Each year I create a yearly focus, which is based on the school`s recommendations from the last evaluation / authorisation report, the IBO`s standards and practices, and the areas of growth I have identified from my own review of the programme. This yearly focus is designed so that all teachers have a clear understanding of the goals for the year, how they are linked to the IBO`s standards and practices and how they will be executed.
Before officially introducing the yearly focus to staff at the start of the school year I discuss my proposal with the leadership team, my assistant DP coordinator and with individual teachers. In order for any new initiative to be a success it is important to include all stakeholder in the process. The vision must be clearly explained to teachers and they should be able to give their input and feel their opinions have been listened to and taken into account.
In order to ensure that all staff can understand the rationale behind the the chosen focus I include the following on the focus document (this is based on the 2017-2018 yearly focus of supporting EAL students through the programme–which, along with the 2018-2019 yearly focus on the written curriculum can be found underneath the explanation):
- Mission statement: The mission statement simple, direct and operative and states what we do as a school, in this example ‘To support EAL students throughout the Diploma Programme through high quality Teaching and Learning in an engaging environment.` The statement shows the core purpose of the school for the year.
- Vision: The vision shows what we want to become in the future. It should be aspirational, while at the same time being realistic. When thinking about the vision for your programme take into account how achievable it is within your school`s culture. It is important that the aspirations, values and beliefs of your vision are aligned with the school`s context and beliefs. Creating a vision that runs alongside an IB recommendation, or within the IB`s framework such as `A Diploma Programme that is accessible to all, resulting in internationally minded students able to make a contribution to the global community.` will have a high chance of being accepted by all stakeholders in the programme.
- Links to the IBO evaluation November 2015: In order to give the focus credibility with staff it is a good idea to link it to recommendations from the previous IBO evaluation report. This also shows the IB that their recommendations have been taken seriously and the school is putting steps into place to meet them. My yearly focus ‘To support EAL students throughout the Diploma Programme through high quality Teaching and Learning in an engaging environment.` is clearly linked to the IBO recommendation in our last evaluation report in 2015 of `The school should consider extending English as an Additional Language (EAL) support from the Middle Years Programme into the Diploma Programme`. Including this in the yearly focus allows all staff to see the rationale behind the focus and adds to its legitimacy.
- Links to the DP Approaches to Teaching: In order to raise the profile of the Approaches to Teaching I found links between the focus and the Approaches to Teaching of assessment and differentiation. The wording in the explanation comes from the self-reflection tool on the International Baccalaureates`s Approaches to Teaching and Learning website https://xmltwo.ibo.org/publications/DP/Group0/d_0_dpatl_gui_1502_1/static/dpatl/
- `Assessment: Help students to understand the command terms they will be faced with in DP examinations.
- Differentiation: Make lessons as attractive, accessible, and relevant as possible for your students.`
Using the wording from official IB documents and using it to make a clear link with the yearly focus shows both teachers and the IB that the focus is clearly connected to the IBs standards and practices. Including Approached to Teaching on the focus highlights the direct role the teachers have to play in the focus and gives them a focus for their teaching throughout the year.
- Links to the DP Approaches to Learning: Having clear links to the approaches to learning has the same effect as the approaches to Teaching, as discussed above. Highlighting an approach to Learning shows how the yearly focus will have an affect on the students and how they learn. This also allows teachers to assess themselves on whether they have given students the chance to meet the Approach(es) to learning. The IB`s self reflection tools are well written and give both students and teachers a clear understanding of what is expected, in this case `Communication: Provide opportunities for students to read and understand different types of texts. Ask students to formulate arguments clearly and coherently.` fits in well with what the students, on the whole need to improve on in many of the subjects within the programme. Here, I used an area that many staff had spoken to me about over a long period of time, including when I was discussing the new focus with them.
- Links to the IBO Standards and Practices: C3 Teaching and Learning: Similar to the Link to the IBO evaluation, I included direct links to the IBO`s Standards and Practices to make it clear that the focus was imbedded in what the IBO are looking for in the programme. The Standards and Practices are what each school self-assesses themselves against and should be well known to staff. The clear links to parts C3:7 and C3:8 of the Teaching and Learning strand gives weight to the yearly focus and highlights that the IBO also recognise the importance of supporting EAL students. In this case: C3: 7: Teaching and learning addresses the diversity of student language needs, including those for students learning in a language(s) other than the mother tongue and C3:8: Teaching and learning demonstrates that all teachers are responsible for language development of students.
- Strategy: The strategy is the plan on how to support the mission statement achieve the vision in the future. In my yearly focus there are 17 different strategies all designed to meet the vision for the year. While 17 strategies seems like a lot they are focused so that each strategy is designed to meet the vision for the year. The strategies are clear and can easily be assessed as having been successfully completed or not. The strategies are designed to be achievable and easy to fit into the life of the programme. It is a good idea to show the document to staff as the year progresses to discuss the progress of each strategy and to make it clear to teacher what has been done and where the information can be found. The strategies can created in the short term (and then sustained over the years) such as `Create an English language profile for each student.` or long term, which go on at regular intervals throughout the year such as `Enhance teacher understanding (departmental and cross curricular) and execution of the International Baccalaureate guides on language and learning, focusing on: activating prior understanding and building background knowledge, scaffolding learning, extending language, affirming identity.`
- Execution: The execution shows how the strategy will be put into place, including `how`, `when` and `who`. An example of how, in in part D of the execution, `Teacher trios to focus on cross curricular approaches to teaching and learning for supporting EAL students.` highlighting how the teacher trio initiative can be used to meet the mission and vision. Part C of the execution focuses on `when`, in stating that `Departmental meetings dedicated to departmental approaches to teaching and learning and planning for EAL Students. Meetings will also give time for reflection on lessons and unit planning.`. Part F shows the `who`, clearly stating whose responsibility it is to execute the procedure `Mr Furnival will liaise with subject teachers and homeroom teachers to discuss student progress. The procedure is set out in the Special Educational Needs Policy.`
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