Intensive EAL support and differentiation in Biology

As an international teacher, I am familiar with EAL or Lang B students in my classes, and familiar with how to support them in my Biology classes which, more than even some of the other science subjects, has a lot of context-specific terminology that cannot be simplified. These terms can be almost impossible to simplify form non-native speakers but repeated INSET training has told me that I must. Some examples would include:

  • Heterozygosity
  • Anyone of the Animal or Plant Phyla students are required to know
  • Proteome
  • Clade
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Photolysis
  • Inhibitor
  • Eukaryote
  • Archaea
  • Transpiration
  • Cohesion

There are many more…

This past academic year I had a particularly difficult situation to deal with in my grade 10 biology class.

Grade 10 is the final year of the MYP and is equivalent to Year 11 in the U.K. My current school is very small, tiny in fact, by the nature that it has only been open four years.

As a new school in a competitive area we have a battle to recruit students. As an international school in an area where lots of families come with the parents work on short term contracts we have a high turn over of students.

Due to these factors, every year of teaching I have had to completely change my scheme of work for this grade and grade nine because of changes in the cohorts of students as well as yearly changes to science teaching hours across the week.

One year I only had brand new students taking grade 10 Biology all of whom had come from Francophone schools and so the MYP 5 course I had planned had to be changed to accommodate these students.

As an international school it can be normal to have turnover in students with many students leaving and new students entering at any grade. Things are also complicated because students may come from different national systems, and may have studied in different languages prior to joining us. It's very hard to comparatively assess the biological knowledge of different students coming from different languages of study and these different systems.

Whereas, last year, all the students in my grade 10 class were new to the school and I had to create a novel one year curriculum for them to ensure that none of the fundamentals from grade 9 were missing, this year I could revert to the original two year program I had planned previously.

This year I had some students who had progressed to grade 10 biology from grade 9 (these grades are planned as a two year consecutive course) internally and were on track to take the MYP eAssessment.

However I also had students placed in the class who came from different schools and were new to studying in English, let alone biology in English. Amongst these students there was variation. One student had absolutely no prior experience using or studying in the English language and others had never studied in the language, academically, but had spent some time of heir lives speaking and communicating with English.

At the start of the year, I was informed that all of these students would be taking the MYP eAssessment (the IB equivalent of GCSE)!

Despite my protestations that these students would not be ready for the eAssessment with only six months of going to an anglophone school, let alone studying biology in English and that they were better off being placed in an intensive EAL program, I was ignored.

The message to me was that I simply had to differentiate for these students! Differentiation is fine but when does differentiation steadily become "plan a whole new program?" What are the practical limitations for a teacher that determine when differentiation should stop and alternative arrangements need to be made.

A similar situation happened to a colleague of mine who teaches French. One year he was told that he would have French A (Literature – native speakers) students mixed in with French B (Aquisition – non-native speakers) and that the teacher would have to differentiate between these two groups.

I am all for differentiation and trying to meet individual students where they are at but I don't like it when it becomes a lazy shield for management to hide behind. Instead of the SLT taking charge and actually putting a proper intervention in place for these students, it is easier to pass the buck to the teacher and simply say "differentiate!" The problem with this is the anxiety, stress and associated mental health issues it will invariably create for staff.

What seemed to be lacking from members of the schools management is the difference between Jim Cummin's BICS and CALPS. Being able to speak in a second language with your friends is one thing, but being able to think about and explain complex, abstract concepts in a second language is quite another. Biology has a huge amount of subject or context-specific terminology that even native speakers can find daunting.

The year hasn't been a great success. Unfortunately some non-negotiables have to be negotiable as there is a limit to what a person can achieve in a day. What this meant for these students is that I simply wasn't able to plan for them as well as I would have liked, with all my additional responsibilities, particularly the running of the university guidance.

I focussed what time I could devote to this class on the students who would be taking the exam and focussed on developing the thinking routines within the class; connect-extend-challenge has become very popular!

However I have been able to learn something from this experience and found that the following techniques could be put in place very easily to support EAL students without too much interruption to the flow of the lesson:

  • Glossaries for every unit that focus on key words. I have started adding them to my DP workbooks as simply a space at the back for students to add their key words and definitions, but for the younger grades I will provide the words and the definitions.
  • Whole-class reading in every lesson. Making solid use of available texts and reading these out gives students a change to practice saying new words and gives me a chance to feedback to them and explain any new terminology.
  • When asking students to explain a concept to check for their understanding, allowing them to write out their ideas in the their mother tongue to support a speaking in the second language.
  • Asking students to write, in English, a short paragraph (3-4 lines) explaining what they learned either at the start of end of a lesson. As the teacher, I can rotate and check grammar, spelling and sentence construction. This is best done by hand as 1) the IB exams are currently written and 2) due to the Lindy effect, writing is likely to be around a lot longer than google docs.
  • Taking care to fully explain the roots of words e.g. "photo" & "synthesis" and giving students time to find the words in their mother-tongue if they have studies this concept before.
  • Allowing students to speak in their mother tongue to each other to aid explanations and comprehension.
  • During explanations given by me, slowing down and, where possible, using simpler language (not always possible in Biology – what is a simpler word for heterozygosity?).
  • Always check for understanding with open questions. "Please can you explain/write/draw this for me?" to show understanding.
  • Use of colours and images to describe tasks so that students become aware that when a symbol of a quill is used it means that they have to write.

Any more advice or ideas welcome in the comments!

Is Content King?

I have reached a watershed in my thinking about teaching and my philosophy about teaching science.

I trained and begun learning to teach in a school with a very robust academic record. Teachers were considered absolute experts in their field and students were, on the whole, very high achieving but who had high expectations of their teachers academically too.

In this environment I learned that the teacher’s fundamental responsibility was to be an an absolute expert in their field; if you didn’t know everything, and could not answer every question, the community of students would lose faith in you. Or at least that it is what it felt like.

I mentioned in my review of Ritchhart et al of comments made by an ex-colleague of mine which reinforced this sentiment.

In those formative days then learning to teach was about mastering your subject knowledge. Content was King. Delivered in lovely little powerpoint slides where students would simply copy down their notes and then memorise them.

I left that school confidently arrogant that I was an expert in my subject and in the IB. That any school was going to want to employ me after the time that I had spent in that school. And indeed I was partly right. I secured a position as Head of Biology at a prestigious boarding school. The time there was little different. I benefitted from working closely with the chemists and physicists, in a closely knit science department. However the sentiments were the same. Content was King. Our role as science teachers was to deliver the curriculums content. The learner profile was dismissed by the Head of Science as fluff.

Since moving on from that school I have been involved in setting up a school and taking it through its IB authorization process as the only Biology teacher and as one of two or, more recently, three science teachers. I cannot point to any single experience from this time that has been the catalyst but my thinking has begun to change. Perhaps it was being forced to seriously consider the IB’s other bits; the ATLs; the IB Learner profile. Perhaps it was being exposed to and challenged by the MYP. Perhaps it was teaching a new DP Biology syllabus with so much focus on the nature of science. Perhaps it was beginning to teach TOK. Perhaps it was becoming a workshop leader. Perhaps it was working with so many truly excellent IB educators. I don’t know.

But I now question the sentiment that content is king in science teaching.

I am beginning to think, to really think that more important than learning the content, my students need to learn to think. It might sound like an odd thing to write. It certainly feels like an odd thing to write.

I’m sure that many people who aren’t teachers would raise their eyebrows at what I wrote above. Surely, a teachers job is to teach students to think? But it’s not as simple as that. Teaching students to ask strong questions and to develop different thinking dispositions is no simple task. It’s much easier to focus on the curriculum delivery. What are my students supposed to know? Fill the time in with student-centred activities, and group work, debates and presentations and you are doing a good job right?

I’ve moved on from didactic lecture like teaching in my early days to worksheet, activity based teaching but has anything really changed? My students still present as apathetic. School is still something that they just do on the whole. I’m sure most of them forget what they “learn” instead of engaging with the deeper issues.

And this is what I want: I want my students to be engaged, passionate and switched on critically to the world around them and be scientifically literate.

How do I do that when sometimes I question my own scientific literacy?

Perhaps its time to really focus on the thinking and the types of thinking that are needed in science and needed to be developed in students of science. The trouble is I am sometimes not sure that I know what thinking really means…

In Making Thinking Visible Richhart et al (2011) discuss turning the content into a vehicle for teaching and framing certain thinking skills. It is argued that developing thinking skills is important because these skills are the tools that students will take forward into future life when the content is forgotten. They are the tools the future adults will utilize to navigate life.

The thing is, thinking doesn’t just happen. As teachers, we need to be explicit with students about the types of thinking that are useful in certain situations and provide strategies that help students learn to think in these ways. We can’t just leave it up to chance. After all, traditionally, we don’t leave the content up to chance (normally), instead, we are explicit with it. We need to give students the chance to think about their own thinking and what it means to them.

Ritchhart provides a list of “high-leverage thinking moves that serve understanding well”:

  1. Observing closely and describing what is there.
  2. Building explanations and interpretations.
  3. Reasoning with evidence.
  4. Making connections.
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives.
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

I will be posting these “moves” in my classroom as a start as well as try to relate the activities we are doing to these types of activities.

As science teachers, we need to ask ourselves: What type of thinking is important in science? More specifically what types of thinking do we want to develop in students of science? How is thinking framed in terms of the work that scientists do? What are the essential questions of science?

Clearly, the thinking moves above are addressed by different elements of scientific enquiry. Observing closely is an important part of observational studies and also hypothesis generations so is wondering and asking questions. To generate a hypothesis requires building explanations and reasoning with evidence. When we draw our data out we try to capture the heart of a problem and draw a conclusion,

Once we have a clear idea of this then we can begin to teach the thinking alongside an understanding of the nature of science through well-planned content. The difference is that our learning objective is twinned – we have a thinking objective and a content objective.

Understanding how to teach in this way is important.  Biology teacher Paul Strode has written some articles in this vein. In one he looks at reasoning like a scientist and the other deals with teaching the hypothesis. Although he still focuses on framing the content instead of necessarily framing the questioning, these are good reads. However, I feel that the questioning and thinking strategies needed to become front and centre of the teaching instead of the content.

Thinking relies heavily on questioning. In science we are trying to ask the following questions:

What do I notice?

What does that tell me?

Why does it work like this?

How can I test this idea?

How can I be sure that my findings are valid?

Or, according to strode whose list is below:

Step 1: What claim am I being asked to accept?

Step 2: What evidence supports the claim? Is the evidence valid?

Step 3: Is there another way to interpret the evidence?

Step 4: What other evidence would help me evaluate the alternatives?

Step 5: Is the claim the most reasonable one based on the evidence?

Teaching like this requires teachers to step down as the “font of knowledge” in their classrooms and have the courage to be wrong. I have worked in schools where the culture of the school would simply not allow that to happen.

As Ritchhart points out we need to be able to ask our students authentic questions, meaning that the teacher needs to not know the answer, and if teachers are worried about seemingly not knowing something how can they do this?

This academic year I am going to try and put thinking centre and front in my classroom. I just hope that the crazy timetabling and work-load pressure doesn’t push me back into easy, old habits.

15-16 Term 3 Week 2

Monday

An early start 0630 into school, after washing the minibus in order to bring the IA kit back into school. Much time spent hanging up tents and re organising the kit store, making a list of items that need to be re purchase. My G10 lesson was swapped with English (I will have it back in two weeks) which freed up much of the morning for planning the next stages of the IA as there is another expedition leaving at the end of term and this time we are taking students to an area that we have not used before. Therefore maps need to be purchased, campsites booked, checkpoints identified, photographed and recced. I also used this morning to put an impassioned plea to SLT about need for support for IA to be protected next year. I am still awaiting a response…I also managed to discover and book a new campsite in the Valleé du Joux for the G11 Focus week happening this September. This place seems quite exciting as it is a tipi village and looks like a great place to take the kids to have fires, marshmellows and BBQs in the late summer for one night. I have also made some progress in planning that event which happened quicker than I thought.

Just before lunch my line manager and I had training with BridgeU, the new university guidance platform that we will utilising as a school going forward and the upshot from this is that we have arranged a session in May to roll this out to our student group in grade 11.

In the afternoon I took my G11 Biologists. We ran the following practical before the kids began preparing presentations on antibiotic resistance in bacteria and the changes in shape of Finch beaks on Daphne Major.

Download (DOCX, 37KB)

I took these videos of the practical in action

Tuesday

Tuesday morning was spent primarily on planning G11 and G10 Biology. I produced this workbook for DP Biology:

Download (PDF, 6.85MB)

I then went to a TOK planning meeting with my co-teaching colleague to plan the structure of TOK up until the bank holiday.

After lunch I taught TOK and G10 Biology. In TOK we continued with our investigation of religious knowledge systems; the students giving their presentations, before breaking out into a discussion that compared various features of the religions in the presentations.

In G10 Biology we recapped meiosis and homologous chromosomes before beginning to look at monohybrid crosses and simple patterns of inheritance.

Wednesday

In the morning I had a short cover of G7 French class before my colleague arrived. After that I had a two hour Biology class. Here we finished looking at Natural Selection. I opened the class by looking at the next 20 mins of Carl Sagan’s cosmos episode 2 (I had shown the first 10 mins in a lesson described here.)

Students then delivered their presentations that they had prepared in our previous lesson before break. After break we reviewed the exams that students had taken last Friday. Students used the rubric to review the questions they got wrong and to develop a strategy for revision before I went round and addressed individual concerns.

Download (XLSX, 13KB)

After this I had another cover lesson but after 15mins of waiting for the class I discovered they were actually having map testing and so there was no need for the cover…

In the afternoon I carried on planning DP Biology and created a workbook for topic 5.3 and started on one for 5.4.

Download (PDF, 47.24MB)

Thursday

On Thursday morning I finally finished packing up the dried tents from the international award expedition from the weekend before.

I spent most of the morning on administrative tasks: a little bit of time was spent on finding out about using BBC Horizon programs in my teaching. I have a lot of this digitally and I currently store them on a hard drive that I bring into school, however I would like to get them onto the internet so that I can share them with my students and I wanted to know how I could do that because all BBC Worldwide videos are blocked on YouTube. A short telephone call and I had an email address. I think that this may be possible if I have a password protected website.

I am also in the process of organising the schedule for a Dance production that will be shown in school the week after next. Well, I was under the impression that my role was simply to organise the schedule for classes to come and see the dancers performing a piece about the action potential in neurones and the affects of motor neurone disease on those neurones. However I seem to be the go to person for any questions about this event. I think it will be a great production but to be honest with everything on my plate at the moment in terms of international award, careers guidance and university guidance, I just don’t have the energy to bring to this task. I started the ball rolling this year, as I was involved in it last year, but other colleagues I would have expected to be more involved with it than me have been absolutely no assistance mainly because they are organising their own festival that is happening the day before, so I don’t blame them – but there is only so much I can bring to this production myself. Anyway some of the scheduling needed to be changed because some performances were clashing with the whole school photo because, despite approval for this event being given by the Head, no one placed this event in the school calendar. Basically its a mess, and I have to salvage what I can and move on.

In addition to this and a much higher priority in terms of my role at the school, I am organising a careers week for G10 and a careers afternoon for G8-11. I have had some parents offer their support and this week I started to pull on the university contacts I have and so on Thursday morning I began the process of contacting these universities.

I also spent a lot of that time this morning also finishing the IBDP Biology 5.4 workbook on cladistics as well as a powerpoint, shown below, which I will be teaching the week after next.

Download (PDF, 18.57MB)

the powerpoint:

Download (PPT, 12.56MB)

I have subsequently found a clip from BBC Inside Science about the Kakapo which I will use to introduce the topic of biodiversity and cladistics

In the afternoon I drove over to College Du Leman to attend an admissions talk from Oxford University. Here were my notes:

Oxford

No 1 in Europe or no2 in the world after caltech

Do they have a course that is right for you – got to be something you love and are passionate about

8 weeks. 40% more work – academic challenge are you ready for the academic challenge

High predicted grades

Academic and theoretical courses

Broad and compulsory courses at the start then students have more choice becoming more specialised

Joint courses are also available although not pick and mix

Normally these add on languages

Course vs career

60% of jobs do not specify the types of degree  you need

Careers service website

Tutorials the heart of the Oxford learning experience

Supervision at Cambridge

Weekly meeting – tutor talk about what you have read and essays that have been written. Got to love your subject. You have to talk and have to do your reading.

Choose course first, choose college or open application. Start UCAS application early deadline 15th October test registration written work and tests. 2 weeks notice for interview. Usually first 2 weeks of December results announced in January. Choose firm and insurance choices

Looking at possible academic ability and potential. Genuine subject interest need to be demonstrated outside of school and a suitability for chosen course

Don’t look at particular students or schools or don’t look at irrelevant extra curricular activities don’t look for well rounded individuals just in relation to the course unless it’s super curricular those that demonstrate subject interest

38-40 depending on course 6or7 in higher level subjects these are minimum requirements

Personal statements

Plan it over the summer first

Sell yourself

Check spelling

Check grammar

Be honest

80% academic – what have you done in school and out of school to demonstrate your subject interest

Work experience, future plans, extra curricular should focus on transferable skills

Tests stretch and challenge you used for interview shortlisting.

May want to see some written work to

Practise the past papers tests are timed

Interview lasts 2 or 3 days can be 2nd 3rd or 4th.

Test self motivation and ability to think independently. Tutorial rehearsal. Want to see how they problem solve. Practice thinking out loud. Speak about why they think certain things. Practice expressing thoughts verbally.

Everything is looked at as a whole. Engage and explore your subject. Listening to podcasts, reading and watching.

After the admissions talk I drove back to school for a meeting with my line manager and programme coordinators to discuss the school policy for allowing students time off lessons to attend visiting university presentations and days off to attend open days.

Friday

Earth Day. A humiliating start to the day when at 0805 a senior colleague frantically runs over to the coffee machine as myself and another colleague are helping ourselves to the days first beverage and says “We need to turn this off; we are sending a terrible message to the kids”. I assume that they were talking about the electricity the machine was using and not the fact that we were guzzling coffee before we could even greet each other in the morning…

Today I introduced my grade 11 DP students to microbiology and aseptic techniques. I used the following protocols taken from the nuffield foundation website to run the practical:

1st An introduction to Aseptic techniques

Download (PDF, 331KB)

2nd An introduction to making streak plates

Download (PDF, 229KB)

We didn’t actually use any live bacteria in the practical but my technician had prepared a pretend inoculation mixture of sterile water.

Students were able to follow the instructions for the first part very well but when it came to streak plating they showed a reluctance to read the protocol (an ongoing phenomena I have observed this year – I don’t think I have ever taught a class so resistant to reading and following instructions).

The protocols could do with modifying to make them more student friendly.

After this the rest of my day was spent on international award planning. This time, I was checking and recce’ing the routes and checkpoints for our bronze qualifying journey as it will be in a new location this year. Last year we took the students to Verbier, but the terrain was far too difficult for this level and the team ended up very demotivated. So this year we are taking them to the Valleé du Joux in Vaud. I spent most of the day in the area, hiking up to checkpoints I identified and photographing them.

Back at school around 3pm I was able to upload the pictures and prepare the checkpoint handouts that we will give to students along with the maps and route cards so that they can plan their own routes through the checkpoints.

With the campsite for the expedition now booked all that remains is to give the materials to the students and create the actual checkpoint cards, with the photographs, so that we can give these out to our students.

15-16 Term 3 week 1: Adventures with shopping trolleys..

Last week on Monday we returned to school for the final term of the year. At least my colleagues did; I was hauled up in bed with a stomach bug that I had caught from my 11 month old daughter! When I returned to work on Tuesday I was left feeling drained, washed out and wiped out – a feeling that took a surprising number of days (and early nights) to get over. Anyway this is what happened in my working life last week:

Tuesday:

A hard start to the working week. Seeing as I had missed Monday sue to illness I had also lost the planning time that I was banking on to get ready for TOK. TOK is a new subject for me to teach this year. While I relish the challenge of teaching a brand new subject and I am very interested in the subject content, I would be lying if I was to say that teaching this subject had not put me under a lot of strain this year. Not only is the concept of the subject wildly different to teaching a science subject, the style of teaching needed to make the subject inspirational is very different to what (I think) one needs to bring to a science classroom. It is unusual at to say the least. Basically it has been taking me at least two hours to plan each lesson, sometimes three, sometimes more. But it has been excellent at pushing me to go further with my teaching style; forcing me to make my teaching more discussion based. This week I had agreed with my co-teacher that I would introduce Religious Knowledge Systems as an AOK. After reading the relevant chapters from several textbooks I decided not to reinvent the wheel. After a google search I came across ideas on the links at the end of this post. Using mostly the ideas I found here plus those from the Dombrowski textbook, I created this powerpoint activities:

Download (PPTX, 57KB)

The video that is removed from the slide is religion good or bad can be seen here:

I also taught my grade 10 Biologists. In this lesson we recapped mitosis. I started the lesson with this hook which is essentially a review of the material we had covered at the start of this current unit:

I then had the students review the posters that they had made at the end of last term before working together to piece jumbled images of a nucleus undergoing mitosis together into a coherent, labelled sequence. Finally we completed a wordcloze exercise, summarising mitosis

Wednesday:

Originally I had a trip out this morning with several grade 10 and 11 students to go and hear some presentations from UK universities. However there was a  last minute cancelation which left me having to cobble a two hour DP lesson together in about an hour. This was actually a relief as I was worried about missing my G11 DP Biologists all this week as I would be out on Friday as well. This lesson was a great opportunity to get some review in of the topics covered so far this academic year. We started by brainstorming all the concepts and word related to biology with no filter as they came to our heads. We then quickly placed these into the relevant topics of the DP syllabus on the board. Students then created tedious links – you pick to concepts and have to link them together in a concept map via as many steps as possible. Finally students had to pick one word and definition to write up for the G11 word wall in the lab.

After break we returned to the second lesson where we recapped topic 5.1 “evidence for evolution” before watching the first 10mins of carl sagans cosmos episode 2 – one voice in the cosmic fugue as a hook into the concept of natural selection:

We then moved on to complete the first few pages of this workbook. In our first lesson next week we will carry out a beak finch practical and students will create the natural selection presentations.

Download (PDF, 11.22MB)

In the afternoon I had my first university visit. We hosted members of the European Universities Consortium – EHL; Bocconi; IE and Carl Benz School of Engineering. The presentations were engaging and following from my visit to Esade last week, they added to my growing knowledge of the possibility for studying in English on the continent for an undergraduate degree. I am very much enjoying networking and building relationships with communities outside of our school. I feel a real sense of pride when I meet these guests and give them a tour, while explaining what we are trying to do at our school. I was disappointed by the lack of turn out. We only had three students and three parents, but the universities seemed pleased at the end. I was also pleased to have more options for summer schools for engineering outside of the UK, but still in Europe. After the meetings I had a chat with one of our parents who lamented the fact that some of the parents of our G11 students were not aware that this even was happening. We discussed communication and I wondered what I could be doing better but I do think when it comes to comms less is more. This mum was suggesting further avenues that I could communicate to parents with but I already have four or five chanels through which I send info: ManageBac, Newsletter, Letters home, emails and messages in HR. I conclude that schools need to streamline the information they send out to one or two sources and encourage the teachers and parents to all utilise those. If different groups start using different avenues, information gets lost.

Thursday: 

This day saw me running round like a headless chicken with final preparations for the International Award Bronze Practice Expedition all morning, bar 15 minutes at homeroom time where I ran round, G9, G10 and G11 homeroom to publisce the visit from Westminster College UTAH and their talk on the US Education System. After that and checking with colleagues that they were happy to release kids early for the talk and then firing off a few emails to the spokesperson, I had a contract meeting with my line manager. At 10am I began the process of IA prep – printing off the maps and information for my supervisors and putting the staff briefing in place, before raiding the IA stores and organising the needed kit all into an IKEA shopping trolley so that it was ready to roll on Friday morning’s kit check. This was topped off by a lovely department meeting before lunch.

In the afternoon I taught my Grade 10 again. We began by reviewing the wordcloze exercise before using word, phrase sentence to learn and discuss about chromosome structure.

After the lesson, I had my second visit of the week. This presentation was much better attended and my guest gave a very succinct and helpful overview of applying to the states.

Download (PPTX, 3.9MB)

After the presentation, we had a tour and discussed the differences between teacher and counselor recommendations, and what type of information should be included in each. I thought that next time I do this then I should a) film the presentations to be included on this or another website and b) perhaps record a podcast interview of any specific questions like the difference between counselor and teacher recs.

Friday & Saturday:

International Award Expedition! Met the kids in the morning in the Dining hall at 0830. Collared by parent at 0810 would wanted to ask what happens in a lightening storm (can I have my coffee please!). Kit check and then on to the minbuses to start the hiking at 1000. I was ably assisted by some very reliable colleagues. All in all this was a successful expedition despite a very wet and wild night. I will not forget my G9 students up at 6am in the morning cooking noodles for breakfast on the Saturday morning.

This year we had built in an afternoon training session with the students in early October which I think really helped the process for many of the students.

Challenges for moving forward with award: route planning time (its currently to pressured in school) proposal to use HR time; time to produce presentations at the end of the journey; managing the stores.

Ideas from the week:

  • Next time we have university visitors to the school I will arrange to film their presentations and begin to build a library of these for the school website.
  • I may also arrange to run an interview in the recording studio and make a short podcast. Topics could range from admissions procedures to overviews of the education system in different countries to advise on writing personal statements.
  • The International Award is running well at school but we still need to tighten up a few areas like goal setting with the students and I need to find ways that next year we can do this. A closer working relationship with the CAS coordinator needs to be developed but currently there just isn’t the support structure to make that easy. In particular we need to identify more long term service activities that students can get involved with.