Coordinator’s Compass: Finding the Why

This is the first of a series of posts being developed to support the IB Coordinator. As a school visit leader and consultant with the IB Educators Network, it’s an observation that there may be a need for a layer of thinking accompanying the procedural and programme knowledge that is available to coordinators. This is my attempt to provoke thinking around this very important role in IB World Schools.

Why do we seek a Why?

Procedural knowledge is important. The coordinator must spend time understanding the programme model and practices and envision what it looks like in their specific school context. The TSM (Teacher Support Material) on the MyIB website and associated links is key knowledge.

In the #ibchat on Twitter the other day, MYP Coordinator Gurpreet cautions, “The lone warrior is a myth.” Former PYP Coordinator Jenny Lathrop adds, “You cannot stretch yourself to help each person everyday. You must give them the tools they need to create and implement their own action plans and develop their own PLNs.”

To enact a programme effectively, the coordinator keeps in mind some essential understandings embodied in the role itself.

Knowledge cannot live in one mind if a group is to enact it; it must be shared.

Making it easier for teachers to access relevant IB documents is a necessity in coordination. As IB practitioners we know that comprehending theoretical knowledge is not enough to make it happen. Effective professional development has multiple facets to be effective, to stick and become a part of each person on our teams.

Copyright New South Wales Department of Education (2017).

Additionally, there are systems that must be in place, which impact on the traction of professional development. We can send teachers to IB workshops, and often that is a guarantee of a quality-assured way to gain professional knowledge. However, enacting the knowledge requires teachers to have supported implementation. Marzano and Carbaugh (2018) present a model that includes some of the key practices for IB programmes.

Focused Evaluation Model by Marzano (2018). From Learning Sciences blog.

The research suggests that to co-create a program together, the coordinator and the team of teachers must conduct an ongoing inquiry into what’s possible in implementation, in their specific context.

Together, the team must interpret the Standards and Practices into action plans; iterate the practices on the ground, reflect and collaborate to co-create the programme into viability.

The coordinator’s role hinges on helping adult humans learn.

This is a big shift because it asks the coordinator to shift her or his identity to be a leader of adult learning. It asks the coordinator to design experiences for a different learner, as illustrated in this Venn diagram of adult learning and pupil learning.

Andragogy vs. Pedagogy. Graphic by @alohalavina

One of the suggestions for the shift from facilitating pedagogy to andragogy is in creating a culture of collaboration.

This shift in the coordinator’s identity is helped by structures provided in our Standard C1, that we create structures for teachers to:

“Question practices and have time to receive input and give feedback;
Think out loud about individual practices and share them with others;
Think together about shared goals and responsibilities.”

(Drago-Severson, 2009, loc. 2121)

Drago-Severson (2009, loc. 2193) tells us that giving the time and place for teachers to work together is key, and “helping them to learn how to talk and engage in reflective practice” is very important.

Helping teams collaborate effectively is a challenge that coordinators face. For the history of organized schooling, isolation has been the norm: the teacher has been left to plan alone, teach alone, assess learning alone. It’s ingrained in our environments. Classrooms are units of work separated by walls and doors. Unit plans have been done by single teachers. One teacher is traditionally the audience for student work. Moving from isolation into collaboration is a challenge for teachers, and the coordinator’s challenge is to shift the ways the adults learn into the use of interactions that serve to create shared knowledge, produce collaborative products such as common unit plans and common assessment tasks, and to create together what one person cannot create alone, such as a comprehensive approaches to learning continuum for all learners.

The complexity of the coordinator’s work is an open-ended task. The shift toward becoming a leader of adult learning involves a shift to a wider consciousness. It might help us to reflect on the shift from a technical frame of problem-solving to an adaptive frame of mind.

Technical vs Adaptive change in schools. from Garmston and Wellman (2016). Graphic by @alohalavina.


Questions for reflection:

  • How might the architecture of a meeting change to engage adults in effective learning?
  • How might the coordinator support teams in clarifying goals and strategies?

Suggested further reading:

Drago-Severson, E. (2009). Leading adult learning: Supporting adult development in our schools. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Garmston, R. J., & Wellman, B. M. (2016). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

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