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ICS Addis Hosts Africa’s First Professional Learning Community at Work Institute

By Eyob Workineh
ICS Addis Hosts Africa’s First Professional Learning Community at Work Institute

ICS Addis hosted a three-day PLC at Work Institute organized by Solution Tree that brought some of the most prominent leaders and master practitioners in education to ICS to share their knowledge and experience. _________________________________________________________________________ In the fast-evolving world that we live in today, the nature and types of skills and knowledge needed to survive as individuals and in society is changing faster than ever. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of education. New realities are changing the way students will be expected to perform in the future. In the words of Tim Stuart, Head of School at the International Community School of Addis Ababa (ICS Addis) and global leader in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and personalized education, “The single most important purpose of schools in our era is teaching students to learn how to learn.” In his new book, Personalized Learning in a PLC at Work, Student Agency Through the Four Critical Questions, Stuart talks about “transforming the current educational paradigm in order to future-proof students,” describing how the PLC framework can build “highly-effective and learning-progressive schools, in which students experience student agency.” The PLC process transforms schools by helping them to embody a Focus on Learning, a Collaborative Culture, and a Results Orientation, thanks to Dufour’s “four critical questions” (2016): 1. What do we want all students to know and be able to do? 2. How will we know if they learn it? 3. How will we respond when some students do not learn? 4. How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient? Promoting personalized learning and student agency while working toward becoming a highly effective and learning-progressive school are not new goals for ICS. For the past two years, ICS has been on an ongoing journey that involves using PLCs to impact learning and shift paradigms. From aligning professional dialogues in the school with the PLC framework to offering internal and international training opportunities to educators, ICS has taken a number of steps to ensure that it is on a path toward reaching higher levels of learning, personalization, and student agency. As part of this journey, ICS Addis hosted a three-day PLC at Work Institute in October, organized by Solution Tree. The focus of the experience was building a learning culture in international schools through the strands of school culture, assessment, response to intervention, and personalized learning. The Institute brought some of the most prominent leaders and master practitioners in education to ICS to share their knowledge and experience. These included Anthony Muhammad, global leader in PLCs and organizational culture; Tom Schimmer, global speaker and recognized expert in assessments; and Timothy Stuart, ICS Head of School and co-author of Personalized Learning in a PLC at Work. There was a good deal of anticipation in the lead-up to the Institute. George Zickefoose, ICS Deputy Head of School wrote, “The PLC at Work Institute will create a world-class forum to propel our educators forward to better meet the needs of our students, now and in the future.” During the Institute, which took place from 11 to 13 October 2018, keynotes were presented by Dr. Muhammad, Mr. Schimmer and Dr. Stuart. The keynote topics included PLCs and student agency, assessments and grading, and organizational culture. Breakout sessions on school culture, assessment, RTI, personalized learning, and collaborative teams were led by the keynote speakers and additional invited presenters, Sascha Heckmann, founder of 8 Degrees Up and Head of School at the American International School of Mozambique, as well as Amanda Woods and Darin Fahrney both from Singapore American School. ICS educators and leaders also held sessions on various topics related to the strands of the Institute. Discussing the significance of such events happening in Africa, Peter Bateman, Director of the Association of International Schools in Africa explained, “The notion of PLC Institutes being organized in Africa is an interesting one. With an effective engagement of local educational authorities, schools like ICS can meaningfully influence local education, and I am happy to see that local education authorities were invited to the event.” Other participants included members from the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and the Director and teachers from local Ethiopian schools. Additionally, all ICS teachers and teaching assistants also attended the event. Martha Yigezu, a TA at ICS affirmed, “The Institute has created an opportunity for us, TAs, to gain a deeper understanding of how PLCs work. We are looking forward to applying what we have learned here in our classroom settings.” As Chad Van Den Hoek, ICS Middle School teacher put it, “The PLC Institute is a step forward for the school and will undoubtedly benefit student learning in numerous ways. Learning hand-in-hand with collaborative teams is impactful and will benefit the student learning experience for years to come.”

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