Coordination Teaching & Learning

Parental engagement with learning

Originally posted on June 7, 2019 @ 3:07 pm

Notes from pre sessional reading of NPQSL session 4, leading affective partnerships. The pre-reading was the report Engaging parents in raising achievement Do parents know they matter?”

Underpining this policy is the central tennet that parental engagement makes a significant difference to the educational outcomes of you people and that parents have a key role to play in raising educational standards.

Reference to Every Parent Matters (DofE 2007)

In demonstrating that families have a major influence on their children’s achievement in school and through life. When schools, families and community work together to support learning, children often do better in school, stay in school longer and like school more.

Parents have the greatest influence on the achievement of young people through supporting their learning in the home rather than supporting activities in the school – parental involvement rather than parental engagement. Activities not directly connected to learning have little impact on pupil achievement.

Schools that offer bespoke forms of support to these parents (i.e. literacy classess, parenting skill support) are more likely to engage them in their child’s learning. Schools should constantly reinforce the fact that parents matter. (For the DP it is important to make the parents feel included).

There are barriers to engaging parents such as lack of time, language barriers, child care issues and practical skills such as literacy issues and the ability to understand and negotiate the school system.

How can the DP program engage parents to help students learn? Parental engagement and personalising provision for them as learners could be NPQH project! 🙂 We need parent and student voice.

The empirical evidence shows that parental involvement in learning is one of the key factors in securing higher student achievement and sustained school performance (Harris and Chrispeels 2006).

Longitudinal studies such as those conducted by Sylvia et al (1999) and Meluish et al (2001) provide the most recent research evidence about parental involvement. These studies reinforce the impact of parental involvement in learning activities in the home with better cognitive achievement, particularly in the early years. In contrast parental involvement acted out in the school confers little or no real benefit on the individual child, though it is valuavle for the schools and parents in terms of community relations.

Parental involvement takes many forms including good parenting in the home, including the provision of a secure and stable environment, intellectual stimulation, parent-child discussion, good models of constructive social and educational values and high aspiration relating to personal fulfillment and good citizenship; contact with schools to share information, participation in school events, participation in the work of the school, and participation in school governance.

This is because parental involvement inititative presuppose that schools, aprents and student are relatively homogenous and equaly willing and capable of developing parental involvement schemes, which is not always the case. We need to be mindfull of the differences between parents.

Mothers feel more involved than fathers. Primary more than secondary. Whilst many paretns wanted to increase their involvement to include for example supporting extra-curricular initiative, they felt that the main barriers to further involvement were limitations on their own time.

Individuals with positional ambition increased their education further in order to maintain a relative advantage. As Lupton (2006) points out ‘most working class parents think education is important but they see it as something that happens in the school and not the home’.

Across all groups, students did better if their parents helped them see the importance of taking advanced science and maths courses and took them to exhibitions, science fairs and the like. Parents who are more involved with their adolescents schooling, regardless of parents gender or educational level have offspring who do better in schools irrespective of the child’s gender, ethnicity and family structure.

Parental involvement, especially in the form of parental values and aspirations modelling in the home is a major positive force shaping students achievement and adjustment.

Working class parents face certain institutional barreiers as schools are middle class institutions with their own values. If the IB is western organization to what extent does the IB philosophy act as a barrier to parental involvement?

Schools that succeed in engaging families from very diverse background share certain key practices. They focus on building trusting collborative relationships among teachers, families, and community members; they recongnise, respect and address families needs as well as class and cultural differences. There needs to be strategic planning which embeds parental involvement schemes in whole school development planning.

Help parents understand elements of the curriculum, advice about revision techniques at KS3 and 4 as well as more divers activities designed to stimulate parental engagement with schools and raise parents aspirations for their children.

How can we get DP parents into school?. Dads and lads maths events, centering on cars and football. family learning events and helping parents understand the contemporary curriculum and homework/coursework. Parents attending parent and child learning events. or attend help your child learn courses. Booklets for parents on the same subject and allowing parents to shadow a year group during a school day to experience contemporary schooling for themselves.

Courses on parenting, on family issues, these events provided not only expert advice from teachers or other agencies (Parent Line) but allowed parents to discuss family and learning related issues with peers. Their focus was on the parent-child relationship. The provision of parent handbooks was also successful; parents reported satisfaction with the availability of information and the ease of finding the information needed. Schools engaged mentors for students and supported both students and their parents about issues of attendance and punctuaity. A number of schools targeted year six pupils and parents offering support and pastoral care around transition for both groups. Other schools responded to parental requests for support in specific areas.

Some schools did institute a cycle of “you said, we did”, and found that increased parental engagement with the school. Other schools made it clear in their reports that their conception of intelligent reporting was still a front ended one, originating with the school and ending with the parent. Schools have reduced and simplified their reports to parents, on the basis of parental preference; language used in reports has been made consistent and staff workload reduced, as reports are shorter and more to the point, staff have agreed that the new systems instituted are a different way of working, rather than more work. Parents can now access online, real time data for their own children, leading to family conversations with have had a beneficial effect on behaviour.

Parental engagement is not about engaging with the school but with the learning of the child. We could give a weekly coordinators learner profile award, voted for on Friday. Awarded on Monday.

Student don’t seek parental engagement with school activities but engagement and participation in their learning. Parental engagement policy? Homework policy in the DP?

Students were very clear that parental interest in their education had a direct and positive effect on in-school behaviour. Good behaviour was not reinforced and bad behaviour was not punished.

Homework – either in terms of monitoring it or helping with it – came from far down the list of activities valued by students and yet it is often the way that parental engagement is understood.

The data suggests that while involvement in homework is of value, in and of itself it doesn’t fulfll the prescriptions of students needs. Rather it is the beginning of the process that should lead to deeper discussions.

When parents feel that they have the opportunities, skills and knowledge required to help their children, they are more likely to be engaged. Such reluctance or reticence on the part of parents is a powerful signal to their children that education is not valued or indeed valuable.

Coordination Teaching & Learning

Authentic learning, real world meaning.

Originally posted on April 28, 2019 @ 7:40 am

After reading Mary Myatt’s “The Curriculum”, I’ve been beginning to spend some time thinking about how the IBDP can provide opportunities to make the students work more purposeful via opportunities for authentic performance. In her chapter on Beautiful work she writes:

“children’s work should be honored. It should be of the highest quality and it should also have an audience.”

She goes on to quote Ron Berger “Once a pupil creates work of value for an authentic audience beyond the classroom – work that is sophisticated, accurate, important and beautiful – that student is never the same”.

So far I’m thinking about elements common to all Diploma students:

  • The Group 4 project: this is a collborative 10 hour project that student teams composed of students from different subjects work on together. The project is not assessed but is mandatory. The theme is set by the school and in four schools over 10 years this has usually involved the HOD Sci using a word like colour or survival. However there can have some real world stimulus like the UN sustainable development goals to focus the project. The students would design experiments along this theme and then present their project to the wider school community and guests.
  • CAS: Im not an expert here by any stretch and you could argue that CAS is already the most authentic part of the DP. What could be more authentic than working on projects that have direct application in the real world? but how many projects in schools around the world actually do? Is there scope here to raise the bar? the students CAS project could also center around a real world stimulus, the activity stage focussed on taking action in some way, again an exhibition to the community could be used to sum up students work in some authentic way.
  • TOK: TOK has a heavy summative assessment component with a 1600 word academic essay and ten minute presentation, I would be loathe to add to this…but, the presentations could definitely be delivered to a wider assemblies, some other exhibitions or the community could be invited to the assessment itself.
  • Extended Essay: With over 40 hrs of work and 4000 words in the making the extended essay is a beast for most students. There are issues with it and you could already argue that, as a piece of original work, it has real world application. This year we are taking the small step to publish our students TOK and Extended Essays together in a volume, a bit like a journal, with work from some of our Visual Arts students work being used as the cover pieces. But I also like the idea of having student’s undertake a more public viva, like a PhD defense. Clearly, an EE is not a PhD but can we make it so that the process is less tick boxy and more formal? I am keen to hear what other schools do.

With all these things I think about scalability. What works in a small school doesn’t necessarily work in a very large one. Ok, sit through 2 group 4 presentations but 30? So instead schools could ensure that some students present at one event and others at another, so long as each student gets some opportunity to deliver their work meaningfully in the real world.

I realise that my ideas are a little unoriginal and perhaps I am a little bit behind the times (some schools are already doing great work) focussing mostly on presentations and exhibitions, what do you think? How else could we make our student’s DP work have more real world meaning?

Coordination Teaching & Learning

The role of curriculum

Originally posted on April 13, 2019 @ 10:00 am

In the second NPQSL face to face session we looked at leading the quality of teaching and learning within a school. We were asked to think about what high quality teaching and learning looks like in our schools and what this means to us personally. This provided some good reflection time for my own thinking about this means for me. I concluded that high quality teaching and learning is where students are forced into thinking about the topics of the subject under discussion. Thinking takes variety of forms. For me and my project, focused on implementing the DP, TOK is the key to horizontal collaboration within the DP programme, catalyzing not only a change in the way that student think but also how teachers think. Going forward I need to Establish a working group of teachers who are interested in improving their links to TOK.

At the start of the session on “driving the quality of teaching and learning” we were asked to list three priorities with regard to the quality of teaching and learning. Mine were:

  1. Making thinking the basis of both
  2. Developing good knowledge of the whole curriculum (Martin Robinson’s story)
  3. Developing knowledge of good practice – can the teacher make reasoned judgements about why they do what they do.

We then considered learning centered leadership: – how do we model, monitor and have dialogue. My group felt that it was important for leaders to be:

  1. Modelling preparedness, calm, openness and friendliness
  2. Still teaching?
  3. Using data
  4. Observations
  5. Conversations
  6. Diagnostic audit of peoples and there skills

Next we were asked to list ten ingredients for great teaching and to discuss why leaders may want to observe lessons, what the purposes of lesson observation were. My ingredients for great teaching were:

  1. Dialog
  2. Content knowledge
  3. Pedagogical content knowledge
  4. Evidence for teaching practice
  5. Prior knowledge
  6. Contextual – relevance for kids
  7. Focussed on concepts
  8. Timing – knowing when an intervention is appropriate or not
  9. Collaborative – outside the silo
  10. Firm friendliness

I also felt that observation is a great way to learn and be coached and time for teachers to observe each other is valuable if we want to enable coaching, mentoring and further development.

After sharing these within our groups we had to decide on the groups final five. We had a lot of good discussion about how learning is often confused with performance and other proxies, and that learning is actually quite a hard thing to actually observe in a lesson. Any attempt to observe a lesson for accountability purposes was doomed if you are hoping to look measure learning. Instead my group agreed that the best we could hope for was to look for proxies that may indicate high quality teaching. My group decided that our priorities were to look for :

  1. Positive relationships
  2. Feedback
  3. Knowing the students
  4. Knowledge of content and pedagogy
  5. High Expectations

I reflected that evidence is a key thing here: Knowledge in education is so tentative and unsure that no one can say with certainty this is right, or this way is wrong. Thus if we focus on the thinking behind what teachers are doing and why – are teachers able to engage with discussions and evidence why they are doing somethingt. To ensure great teaching I think it is important for leaders to smile, be open and approachable. We need to encourage discussion between teachers about their practice, provide opportunity for observation between teachers and focus more on teaching and learning, instead of getting drag into secondary tasks.

Going forward I need to work to facilitate this in my community and help to provide opportunity for this to happen, time for teachers to observe each other and time for them to have discussions with a view to improving the quality of teaching within the school. I need to support a focus on developing an understanding of the links between the subjects – horizontally and vertically – and encourage teachers to come out of the their silo.

How might this session influence your staff professional development policy?

How can you measure the impact of CPD? Carry out observations of trying out TOK activities, carry out a staff survey, have the CPD, start the written curriculum and then observe more activities and carry out an additional survey. Invite staff to take part in TOK and ATL collaboration.

Coordination Teaching & Learning

Models of change and influence: reflections on NPQSL F2F3

Originally posted on March 24, 2019 @ 1:26 pm

Session 3 began with a reflection of a change project that the participants have already been involved in. We were asked to reflect on our involvement in such a project and think about what steps we had taken to ensure change occurred with impact, as well as the threats to change that existed.

Some of the steps we identified were: appropriate staff training, making time for whole team discussion and collaboration both vertically (within departments) and horizontally (between departments), covering classes for teachers so that they could get out and observe new practice, identifying key players (later in the session I identified these as “early adoptors”) who were in position to help bring about the change, space and time for leadership to reflect on options for change, timing of communicating change, and taking the time to develop relationships to build trust.

Some of the threats to change that we identified were: low energy levels and the risk of burnout, too much to do to have time to look at the big picture, general resistance to change, and teacher workload.

We discussed the need to manage our own behaviour to ensure that a project could be a success. In international schools this can have the added complication that your colleagues also take the place of your family and friends; your support network. It can be all too easy to find yourself at home of an evening with your guard down and a comment can be made in front of a friend who is also a colleague.

The most insightful part of the day came when we turned our attention to particular models of change. This is new learning for me and excitingly provides a scaffold to really help me with my own work of implementing the IBDP at my current school. We looked at Kotter’s “8 steps of change” which, to me, is a model that focusses on the stakeholders and the structure of a change project. It provides a useful scaffold for thinking about a change project and therefore aids in planning it.

We then looked at the Kubler-Ross change curve, another model but one that focusses more on the human element and therefore provides a helpful model for thinking about the impacts on stakeholders – not just teachers, but parents and students too. The model could help explain why we have the parental problems we sometimes have and how to move them forward from those issues.

The second half of the day considered leadership behvaiour for successful leadership: Commitment, Collaboration, Personal Drive, Resilience, Awareness, Integrity and Respect. It was interesting during these session to reflect on my previous experiences. I can identify a time when good leaders have catalyzed me and moved me forward in my own thinking, or even got me thinking. None of these characteristics particularly stick out, although I would agree that they are important, but also good leaders, I think, are inspiring. They excite and challenge you to be more in your thinking and behavior.

Another useful point of the day was when we considered Roger’s adoptive categories. This was really interesting. It presented a way to think about approaching the role out of a project. Thinking about the last eight months, I can definitely idenftify colleagues who were early adoptors or innovators, providing support to the changes I have been trying to bring about. Knowledge of this model, once again provides a useful scaffold but one for building relationships as we move through the change process. Here we also identified the category of laggards, and sought reasons as to why individuals may resist change and how we can overcome this.

Before the final coaching session where we were able to spend time thinking about the development of our project, we considered the different styles of leadership and when these may or may not be appropriate. It made me once again think of prior leaders and really question what they were doing. I remember being frustrated at times, when decisions needed to be made and they weren’t – I put this squarely at the feet of leaders who were using an inappropriate leadership style for the situation. On reflection, I now have some clarity about why this year is proving so challenging. Sure, I have been teaching the IBDP since 2008 and guidance counseling since 2015, and I am no stranger to challenges and setting up new programs having had some particularly trying years doing so particularly 2016-2017, where my guidance counseling hours were reduced but the class sizes remained the same. That year I was setting up a program, teaching four classes of Biology, one class of TOK and running the DofE’s International Award. It was a frustrating year where I felt unlistened to and unsupported by leaders who just didn’t seem to get it. This year is different. My leaders get it. They are supportive but the real challenge comes not from learning another new job; DP Coordination, but learning this new job and learning how to effectively lead it at the same time, in addition to learning about college counseling in Asia.


Summary of Assessment Principles and Practices

Originally posted on February 2, 2019 @ 9:00 am

Last term the IB published a new document – “Assessment principles and practices – Quality assessments in a digital age”. Below I post my summary and notes on the document.


The aim of this document is to explain the principles that the IB has adopted to make sure that assessment is meaningful, fair and in the best interests of the students involved.

All assessments are a balance between conflicting demands and many concerns about testing fail to take this into account. An example is the tension between reducing the assessments burden and the risk of candidates only having one opportunity to show what they can do.

The IB aims to be a holistic programme of study and this should be reflected in the assessments. Decisions should therefore focus on the impact of the overall programme, not just on one subject, discipline or assessments. The IB focusses on what it is important to assess and not what is easy to assess.

Assessment is all about balancing conflicting and competing demands. Poor quality asssessments will lead to poor quality outcomes, even if assessment is “only” formative.

Assessment principles are what the IB thinks are important in creating qualifications and assessments. They come from what is considered important about an IB education. Assessments should support education, not distort it.

Assessment practices are the ways in which the principles are delivered in a meangingful and practical way.

IB exams should represent an opportunity for candidates to show what they understand, rather than being a unique experience which they need to master. Technology therefore should be driven by the assessment needs and not the other way around.

The IB is exploring eAssessment as a way to ensure that students are able to genuinely demonstrate what they know. In this way, assessments will seek to utilise technology where it may make the assessment more authentic. The IB has already moved to eMarking for many DP components and will seek to implement eAssessment in the DP, although it aware of the risks:

  1. Burdens on schools
  2. Risk of failure
  3. Security
  4. Tech for the sake of Tech
  5. Bias against certain groups of students and device effects
  6. Changing standards
  7. Barriers to schools offering IB programs


Assessment can mean many different things but generally is divided into summative and formative although today there is a drive towards “assessment as learning”. Assessments need to be designed carefully to meet the purposes its results are used for. Excellent formative assessments may be poor summative assessments (See here).

Assessment can mean any of the different ways in which student achievement can be gathered and evaluated and there are different assessment models, namely the compensation model and mastery model. The mastery model requires a basic minimum in all criteria to be met, whilst the compensation model will allow poor performance in one criteria to be balanced by very good performance in another criteria.

Formative assessments aim to provide detailed feedback to teachers and students about the students strengths and weaknesses. In contrast summative assessments focus on measuring what the student can do at a specific time. Summative assessment seeks to make a judgement about a candidate, not inform future teaching and learning.

The balance between measuring achievement and identifying correctly what still needs to develop is called assessment validity. It is important to note that the balance between quality of feedback and attainment is opposite in formative vs summative assessment.

Different national systems have adopted different approaches to assessment and these reflect the tensions between the wider aims of the society, the time and resources available. There is no one size fits all or perfectly optimal assessment system. Additionally summative assessment is increasingly being used to analyse teaching quality.

The backwash effect is the influence that an assessment has on the teaching of the content. This can be positive or negative. Snyder’s hidden curriculum is the meaning that students create about a discipline based on this assessment tasks. Assessment needs to be designed around constructivist learning theory.

Marks and grades are not the same thing. Marks refer to credit given to a candidate in line with a mark scheme, and has no other meaning. Grades describe the quality of a candidates work.

Generally IB assessments are not norm referenced. The IB generally uses marks as an indication of overall performance and then looks at how well candidates with x marks performed matched to the grade level descriptors. They then place boundaries based on the descriptors.

Validity means asking if an assessment is fit for purpose. The IB’s first concern is whether the programme is valid, then whether the elements of the programme are valid and finally whether assessments are valid. Validity is not an objective concept and is a balance between competing issues. We cannot prove validity but can construct a validity argument based on evidence.

eAssessment offers new opportunities for interaction within exams and therefore improves the validity of some aspects of assessment. It also removes some of the security concerns while introducing others.

Validity chains can be used to think about validity. There are five elements to the chain:

  • Reliability
  • Construct relevance
  • Manageability
  • Fairness
  • Comparability

All of the above are necessary to achieve validity but there are also tensions between each of them. The IB places the most value in construct relevance – assessments that actually test what they intend to test, but not at the exclusion of all else.

Reliability is the extent to which a candidate would get the same test result if the testing procedure was repeated. There are several sources of unreliability. Consistent outcomes are not the same as the right outcome. The aim of marking reliability is to ensure that all examiners make the same judgement as the senior examiner.

Construct relevance is concerned with accurately measuring the thing that the assessment is attempting to measure.

Manageability can be discussed in terms of the candidate, the school and the IB.

Fairness and bias is concerned with ensuring that the test does not give an advantage to one group over another. Bias can arise from:

  • The delivery of the assessment
  • Bias arising from marking
  • Bias related to assessment questions

Comparability of assessment is concerned with how the grades from assessments can be compared between years or subjects. The IB seeks to maintain three principles about comparability:

  1. The standard of work to achieve grades within a subject or discipline is comparable between years.
  2. Grades between subjects have a consistent meaning so that different routes to achieve the program award are comparable.
  3. Although the IB aims to focus on higher order skills, IB assessments are broadly comparable with similar exams offered by individual nations or other awarding bodies.

IB’s approach to validity

The IB believes that construct relevance and authentic assessment are more important than maximising reliability. The IB believes in rounded, holistic education. Its priority is for strong arguments of validity at programme level. Validity is a complex and multi-faceted balancing act and there is not single right answer, where you place the balance is ultimately a judgement based on the value of the organisation that is developing the assessments. The IB aims to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed.  We need to consider how the aims of individual subjects fit into the holistic aims of the IB.

IB assessments are weakly criterion referenced. That is candidate performance is matched against behavioural descriptors.

Comparative marking represents an alternative to traditional marking. The basis is that the human mind is better at making comparisons than absolute judgements. In these examples examiners make win/lose comparisons between pieces of work. In subjective marking mathematics, combined with an importance statement will allow a team of examiners to compare and “mark” students work. However comparative judgement requires many marking decisions because each piece of work must be looked at several times by several examiners.

For the IB the underlying principle is to test what is important and assessments should encourage good teaching. Comments on summative work are used to support examiner marking. Comments on formative work are give feedback to learners.

IB programme-specific processes

Key elements that link all IB programmes are:

  • The learner profile
  • Approaches to teaching and learning
  • international mindedness

IB programmes are conceptual, that is, they focus on powerful organizing ideas that are relevant across subject areas and that help to integrate learning and add coherence to the curriculum. We need to consider how are assessments within each program meet the broader objectives of the DP.


The IB recognises the need for schools and individual teachers to have the space to be creative and the ATLs are suggested as guidance and to help highlight good practice and enable discussion. The ATLs are not meant to be prescriptive. Skills can only be improved over time and if taught in a sustained fashion.


There is definitely some new information here that I am happy to receive. I was not aware that teachers could be observers at grade awarding meetings or at the final awarding committee, and this is something that I would definitely pursue in the future or recommend my teachers do. I was also pleased to see the section on ATLs and the nod from the IB that these are not mean’t to be prescriptive and that schools and teachers should be free to be creative.

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