Approach to Teaching and Learning
At BFIS we are committed to a systematic and facilitated process for teams of teachers across the school to affirm, revise, and/or create curriculum. Through a formal curriculum review cycle our teachers explore research and current shifts in their subject areas and look for ways to improve and enhance curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Our curriculum is aligned to progressive standards that have been developed for schools in the USA and adopted by international schools around the world.
Teachers are supported by our instructional leaders to create standards-based units of study using the Understanding by Design (UbD) planning process. We ask ourselves these critical questions when carefully designing developmentally appropriate units:
- What should students know and be able to do by the end of the unit? (Standards)
- How will we know that they have met these objectives/standards? (Assessment)
- How will students learn and practice the knowledge and skills throughout the unit? (Lessons, Activities, Formative Assessments) What will we do when they demonstrate mastery? (Differentiation, Enrichment, Extension) What will we do when they are not meeting the standards? (Differentiation, Support)
Philosophy of Assessment: Sound assessment begins with WHY.
Purpose refers to the reasons we assess learners and how we use the information. At BFIS, we believe that assessment serves multiple purposes. Consistent with educational research, we know that quality assessment practices do more than measure learning; assessment promotes learning. We use assessment for both summative and formative purposes. Summative assessments are carefully designed during the planning stages of a unit. They are intentionally crafted so that learners can demonstrate their ability to meet the learning objectives/standards at the end of the unit. The information is used to determine a learner's level of achievement. Formative assessments are used to identify where a learner is in relation to where they need to be in order to meet the learning objectives/standards. This information guides learning and informs daily instructional practices.
It is the shared responsibility between students, teachers and parents to use assessment to support and guide the learning process in the following ways:
Purpose of Assessment
Assessment for Students
|Assessment for Teachers||Assessment for Parents and Guardians|
|Identifying Assessment Criteria||
|Monitoring of Student Learning & Progress||
- Student behaviors such as: effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc. will not be included in grade calculations. Grades will reflect only student performance toward standards/learning objectives. Student behaviors, or Approaches to Learning, will be assessed throughout the year and reported separately on report cards for each subject area/course.
- Work submitted late will not result in a lower grade. The consequence for not submitting work on time, will be through mandatory make-up. The grade should represent what a learner knows and can do in relation to the standards. When work is incomplete, there is no way to assess the current level knowledge, skills and understandings. A lower grade due to work submitted late distorts the reality of where a student is in relation to the standards.
- Extra credit or bonus points for non-academic work such as bringing in materials, covering books, etc. will not be included in grade determination.
- Academic dishonesty will not be punished with reduced grades. Academic dishonesty will carry behavioral consequences. *For IB students, the IB academic dishonesty policy will be followed.
- Attendance will not be considered in grade determination.
- Group scores from work done in cooperative learning groups will not be included in grade determination. Students will be assessed on collaboration and communication skills, separately from their individual ability to meet the standards for the course/subject.
Student behaviors such as effort, participation, timeliness and collaboration are key skills that must be taught and assessed separately from a student's ability to meet the content standards for each course. Both academic proficiency and how a student approaches learning are important and should be valued.
In line with our new assessment agreements, we spent time working out the systems for separating learning behaviors from academic achievement. We call these learning behaviors, “Approaches to Learning”. This gives students and their parents a better idea of who they are as learners and some of those soft skills that we know are an essential part of academic life and beyond. To bring cohesion as school, we have developed rubrics for these behaviors of a learner so that teachers, students and parents are all drawing from the same language and expectations from elementary, middle and high schools.
Our new report card format in the middle school and high school will provide more feedback and information for students and parents. In addition to the academic achievement grade for each subject/course, students are assessed on the following Approaches to Learning:
Attitude Toward Leaning: Demonstrates a positive disposition toward learning, Seeks/accepts feedback and uses it to improve learning, Demonstrates respect to others within the learning environment, Demonstrates persistence when faced with challenges, Demonstrates self-awareness of own strengths and areas for improvement
Self-Management: Respects timeliness, Uses time efficiently, Arrives to class prepared, Demonstrates organization skills, Demonstrates awareness of own actions and the ability to accept responsibility, Adheres to classroom and school rules and policies, Seek assistance when necessary
Participation & Collaboration: Cooperates and compromises within a group setting, Participates as an engaged, on-task, and focused learner, Demonstrates effective communication and problem solving skills, Works to resolve conflict.
Students are assessed on these Approaches to Learning using the following descriptors:
AOC- Area of Concern: As a learner, these skills and approaches to learning are still developing. The student has not shown evidence of meeting the expectations with consistency
SAT- Satisfactory: As a learner, these skills and approaches to learning are developing appropriately. The student has shown evidence of meeting the expectations with consistency.
AOS-Area of Strength: As a learner, these skills and approaches to learning are an established skill set. The student has shown evidence of exceeding the expectations with consistency.
To see the rubric that teachers and students use as criteria for the Approaches to Learning click the following link: Approaches to learning in MS/HS
What is instructional coaching?
Instructional coaching is a common practice in schools around the world. Like in sports, coaching is not just for “some” players. Even the greatest sports players need coaches. Everyone can benefit from working with a coach, and ultimately, it is our students who benefit the most. Instructional coaches provide busy teachers with the time and resources needed to reflect on their teaching practice. They act as thought partners to teachers as they strive to meet the diverse needs of their students. A coach has a knowledge of the content and research-based instructional practices in the area that they are coaching. They share their knowledge and expertise while honoring the knowledge and expertise of teachers. A coaching relationship is built on trust and is non-judgmental. Instructional coaches are not in a supervisory role. Instead, these roles exist in schools to provide objective support and facilitate growth and learning.
In order to build a culture of coaching at BFIS, we have developed a Teaching & Learning Team, made up of our three instructional coaches (PK-5 Math, PK-8 Literacy, PK-12 Tech) and the Director of Learning. Sharing a collaborative work space, called The Collaboratory, this team offers extensive support in leading coaching cycles with teachers, peer observations, labsite classrooms, and school-wide professional learning sessions. They also offer individual and team co-planning, co-teaching and modeling of instructional strategies. A fundamental aspect of their work is the use of student data to plan and differentiate instruction around the needs of our learners.
What does instructional coaching look like at BFIS?
There are many models of coaching that schools can utilize. At BFIS, we use a research-based model called, “student-centered coaching”. Our model:
- involves in-depth work between coach and a team of teachers, lasting approximately six to eight weeks, as a coaching cycle.
- is driven by student data.
- includes regular (weekly) planning sessions, and involves the coach in the classroom one to three times per week for co-teaching, modeling instruction, or observing the teaching and learning.
In this model, we focus on the needs of our students, rather than the common misconception of “fixing teachers”. Together, the coach and teacher use student work to identify a goal for students and then work together to co-plan ways to meet these goals. In this way, our instructional coaches directly impact instructional practice and student achievement. We measure the success of a coaching cycle based on the results we see in student learning. To do this, we use pre-assessment data, daily formative assessments, and formal summative assessments at the end of a coaching cycle.
What is the impact of instructional coaching on student learning?
Diane Sweeney, author and consultant for student-centered coaching says the following:
Since Student-Centered Coaching is an evidence-based model, it aligns with some of the most exciting research in education, the research associated with Visible Learning and the work of John Hattie. A meta-analysis of over 1,500 educational studies, this research base provides evidence of what schools can do to increase student achievement.
At the top of the list of what schools can do to increase student achievement, are the very coaching practices that we promote at BFIS. Our own internal action research that our coaches conduct with each coaching cycle supports this wider research.
For more information on student-centered coaching, please watch Diane Sweeney’s video explanation here.
Differentiated instruction is much more than simply teaching different content to different students. Rather, it is a philosophy of education that puts the student at the center of the learning process; supports the academic, social, and emotional needs of each child, and inspires students and enables them to reach their full potential. Differentiation is an approach that builds on the strengths of each child and guides and supports them in addressing and overcoming their personal challenges.
It is clear that in order to prepare students to lead in a 21st century work environment, we have to provide a 21st century learning environment. Innovation and technology are providing new ways of teaching and learning beyond interactive boards and computers in the classroom, increasing student engagement and active learning.
To prepare our learners for college, career and life as engaged global citizens, our teachers design learning experiences and assessments that call for the application and transfer of 21st century skills. These skills include: critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, and leadership.
Students in smaller classes perform better in all subjects and on all assessment when compared to their peers in larger classes. Small classes involve students, encourage their participation and it allows teachers to know their students well to guide their growth and development. Small class size fosters sharing, empathy and teamwork.
Average class size is 18 students.
Social and Emotional Learning is the process through which children and adults acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively. These are the skills that allow children to calm themselves down when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices. The BFIS approach to social and emotional learning is a two-fold approach that provides consistency within the educational program and also flexibility to differentiate when needed, developing effective instructional methods that are active, participatory and engaging.
AT BFIS the diversity of our student body, faculty and parent community- now comprised over 50 different nationalities and cultural heritages- brings a rich diversity of knowledge and experiences to the classroom, helping our students to appreciate and understand differences, as well as develop an open-minded perspective to create a more tolerant and respectful society.
At BFIS we model and promote a community of learners. Our students are not the only learners on campus. Our approach to teaching and learning involves continuous growth and improvement for teachers as well.
BFIS faculty members are committed to continually improving their skills and the instructional strategies they use to reach our students, and our school is committed to supporting their growth.
In order to support a diverse faculty charged with implementing a wide-ranging educational program, our professional development approach consists of four main components:
- In house workshops during our weekly Professional And Collaborative Time (PACT) and Professional Development (PD) Days.
- Personal PD funds that our teachers can utilise to self-select in order to grow in their professional goals.
- Cohort Model of Professional Development with other international schools in Spain and led by expert consultants throughout the world.
- Job-embedded and ongoing training offered by our instructional leaders, including coaches and curriculum leaders. This also includes a comprehensive teacher evaluation system, using the Danielson Framework, which has been adopted by many schools around the world.
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