International school in China looks to adopt the OLEVI collaborative, coaching culture to move it forward with their teaching and learning ambitions.
We were extremely excited to be invited to China by Andrea May, Vice Principal of Middle and High School, Jia-Hui Oak Foreign Language School, in Dalian, Liaoning Province. This private school, where 99% of the students are Chinese, is moving towards becoming an international school providing an international curriculum offering the IGCSE and international A levels, which will be taught and examined in English.
This venture will require a very different style of teaching and learning than their current system provides. Having previously provided external QA for the Central South Consortium in Wales, Andrea had seen the impact OLEVI was having on changing the culture of teaching and learning in schools in Wales. She knew that the OLEVI model would help with the school’s aims and move things forward.
“There are very different expectations on the students for the international courses, as opposed to the traditional Chinese curriculum,” said Chris McGeehan, our visiting OLEVI lead facilitator. “Traditionally, Chinese students are very heavily tested, with the students requiring a vast amount of memory recall. That’s where the real challenge is – getting through the content and encouraging students to retain vast amounts of information to recall in an exam setting.
“For international GCSE and A level, the approach is more explorative. Students need to explore the content, idea, and discuss and justify an opinion and come up with a counter argument. This is very different culturally, therefore the teaching methods and what goes on in lessons would need to be different as well, to accommodate that.”
To address this cultural difference, the first day of our five-day visit was spent with the senior leaders of the school. They attended a conceptualisation day to fully understand what the OLEVI ethos, approach and aims were; quite a cultural shift in itself. The following days were spent with fifteen of their teachers on an Intensive Outstanding Teacher Programme (IOTP), with many of the Power of Coaching aspects within it.
Driving forward cultural change
The aim was to provide these fifteen teachers, seen as the ‘movers and shakers’ in education, with the tools and strategies required to enable them to drive forward the changes required. As this group represented only 5% of the total staff, it was imperative that they had enough ‘golden nuggets’, action points, models and strategies to ensure they could move themselves and their colleagues forward, causing a ripple effect of cultural change throughout their school.
The teaching staff will start to implement what they have taken from the programmes, evaluate what they need to do, and engage in greater collaboration across phases. “Coaching was a huge hit,” said Chris, “as a colleague to colleague improvement tool and as a teaching method. The delegates really want to move towards facilitated learning in the classroom. Having experienced it first-hand was useful.
“What I discovered was that the idea of ‘making a mistake’ as part of a process of learning was not something they were particularly comfortable with,” commented Chris. “Having a 50% understanding of something and then exploring and having a discussion around that, bouncing ideas collaboratively, was quite new to them and not regularly done. Traditionally, learning is much more teacher-led, going through content to remember.”
The next steps will be to involve some of the fifteen to complete the Outstanding Facilitator Programme (OFP). This would provide the school with a greater capacity to transform the teaching and learning culture and make a marked increase in the number of individuals working towards adopting the OLEVI approach required.
We are thrilled to be part of this venture with the Jia-Hui Oak Foreign Language School, and look forward to exciting times ahead!