Once per month at ISP we set aside time in the teacher’s busy schedule to think out of the box and focus on our school’s future development. Instead of simply holding the traditional informational all-faculty meetings where teachers sit passively and listen to presentations, we have created a dynamic structure in which teachers have formed themselves into Professional Focus Groups. The purpose of these groups is to create an ongoing process where faculty involvement will impact on individual professional growth, as well as our school’s future development.
At the beginning of the school year all faculty chose readings and resources connected to the following areas:
- 21st Century Schools
- 21st Century Skills
- Assessment for Learning
- Authentic Learning/Inquiry in Practice
Then teachers brainstormed focus group topics they felt would be relevant to our school’s future development, as well as to their own personal professional growth. Over the next month each teacher signed up to one of the focus groups they had established:
- K-12 Arts – transforming our arts program
- Flip classroom how to move away from content teaching in classes, and look at how we can leverage technology, what is the pedagogy and logistics needed
- What does it mean to be an international school? How international are we? How well do we tolerate and promote the diversity of our community? Where are we promoting intercultural understanding?
- Project based learning (skills and experiences that are practical, transferable) built into the schedule to provide continuity. and are integrated.
- ILife integration into classroom instruction
- Blogger Group explore blogging and its role in student learning and teaching
- Student ownership of their own learning: awareness: self- assessment, voice and accountability for their own learning
- Visible Thinking and Inquiry based learning: creative ideas for all subject areas.
- Service Learning
- Exploring global virtual collaboration opportunities for faculty and students
- Integrating Czech culture into the ISP community and curriculum
- Environmental awareness in practice
- Developing Emotional Intelligence – self understanding- Mindfulness
- Explore the term ‘Healthy, fulfilling and purposeful’ (from our mission) and its implications
- Short term Professional Book Club
- Critical Friends group
- Brain Research investigation followed by action research project
To ensure good communication and allow all faculty to be in touch with the other focus groups, feedback is published electronically and addresses the following:
- Purpose/objectives of group
- Big ideas, realizations or major topics discussed
- Next steps for the group and suggested actions/ideas for the school
We also formed a Think Tank group composed of administrators and teachers from each section of the schools. It’s purpose is to synthesize focus group feedback and to facilitate the process moving forward.
Educators don’t often have the opportunity or the time in their busy schedules to focus on their own professional passions, as well as think out of the box. It is hoped that the Professional Focus Group process will lead to other such opportunities not only for teachers but for students as well. We view this as a first step in an ongoing process where teachers have the opportunity to think big about our school’s future.
The ISP Professional Focus Group is a unique approach to school change, and is aligned to our mission. If we believe that twenty first century schools must empower student learners, we must also ensure that our teacher-learners are empowered to affect change and thus feel a sense ownership and pride in the future development of our schools.