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Going West with the Collaborative for Innovative Education

by Martina Greene, Cary Academy Dean of Faculty

It is part of American tradition to look West for opportunity, and over the course of this year a group of department leaders from Cary Academy has been doing just that, traveling first to California and then across the Pacific to Singapore to join a group of fellow teacher-pioneers in a global think tank known as the Collaborative for Innovative Education, or CIE.

Nueva School

Nueva School

The CIE is a partnership between Cary Academy and five other schools around the world that are like-minded in vision, thought process, quality of program, and ambition to share ideas, practices and resources.     The heads of these six schools aspired to create a network of forward-thinking teachers who could engage in meaningful conversation and reflection around the future of education and commit to action to make a lasting impact on student experiences and outcomes.   To that end, each head agreed to send a team of five teachers and one administrator to a series of six four-day forums focused on the subject of personalized learning.  The forums would be held twice a year over the course of three years, with each collaborating school slated to host one of the forums on its campus.

The Nueva School was first in line to host in October 2017, and I had the honor of accompanying CA teachers Andrew Chiaraviglio, Michael Hayes, Craig Lazarski, Heidi Maloy, and Katie Taylor to California for the inaugural event.   Our team was definitely excited to meet the groups from the other schools and to see first-hand how Nueva engages students in learning by doing (design thinking) and learning by caring (social-emotional learning).  We also had the opportunity to visit several other innovative schools and organizations in the Bay Area, including the Khan Lab School, Lick-Wilmerding High School, Alt-School, Brightworks, and the CK-12 Foundation.  Another major highlight was a tour of the Stanford with founder David Kelley as our guide.  The goal of this first forum was to develop a shared understanding of the key dimensions of personalized learning and to find inspiration in schools and other institutions that are doing cutting-edge work in one or more of those dimensions.

Singapore American School

Singapore American School

The second forum took place at the end of February and was hosted by Singapore American School.  This time, the school teams took a deeper dive into four key questions related to personalized learning:

  1. Learner Profiles: How might we better understand the strengths, motivations and needs of our students and help them better understand themselves in these areas?
  2. Competency-Based Learning Progressions: How might we better communicate learning goals and learning progress to students in ways that promote student agency and self-efficacy?
  3. Personalized Learning Pathways: How might we provide students with more choice in what they learn and how they demonstrate their learning?
  4. Flexible Learning Environments: How might we rethink time, space, teacher roles and instructional modes to better respond to student needs?
Singapore Collaboration

Singapore Collaboration

Singapore American showcased a number of innovative programs it has developed to personalize learning in these ways, and we were also able to share some of CA’s efforts in these areas.   The event ended with a brainstorming session within and across our school teams about how we could bring elements of what we learned back to our home schools.

So far, the CIE has lived up to its promise to create connections, to nurture and develop teacher- leaders, and to drive high-impact teaching and learning practices.  In looking to the West for opportunity, we have found much educational gold!

We look forward to bringing some new faculty members onto the Cary Academy team as we prepare for the next two CIE forums to be held at the American School of Bombay in Fall 2018 and the American International School of Johannesburg in Spring 2019.  Frankfurt International School and Cary Academy will host the final two forums during the 2019-20 academic year.   Stay tuned for updates as we begin to implement some of the ideas coming out of the Collaborative, all in support of our strategic vision to create learning opportunities that are flexible, personalized and relevant and to cultivate self-directed and bold life-long learners who make meaningful contributions to the world.