Mr. Costain, last week you participated at a global International Baccalaureate conference in The Netherlands that was attended by more than a thousand delegates from around the world. What was it about and what was your role?
This was a conference for staff and leaders of the IB schools around the world, and as you know British International School Ukraine is also an IB school. My participation was to provide a leadership workshop on an approach to leadership to provide the best conditions for fostering the professional and cultural dynamic to support continuous professional and organisational learning.
Why were you invited as one of the speakers at the conference?
I have a long history of developing a particular approach to supporting professional learning at schools which is particularly focused on the culture in the schools that is generated by their leaders. The approach itself also fits directly within the ethos of the International Baccalaureate organization.
By professional learning do you mean learning of teachers?
This includes learning for teachers and for school leaders. It is about the holistic learning community in which it is not just the students who are learning but it is also the teachers and the leaders within the school who are focused on continuous critical reflection, generating and using evidence to support that reflection so that they are continually learning and improving.
What was the audience most interested in?
I think they were most interested in what alternatives exist in terms of not just providing a different culture, but how do we revalue the aspects of leadership which are an integral part of most British schools, what do we replace them with, what do we value most. In some ways it is changing our professional accountability and our professional focus to really target the things that are most important to increase individual learning.
Can you give an example of those changes?
To provide just one simple example, what we see from evidence is that all the strongest impacts on improving student learning come from teachers becoming learners of their own teaching, and students becoming teachers of their own learning. In the simplest terms, this can be supported in lessons through reciprocal learning relationships, in which teachers obtain information back from students on how engaging and effective for learning they have found lessons, activities, projects and homework tasks to be. I have used this previously and have found it to be extremely effective in fostering the IB approach to learning and in improving student learning. The approach requires investment and development from the teacher with the students, and is in the process of being explored with some teachers at the British International School of Ukraine at the moment.
What was the reaction of the audience?
Actually, it was overwhelmingly positive. I received very many enquiries directly and by email after the presentations. Many delegates of the conference requested further support and information to establish the culture and embed these practices in their schools.
Well, it looks like you are a great expert in this area and we are lucky to have you at the British International School Ukraine.
The truth is that I consider myself very fortunate, from a number of perspectives. Firstly, to receive the support of the British International School of Ukraine for my involvement with this work. I am also very fortunate to be working in the rich professional environment which exists at the British International School of Ukraine, as I am continually learning from the context of the culture and the school, as well as from our professional colleagues and from the students and parents. I am myself continually learning, and the central part of my own ethos as a leader in the school is that I myself am too continually reflecting and looking to learn from my experiences on the daily basis. Each day as I come to school I’m looking by the end to leave as a better version of myself.
Thank you very much.