"In the Know" Weekly Newsletter - The International School

News from Robert - Jan 13, 2014

Dear Parents,

This week I would like to share some key information from our accreditation self-study Program section. (Click here if you missed last week’s article introducing the self-study.)

In the self-study Program section, the NWAIS asks us to reflect on what constitutes excellence in teaching at TIS. Although we have long had a focus on professional development and high expectations for teaching, we are starting to implement an exciting model called “A Framework for Teaching” by Charlotte Danielson. The Framework is a comprehensive, research-based model of the underlying elements of good teaching. It describes four major “domains” of a teacher’s job, defining the many types of work that contribute to student success. Within these domains, the Framework outlines a total of 22 components of effective professional practice. As a whole, it can be used for:

  • Teacher personal reflection, self-assessment and goal-setting 
  • Mentoring and coaching new and veteran teachers 
  • Supervising and appraising teacher work 
  • Creating individual and group professional development plans

The Framework provides a professional development system centered on dialog between teachers and the school’s educational leaders. It is broadly applicable, delineating the commonalities between teaching preschool and high school, math and language, big classes and small, and students with different learning styles and behaviors. The Framework is independent of teaching style, focusing instead on the effects achieved. This enables educators to engage in conversations about the appropriateness of various strategies for different situations.

The Framework for Teaching is a natural fit for TIS. It outlines a “constructivist” approach, believing that students’ understanding of any concept depends on their level of engagement in deriving that concept for themselves. The Framework asks teachers to guide the learning process, designing an environment and activities that engage students in constructing their own knowledge. All class activities are purposeful, chosen for a particular educational effect for a community of learners. These paradigms should sound familiar - they are the heart of our inquiry-based International Baccalaureate program.

The values embedded in the Framework are also very important to us as a community. The model is explicitly based on themes of equity, cultural sensitivity, high expectations, developmental appropriateness, and appropriate use of technology.

The four domains are:

  • Planning and Preparation, which includes demonstrating knowledge of content, students and resources; selecting instructional goals; designing instruction; and assessing student learning. 
  • The Classroom Environment, which includes creating an environment of respect and a culture for learning; organizing physical space; and managing classroom procedures and student behavior. 
  • Instruction, which includes engaging students in learning; communicating with questioning and discussion techniques; providing feedback; and demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness.
  • Professional Responsibilities, which includes reflection, maintaining records, communicating with families, contributing to the school, following school policies and procedures, and developing professionally.

The Framework was introduced to our teachers during professional development days last fall. Many of our teachers have commented that they like the Framework because it honors the complex task that is teaching. The Framework is complex and detailed but that is precisely why it is so appropriate. As each teacher reflects on his or her own performance and goals, we are also working on a multi-year, school-wide implementation plan. This plan will include professional development focused on specific domains and components, and a lot of reflection and dialog between teachers and their supervisors. This will be a long-term effort.

From the parent and student perspectives, some changes from this initiative will be very evident, some may be surprising, and others may seem subtle. We already have an outstanding group of teachers who excel in so many ways. The Framework will help us move our professional practice to the next level for the benefit of our students.

- Robert 
Robert Woods, Head of School, RobertW@intlschool.org, 503-226-2496 x122