Schoolwide Learner Outcomes
What characteristics will SCIS focus upon to best prepare our students for the future?
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret Wheatley
As you likely know, SCIS is undergoing a significant self-improvement process in line with the upcoming WASC and IB Synchronized Accreditation Visit in 2021. The process is documented in an earlier Communitas article, and it represents a wonderful opportunity for all faculty, parents, and students to better understand what SCIS represents and where we are going.
The foundational values of SCIS that we have held since opening our doors in 1996 – a diverse, international population, a nurturing community, and a commitment to ensuring our systems and practices meet the unique needs of every child rather than having students fit into an existing system – are well matched to IB philosophy. This made the decision to move towards becoming a 3-Programme IB World School in 2015 a natural choice.
By now we are all well-versed – teachers, students, and parents alike – with the central tenets of the IB. These include the IB Learner Profile, Approaches to Teaching and Learning, Inquiry-Based Learning, Concept-Based Learning, and Criterion-Referenced Assessment.
The last few years have been a period of significant growth for SCIS on many levels which makes this an opportune time to reflect upon and evaluate where we are heading.
SCIS: Who Are We Now?
To begin this process our Leadership Team met numerous times last year to review how effectively we were meeting our mission. We came away with two initial conclusions:
1. SCIS has improved significantly due to our adoption of the IB. We added significant programs and practices. Some of these overlapped with older systems while others were new developments.
2. All of the changes and progress on all three campuses provided a great deal of initiative, and we saw a need to ensure we had a strong focus on where we want to go. What are the key characteristics that will best prepare our students for the future?
SCIS: Where are we headed?
It is in this spirit that SCIS is embarking on an initiative to more clearly define what we believe a learner can and should be at any stage in their learning journey. We identified a set of four descriptors that will be referred to as the Schoolwide Learner Outcomes (SLOs). Over the course of the past 6 months, the administrative team has been working with teachers to begin broadly defining these outcomes. Soon we will begin the next phase of this process as we consult with the wider community of students and parents to develop a shared understanding of each SLO and the accompanying indicators.
Our four core SLOs identify what we believe every learner at SCIS should aspire to achieve. Through our curriculum including the written, taught, and assessed components we will aim to develop students who are:
- Knowledgeable Inquirers
- Innovative Thinkers
- Self-Directed Learners
- Positive Contributors
Undoubtedly, you will likely recognize that many of these terms appear in the SCIS mission statement, the IB Approaches to Learning (ATLs) and the IB Learner Profile. We can assure you this was very intentional as we aimed to not only create alignment between the key elements of the IB, but also consider the additional elements of our curricular program and beliefs about 21st learning that make us unique and more than simply a 3-program IB school.
In the coming months, we hope you will help us define more clearly specific look-fors as they relate to each SLO. As a result of developing a shared understanding among all community stakeholders, we will be able to uniformly say, “SCIS students are knowledgeable inquirers who… “, and “SCIS students are self-directed learners who…” which will then provide a set of targets and outcomes that further define each Schoolwide Learner Outcome.
On September 12th, the first teacher in-service day of the school year, all three SCIS campuses came together to provide teachers with an opportunity to work in cross-campus, mixed divisional groups (HQ-ECE, HQ-Lower School, HQ-Upper School, PD-Lower School, and PD-Upper School) to ask a simple question.
If SCIS learners are Knowledgeable Inquirers, Innovative Thinkers, Self-Directed Learners, and Positive Contributors, then what should our classrooms look like, sound like, and feel like?
As you can imagine, working with more than 300 teachers, all with different ideas, experiences, and perspectives could have made for a very messy and disconnected set of responses. The results, however, were surprisingly coherent.
We captured the teachers’ ideas using Wordle and below you can see the outcome of our analysis – the most common responses to what learning looks, sounds and feels like when students embody the (still broadly defined) SLOs at SCIS:
Learners at SCIS are part of a collaborative community, where learning is active and engaging, where they have choices, where they inquire and ask questions, and where thinking and sharing are clear priorities in a safe and respectful environment.
I hope you would agree with our teachers that, whether your child is in Nursery or about to graduate – this would be a very appealing kind of learning environment, and an ideal classroom in which to learn, grow and thrive.
We look forward to working with parents and students to further define and develop our understanding of our SLOs. Student success is at the core of our mission, and that is a collaborative process involving all stakeholders. With shared input, we truly build a stronger SCIS community, a more focused understanding of our aspirational SLOs, and a clearer pathway of how we embed these experiences within our curriculum to best prepare students for life beyond SCIS.
In the coming months, you can expect to see invitations to attend various ways in which we hope to continue this dialogue. We are excited to move forward and we encourage you to take part as well.
SCIS. A Community of Learners.