Tuesday, 23 May 2017 13:52

Edge in Education: Parents as Partners in Learning

ISP engages parents as partners in learning through discussions and reflections in a myriad of sectional sessions on relevant and timely issues.

In addition to these sectional sessions, we’d like to highlight the cross-sectional Edge in Education series because:

  1. The purpose of these Edge in Education sessions is to bring educators together with interested parents in thought-provoking presentations and discussions of current and future trends in education related to ISP’s efforts to continue to refine and evolve.
  2. We consistently frame the Edge in Education sessions around our ISP Mission and ISP2020 Strategy, building parents’ understanding of what they can do at home to empower their children in these key competencies.
  3. Through all of these sessions, we communicate relevant ideas and conclusions supported by insights gained from current research, collaboration, and observation.

Parent Focus Groups were started by Director Arnie Bieber and ISP Librarian during the 2011-12 school year, attracting a small group of parents (10-15) in the library. The intention of these Focus Groups was to “enable parents to join the school wide conversations about learning and to contribute to how we develop and change our school over time” (Dr. Bieber’s March 2012 blog).

“From its inception, the parent focus group was a tremendous source of inspiration for parents curious about education. Through engaging presentations by the school's leadership team and select faculty, parents discovered how teaching models were changing, and why. I remember my first year learning about project-based learning, visible thinking, the flipped classroom, alternative universities, and many more topics that fascinated me. And I remember wondering, why aren't there more parents here? What an amazing opportunity for everyone to learn and engage in conversations about the direction of their kids' education at ISP, and beyond, and the reasons behind it. Was it the nondescript name? Did parents expect the meetings to be tedious? Did they simply not know enough about them?” reflects a parent who has been involved since 2012-13. That year, the ISP librarian, also started the tradition of having related books ready for parents to check out to further explore the concept or related topic, which has also been appreciated by parents.


“I have been at many international schools, but I’ve never experienced something like the Edge… it is so great to hear how our children are learning and what we can do at home as parents.” - Edge in Education parent participant, Feb 28, 2017


The growth from the Parent Focus Groups to the present-day Edge in Education happened organically. The SCA’s adult education reps in 2013-14, were big fans of the "parent focus group" and started to advertise it in the roster of classes and activities offered for parents. They were then formally enlisted to support the initiative, joining ISP’s director, the director of learning R & D, and the librarian in their planning meetings. They were also given the green light to brainstorm a new name. The SCA’s adult education reps developed the appealing "Edge in Education" rebrand and began to advertise the sessions through large colorful posters throughout the school and through word of mouth. Attendance began to rise. Facilitated by the director, the director of learning R&D, and other relevant ISP educators, the sessions were further developed with the purpose of building parents’ understanding of what ISP was doing and why, building a bridge between educational research and specific initiatives at ISP.  

In 2013-14, ISP explored the research and development related to Motivation, Mindset, The Learning Brain, and the Challenge of Change. In 2014-15, we established a theme for the year connected to the ISP Mission (Authentic Global Education & Life-worthy Learning), moved to a new location, requested sign-ups, and as a result saw attendance grow. Sessions included the following topics: Relevance Gap, Experiential Learning, Service Learning, Design Thinking and Future Ready learning.  


Left: Kath Murdoch, Cultivating Curiosity Right: ISP2020- Curiosity drives what and how we learn

Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, we shifted our approach, from having ISP educators facilitating these sessions to leveraging visiting educational experts who shed fresh light on various aspects of the type of education ISP offers or aspires to offer. The gatherings have been hugely successful.

For example, for the past two years, Kath Murdoch and Mark Church have presented to parents. Having parents hear similar messages and strategies at the same time as the teachers hear these ideas increases the likelihood that ISP students will experience a consistent message and approach from both parents and educators. This simultaneous approach has further opened up the opportunity for dialogue between these key partners of our community to learn from and with each other.

In 2015-16, our mission-based theme for the year was Empowering Learners to Think Critically and Creatively, with

In 2016-17, our ISP2020 Goal, Unleash our Collective Potential, was our yearly theme with

The success of the series has continued to increase over the past two years, as indicated by comments from parents during and after sessions as well as increased attendance, now averaging between 50 and 80 attendees. Posting the recordings of the sessions on our website and on YouTube for parents unable to attend the sessions in person has had the added benefit of further communicating our approaches to teaching and learning. Together, the YouTube videos of the Edge in Education sessions have been viewed in excess of 2,000 times, which suggests they are viewed by potential families and faculty as well as by current ISP community members. 

As the great John Dewey stated in Experience and Education, “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.” We are grateful for the ISP parents who are so eager to not only be our key partners in children’s learning, but continue their own learning along the way.