Head of School Updates, May 31 2019

Congratulations to the SCIS Class of 2019!

On Thursday, we celebrated the achievements of our 22 graduates from 12 different countries. For those of you who were fortunate to be there, it was a extremely touching ceremony – allowing our graduates to share who they are and how SCIS has shaped them. If you were not able to attend, I encourage you to watch our LiveStream recording of the event to get a sense of fine young men and women who are about to go out into the world as proud SCIS graduates.

The ceremony itself – and the feelings that our graduates shared – are great examples of how personalized relationships make a difference. Throughout the entire event, it’s safe to say that everyone who attended found moments to laugh, moments to cry, and moments to celebrate and remember. It was an event that captured the SCIS Spirit.

As a parent of a graduate, I have special reason to be proud of the day. I’m so grateful that these 22 have been a part of our SCIS story, and I know that bigger things await them.

Yearbooks are finished. Order yours today!

Facility Upgrades for 2019-20

Heading into the 2019-20 school year, SCIS Pudong continues to grow – thanks to the support and feedback of our parents. With an estimated 10% increase in our student population, our Board of Directors continues to re-invest in our facility to ensure our students receive the best educational experience. For those of you returning next year, in addition to the typical summer maintenance and upkeep, you can look forward to the following upgrades.

  • The two music rooms will be relocated into larger spaces.
  • A remodel of our lobby / coffee shop area to include greater access for students and parents to gather, socialize, and hold meetings.
  • New furniture (and furniture replacement) in our Upper and Lower School classrooms.
  • The development of a special room for K-12 robotics
  • A re-model of some Upper School rooms and spaces to accommodate more break-out work spaces for students.

We are grateful that our Board of Directors continues to re-invest, and look forward to utilizing the new spaces next year.

Fostering Better Student Reflections Through Inquiry-Based Learning

Let’s start with the obvious. Students can and should be reflective learners in any environment. Many would agree that the most important skill we can teach children is learning how to learn. That only comes with when students reflect. But not all classrooms are equal when it comes to fostering reflection in students.


Inquiry-based classrooms have an advantage.


Let’s first describe what we mean by an inquiry based classroom. Inquiry-based learning is built on questions. These can be student-developed questions or teacher-developed. These questions – and the subsequent questions they produce – drive the unit of study.
When I was in school, we studied with traditional units. These usually had topics like “Migration” or “China” and we would learn lots of information about our topic so that we could summarize it back to the teacher later on a test. Sometimes, I had a fun or innovative teacher who gave us a specific problem such as “Why do rural residents of Anhui province choose to migrate to Shanghai?” These kind of questions are really the foundation of inquiry-based learning. (And later in her career, maybe that innovative teacher worked at an IB school where she learning more about conceptual learning; she then changed the question to: “Why do populations choose to migrate? And, how does this migration change the destination and origin?” Now, students can example multiple examples and students can look for common trends. That’s called conceptual-based learning – and it’s another important part of the IB philosophy. But our focus for this article is on inquiry-based learning, so I should re-focus on the topic.
Inquiry-based learning can be summed up with the following bullets:

  • It builds on students’ individual knowledge and interests, and emphasizes learning how to learn and how to find out
  • Learning within the classroom must be engaging, relevant challenging and significant. There are no time-filling worksheets.
  • It views teachers as ‘facilitators’ and not ‘distributors’ of knowledge.
  • It is constructed in a way that is differentiated or that is specific to the needs of each learner within the classroom. 
    Source: https://www.whatisib.com/inquiry-based-learning.html

The following chart provides more detail.
Inquiry-Based Traditional
Principle Learning Theory Constructivism Behaviorism
Student Participation Active Passive
Student Role Problem solver Direction follower
Curriculum Goals Process oriented Product oriented
Teacher’s Role Guide/facilitator Director/transmitter
source: http://www.brynmawr.edu/biology/franklin/InquiryBasedScience.html

When we transform traditional units of study into rich, inquiry-based units, we provide an environment where high-level cognitive activities have greater potential to surface. Students create additional questions. Students develop their own understanding of issues by constructing their answer around the knowledge that they know. Within inquiry-based learning, we help students take the next step by giving them the tools to collaborate and assess their initial understanding – and build upon it.
For example:

  • As you answer this question, what additional questions come to mind?
  • What information might you need to learn in order to develop a deeper understanding of this issue?
  • Because others are constructing their own answers to this question, what are you learning from their perspective?

    When we look at the questions above, you begin to see a big difference between traditional learning environments (Ex. “Write an essay on China’s migration.”) and inquiry-based learning environments (Ex. Why do rural residents of Anhui Province choose to migrate to Shanghai?”)
    The traditional topic is a task that a student has to finish. The inquiry question is an engaging prompt that can be explored with an ever-increasing complexity. Like an onion, students can learn, layer upon layer.

Reflection can be a part of any classroom. But inquiry-based learning allows for a much deeper level of reflection.
In traditional classrooms, the following examples are typical student reflections.

  • “I should have worked harder / started earlier.
  • “I should have focused more on Chapter 2.” (Usually, this is because the assessment had more Chapter 2 questions than the student envisioned.)
  • “I should have taken better notes along the way.”

    None of these reflections are bad. But they are limited because the tasks tend to be limited. Students are missing out on the chance to reflect on their understanding. When students are asked to do more than summarize, they construct their own meaning. And, because each student will have his/her own personal construction, they each have a unique answer – and therefore can learn from one another.
    In an inquiry-based classroom, students can still reflect about their process. But they can also reflect upon their understanding. For example:
  • When I first answered this question, I only considered the economic advantages of why people move to Shanghai. I had not really thought about the impact on how it affects families who might be separated. It’s more complex than I thought. I now have a few more questions I want to explore because I think I might need to change my opinion.
  • I should have considered different peoples’ viewpoints (employers, government, families, and children) before I came to my conclusion.
  • I started to write my answer to this question too soon. I wish I had asked a few more people their opinions and read a few of my classmates’ answers prior to forming my opinion.

    These the types of powerful reflections that are possible within an inquiry-based classroom. These are also the types of reflections that skilled adults make in the real world everyday.

Upcoming Events:

  • Monday, June 3 to 6, Upper School Semester Exams
  • Thursday, June 6, Lower School Variety Show, 1:30pm-2:45pm, Theater
  • Friday, June 7, Duanwu “Dragon Boat” Festival Holiday (No School)

Photos From Around Campus

Inter-Disciplinary Unit – In Action

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