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Key takeaways from the IB Conference in The Hague, the Netherlands

Key takeaways from the IB Conference in The Hague, the Netherlands

By Sam Bishop, Head of Sixth Form, St. Paul's School 

As the new IB Diploma Programme Coordinator at St. Paul's, the British school in São Paulo, it was a fantastic opportunity to immerse myself in the IB philosophies during the IB World Conference in the Hague in October 2022.  

Be it with fantastic keynotes speakers or networking with IB colleagues from around the world, I could reflect on many practical ideas to improve best practice in our IB Diploma Programme at St Paul’s. 

The range of keynotes speakers provoked reflection about many aspects of education and in particular an IB education. Steve Bollar, education thought leader and school culture expert, delivered a fascinating presentation on the meaning and power of culture and climate in a school. He emphasised the importance of personal integrity and building relationships as the basis of successful school leaders. The key takeaway for me was Mr Bollar’s emphasis on personal integrity and originality in leadership, and not hide the unique and original aspects of our personality that help build leaders. This is an aspect of leadership we will be working with the prefects at St Paul’s to embrace. 

Dr Conrad Hughes, Principal of the International School of Geneva, delivered an inspiring keynote speech on ‘how can schools and universities tread the tightrope between access and quality?’. Of particular interest was Dr Hughes’ work about how we can report more than a number to universities, to give a more holistic representation of the individual students we teach. At St. Paul’s our emphasis on Lion Learning and the IB Learner Profile are ways of showing a little more about the positive learning habits (and attributes) of students. We are also reflecting on how we can use formal letters of reference to speak about the development of these attributes for individual students. 

Another fantastic keynote speaker was Dr Arjen Wals, who spoke about transformative learning. His ideas about how education should be directly engaging with global problems helped me understand the importance of effective collaboration. Working on projects that will help transform lives, creating spaces for big thinking about local and global problems is essential for schools to embrace. At St. Paul’s School we have started to do this, for example STEAM week in the senior school. Reflecting and refining our practice around collaborative projects (and their impact) will offer genuinely transformative learning experiences for all our students. 

Breakout sessions were many and varied. A major focus of St. Paul’s has been the provision and profile of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) so a breakout session that focused on this was essential to be part of. The Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) teamed up with the publisher Follet to run a session about SEL. Linking the CASEL framework to the IB Learner Profile attributes was a powerful way of understanding how SEL can be a focus for all teachers in all sections of the school. By tweaking our practice to integrate SEL opportunities into lessons we can be explicit about social and emotional learning and engage students on the development of key attributes such as resilience.

St. Paul’s has invested so much into social and emotional learning already, as a response to the pandemic and as a result of all our better understanding of mental health and the impact(s) on education and the lives of young people. Being able to support colleagues and be part of a team implementing best practice in this area makes me a proud Paulean. 

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