[EDDi] Edition VI

Educational Digest International (November, 2019)

Welcome to EDDi, Edition VI

In this highly topical edition we look at teacher wellbeing, AI in education, international mindedness, EAL, and the factors which encourage expatriate teachers to commit to a school (or not).

Download the full PDF or scroll down for the main text of each digest.

And, as ever, please do forward EDDi to colleagues and friends. We are getting close to the end of the trial period for EDDi, so if you are liking what we offer, please share liberally.

In particular, if you are a school leader or university department head we would love to sign-up all of your staff (e-mail us and we can do this en masse for you; contact@eddi.ac). EDDi makes a great resource for Professional Learning Communities and/or for staff doing Postgrad degrees.

We appreciate your support.

Happy reading. Any feedback, let us know.

EDDi

WELLBEING: BREATHING DEEPLY - AND LETTING IT FLOW ON BY

Teachers are not expected to be mental health clinicians, there is practical action a school can take to reduce some of the underpinning causes of mental health problems, especially stress and anxiety.

THOUGHT PIECE

Are you up to speed with educational AI, or floundering in its wake?

INTERNATIONAL MINDEDNESS IN PRACTICE: EVIDENCE FROM INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE SCHOOLS

Read the results of nine case study schools, each identified as ‘strongly engaged with IM’ in terms of both practice and thinking.

THE SOCIAL AND ORGANISATIONAL DETERMINANTS OF SCHOOL COMMITMENT OF EXPATRIATE TEACHERS

The Holy Grail of most international schools, and indeed state schools employing overseas teachers, is not just to recruit the best teachers but to keep them.

RAISING ACHIEVEMENT OF EAL PUPILS IN SCHOOLS: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE

Given that EAL students now constitute a sizeable percentage of students in international schools, how to help them achieve high standards will be a recurrent question.

Full links and references for each article in the PDF.


DOWNLOAD EDDI EDITION VI


WELLBEING: BREATHING DEEPLY - AND LETTING IT FLOW ON BY

How many of your students are going to look back on their time in your school with fond memories?

Probably not as many as you’d hope.

There is now increasing evidence of mental health disorders in children, with one in eight British people under the age of 19 showing disorders, and even higher levels in countries such as Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. Globally, the prevalence of mental health disorders in children and adolescents is between 10% and 20%, and nearly half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14.[1]

While teachers are not expected to be mental health clinicians, there is practical action a school can take to reduce some of the underpinning causes of mental health problems, especially stress and anxiety.

Firstly, recognise that the school is a highly stressful environment. It is not a quiet place. It is noisy, bustling, demanding, and full of the toxic indicators which negatively affect both staff and students. No surprise then, that half a million US teachers leave the profession every year – a turnover rate of 20%, while some international schools hit double that turnover rate on a fairly regular basis.

Teaching is one of the world’s most demanding professions, but so is growing up in the 21st century. Exams, assessments, parental expectations, performance indicators, competitiveness, grade inflation, credentialism, bullying, social media, insecurity, anxiety, all these and more contribute to toxic stress in your school. Your kids may look happy but many are anything but. Likewise, teachers.

So how to address this?

EDDi is going to be returning to this issue in the future, but for this edition we are focusing on introducing mindfulness: meditation.

“Mindfulness: the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, sensations and surrounding environment.”

One simple but effective way to calm students (and staff) is to include meditation sessions on a daily basis.

  1. Explore your students’ knowledge about meditation. Explain that this is not a religious exercise but simply focusing on being relaxed, breathing, feeling happier inside.

  2. Introduce the meditation. Explain to the students that for the next five minutes (this can be increased to 10, 15, 20 minutes) they are going to sit quietly and practice a breathing meditation.

  3. Encourage the students to be comfortable. Sitting on their chairs with a straight back and relaxed shoulders. Not tense. Play an introductory video about the meditation posture.

  4. Ask the students to close their eyes.  Effective meditation need not be done with the eyes closed, but for children and adolescents it is a good way to start them off. It helps avoid distractions and starts to calm the mind.

  5. Bring the meditation to a gradual end. Remind the students to become aware of the room around them, any sounds they can hear, and their feet on the floor.

  6. Have a discussion about the meditation. How was the students’ experience? Was It what they expected? Would they like to do another meditation?

  7. Finally, carry it on to the rest of the day. For example, if they are feeling stressed at any time they could stop for 30 seconds and think about their breathing.

There are plenty of excellent resources for schools and teachers wishing to introduce meditation into their classrooms. For example:

http://www.meditationinschools.org/resources/#Calmer

https://www.mindfulschools.org/training/faq/

https://www.worldcat.org/title/meditation-in-schools-a-practical-guide-to-calmer-classrooms/oclc/46546075

And it works! If you are not a meditator yourself, give it a try. You’ll quickly notice a difference.

Meditation won’t remove the day to day stress of being a teacher or student, but it will dramatically reduce the negative impact such stress has on your mental well-being.

______________________________________________________

[1] reference: https://www.who.int/mental_health/maternal-child/child_adolescent/en/


A QUICK REQUEST…

To keep EDDi alive we need subscribers. If you like what EDDi offers, please share with colleagues.

Help EDDi on its journey by sharing.

Share


Are you up to speed with educational AI, or floundering in its wake?

By Dr Stephen Whitehead

As far as technology is concerned, I’m a late starter. I wrote my 90,000-word PhD thesis on an electronic typewriter (circa 1993), the screen size equal to five postage stamps. When I got my first full-time academic job (circa 1997), a secretary needed to show me how to start up my office computer.

OK, I’ve since moved on a little. But then, haven’t we all?

The question is, though, are any of us keeping up with technology? I very much doubt it, unless it’s your job requirement.

But, as international educationalists, our jobs may very soon depend on our skill at interacting with a machine. And the country we all need to watch in this regard is China.

That China is fast emerging as the global leader in applying Artificial Intelligence and robotics to everyday work and leisure situations is widely reported. And arguably the most dramatic impact Chinese AI technology is having is in education. In the past week alone I’ve read reports on the use of AI to monitor China’s students in schools and university classrooms and dormitories, and on robots now doing routine morning health checks on pre-schoolers at more than 5,000 kindergartens across China.

If you’ve kept any eye at all on the dramatic changes happening within China’s education system regards AI, none of this will surprise you. You’ll already be aware that hundreds, maybe thousands, of Chinese kindergartens already use robots as Assistant Teachers.

But, perhaps as a throw-back to my days when a smartphone was not my closest companion and preparing for a lecture required printing my presentation on OHP acetate sheets, I still register a little unease at the speed of AI change in education. I just cannot see a robot filling the full range of a teacher’s professional duties. Nor can I envisage a robot handling the complex dynamics of international school leadership; responding appropriately to the messy issues which always arise from managing teachers and students.

Of course, I could be wrong, though I certainly hope not. I am all for AI in the classroom (less so in the staff room or Director’s meetings) and as an international school director I’d be most willing to ‘employ’ a US$1,500 robot TA to support my pre-schoolers. But if we are not to produce a generation completely divorced from human interaction then the human teacher must prevail. However, already one can see the trend and that trend is being pushed not so much by the Chinese government and Alibaba, but by the changing nature of work itself. As every educational expert realises, ‘to understand how AI could improve teaching and learning you need to think about how it is reshaping the nature of work.”

The days of employment predictability, if they were ever with us, are now well and truly gone. Generation Z are leaving your school for who knows what? Certainly not a career for life, or even 20 years of full-time employment. The skills of today, and tomorrow, are EQ, creativity, entrepreneurialism and critical thinking. Consequently, the days of rote learning are over, or should be, with standardised testing soon to be followed into the dustbin of history.

One-size-fits all teaching is dead.

Indeed, the very concept of teaching is dead. We don’t need any more teachers, but we do need a whole lot more learning facilitators, mentors, guides, enablers.

If teachers, and school managers, cannot step up and deliver individualised student-centred learning then for sure AI will do so.

If educationalists cannot adapt, if you cannot adapt, to the needs of a student generation already ahead of their teachers in terms of technological ability, confidence and awareness, then companies such as Squirrel will step in and fill the gap. Already Squirrel provide some evidence that their adaptive learning systems are more effective than human teaching, with AI providing a degree of ‘deeply personalised learning’ that no human teacher can match when teaching a class of 25 primary school kids.

None of this suggests that education in the 21st century will be any less vital to human self-actualisation and agency than education was in the last century. What it does suggest is that China’s ‘current mass experiment in AI education’ has the potential to change people and therefore, change the world.

What into, remains to be seen.

PS. Eddi will most definitely be returning to this topic.


DIGEST I:

INTERNATIONAL MINDEDNESS IN PRACTICE: THE EVIDENCE FROM INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE SCHOOLS

TAKEAWAYS

  • It is self-evident that we live in a globalised society and economy, but many people are not prepared for it; others distrust this new world order.

  • Through International Mindedness, IB schools are at the forefront of addressing these issues.

  • Schools with the best IM programmes have moved beyond ‘personal competencies’.

  • Students (and staff) must engage in in open, transparent and sometimes difficult conversations which challenge assumptions, stereotypes and at the same time, value everyone in the school community.

One common factor in all the IB World Schools involved in the study was ‘their intentionality’ in thinking about IM and not simply leaving it as an aspect of an IB programme. ‘It was planned through the school’s vision, strategy, policy and practice. Schools had appointed ‘IM champions’ and were ‘actively promoting staff development to support IM activities in the classroom’.

Like it or not, we now live in a globalized society and economy. Technology, travel and commerce continue to shrink horizons and interconnect lives. This can offer great benefit from some, but distinct drawbacks for others. Many are simply not engaged with, or prepared for, such developments while others overtly distrust moves towards a more inclusive, mobile society (Harwood & Bailey, 2012) and are advocating a more nationalistic agenda. In this complex environment, situations are constantly changing. To thrive in tomorrow’s world, our children and young people must understand and embrace its diverse cultures and interactions. (p. 3)

This is the opening paragraph to an article on international mindedness, authored by E. Hacking, C. Blackmore, K. Bullock, T. Bunnell, M. Donnelly and S. Martin (University of Bath, UK). For us, this is a nigh on perfect summary of the current situation regards globalisation, culture, and education, which is why we thought it worth quoting in full.

International mindedness, global citizenship, inter-culturation, global engagement, multilingualism, intercultural understanding, no educationalist will be unfamiliar with these terms, but how many actually understand these concepts and how many put them into practice?

If you work in a nationalistic state education system, or even in some ‘localised international’ schools, putting these ideals into practice is unlikely to be a priority. But if you work in an IB school then it most definitely is a priority.

And that is the aim of this study, to ‘examine systematically how schools offering the international Baccalaureate programmes (so-called IB World Schools) conceptualise, develop, assess and evaluate international Mindedness (IM)…’

Nine case study schools were chosen, each identified as ‘strongly engaged with IM’ in terms of both practice and thinking. The schools, all English medium, were located in the UK, USA, Qatar, Jordan, Finland, Indonesia and China and a mix of international, public (state) and private.

The research - a blend of interviews, focus groups, school tour, lesson observations, online-survey (parents), school audit and documentation analysis, involving senior school leaders, teachers and students – was conducted between 2015 and 2016. With the work of the researchers ‘supported by an Expert Panel of ‘critical expert friends’ who advised on the selection of sample, the combination and design of the research instruments and the final analysis of results’ (p. 8).

The summary of the key findings is as follows:

  1. IM is being interpreted in multiple ways and is variously described as ‘a way of thinking’, ‘a way of acting’, ‘a way of living’ and ‘a mind-set’. Each of the nine case study schools had ‘different ways of thinking about IM’, with people expressing these differences ‘depending on their context or personal interpretations’ (p.8)

  2. This ‘lack of clarity’ was not necessarily seen as negative but simply revealed the complexity of the IM concept, ideas about culture, and what it means to be ‘global’ and ‘international’.

  3. Those schools with the most ‘promising practice’ regards IM ‘had largely moved beyond personal competencies’ and were active in developing IM within interpersonal relationships, encouraging students in ‘reaching out to interact with others’ exploring different perspectives, learning and understanding others and respecting their points of view.

  4. This understanding of IM as primarily being about ‘reaching out to relate to others’ and ‘reaching in to understand ourselves’ was evident in all the schools.

  5. One common factor in all the IB World Schools involved in the study was ‘their intentionality’ in thinking about IM and not simply leaving it as an aspect of an IB programme. ‘It was planned through the school’s vision, strategy, policy and practice. Schools had appointed ‘IM champions’ and were ‘actively promoting staff development to support IM activities in the classroom’. (p. 10)

  6. Most of the case study schools had ‘moved beyond celebrating the  so-called 5 F’s (food, flags, festivals, fashion and famous people)’, and were seeking more ‘authentic and sustained experiences’; for example, in-depth discussions, conversations, and critically examining ‘students’ personal experiences in challenging assumptions and engaging with difference.’ (p. 10)

  7. A key finding was ‘the importance of the teacher and the teacher’s [positive] mind-set[ regards IM] in how the curriculum is interpreted and enacted’, with regular staff development in this area being crucial to successful IM implementation (p. 11)

  8. The schools stressed that ‘IM is not achieved by osmosis’. It requires ‘more than mixing with different nationalities and living in another country’. Therefore, fluency in different languages was recognised as ‘a key transferable skill relating to IM’. (p. 11)

  9. What was seen as more important than a ‘fixed definition of IM’ was having schools ‘view IM as a journey both for the school and students…The framing and definition of IM was sensitive to contextual factors and changed with people and with local and global contexts’. ‘Importantly, each school in this study was making IM its own.’ (p. 12)

The article concludes, that despite its worthiness International Mindedness needs strategic effort to be successfully implemented in a school. It requires the commitment of all the staff and should be embedded in the schools’ vision, systems, and everyday practices, not simply celebrated on special occasions, in festivals, and in food.

Students and teachers must engage in self-reflection and the school should enable open and transparent conversations to take place which challenge assumptions, stereotypes and at the same time, value everyone in the school community.

This inclusive approach within the school is elementary to successful implementation of IM, as it helps achieve a ‘balance of local and national mindedness and enables the students to develop positive self-identity and appreciate the local or host culture’. In other words:

‘IM is a process rather than a product; a journey rather than an arrival’.


DIGEST II:

THE SOCIAL AND ORGANISATIONAL DETERMINANTS OF SCHOOL COMMITMENT OF EXPATRIATE TEACHERS

TAKEAWAYS

  • Of note for Principals, for many expatriate teachers their first commitment is to the profession, their second to a particular country or region, and only last, to a particular school

  • There is a lot a Principal can do to effect motivation in her/his school, but much less they can do about the socio/cultural dynamics of the country/region.

  • However, whichever way one reads this research, there is an unmistakable conclusion - the most important variable is the quality of school leadership

The Holy Grail of most international schools, and indeed state schools employing overseas teachers, is not just to recruit the best teachers but to keep them.

With annual turnover rates in some international schools occasionally exceeding 40%, retaining good teachers can be a challenge. Add in the issue of the ongoing transformation of K-12 education from teacher-centred to student-centred, and the quality of the teacher inevitably needs to rise exponentially, making the best teachers a much-valued commodity.

Over the years, there have been numerous global studies into teaching commitment and this article summarises some of the research and findings. What emerges is a wide but complex blend of intrinsic and extrinsic factors all combining to affect teachers’ teaching and school commitment. These range from intrinsic motivations such as ‘enhancing the lives of children and contributing to society’, to extrinsic motivations such ‘pay, benefits and job security’. While there can be no single motivating factor which works for all individuals, there are organisational variables which appear to strongly correlate with teacher satisfaction and motivation and which factor in at both intrinsic and extrinsic levels.

Empirical evidence suggests that many organisational level variables constitute aspects of such a work climate that supports intrinsic motivation and facilitates internalisation of extrinsic motivation and have been demonstrated to predict teacher commitment to the school. These variables include principals’ leadership; teachers’ collaboration; empowerment and involvement; autonomy; team work; and collective efficacy beliefs...Importantly, an increasing number of studies indicate that supportive interpersonal relations are the key to an enabling school environment and are the necessary condition for teachers’ commitment to develop. (p. 36)

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the character, personality and actions of the school principal and their relationship with staff figures as ‘a significant predictor of job satisfaction and commitment [with] teachers’ trust in management having a positive effect on affective organisational commitment’.

One of the strengths of this article is the detailed literature review, at the conclusion of which the authors recognise that ‘while some motivational factors and turnover issues have been discussed for expatriate teachers, little is known about the factors influencing their school commitment in the context of national public schools. (p. 37)

This raises an important point. And that refers to the differences between teaching motivation, school motivation and country/region motivation for expatriate teachers. No doubt you have known very few if any expatriate teachers quit the teaching profession completely – the intrinsic motivation to be a teacher is too strong. You will know a great many who’ve left a school for whatever reason, but only to sign up to another one (most, in our experience).  And then there is the lesser number who leave a country/region for whatever reason but only to work as a teacher in another part of the world. In other words, for many expatriate teachers their first commitment is to the profession, their second to a particular country or region, and only last, to a particular school. Therefore, in attempting to gauge the motivations of the ‘typical’ expatriate teacher it is necessary to distinguish not only between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, but also between these three variables of profession, region, school. There is a lot a principal can do to effect motivation in her/his school, but much less they can do about the socio/cultural dynamics of the country/region.

The findings of this extensive quantitative research (undertaken in Abu Dhabi) appear to confirm this point.

  1. Compared to Arab teachers, Western teachers who perceived a higher level of satisfaction with principal leadership, school teacher support, and student behaviour tended to be more committed to school.

  2. Western expatriates, while admitting that the compensation package is generally attractive, also consider the desire to have international career experience and to experience different cultures as the main reason to come to teach in the UAE.

  3. Interpersonal support and collegial relationship were demonstrated to be the strongest workplace level predictors of expatriate teachers’ school commitment.

  4. The identification of an expatriate teacher with the school overseas takes time to build and is likely to be undermined by the temporary nature of the employment relationship.

  5. Personal circumstances and considerations remain important in expatriate teachers’ retention decisions with teacher commitment involving an interplay of personal, workplace and education systemic factors with interplay differently to impact commitment.

  6. For Western teachers, the weak institutional and social identification that they have encountered including the employment contract, cultural capital, and social norms has to be compensated by workplace social and interpersonal support. (p. 43 – 44)

Whichever way one reads this research, there is an unmistakable conclusion, and that is the most important variable is the quality of school leadership. Whether the school be in the public or private sector, interpersonal relations count for a lot and the quality of interrelationships can be enhanced or diminished by the actions, ethos and experience of the school principal. It is not simply about salary and benefits, there is a whole lot more happening to effect teacher motivation, especially for Western teachers working in countries where factors of teacher autonomy, supportive interpersonal relations, and relations between teachers and other school stakeholders make all the difference when deciding whether or not to sign on for another year.

More on this topic in a forthcoming EDDi when we’ll look at a top international school principal’s suggestions for retaining top teachers.


DIGEST III:

RAISING ACHIEVEMENT OF EAL PUPILS IN SCHOOLS: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE

TAKEAWAYS

  • There is a surprising paucity of research on what works in raising the achievement of EAL pupils in schools.

  • Recent data suggests that it takes ‘5-7 years on average’ to acquire academic English fluency for EAL pupils.

  • The article identifies the good practices as: strong leadership on equality and equity; effective targeted support for EAL pupils; targeted support from EAL support staff; effective use of assessment data for monitoring and tracking EAL pupils.

Raising the achievement of students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) is likely a primary concern for every international school teacher. Given that EAL students now constitute a sizeable percentage of students in international schools, how to help them achieve high standards will be a recurrent question.

Which makes the fact that there is ‘a paucity of research on what works in raising the achievement of EAL pupils in schools’ (p. 43) quite remarkable. This article by F. Demie and K. Lewis (Univ. of London), aims to address this gap in the research.

The authors undertook a ‘complementary methodological approach of case studies and focus groups’ in six English schools, drawing on the views of teachers, governors, parents and pupils. While each of the case study schools had its own ‘character and emphasis’ the research does provide ‘clear evidence’ of the ‘common characteristics for success’ operating across the schools.

But before detailing their findings, the authors address one common question raised by all EAL teachers which is ‘how long does it take to acquire academic English fluency for EAL pupils?’ Recent data from London schools suggests ‘5-7 years on average’ that is, moving from Stage 1 (beginner), through Stage 2 (familiar) to Stage 3 (confident)’ (p. 429). This finding is supported by international research. Key factors behind schools’ success in raising achievement levels include ‘quality of teaching and learning, effective leadership at all levels, effective use of an inclusive curriculum, diversity in the school workforce, strong values and high expectations, and the effective use of assessment data to monitor and track EAL performance and targeted support and interventions.’ (p. 430)

Many of these success factors will, of course, drive school improvement for all pupils.

But, what works specifically for EAL pupils? That is the underpinning question at the heart of this study, the aim being to ‘examine the success factors behind the increased achievement of pupils with EAL [and] to illustrate how policy and practice help to raise the achievement of pupils, with a strong emphasis on what works’ (p. 430)

Based on the study, the article identifies the ‘good practices’ as follows:

  1. Strong leadership on equality and equity: Headteachers set high expectations for the senior team and the staff as a whole. There was relentless focus on improvement, particularly in the quality of teaching and learning, effective use of data and higher achievement by students…Most importantly, in the words of one headteacher, “equality of opportunity is at the core of school life”. Staff worked efficiently, sensitively and successfully to remove barriers to learning faced by large numbers of pupils. The schools pride themselves on their diversity. (p. 434)

  1. Effective teaching and learning in the classroom:  All staff adopted a holistic approach which incorporated a range of strategies known to be effective for learners with EAL. These included collaborative learning, a focus on talk and vocabulary development throughout the curriculum, an experiential curriculum and promotion of pupils’ first languages in the classroom as a tool for learning. Pupils had many opportunities through planned talk and drama to use their home languages but also to develop and rehearse their English in a non-threatening environment. (p. 435)

  1. Effective targeted support for EAL pupils:  Staff teamwork underpinned the support for pupils with EAL needs in schools. At termly Learning Assessment meetings, the needs of individual pupils and their EAL targets, drawn from the Stages of English assessments, were discussed with Headteachers, deputy headteachers/inclusion managers and EAL staff, and interventions put in place and monitored regularly for effectiveness…change and improvement was implemented through clear induction processes, targeted interventions, one to one support and through personalised or differentiated teaching. (p. 437)

  1. Targeted support from EAL support staff: Supporting adults had a unique role in the achievement of pupils with EAL. Like the teachers, all had received specific training in routine practices and specific interventions to raise the achievement of pupils including encouraging children to use their first language; talk partners; pre-teaching specific concepts and then applying these techniques across the curriculum. Teachers and support staff planned and delivered lessons together. Key adults, often teaching assistants, who were described as “buddies”, were assigned to newly arrived pupils who had no knowledge of English, especially when they shared the same language. (p.440)

Effective use of assessment data for monitoring and tracking EAL pupils: This was one of the most significant drivers for raising achievement. Individual classroom teachers used data for informing teaching and learning including lesson planning; to inform accurate targets for individual students, gender and ethnic groups; arranging groupings for teaching and learning and tracking progress of pupils and setting high expectations. The schools had well-developed effective pupil tracking and monitoring management information systems. All teachers had tracking sheets for pupils, identifying types of support, previous school and favourite subjects.

In summary, EAL was ‘at the heart of each school’s culture’ and permeated everything in the schools from teaching and learning to school policies, management to support teachers, assessment to monitoring, diversity to equality. The focus on achievement was both strategically driven and supported in daily practice, always ensuring the pupils were involved, felt valued and viewed themselves positively, regardless of their own culture and educational level. As one headteacher put it:

“As a staff we don’t see [EAL] as a challenge we see it as an opportunity. We have all these children with EAL, what a wonderful opportunity to share our languages and our cultures.” (p. 444)

Share to help EDDi thrive

Every fortnight EDDi provides vital educational research, summarised. EDDi saves you time and money, keeping you professionally engaged and up-to-date.

To keep EDDi alive we need subscribers. If you like what EDDi offers, please share with colleagues.

Help EDDi on its journey by sharing.

Share

Loading more posts…