schools from that region:

Asia: 68 Schools

American International School Dhaka (110 total comments)
American Embassy School New Delhi (39 total comments)
Good Shepherd International School (409 total comments)
Kodaikanal International School (53 total comments)
Indus International School (Pune) (43 total comments)

Caribbean: 24 Schools

The Codrington School (Int’l School of Barbados) (70 total comments)
Somersfield Academy (44 total comments)
The Bermuda High School for Girls (41 total comments)
International School St. Lucia (West Indies) (21 total comments)
International School of Havana (20 total comments)

Central American: 32 Schools

International School Panama (49 total comments)
Lincoln School (San Jose) (61 total comments)
Marian Baker School (33 total comments)
The British School of Costa Rica (31 total comments)
The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (75 total comments)

most comments

Central/Eastern Europe: 67 Schools

International School of Belgrade (59 total comments)
Anglo-American School of Moscow (69 total comments)
Wroclaw International School (46 total comments)
American School of Warsaw (155 total comments)
International School of Latvia (33 total comments)

East Asia: 222 Schools

Canadian International School (Hong Kong) (155 total comments)
Concordia International School (Shanghai) (180 total comments)
Hong Kong International School (148 total comments)
Kang Chiao International School (Kunshan) (81 total comments)
Keystone Academy (119 total comments)

most comments

Middle East: 152 Schools

American International School of Kuwait (74 total comments)
International College Beirut (121 total comments)
Awsaj Academy (43 total comments)
Qatar Academy (Doha) (71 total comments)
Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (83 total comments)

North Africa: 41 Schools

Alexandria International Academy (79 total comments)
American International School in Egypt (Main Campus) (62 total comments)
Cairo American College (174 total comments)
Misr American College (53 total comments)
George Washington Academy (91 total comments)

North America: 50 Schools

American School Foundation of Guadalajara (117 total comments)
American School Foundation of Mexico City (72 total comments)
American School Foundation of Monterrey (129 total comments)
International High School of San Francisco (37 total comments)
Atlanta International School (31 total comments)

Oceania: 8 Schools

Woodford International School (12 total comments)
Port Moresby International School (8 total comments)
Majuro Cooperative School (16 total comments)
Kwajalein Senior High School (24 total comments)
International School Nadi (9 total comments)

most comments

SE Asia: 182 Schools

Ican British International School (74 total comments)
Northbridge International School (59 total comments)
Green School Bali (148 total comments)
Sekolah Victory Plus (143 total comments)
International School of Kuala Lumpur (135 total comments)

South America: 64 Schools

The American Int’l School of Buenos Aires (Lincoln) (48 total comments)
Colegio Nueva Granada (60 total comments)
American School of Asuncion (145 total comments)
Colegio Internacional de Carabobo (95 total comments)
Uruguayan American School (32 total comments)

Sub-Saharan Africa: 71 Schools

The American School of Kinshasa (59 total comments)
International Community School Addis Ababa (80 total comments)
International School of Kenya (52 total comments)
Saint Andrews International High School (41 total comments)
American International School Abuja (58 total comments)

most comments

Western Europe: 167 Schools

American International School Vienna (81 total comments)
International School of Paphos (123 total comments)
Copenhagen International School (375 total comments)
International School of Stuttgart (78 total comments)
Berlin Brandenburg International School (87 total comments)

Well those are all the regions of the world on our website. In total, we now have over 1140 international schools that have had comments and reviews submitted on them! Our goal is to keep that number going up and up. Thanks to our hundreds of Mayors as well for keeping their schools consistently updated with new comments and information every one or two months.

* To access these school links you do need to have premium membership access. Become a paid member today!  Or if you would like to become a Mayor and get free unlimited premium membership, send a request here.

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