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Elevating Student Learning: The Impact of Standards-Based Growth and Appraisal Systems in International Schools

By Sue Easton
Elevating Student Learning: The Impact of Standards-Based Growth and Appraisal Systems in International Schools

In the ever-evolving landscape of international education, the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning is a fundamental goal. Without this goal, how do we guarantee the best education possible for our students? Without this goal, how do we ensure the highest level of impact in our noble profession? One indispensable tool for achieving this goal is a standards-based growth and appraisal system, specifically one which not only empowers educators but also yields measurable benefits for student learning.

A Framework for Excellence: Standards-Based Growth and Appraisal Systems

At its essence, a standards-based growth and appraisal system should revolve around embracing and embedding international standards of practice for educators. These standards should serve as a reference point for the entire school community, a way to articulate and acknowledge exemplary teaching and learning. In international schools, the evaluation of teachers has been a long-standing practice, with varying degrees of effectiveness. The time has come to overhaul our approach, empowering educators to gather evidence of professional standards using diverse mediums, such as documents, photos, videos, and more, while taking the lead in their own professional journey. As James Dalziel, Head of School at NIST International School in Bangkok, recently said on the TIE Podcast, “If you are the same educator in August that you are in June, then we have really failed in being a learning organization that helps you grow professionally.” The new TIE Growth & Appraisal Tool stands as an exemplar of a system that spotlights the defining standards of effective teaching and learning, granting teachers the autonomy to determine their own contextual evidence and develop their own plan for growth, all devoid of rigid rubrics and checklists.

The Student-Centric Benefits

While a standards-based growth and appraisal system is designed to support educators, its true power lies in the positive impact it has on students:

  1. Enhanced Teaching Quality:

By aligning instructional practices with international standards of practice, educators continuously strive to improve their instructional methods. This elevated quality of teaching directly translates into enriched learning experiences for students. Lisa-Michelle Nnadozie, from Nagoya International School, says that when implementing the standards, “We keep reminding our teachers to keep coming back to the key point of ‘how are these standards impacting the classroom and how are my actions impacting what students are experiencing in our lessons?’” The standards provide a roadmap for teachers to enhance their instruction.

  1. Focused Professional Growth:

A standards-based growth and appraisal system provides educators with a structured path for their professional development. Teachers can identify specific standards they wish to improve upon, resulting in more tailored and effective professional development opportunities being offered by administrators and the teaching and learning staff at the school. School teams that work together to meet the standards develop collaboration including the exchange of best practices and innovative instructional strategies, all to the benefit of students. On the TIE Podcast, Julian Edwards, Director of Learning and Innovation of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, reminded us about the issue of time when he said, “Teachers need a space where they can truly own their learning in a low stakes manner, so they need structured time for peaceful reflection. Professional growth can only come if you give enough time to it.”

  1. Increased Accountability:

By collecting evidence aligned with standards, educators become more accountable for their teaching practices. Bambi Betts, the Executive Director of Principals’ Training Center, says, “The number one thing about being a profession is that there is a unique set of standards that have to do with that craft or profession. Without standards, we have been only looking at longevity and preparation in teachers. Standards provide us with a way to ensure accountability for teacher quality.” Discussions between Principals and teachers about their evidence of the international standards of practice and their measurable impact on students support a culture of continual growth and improvement far more than an evaluation system that records a level on a rubric based predominantly on observation.

  1. Student-Centered Learning:

A focus on standards emphasizes student outcomes, goals, and achievements. As Jeff Farrington, Secondary Principal of the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) in Malaysia, recently said on the TIE Podcast, “Using student surveys based on the standards provides feedback for reflection and personal growth.” Teachers who engage with this system are more likely to align their teaching methods with the needs and goals of their students, resulting in a more personalized and effective learning environment.

  1. Data-Driven Instruction:

Standards-based systems encourage the collection and analysis of student data. The data collected may be different at different times, even though the standards stay the same. As Lianne Dominguez, Secondary Principal at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Forest City International School, recently said on the TIE Podcast, “We use the standards and apply them to our school, using training for teachers, self-assessment, and recently student voice data, specifically related to our current school goals. The evidence we look for will be different if our goals change.” This data-driven approach enables teachers to identify areas of improvement, based on individual needs, school goals, and current initiatives, then adapt their instruction accordingly, leading to improved student performance and support for diverse learners.

Just think if we, as an international community, used similar standards. Onboarding would not need to include the explanation of differing expectations from those of the new teachers’ last schools. Evidence of effective teaching based on the international school standards of practice would be shared from school to school and growth would be valued through these transitions. The focus would change from defining effective teaching and learning, which is already clear from much research, to a focus on the specific context of the school, the demographics of the student body, or the specific school initiatives being addressed. Pro-forma observations and dialogues as part of the current supervision and evaluation process would change to observations by administrators and peers as part of school culture, evidence collected by teachers as the catalyst for dialogue with Principals and teams, and administrators focused on creating structures to support the teacher on their learning path, rather than trying to catch them doing the right thing. We, as an international community, could be global models for teacher growth.

In conclusion, the adoption of a standards-based growth and appraisal system, such as TIE’s Growth & Appraisal Tool, is a catalyst for elevating student learning in international schools. By aligning teaching practices with international standards of practice, educators not only enhance their own professional growth but also create a more student-focused and impactful learning environment. This approach empowers educators to consistently meet the needs of their diverse student populations, fostering a culture of excellence and ensuring that international schools remain at the forefront of educational innovation.


Sue Easton is the Director of Programs for the Principals’ Training Center (PTC).


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10/15/2023 - James
Thank you Sue. This is a great summary regarding the impact of teachers and the need for systematic, sustainable, and structured professional growth that improves learning outcomes for students. So helpful to keep us grounded in our core purpose.



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