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LTE in BSAK Abu Dhabi

In this blog post, Luzardi Fisher at The British School Al Khubairat (BSAK) in Abu Dhabi explains their rationale for implementing Let’s Think in English and its impact.

As Head of the English Department at The British School Al Khubairat (BSAK) Abu Dhabi, the decision to introduce Let’s Think in English (LTE) programme was primarily driven by our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of educational excellence. In conjunction with this, the decision was influenced by my positive experiences with LTE during my tenure in Hampshire, UK. Understanding its potential firsthand, I was keen to leverage its strengths to further enhance our educational environment here at BSAK.

Another strong factor driving this initiative was to address specific challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the noticeable decline in student engagement and their growing reluctance to share ideas aloud. The LTE programme was particularly attractive due to its comprehensive approach to pedagogical development. It’s designed to foster a reflective practice among teachers, encouraging them to critically assess and improve their teaching methods. We recognised the potential of LTE to complement our existing educational strategies, offering a structured pathway to further elevate our already strong teaching standards.

As a well-respected institution renowned for its high educational standards, BSAK constantly seeks innovative methods to elevate teaching and learning. The LTE programme’s emphasis on reflective practice and evidence-based teaching strategies promised to complement our existing methodologies while addressing the urgent need for adaptations post-COVID, enhancing both teacher adaptability and student participation. The LTE programme addressed a specific need for a structured professional development that was both reflective and iterative. It provided our teachers with tools to introspectively evaluate their teaching methods and adapt based on evidence-based practices. For our students, the introduction of LTE meant a more tailored and engaging learning experience, ensuring that teaching methods are not only effective but also inclusive.

The unique selling point of the LTE compared to other teaching and learning approaches was its adaptability and focus on sustained teacher growth. Unlike one-off PD workshops or seminars, LTE facilitated an ongoing process of development, allowing teachers to implement changes, evaluate outcomes, and refine their approaches. Leah and Michael have been absolutely amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed working with them and will continue to stay in touch. This ongoing cycle of improvement has been instrumental in helping develop pedagogical strategies that are dynamic and responsive to the needs of our students.

Comparatively, the LTE PD programme was more integrated and comprehensive than other PD initiatives we have tried. It was not merely about imparting knowledge but about creating a culture of continuous professional learning. The programme’s integration with our daily teaching practices rather than being an external addition meant that the learning and improvements were more organic and impactful.

Over the academic year, we observed discernible stages of development in both our staff and students. Initially, there was a learning curve as both groups adapted to the new methodologies and the reflective nature of the programme. However, as the year progressed, teachers became more adept at identifying effective strategies and customising their approaches. Students, in turn, benefited from more engaging and personalised learning experiences. Challenges included time management and aligning the diverse needs of our staff and student body with the structured approach of LTE. However, these were largely overcome through careful planning and open communication.

Today, the impact of LTE at BSAK is clearly visible. Students are more engaged and willing to participate in classroom discussions, showing marked improvements in their communicative abilities. The environment has become more dynamic, with teaching and learning continuously evolving through shared insights and experiences.There has been a noticeable enhancement in teacher effectiveness. Our teachers actively incorporate student suggestions into the lesson plans. This can be seen through teachers asking for student input on what topics they find most intriguing or challenging, and then adapting the curriculum to address these interests and difficulties. This makes the learning process more relevant and engaging for students, fostering a sense of ownership over their education. We also encourage our students to evaluate their own ideas and the ideas of others during our lessons. Teachers now focus more on formative assessments that are designed not just to test knowledge, but to promote deeper understanding. Feedback encourages students to think critically about their own work and the work of their peers. This could be observed in classroom discussions where teachers pose challenging questions that require students to defend their reasoning or consider alternative viewpoints.

For students, the benefits have been seen in terms of higher engagement levels and improved academic performances. While improvements in standardised test scores may not yet be evident, other qualitative changes in student outputs, such as written answers, have provided us with these insights. Teachers have noticed that students are constructing more complex, reasoned arguments in their essays, showing better use of evidence and a clearer understanding of the subject matter. The depth and insight of classroom discussions and written assignments indicate enhanced cognitive and analytical skills.

The culture of continuous improvement and reflective practice has become a hallmark of our educational ethos. The culture of reflective practice, crucial for continuous improvement, is now more embedded within BSAK’s English department ethos. Teachers and students regularly engage in reflection sessions where they discuss what works, what doesn’t, and how things can be improved. This ongoing dialogue helps everyone in the department stay aligned with evolving educational goals and practices.

The distributed leadership model we adopted for the LTE implementation has reinforced a more collaborative and inclusive approach to school leadership. It has encouraged a more collaborative and consultative style of leadership, promoting transparency and shared responsibility in pedagogical decisions. Leaders are now more receptive to feedback and more adaptive to changes, fostering a more dynamic and responsive educational environment.

To other international schools contemplating the adoption of LTE, I would emphasise the importance of commitment to the process. It requires a shift not just in teaching methods but in the cultural mindset of the institution. However, the benefits are substantial, offering a clear pathway to enhanced educational outcomes and teacher satisfaction. Commit to the process, ensure alignment with your school’s vision, and prepare for a transformative journey in your school’s teaching and learning dynamics.

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