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Member Blog

  • 14 Nov 2019 15:28 | Anonymous

    For today's "Throwback Thursday", we are looking back at a great article by CGC Member School Colegio Maya - as they asked What is most important to learn?”


    "We at Colegio Maya, along with all Common Ground Collaborative schools, continue to drive everything we do from one question. “What is most important to learn?”. Whether we are focusing on conceptual learning, building competencies, fostering character traits or all three simultaneously we are focused on providing learning experiences that matter. Communicating this important learning is our biggest challenge and continues to be the biggest challenge globally for Pk-12 schools. High school is the most difficult as higher education requirements dictate certain protocols of communication. Regardless of all that surrounds the communication of learning, we at Colegio Maya will never let up on our drive to provide connected, meaningful, personalised learning experiences for all community members. We learn together, we struggle together, we celebrate together and most of all we focus on what matters most for our children, together. “What is most important to learn?” a question that drives everything we do at Colegio Maya.

    Read the full article

  • 10 Oct 2019 15:17 | Anonymous

    Building a common learning language…with our parents

    By Emily Cave, Director
    NCIC Immersion School, Shenzhen, China

    Parents know what they want, we just need to ask them. There is no better resource for innovative thinking in education than parents. When schools can harness this creative thinking, the results can be impressive. In August, CGC Executive Director Kevin Bartlett visited CGC member school NCIC Immersion School in Shenzhen, China, where he and Director Emily Cave led just under 100 parents through a workshop on How Children Learn Best.


    At NCIC Immersion School, we have been debunking the myths about ‘what parents want,’ since our founding in 2016 (? Check date). We see our parent community as partners in our efforts to better understand children become expert learners. We work closely with our parents to create a common learning language that accurately reflects our shared values.

    “At Immersion School we are building experts, with deep conceptual understanding of important ideas, high levels of competency in key skills and strong, positive character.”

    How children learn best
    NCIC-Immersion school opened three years ago in Shenzhen, China with the aim of providing an international education for local Chinese students. Our student population is almost 100% Chinese. On a Saturday in late August 2019, just under 100 parents gathered in our auditorium with the school’s leadership and Kevin Bartlett, Executive Director of the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC), to co-create a common understanding about How Children Learn Best. The audience was 100% Chinese parents with no background knowledge of the CGC, or preconceived notions of what they might hear from us regarding the chosen topic.

    What do parents really want?
    Consumers in China, in our case school parents, are commonly perceived as having little trust for new or unknown institutions and products. The refrain is that parents want "name brand", old names with history that are known around the world. Yet our parents are more savvy consumers than that. They are young, thriving professionals who work in tech companies, in research and development, or in logistics for global companies; they are architects and engineers, and they are entrepreneurs. They want something different for their children’s education, and they haven’t found it in all the familiar places.

    Understanding experts
    In order to connect in direct and honest ways with our parents we created a CGC-led workshop to share what we know to be true about learning. A powerful theme was the idea of "building experts". We connected with our parents at a very personal level, by recognising that each of them was an expert in their own particular field. We then unpacked the characteristics of experts using the common learning language provided by the CGC through its definition of three kinds of learning: Conceptual, Competency and Character.


    Experts are masters of the important ideas in their field
    Parents quickly grasped the importance of Conceptual Learning when we invited them to make connections to the ideas that matter in their own profession. A logistics manager talked about key concepts such as resources, cost, time and efficiency. An architect discussed safety, design, and function. A marketing manager referenced strengths, relationships and story. As each parent unpacked their own conceptual framework, we documented their contributions in Mandarin and English.

    Experts are masters of the key skills in their field
    It didn’t stop there. When it came to discussing Competency Learning, there was no reversion to skill and drill comments, no focus on high test scores, or SAT vocabulary words. Parents wanted their children to be skilled practitioners in the field of AI technology, to be skilful in physical, healthy activities and to be masters of logical, causal, thinking.

    "They want more than "successful" children; they also want to raise decent young people, expert in the business of being human."

    Expert human beings
    As the workshop evolved, parents were instinctively moving into conversation around Character Learning. They talked passionately about the importance of human traits like kindness, fairness and empathy. Their list of character traits closely resembled our school’s list of core values. It was built independently in the workshop by our parents, speaking from the heart.

    Finding common ground…and the courage of our convictions
    We don’t need to hang on to practices in which we no longer believe, just because "that’s what the parents want". Our parents showed that, when we work with them honestly and openly, and when we begin by connecting to their own experience and expertise as successful adults, they want the same things for their children as we do. They also want us to be courageous enough to throw out all that is getting in the way of real learning. They want us focus on what really matters: building experts with deep conceptual understanding of key ideas, high levels of competency in key skills and strong, positive character…the keys to success in a challenging world.

  • 27 Aug 2019 15:22 | Anonymous

    A blog by Mike Johnston, CGC Workshop Leader

    Thank you for very much for making time in your schedule to invest in the International Academy of San Antonio staff and that of our sister school, Anne Frank Inspire Academy. You brought clarity to the CGC Framework and made sure that we were are pointed in the right direction. Your enthusiasm and passion energised everyone all four days! Our facilitators have already completed two units (science and social studies) that will take them two months to cover. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with you and other CGC schools. Keep up the great work; we are changing student’s lives and impacting the future!!! - Dr. Raúl Hinojosa, Head of School , International Academy of San Antonio

    I had the very fortunate opportunity to work with Braination for 4 days last week. This schools group is challenging traditional frameworks and seeking deep learning for all. We met part of the leadership team in Princeton NJ this summer at the CGC summit and it was very refreshing to see public and private schools coming together to imagine what is possible in education. I wrote a short entry in June about the summit, found here,  but now to experience working with 50 educators from 2 different schools under the same schools group was inspiring and very hopeful for the future of public and private education.

    Together with the Anne Frank Inspire Academy and the International Academy San Antonio we asked 4 questions as we shaped our transformative work together.

    What is learning…and how do we do it?

    What’s worth learning…and why?

    How do we facilitate for learning…and build our learning culture?

    How do we show what we have learned?

    As the CGC aims to bring simplicity to the complexity of learning ecosystems it was not long before this dedicated group of educational leaders and learning facilitators had a deep understanding of what they were aiming for and the pathway to get there. Their ability to embrace the unknown, ask difficult questions, support each other, and always keep focus on what is best for kids was amazing. They tackled the difficult balance of deep, personalised learning and success on Texas State standardised tests. They did not let any of the current systems conditions get them off target for what Concepts, Competencies and Character traits students really and truly need to be learning in this day and age. They are not called teachers at these schools, they are called facilitators, and for good reason. Many of these facilitators were new to the schools and yet after only 4 days we were all speaking the same learning language, had common organisational frameworks and pedagogies and they even started to plan the first community and inquiry experiences for all ages. All and all it was an exhausting, inspiring, learning filled and humbling experience. I am very proud to be a part of the Common Ground Collaborative. I am very proud to see these schools in Texas placing student learning and wellbeing above all else and working extremely hard to do what’s right. I can’t wait to see what happens next for these students ages 4 to 18. Thank you for the opportunity to work with your team and keep asking the right questions.

    Whether you are a parent or an educator, would everyone in your community have common language and frameworks in answering these questions?

    What is learning? What’s worth Learning? What are missing and what do we need to give up?

    Read more posts by Mike Johnston here: https://www.johnstonmike.com

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