During the Council of International School Recruitment Conference in London, I attended a workshop put on by the Alliance for International Education (AIE). AIE is non-profit organization whose purpose since it was founded in 2002 is to bring educators together to discuss and promote international education. They are most well known for their biennial conferences, the next one in November 2012 in Doha, Quatar.
The workshop yesterday was entitled, “Positioning Schools for the Future” and the key question was how can we position our schools so that they are prepared for the next decade. Below are my notes from the presentation and our group discussion.
Learning – This is our “customer service” component, it is what the kids come to our schools to get. The three bases of learning are knowledge, skills, and understanding. He made the provocative idea that the most important of the three are skills. Skills are the most stable and the attributes of our students are developed through skills. Because our knowledge base is expanding with modern communication, students can learn it themselves and we need to prioritize what is important, and sometimes that is hard for teachers who are so passionate about their subject. He said understanding is the least important because we can control how students’ brains comprehend and it is very fluid, with everyone having a different understanding.
Dispositions – What are the dispositions we want to nurture in our students? The group concluded that a variety of experiences to develop adaptability and resilience in our students is the most important. The students we have in school today will be retiring in 2065. What will the world be like then?
Resources – He gave the anecdote of Dr. Ed Ladd of the American School of Doha, giving a speech in front of his faculty. They were celebrating the completion of a new state of the art auditorium. The Persian Gulf region schools are very resource rich. Dr. Ladd said, “So?” He was referring to the point that glamorous resources don’t mean the students will automatically learn. It comes down to the human element, the teachers. Another resource I never thought of is time! One group discussed shortening the day so more could be done with community service and adventure/team building activities with students. Looking at it in a sustainable society, what is the least we need to get the most learning?
Leadership and Management – Leadership styles change with the context of the school culture and leaders must change their style to what works best for a particular school. A good quote, “It struck me I was most effective when I knew what I wanted.”
Curriculum – I’ve heard a lot of definitions of curriculum and his was a “contract with the teachers’ brain.” It is a challenge to get a coherent curriculum, especially with teacher transiency, but it is important for adolescents’ brains.
It was great to have a time to think of the big ideas with out the rush of daily administrative duties. Thanks to CIS and AIE for organizing this workshop.