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Visible Learning – How Can Parents Help at Home?

A core belief at Tessa International School is that all of our teachers should continually improve our teaching practices. Over the summer I read a book that is receiving a lot of praise from renowned educators:  10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success by John Hattie and Klaus Zierer.


Unlike many books devoted to pedagogy, Hattie and Zierer used scientific-based evidence (for example, several meta studies) to determine ten key ‘mindframes’ for excellent teachers.

One simple take-away for teachers:  instead of going into a classroom and asking oneself, ‘How can I be a great teacher?’ or ‘How can my students learn the best?’ 10 Mindframes suggests that teachers should say to themselves:  ‘My job here is to evaluate my impact on my students.’

I invite you now to reflect when you were a child:  which teachers made the greatest impact on you?  Why?  Which moments with your parents impacted you the most?  Why?  How can you make similar impactful moments on your own child?

As a parent of a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old and a teacher myself, I often ask myself how we as parents (whether we have education backgrounds or not) can help our children become better learners and world citizens.  So I have written a few suggestions for parents who wish to make learning more impactful for students, based on many of the mindframes.

1. I am an evaluator of my impact on my child’s learning

As a parent you have a tremendous impact on your children. Do you occasionally reflect upon the memories that you are making during ‘teachable moments?’ As an example, my family and I just moved all of our belongings from house to another. Needless to say–it was an intense two days and there was a fair share of unexpected moments. My children were a part of the moving process and they saw moments that were a bit, shall we say….frustrating?  As my wife and I occasionally got discombobulated I remained very aware that my children are learning how to deal with frustration—from us.

Your children, especially if they are young, are learning so much…from you! Are you evaluating the impact you are making on your child on a day to day basis?

2. I collaborate with my peers about my conceptions of progress and my impact

Do you consult other parents from time to time, or are you so confident that you are the best parent in the world that you never need to speak to anyone?  In my humble opinion, having an open mind, key to the IB Learner Profile, is extremely important to becoming a better parent. Just because something worked with you as a child, for example, doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work the same way on your own child. As an aside, I’d like to suggest that you check out a fascinating review of a book that compares parenting styles in France, the US, and Peru here

As a general rule, the biggest issue that I see with American parenting is ‘helicopter parenting.’ Giving your children opportunities to take risks is extremely important. And check out Erika Christakis’s The Importance of Being Little if you want some advice on this.

3. I am a change agent and believe my child can improve

Do you have fixed beliefs about your child?  ‘My son is great at… singing, but not so good at sports.’ Have you ever said or thought something like this? Though these observations and ‘rules-of-thumb’ may at times be helpful to you to better understand your child, you also might be making assumptions that simply are not true. And why would such assumptions be bad?  Well, if your child implicitly knows that he or she is not good at ‘x’ or is not meant to be ‘x,’ then guess what? He might just stop trying entirely to be ‘x.’ And he may only be two years old!

4.  I strive to provide my child with challenge and not merely have him or her do his or her best

Teachers often learn about Lev Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Development during teacher training.  This fancy-sounding concept is essentially the idea of giving every child just the right balance of challenge and support. Do you give your children too much support?  This is often what I see as an educator when I watch parent-child interactions.  Don’t be afraid to challenge your children. Personally, I have learned the most when I was suddenly on my own with a challenge. Remember the first time you drove a car on your own?  How you suddenly knew, ‘This is real.’ And how quickly you learned a million things?  The same is true with children.

5. I give feedback and help my child understand it, and I interpret and act on feedback given to me

Do you give your child specific feedback relating to the way he or she acts?  Manners such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ for instance, don’t come naturally to children. When you see your child acting politely or impolitely, do you give him specific feedback?

6. I engage as much in dialogue as monologue

Are you ‘the rule of law’ in your home, or do you give your children choice?  Naturally, not everything can be a choice. But do you listen to your children when they say what they like or don’t like?

7. I build relationships and trust so that learning can occur, where it is safe to make mistakes and learn from others

How is your relationship with your child?  What could you do to improve it?

8. I identify and build on my child’s prior experiences and initial learning level

Do you make connections to other things that have happened to your child?  For instance, if you have been on vacation with your child sometime in the past, and see something that reminds you of this event, do you help the child make the connection?  In a way, this relates to the teaching concept of spiraling. This is the idea that in the classroom you always return and review what you have learned previously. Imagine teaching your child a concept such as octagon.  You look at Stop signs, you draw them, and your child really understands what an octagon is. Do you ever bring up the topic of octagon again or do you assume that your child knows what it is without reinforcing it?  Naturally, you bring it back.   

I hope that some of these suggestions can help you be an even more awesome parent than you are now! 

Here is to a great year at Tessa International School!

Focus on International Baccalaureate: The Teaching Differences

Focus on International Baccalaureate: The Teaching Differences

The benefits of International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are unparalleled during primary and secondary education, as well as post-graduation. IB programs give students a unique learning experience they will carry with them throughout their educational careers and beyond.

According to the IB organization’s website, the programs are gaining momentum collectively. Their latest annual statistics bulletin, published in March 2019, showed an increase of 39 percent in global IB program participation.

So, what is it about IB teaching programs that is garnering so much attention in the educational world? To put it simply, it’s an educational curriculum that’s focused on individual thinking with global responsibility.

To understand its effectiveness, we must first understand its differences. In other words, how does IB teaching differ from traditional teaching methods?

The IB Program

The International Baccalaureate program is one that was founded in Switzerland half a century ago with the purpose of broadening global learning and responsibility. As such, the teachings have since expanded immensely and developed methods that promote this multicultural educational experience.

Since its creation, the IB program has grown exponentially and is now incorporated in thousands of educational facilities worldwide. It is also offered across four different educational program levels ranging from early childhood education up through adult career programs. Each level focuses on different aspects of multicultural learning, but the techniques share the same basis. They are also distinctly different from traditional teaching methods.

IB Teaching Differences

IB programs are focused on giving students the ability to expand their knowledge outside the four walls of their homes and classrooms. The teaching is based on global communities and critical thinking that impacts larger-scale communities. In other words, it is focused on tearing down the cultural divides that separate us with traditional learning.

The cornerstone of IB teaching lies with bilingualism and multilingualism. In order to break down cultural barriers, we must first be able to communicate with other cultures. For that reason, foreign language is an integral part of all IB programs.

IB learning is about so much more than bilingualism, however. Course offerings in foreign languages alone do not qualify an educational facility for IB learning credentials. The IB learning experience is about using those courses as one part of a multi-faceted teaching approach.

Multi-Faceted Teaching

According to the International Baccalaureate Organization’s website, there are specific criteria that define an IB program and differentiate it from standardized teaching. The teaching approach must include the following:

  • An emphasis on critical thinking and encouraging students to challenge their knowledge
  • Key teachings on procuring credible, quality research on all inquests
  • Encouraging students to think on a global scale – outside of local and national levels and agendas
  • Focus on developing multilingual skills to expand global communication opportunities

Overall, the difference between IB teaching and traditional standardized teaching approaches lies with the bigger picture. The focus of IB teaching is to give students a solid foundation for learning that will drive them in their educational careers for years to come. It is to give students a sense of purpose measured well beyond localized issues and test results. IB teaching instead, focuses on arming students with tools to break down international barriers, and the drive to actively participate in the world around them. It is a method that instills a feeling of multicultural connectivity and global responsibility – one which will follow them throughout their lives.

The Benefits of International Baccalaureate Education Programs

The Benefits of International Baccalaureate Education Programs

With unparalleled benefits, international baccalaureate educational programs are gaining in popularity across the country. By focusing curricula on a greater global cultural experience, children involved in these programs are exposed to “bigger picture” education. How? Let’s take a look.

According to the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization, programs focused on IB “strive to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.” By incorporating international studies within the framework of daily curricula, IB schools teach children to consider larger scale imperatives.

What Is International Baccalaureate Education

The concept of IB programs lies with a focus on global thinking across all platforms and processes. While it certainly includes international language disciplines, IB studies root much deeper into the curricula than one area of discipline.

“The aim of all IB programs is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.” – IBO.org.

With stress on crossing cultural borders through educational experience, IB programs create a unique, all-inclusive curriculum for students. It works by encouraging students to develop critical thinking skills that allow them to see issues on a global scale, rather than simply processing closed, local elements.

How It Works

Since IB programs are a deeper concept than simple course curriculum, they build a stronger understanding of international issues. These programs are more in-depth than studying cultural textbooks. They are a focus on meaningful cultural experiences and encourage interaction on a level far beyond the classroom.

This learning begins with language learning, as mentioned previously. The cornerstone of any IB program is to first be able to communicate effectively with others globally. This is done by teaching students in a bilingual or multi-lingual manner. Since communication is critical to accomplishing change on any level, it goes without saying that being able to communicate with a larger global population would open doors to greater changes.

Going Beyond the Languages

It’s true that foreign language learning is a crucial piece of all IB learning programs, but IB learning goes well beyond language coursework. Integrated within the curricula, IB programs must also include an interactive approach which encourages students to go beyond the textbook. These elements of the IB program are what make them stand out amongst traditional learning techniques.

By placing interactive opportunities in front of students, the IB experience gets learners out of the classroom and into situations which promote cognitive expansion. It is a means of introducing students to a broader understanding of cultures and the collective good by allowing them to develop early critical thinking skills.

“These elements challenge the student to critically consider power and privilege, and to recognize that he or she holds this planet and its resources in trust for future generations… (it is) a focus on moving beyond awareness and understanding to engagement, action and bringing about meaningful change.” – IBO.org.

The International Difference

The difference between IB learning and traditional educational experiences lies within the method of developing independent thinking and actions. By immersing students in an international mindset, the difference goes well beyond traditional standardized learning.

Rather than a strict focus on textbook curricula, students are taught to think on a broader scale across all coursework. In other words, they are taught to think (and act) beyond the book. They also learn to think and act beyond localized cultures and issues as well, which is a skill that will be critical for future development.

The Benefits of IB Learning

International Baccalaureate programs offer a wide range of benefits to students. While some may be obvious – such as giving them a broader perspective on global and cultural issues – there are many more benefits to consider as well.

With bilingualism and multilingualism at the base of IB learning, students gain critical communication skills that will serve them throughout their lives and careers. By expanding their ability to communicate with other cultures, they are increasing their opportunities to make a greater impact across the globe.

Improved communication skills follow students into every aspect of life. In addition, the unique multi-cultural experiences they learn in school will allow them to not only pick up communication skills, but also critical thinking and learning skills in general.

“Students are able to take responsibility for their own learning and understand how knowledge itself is constructed… They are encouraged to try different approaches to learning and to take responsibility for their own educational progress.” – IBO.org.

This independent teaching and learning process gives students the means to apply their knowledge to real-life scenarios with greater cognitive reasoning and approach. In essence, it allows students to learn a better way to learn.

These crucial skills are assets that students will carry with them well beyond graduation. It will play a role in gaining them the best experiences with post-graduation training and education. In fact, according to the IBO.org, students who have access to International Baccalaureate programs during primary and secondary schooling have greater access to the world’s most prestigious universities after commencement.

University Appeal

Overall, students who attend facilities with IB programming tend to be highly attractive to top ranked universities. Why? These students offer universities a great deal of skill and development that is highly beneficial to higher education.

“IB students are more likely than their peers to complete their undergraduate degrees and pursue graduate work; and they are more likely to be engaged in various aspects of university life.” – IBO.org.

These students have such a success rate due to the independent thinking and community concern and involvement they picked up in their early years. Since IB programs encourage a look at the bigger picture and drive students to become engaged in their communities, these students are well-equipped for the academics and discipline needed to succeed during university studies.

Some of the greatest skills gained by IB students, according to IBO.org, include:

  • Independent research and thinking
  • Community involvement
  • Multicultural understanding and concern
  • Strong desire to engage and make a difference around them

A Lifetime of Learning

The scope of IB learning goes well beyond the primary and secondary years. Perhaps the greatest benefit of these programs is that they fully equip students for success throughout their lives. By opening eyes to other cultures, expanding communication, and encouraging independent thinking, IB learning is centered around instilling a greater sense of purpose and responsibility globally within our children.