School21C

Conversations about 21st Century Education

New York Bound

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Panoramic View of Grand Central Terminal, New York City (Arnie Bieber)

Working at a school with a global reputation for innovation and educational leadership such as the International School of Prague, is a exhilarating and rewarding professional experience. But in my hectic day to day professional life, it can be hard to find sufficient time to reflect deeply on the major issues of the day facing educators.

This is why I am particularly excited about my recently having been awarded a Kilingenstein Fellowship at Columbia University in New York City. This scholarship will permit me to work closely with 20 fellow heads of school from the US and internationally, to discuss and research important issues facing independent and international schools.

Every year, 20 Heads from around the world immerse themselves in a truly unique professional experience– two weeks of intensive study and reflection among peers who confront similar challenges, share common experiences and grow through discussion and research. Each arrives ready to commit to philosophical ideals that guide the best of education while strengthening skills, defining vision and building stronger schools through rigorous study and interaction with colleagues.

Starting in late January, these heads examine educational issues and policies, drawing on an extensive reading list and a variety of prominent speakers. Additionally, seminars and colloquia address current issues confronting independent school educators, with preparatory readings assigned in advance of the program.

Heads also focus on a current issue of importance, self-selected for relevancy to their home schools. Related readings, research and group discussions on the topics guide heads to better understanding of real issues for their individual institutions and the field at large. Recent areas of focus have been: how to shape a school’s ethos; the pros and cons of merit compensation; cultural relativism and institutional integrity; how to evaluate heads and boards; mentoring programs; unifying the K-12 curriculum; revitalizing professional development; learning disabilities programs; academic achievement and the arts; ability grouping; strategic planning; marketing strategies; 21st century curricula; and multiculturalism.

The Heads program is thoughtfully planned to offer a challenging academic experience that also allows for building strong and meaningful collegial connections, the kind that often last a lifetime. In addition to the coursework and late night discussions fueled by new ideas, approaches and perspectives, the Heads of Schools Program integrates extracurricular activities that enrich a demanding classroom schedule. Heads visit several different types of local schools– including charter, public and independent– to gain exposure to multiple educational styles and structures. (http://klingenstein.org/content/curriculum-1)

An important aspect of the program is that each participant works on a research topic that he or she has identified in advance. Topics vary from brain research, technology integration, global education or teacher appraisal to name but a few. The focus of my topic is Schools of the Future:

For years, educators from around the world have been pondering a way forward to implement school reform, school change and school transformation. However while educators have posited ideas about how schools should transform to meet the needs of 21st Century learners, a clear vision of what the school of the future might look like or even the path we might take to bring us to a new model of schooling is limited.

My research topic, based on what we know about learning, brain research and best educational practice, will focus on a model for the “school of the future”. Through exploration into a variety of learning models I will address the following issues:

  • 21st Century learner competencies
  • New approaches to scheduling student time in school
  • Impact of student voice on curriculum and teaching
  • The place of project based learning and authentic assessments in schools
  • Steps we can take to initiate real change in schools

While I am aware that this is an ambitious subject worthy of several doctoral dissertations, I am excited about the prospect of doing some of my own focused research and writing on such an important topic. Upon my return from the Klingenstein Heads of Schools Program, I look forward to reporting back on some of my findings and conclusions.

Author: Arnie Bieber

Director, International School of Prague “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” ― John Dewey

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