By Nick Yates, ISB Communications
They say that good students never stop learning, and the same goes for teachers at the International School of Beijing (ISB). Faculty members have been helped to further improve their teaching style by a program of visiting coaches this year, and the school has recently appointed its first full-time coach. The coach and teachers will co-plan and teach lessons together and then reflect on the experience to improve teaching and learning.
A coach in education is an expert in their field and the science of learning who works with teachers of that subject to consider new approaches and make lessons as effective as they possibly can be for students. The brief can vary from partnering with a teacher one on one to leading "lesson labs", where a group of teachers plans a lesson together, observes it taking place and then gathers for a debriefing to discuss what worked well.
While ISB recruits the most qualified, experienced and passionate teachers, it is also almost unmatched in Asia in terms of the resources it puts into coaching its world-class faculty, according to Stacy Stephens, the school's Director of Learning. "The research tells you that coaching is the best professional learning model to implement change, improve practices and improve student learning. As a school, you want to take the resources that you have and make sure you have the largest impact on student learning. It's a model that allows us to be a learning institution on a continuous trajectory of growth," Ms. Stephens said.
It's quite common for teachers to undertake professional development through attending conferences or off-site courses. But a far higher proportion of the take-aways from this learning is actually implemented in the case of job-embedded professional learning like coaching, Ms. Stephens added.
ISB's first full-time coach will cover math in the Elementary School from the start of the 2018-2019 academic year. Meanwhile, ISB will continue to bring in visiting coaches.
This year, Jose Medina (pictured) has boosted the teaching of English as an additional language, while other visiting experts have worked with Elementary School literacy, Middle School/High School science, and Elementary School/Middle School math. Math coach Justin Johns was the last to be welcomed by ISB, in April. He has international coaching experience including at the American Embassy School in New Delhi and as part of a team gathered by the US Office of Overseas Schools to introduce the EngageNY Curriculum in Amman, Jordan.
Mr. Johns said, "I don't come in with a mentality like I know everything. I act like I know a bit, the teachers know a lot, so let's put that together and see how we can help the students. It's a different twist on consulting from what a lot of schools get.
"Good schools like ISB give teachers a lot of opportunities to share best practice and see what's happening in other people's classrooms, but it's still often good to have people from the outside to facilitate conversations. It's powerful because it gives teachers a little time to pause and reflect on what they are doing."
In math and other subjects, the coaching programs at ISB add up to better teachers and even more effective learning for students.