31 Mar, 2017
10 : 00
Last week, the Yew Chung International School of Beijing invited senior leadership, administrators, and faculty from across the global Yew Chung Education Foundation network to attend a Learning Community Summit.
The event aimed to provide participants with a greater understanding and specific examples of how a Learning Community functions; as YCIS Beijing is the foundation-wide leader in the implementation of these spaces, the school was a natural choice. It was a valuable opportunity for attendees to learn just how truly different the model is from a traditional classroom model.
The school was most honored to welcome Dr. Betty Chan, Director of the Yew Chung Education Foundation (YCEF), to speak to the attendees. She emphasized the creativity and educational stimulation that Learning Communities help to better instill in students:
We face a very challenging world; if we model children as we have in the past, they will lose their creativity, which is so important for the future. What the future holds, even just 15 years ahead, is uncertain. It is probable that some of the professions today will no longer exist.
Creativity itself is excellent. It gives children opportunities, different environments, and different stimulations. It allows them to come up with different ideas. We want to be confident that our children, after finishing school here, will be able to go to universities with the basic foundation, set from years at YCIS and YWIES schools, to achieve success.
Norm Dean, YCEF Deputy Director, also attended as a representative from the senior leadership. Mr. Dean explained how increased teacher collaboration and creativity is a natural result of working in such a shared learning space:
I think the key benefits the Learning Community provide teachers and students alike is the collaborative approach to learning. By working, thinking, and generating ideas together, learning and teaching can be more engaging, a lot more creative, and a lot more innovative. For teachers, the activity becomes far more engaging then sitting alone in the room, thinking on your own, and planning on your own.
Secondly, I think with the facilities and learning spaces provide the teachers with the capacity to work more flexibly and provide individual teaching, individual lessons, and cater to individual needs more effectively. It really gives teachers the freedom to be creative and innovative, to work with different children in small groups, individually, or large groups as the circumstances demand. It puts back to them, and to their professional judgment, how to engage with the kids in a way which makes the most sense for the students at any particular time.
In addition to welcoming senior leadership committee members, YCIS Beijing also had the pleasure of hosting Ms. Rosa Fazio as keynote speaker. Ms. Fazio, the instructional leader of the Norma Rose Point School Community in Vancouver, BC in Canada, whose model is entirely based around Learning Communities, was able to give insight into her particular journey with her school:
I always tell my students how lucky they are to be working in Learning Communities because as part of a community, you are essentially living with a family in a house. In our school we have nine Learning Communities, or “houses,” and every child is a part of their respective house. In the house are adults to take care of the children as well as other children to play with. As a community of adults and students, each child is being taken care of in a variety of ways because there are so many different adults in one classroom. All of them are aware of each child’s needs and are available to meet those needs.
No one teacher can meet all the needs of a particular learner. When you are working within a learning community concept, you have the best of every teacher and their expertise committed to student’s needs. This is why the learning community concept is going to transform schooling.
Finally, our Western Co-principal Mr. Noel Thomas offered his reflections on the success of the event:
One of the delightful successes of the event from our point of view was the way in which the kinds of structures and frameworks Ms. Fazio’s school had come to in Canada seemed to align with the experience we have had here in Beijing; even though we weren’t following them, we’ve ended up to a significant degree in the same place. This confirmation of our current pathway was highly encouraging.
Our guests from other YCEF schools were pushed to discuss common threads between Learning Communities, how a Learning Community model is different from a traditional school, and how they differ between year levels. Networking across the foundation and sharing experience in a range of areas is always beneficial as well.
YCIS Beijing is leading a foundation-wide shift towards Learning Communities. Construction is in progress in different ways at different sites; construction on new facilities in Primary Schools and Year 9 has commenced in Hong Kong. While the stage of planning and construction varies from school to school, there is a clear intent outlined in a strategic plan for the foundation for all YCIS and YWIES schools to move towards a Learning Community framework in the coming years. We look forward to the great benefits that this transformation will bring our students and staff.
Learn more about our Learning Communities through a firsthand account from one of our educators.