How do we evaluate the impact of CPD?

Denise Inwood, CEO & Founder, BlueSky Education


If development tailored to the individual is the way forward, what steps can we take to be confident of its worth?

Professional learning for teachers and school staff is a key driver of improving outcomes for young people. Improving skills, addressing gaps in knowledge or experience, building specialisms all benefit the individual while also contributing to school-wide needs and guiding plans for school improvement.

But as CPD becomes more personalised, for good reasons, how we evaluate its impact also becomes a key question.

How can you ensure that staff are applying what they have learned and that it is having an impact on classroom practice? Is it properly supporting their professional growth and career pathway? Is there evidence of long-term impact on student outcomes as well as fixing immediate issues? Has the development helped a teacher to contribute to the school’s wider teaching and learning goals as intended?

It’s important to acknowledge that hard evidence of impact can be hard to come by. As the Education Policy Institute/Wellcome Trust report[i] makes clear, robust conclusions about the lasting effects of CPD on teachers are difficult to pin down for various reasons, including the fact that responding to formal evaluation – surveys, focus groups – is often voluntary.

But at the school level there are steps that are relatively easy to put in place. The key is to incorporate evaluation into CPD practice itself.


A systemic approach to evaluation

Documenting the intended outcome of CPD activity is s first step: how the activity links to developmental goals and what the individual wants to achieve, but also how this will be measured, is key to evaluating effectiveness.

Many BlueSky members use the platform to support the evaluation of professional learning. In our recent client survey, at least half of respondents use it to record evaluations of the short-term impact on their teaching and around 40% recorded the long-term impact.

The survey also revealed that this evaluation often depends on individuals providing the feedback, using a pro forma or impact statement, an approach which can produce insights that are more or less meaningful according to how much time, energy, enthusiasm and diligence the person brings to the task.

Schools we spoke to were looking for a more formal, systematic approach that incorporated evaluation into the CPD process, rather than separately, and which would encourage teachers/staff to reflect on what and whether professional learning had an effect on their practice, helping to consolidate their learning. Schools and staff would also need to revisit the learning outcomes from CPD later on, it was felt, to assess the long-term impact and whether it had achieved the objectives set.


Incorporating evaluation into the CPD process

How can schools ensure that this evaluation is carried out?

Using a standardised evaluation process and making it a compulsory element of any CPD activity is one good step. Schools need to consider the appropriate time to do the evaluation and in what way; completing an initial evaluation form after a week, when recall of what was learned may be fading, might not prompt a deep reflection and risks turning the task into a tick-box exercise.

Evaluation could have more impact as part of a coaching or review meeting during or shortly after learning has taken place where the reviewer can tease out how the teacher intends to apply what they have learned in their classroom practice, and how that meets success criteria. They could note this aim formally and agree to assess the long-term impact in a subsequent review and through QA processes. At the later meeting, the reviewer/coach can offer more feedback to help the teacher refine elements of their practice, if required.

To maximise the benefit of professional learning, evaluation of the individual impact then needs to be followed by evaluation of its impact on achieving school priorities: how it is helping individuals or teams to contribute to the overarching goals of improving teaching quality, meeting key goals on literacy or numeracy, developing digital skills, contributing to wellbeing for staff and students or other strategic aims.


Triangulating CPD with QA

As well as helping the individual, professional learning undertaken needs to contribute to the wider goals of the school or trust. Quality assurance processes and underlying structures should enable leaders to track the accountability of staff, and how their development and professional growth is supporting the priorities of the organisation and improving outcomes for young people. Is the teacher’s own perception of the impact that their learning is having borne out in practice? Has the professional learning activity led to them developing the skills and behaviours expected? How is it contributing to improvement goals? Does it match the shared understanding of excellence in teaching and learning across the school? Are staff making their own assessments against these criteria?

In our survey, we asked whether schools were triangulating professional learning in this way as part of QA. The majority – 64% – said they did it only occasionally with 22% never reviewing the impact.


The relatively low take-up may be due to lack of time or capacity, but triangulating CPD with QA does not need to add another layer of work. It can and should be incorporated into existing QA processes, such as:

  • Setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited) objectives for professional development activity, so its impact on teachers’ practice is transparent.
  • Classroom observations – asking observers to look specifically at how the teacher is applying the knowledge and skills acquired in their CPD activity, then combining this with reflection by the teacher.
  • Peer collaboration and sharing – facilitating opportunities for teachers to share their experiences, best practices, and new knowledge with colleagues during training days, staff or team meetings or via a subject specific professional learning network within the school or trust.


Other ideas, which might take more time but could perhaps be incorporated into an action research project focused on QA, involve analysis of data over time to measure the longer-term impact of professional development on student outcomes. Schools can track student achievement and correlate it with the participation of teachers in specific professional development activity.

Evaluating professional development and triangulating with QA processes confirms to the organisation that the activity undertaken has benefited the individual teacher in practice and is contributing to school-wide priorities. It also sends a signal to staff that leaders value professional learning, not only for its specific results, but as an essential element of improvement strategy.




Reflections on an Unusual Admissions Season: Are We Seeing More Girls on the Autism Spectrum? What are You Seeing?

Judith Wides, M.A., M.Ed., LMFT
Director of Counseling and Family Support
National Child Research Center Preschool
Washington, DC

As we dive into the 2023–24 school year, many of our fellow school-based practitioners are finally feeling rested, recharged, and ready for a good year. Last year, after the preliminary post-Covid return to school offered some semblance of normalcy, we were still tired. This year feels different. Families seem less stressed, teachers appear more openhearted, and the children are playing in a more carefree fashion—and all without masks! Moving forward, we know that Covid variants will ebb and flow, but for the most part, our faculty, students, and their families are safely vaccinated and generating immunity.

This article is intended as an open question to the broader community of professionals who work with young children around the world. It is an invitation to start a conversation about trends we are seeing in the young children we serve here in Washington DC. During our last two admissions cycles we saw an increase of little girls who presented with features of autism. As I share the details of our admissions process and schoolwide practices, I hope you will reflect on your own experiences, and consider sharing them with me.

In 2028, the National Child Research Center Preschool (NCRC) will celebrate 100 years of establishing the first inclusion-model, early-childhood program in the United States. We serve children from ages 2-5, and from year to year, on average 12-18 percent of our students benefit from additional special educational support and adaptations. We are the only early childhood program in Washington, DC with a full time Child Development Team. Our team includes myself as the school counselor, an Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Pathologist, and our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Community. We also have a part-time Behavior Support Specialist with extensive training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) who works closely with our teachers to create targeted interventions and ongoing support plans. We all collaborate during admissions events to try to find children who will thrive at NCRC.

In our admissions process we intentionally seek out children with special educational needs, and their families, as an essential part of building our diverse and inclusive community. The children may be wheelchair users, use assistive technology to communicate, or have Down’s Syndrome, but nearly 100 years of practice informs our drive to create inclusive classrooms that are play-based with an emphasis on social emotional learning. We hold dearly to the sentiment that preschool is about learning to be part of a group, and that by creating a diverse and inclusive learning environment for young children, we are contributing to building a more diverse and inclusive society.

The majority of the children that we meet during our admissions season are applying for places in our early learning tier, those children who will be age 2 by the following September 1st. That means that we are meeting these young toddlers and their families 6-8 months before they will join our school community. Last year when we began the admissions process for this current school year, we decided to limit ourselves to only taking in three new classes of the youngest age peer group of children ages 2 to 2.5 because we were seeing such high levels of need in the applicants as well as across all the age peer groups that we serve at our school. Like many schools that offer inclusion programs, there are always more children in need than we can serve.

From the group of 105 children who applied for admission last year into our early learning classes, we offered 47 places with a combination of full day and half day programming. Of the 47 we accepted, 5 were invited specifically to participate in our internal multidisciplinary early intervention/developmental support program. This program, called Early Beginnings, has an extra small group pull out experience as well as a weekly parent support/education group, and a monthly therapeutic home visit.  Another 10-12 children of the 47 that we accepted would need some support in specific areas of development, perhaps just some speech therapy, or just some support with fine and gross motor development etc. In general, we finished off the admissions season with a concern that a very high number of the children we accepted were going to need coaching in social play skills.

As a school that embraces a play based, emergent curriculum approach, our teachers love to play and discover with their students. Faculty input factors heavily during our admissions process. Our teachers and specialists are experts in understanding the impact of challenges and delays on skills and behaviors in a classroom setting—and they love to problem solve. We are very fortunate that the majority of our teaching faculty have masters degrees in Early Childhood Education or Early Childhood Special Education. We have a master teacher who serves as our Pedogogista and deepens our work in supporting play and emergent curriculum.

Every year we begin the admissions process by looking for students who have one thing in common, regardless of their abilities: they are interested in play.  NCRC’s emergent curriculum follows a Reggio-informed practice with a strong emphasis on play-based, social-emotional learning. In addition, our classroom practices are heavily informed by the relationship-based intervention model developed by Hand in Hand Parenting and we have adapted many elements from the Social Thinking Curriculum  into our program with great success.

Like our curriculum, our admissions events are play-based. As part of the application process, a child and a parent visit NCRC for a brief playgroup experience, designed intentionally to be low stress, with small groups of four to five families. These opportunities allow young children to engage in playful activities with experienced educators who get to know the applicants by exploring open-ended play materials, reading a story as a group, singing a song, and eating a snack together.  We do our best to keep the session as light-hearted and fun as possible.

When parents ask us what we are looking for during our admissions play sessions, we emphasize that we’re not interested in whether a child can count to 10, identify letters, or name complicated shapes. Our play-based program is best suited for children who understand social reciprocity: those who express shared enjoyment through interactive communication with other children and teachers within a classroom setting. Social reciprocity can be observed in both verbal and non-verbal behavior in young children. Examples of social reciprocity include, responding to one’s name, pretending to make coffee for a parent and handing it to them while smiling and “stirring in the sugar”, or turning a pine cone into a cell phone to call daddy, who is across the room, calling back with another pine cone. We are interested to see if the children find their parents, the other children around them, and the teachers interesting, socially.

In addition to looking for evidence of social reciprocity, we are curious to see if a child can discern what the group plan is. We borrowed this language from the Social Thinking Curriculum, and now use it to organize the day in each of our classrooms. In an established classroom community the group plan may look like the universal daily picture schedule used in all early learning classrooms. However, when children attend play sessions we are eager to see if they understand the more subtle idea of shared experience. So instead of just exclusively following their own ideas and interests with the materials offered, can our tiny visitors see that (even if they choose not to participate) the other children, parents, and teachers in the classroom are listening to a story, or singing a song together, or that everyone is having a snack together?

We don’t force children to participate in any way during the admissions play sessions, but we do look to see if they can accommodate their behavior to the social context, or the group plan. If they opt to play with a car instead of listening to a story, can they play quietly, intuiting that there is a larger plan unfolding? Or does the child march around the room loudly with the car, making machine noises as if she or he were the only person in the room, immune to the parents’ attempt to engage the child in the group activity? Our concern for the appropriate placement of the child arises when we observe children who demonstrate more interest in the inanimate objects around them, rather than in the other children and adults in the play session.

In the past two admissions cycles we began to see more and more children in the latter category. In particular, girls who were not social, and they were more interested in blocks, trains and cars than in the people around them. Many of the parents of these children referred to their toddlers as Covid babies. They were using the meme ‘Covid baby’ as a catch all phrase to explain all things developmental, and in particular observed delays in social communication.

The social isolation during the pandemic certainly had an impact on all children. However, an increasing number of the girls we were meeting were not responding to their names, not making even fleeting eye contact, and they played in very repetitive fashion with blocks and vehicles, showing no interest in the other children or teachers in the room. As quickly as a parent could explain away their daughter’s lack of interest in other children as a result of the pandemic, I could easily think of ten other children that we had met who were born in 2019 or 2020 who were eager to make eye contact, or participate in a sing along, and play in parallel with other children, but with a clear social awareness of others in the room.

In fact we met plenty of “‘Covid babies”’ who were very social and eager to play and engage, even if they had no siblings, and had spent the first two years of their life in relative social isolation, just with their parents as play partners. These typically developing children, born just before or during the pandemic, may have been a bit more shy, or slightly more delayed in their language development, but they were meeting developmental milestones on a generally typical trajectory.

At NCRC we have for many years successfully supported children who present with mild to moderate characteristics that are associated with the autism spectrum. Right from the outset during our admissions events we are pretty good at identifying children who, despite their social challenges, will be happy in our programs. If we do a good job of matching students to our programs, many of these children will move on to attend kindergarten with their typically developing age peers. We are also quick to identify those children who would benefit from a more therapeutically intensive school setting, and often we are the first professionals to guide their parents toward early intervention services. These conversations are never easy.

Historically, as early childhood educators we have seen more boys who struggle with social engagement than girls.  According to the public website hosted by the U.S. National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),and the  Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, statistically there are currently more males than females on the autism spectrum globally. So it was surprising for us to see such a dramatic increase in girls who lacked interest in their peers, and could not be engaged by teachers or skilled therapists, during our admissions play sessions. Our Speech and Language Pathologist and our Occupational Therapist  — with more than 30 years of collective experience working with children with autism and other development delays, could not engage these girls in play.

Returning again to the information provided on the  public website from NIMH, the  CDC, and the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, there has been a steady rise in children being diagnosed with autism in the last twenty years. Based on data released in March of 2023, for data collected through 2020, the US was averaging 1 in every 36 children by age 8, being diagnosed with ASD. In 2012, the number was 1/69.  At the time of the release of the data for 2020, ASD was noted to be nearly 4 times (3.8) more prevalent in boys.

We began to wonder if this phenomenon of meeting more little girl applicants, with a very restricted range of social communication skills than ever before, was limited to our community in Washington DC, or if our colleagues around the country were seeing similar presentations. So, we reached out to our professional networks in the field of speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling to try to gather more information. After reaching out to our colleagues, the response was clear: they were also seeing a significant increase in the number of girls who meet the criteria for an autism diagnosis.

I am not a scientist, and although I took enough statistics courses during my postgraduate training to know that our casual polling data means nothing statistically, I am curious to know what others are finding in their classrooms and communities. Last spring I reached out to colleagues at ECIS, and they graciously offered me this opportunity to tell you our story, and to ask you to share yours. In Washington we feel particularly committed to creating opportunities for increased dialogue on this topic and would love to talk to other early childhood educators as we begin to think about what early intervention will look like in order to provide maximum support for these girls and their families. Please let me know if you are noticing more girls who are struggling with social communication and play.  As we work toward a future of providing all children with what they need in order to thrive and grow at school, we need to get this conversation started sooner rather than later.

Please feel free to reach out to me at if you would like to share your observations with me. Thank you for your time.


Judith Wides is the Director of Counseling and Family Support at the National Child Research Center Preschool in Washington DC.  She has been supporting children and families for over thirty years with a special focus on early childhood mental health.  Judith loves working collaboratively with parents and teachers to provide children with opportunities to become their most authentic and joyful selves.

Hidden in Plain Sight: School Culture’s Unspoken Truths & Bold Fixes

Dr. Yael Cass
Director of School Operations Services at International Schools Services


In the vibrant ecosystem of our international schools, every individual plays a pivotal role. As leaders, we often endeavor to understand the heartbeat of our school’s culture. We seek feedback, we organize workshops, and we initiate dialogues. Yet, despite these proactive measures, there remain unspoken sentiments and silent gaps between lived experiences and our understanding.


Drawing from years of diverse engagement in the international educational sector, I’ve come to recognize a recurring disconnect between leadership perceptions and ground-level realities. This isn’t just an academic observation; it’s a lived experience that spans the entire educational ecosystem. My roles as a customer (full-paying parent), board member, and school administrator with a research background on the efficiency of governance in international schools have provided me with a comprehensive understanding of these complexities. My consultancy work has further deepened this understanding, revealing the often-underestimated value of the role of operations and support-staff in achieving a good organizational culture and assisting schools to achieve their educational excellence goals.

It’s important to note that the isolation of leadership is often a circumstance, not a choice. School heads may find themselves in positions where they are not fully exposed to the lived experiences of their staff. This is not to blame them, but rather to highlight the systemic issues that can prevent open dialogue. Employees, whether due to fear, respect, or a combination of both, may hesitate to voice critical feedback, perpetuating a culture of inequity and inefficiency.

Further complicating this landscape is the perspective of our support staff, especially those from diverse industries and corporate backgrounds. While they bring a wealth of experience, they often grapple with aligning the proclaimed ethos of education with observable practices. This disconnect can be glaring, as they sometimes find themselves questioning the correspondence between our stated objectives and our actions. On the flip side, educators, deeply immersed in their specialized environment, might inadvertently overlook these disparities. Their profound dedication to the educational realm can sometimes create blind spots, making it challenging to recognize what might be evident to those from different professional landscapes.

Therefore, it’s imperative to bridge these multiple gaps between perception and lived reality. We must acknowledge the vital role that each cog in the educational wheel plays in shaping our students’ future, and creating channels for open, fearless communication across all levels of our educational institutions.

As we strive to align perception with lived experience and foster a more equitable school culture, let’s explore some actionable strategies that can serve as catalysts for meaningful change.


Tailored Onboarding: Immersing Support Staff in the Educational Mission and Vision

Support staff in educational institutions often come from a variety of industries, bringing with them a wealth of experience but potentially lacking familiarity with the unique landscape of education. To bridge this gap, a well-crafted onboarding process is indispensable. This should go beyond mere orientations and delve into the intricacies of the educational system, including accreditation standards, curriculum frameworks, and even a day in the life of a teacher. A glossary of educational jargon can also be invaluable for those new to the sector.

Drawing from my extensive experience leading global communities of HR and operations professionals in international schools, I’ve observed that these professionals often express initial reservations about transitioning into an educational setting. The pace, practices, procedures, and structure may be quite different from the corporate world to which they may be accustomed; however, the demand for high service standards, especially from premium educational institutions, remains constant.

However, onboarding is merely the initial step in a continuous journey of alignment and immersion. The objective is not just to inform but to integrate support staff into the educational ethos of the institution. This often-neglected aspect can lead to a disconnect between educational goals and operational objectives. Research in organizational behavior underscores the importance of alignment: when an employee’s values and skills are in sync with their work environment, it enhances their commitment, motivation, and overall job satisfaction.

To sustain this alignment, schools should consider implementing ongoing educational sessions, regular check-ins, and cross-departmental meetings that feature case studies relevant to both educational and operational roles. These initiatives serve a dual purpose: they not only keep support staff updated but also ensure that they are culturally and philosophically aligned with the school’s mission and vision.


Anonymous Feedback Channels: Culturally Sensitive Mechanisms for Genuine Insights

In many countries, cultural norms and historical experiences can inhibit open and candid feedback. Direct criticism might be perceived as disrespectful or unkind, and voicing concerns about institutional practices or leadership could be misconstrued as ingratitude. This presents a unique challenge for educational institutions aiming to gain authentic insights into their organizational culture. To circumvent these hurdles, the implementation of anonymous feedback channels, such as carefully designed surveys, becomes essential.

The cornerstone of an effective anonymous feedback mechanism is cultural sensitivity. Survey questions should be meticulously crafted to honor the cultural norms and historical nuances of the host country. This ensures that the survey is not only respectful but also effective in eliciting genuine responses. To achieve this, assembling a diverse design team is imperative. The team should mirror the heterogeneity of your staff, encompassing various departments, roles, and cultural backgrounds.

Creating a survey that garners honest feedback is a complex task. The questions must align with the school’s overarching goals while also being sensitive to cultural norms. For instance, rather than asking a direct question like, “Do you think leadership is effective?”, a more nuanced and culturally sensitive question could be, “How comfortable do you feel with the current leadership style?” This approach ensures that the survey yields information directly pertinent to the school’s objectives and the enhancement of its culture.

Before deploying the survey to the entire staff, it’s advisable to conduct a pilot test with a smaller, diverse subset of employees. This allows for an assessment of the survey’s effectiveness and cultural appropriateness, providing an opportunity for necessary adjustments.

By adopting these comprehensive measures, educational institutions can establish anonymous feedback channels that are both respectful of cultural and emotional sensitivities and effective in providing invaluable insights. The insights from the surveys can serve as a tool to foster conversations within diverse focus groups, or through confidential interviews facilitated by external consultants. These opportunities increase the opportunities for open discussion and honest feedback. The results can serve as a roadmap for meaningful organizational changes, contributing to a more cohesive and effective educational environment.


Empathy Workshops

Empathy Workshops can serve as a cornerstone for fostering a more cohesive and understanding work environment. This is particularly relevant in educational settings, where staff roles and responsibilities can vary significantly. The workshops aim to cultivate empathy among all staff members, from educators and support staff to leadership. The overarching objective is to nurture a culture in which each individual can comprehend and appreciate the unique challenges and contributions of their colleagues, thereby enhancing teamwork and minimizing friction.

Various techniques are employed in Empathy Workshops to achieve this goal. Storytelling is an effective approach. Staff members share personal experiences related to their work, effectively breaking down stereotypes and assumptions. For example, a support staff member might discuss the logistical hurdles of organizing a school event, while a teacher could delve into the emotional challenges of managing a difficult classroom. Hearing these stories firsthand fosters a deeper level of understanding and respect among staff members.

Role-playing exercises are another way to enable participants to step into their colleagues’ shoes and experience the challenges they encounter daily. For instance, a teacher might role-play as a janitorial staff member, or an administrator could assume the role of a classroom teacher. These exercises are eye-opening, revealing the complexities and demands associated with different roles within the organization.

Interactive discussions and group activities can further explore the concept of empathy, discussing its significance in effective communication, conflict resolution, and even its impact on students’ educational outcomes.


Anonymous Internal 360-Degree Climate Surveys

Anonymous internal 360-degree climate surveys can serve as transformative tools by offering a comprehensive view of internal dynamics that might otherwise remain hidden. In environments where support staff and educators often operate in separate silos, these surveys facilitate cross-functional feedback, allowing both groups to offer insights into each other’s performance as well as that of their supervisors. This is particularly vital in educational settings where internal politics can obscure objective assessments and decision-making.

Leaders, often removed from the day-to-day interactions of their teams, may find it challenging to accurately gauge the organizational climate. A meticulously designed 360-degree survey can act as a potent mechanism to navigate these internal complexities. By incorporating leading questions that elicit specific viewpoints, such surveys can convert hallway politics into constructive dialogues. For instance, instead of a vague question like, “Are you satisfied with your team?”, a more targeted question could be, “How effectively do you think your team collaborates on project-based tasks?” This approach not only yields a nuanced understanding but also generates actionable insights.

I’ve observed that a well-executed 360-degree survey can unveil hidden tensions between departments or even within teams, affecting project outcomes. For example, educators in one case felt that the support staff were not adequately responsive to their needs, while the support staff believed that the educators failed to appreciate the logistical challenges they encountered. The survey’s findings led to a series of cross-departmental meetings that significantly improved communication and collaboration, benefiting the entire organization.

By utilizing anonymous 360-degree surveys, educational institutions can transcend the constraints of internal politics and isolated leadership perspectives. They can cultivate an environment where feedback is not merely encouraged but is also constructive and actionable, thereby facilitating meaningful organizational improvements.


Engaging External Consultants: A Unique Advantage

The engagement of external consultants offers a unique advantage: an unbiased, external perspective capable of cutting through internal politics and preconceived notions. This neutrality fosters a more open dialogue among staff members, who may feel more at ease sharing their genuine feelings and observations without the fear of retribution.

In my capacity as Director for School Operations Services, I conducted many organizational development consulting and operational audits to international schools across the globe. My external viewpoint has proven invaluable for eliciting candid, constructive feedback. For example, during one consulting engagement with a small school, the external evaluation unearthed a deeply troubling issue of which the school’s leadership was entirely unaware. The staff perceived that the leadership was either indifferent to the situation or, worse, supportive of the unethical behavior in question. The confidentiality and security of the external evaluation process encouraged staff to openly discuss these sensitive issues. This revelation was a watershed moment for the school’s leadership, who had been oblivious to the problem. Armed with this newfound knowledge, they took immediate action to rectify the unethical behavior and instituted policies to prevent similar incidents in the future. This significantly improved the school’s culture as well as its operational effectiveness.

The safety and well-being of employees are paramount throughout this process. Confidentiality is rigorously upheld, and feedback is presented in a manner that safeguards individual identities, ensuring that employees feel secure throughout the process.

By leveraging the impartial expertise of external consultants and prioritizing employee safety, school leaders can acquire a comprehensive understanding of their institution’s culture. This approach not only identifies areas for improvement but also yields actionable insights for creating a more cohesive and effective educational environment. Importantly, it does so while safeguarding the well-being of the school’s most valuable asset—its staff.

In the intricate tapestry of international school ecosystems, every thread—be it an educator, a support staff member, or a leader—holds unique importance. While we strive to weave a harmonious pattern, it’s essential to remember that the fabric is ever-changing, influenced by the individual experiences and perspectives of its constituents. It’s not enough to merely understand or appreciate these threads. We must actively engage with them, continually reassess, and realign our strategies to ensure a cohesive, effective, and nurturing educational environment. The journey towards this ideal may be complex, but it is one that holds the promise of profound impact, not just for those within the school walls, but for the broader community and, most importantly, for the generations we are shaping.


About the author

With over 20 years of experience in leadership, management, and operations, Dr. Yael Cass is a seasoned professional in organizational development, management, and operations. She offers consultancy services in a variety of areas, including organizational development, culture, HR strategies, innovation, and business and capital development.

Her unique lived experiences as a full-paying parent at an international school, a board member, and chair of various board committees, along with her leadership role as a school administrator, provide her with a comprehensive understanding of schools, their communities, and their operational aspects.

At ISS (International School Services), Dr. Cass is responsible for developing and delivering services that aim to enhance the capacity of school leaders and support staff to create more harmonious and effective organizations.

Dr. Cass holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Architecture, an MSc in International Business Management from Liverpool University, and a Ph.D. in Organizational Development and Gender Diversity at the Workplace from RMIT University.


Taking the long view: Sustainability for global citizenship transformation

LeeAnne Lavender, Inspire Citizens Storyteller


Many educators and leaders in international schools around the globe recognize the value and urgency of global citizenship education (GCE) and the need to empower PreK-12 students to engage in authentic community engagement and active local and global citizenship.


To this end, many educators use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help students understand the most pressing issues of our time and to pursue individual and collective pathways to sustainability. Educators may also prioritize social and emotional learning (SEL), diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), and service learning or community engagement to offer students opportunities to think, learn and act as informed and reflective citizens. Leaders may seek strategic plans and outcomes that support student learner outcomes (SLOs) that feature global citizenship, and parents may choose schools that offer these types of authentic and meaningful learning experiences.


There is a growing awareness amongst international educators that this approach to educating students is foundational and critical for engagement, learning and the transfer of knowledge and skills to practical and identified needs in our local and global communities.


This leaves many educators asking the question “how”? How can I redesign my curriculum to help students learn about the world in inclusive and multi-layered ways? How can I change my assessment practices to offer more innovative and holistic ways of assessing student learning? How can my school create a more cohesive and purposeful approach to GCE?


Inspire Citizens co-founder Aaron Moniz has channeled these questions into an overarching one: “how to global citizen?” And he and the Inspire Citizens team spent years building models and tools to help educators answer that big question.



In working with dozens of international schools, Aaron has noticed several key ingredients that can propel a school forward in its goals related to active global citizenship. Many of these ingredients involve taking a long view of curricular and cultural transformation, and a long view ensures sustainability so active global citizenship becomes and remains a vital part of each learner’s experience. As schools employ a whole-school blueprint for active global citizenship, long term thinking is the key to sustainability both in developing the program and culture, and in equipping students to think in a long-term way about a positive and sustainable future, as well.


“Creating a whole school blueprint for schools has been creative and energizing,” says Aaron. “As we have worked with many leaders and groups of teachers, we have gathered compelling evidence that shows a cohesive plan with multiple stakeholders in the community is key.”


This approach resonates with ideas in Roman Krznaric’s book The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World. Krznaric says “By making wise—and long—choices as we emerge from this crisis, we could well become the good ancestors that future generations deserve.”


Aaron has some top tips for school leaders and classroom educators who want to offer more opportunities for students to experience PreK-12 active global citizenship, and this list of his top 9 ideas is a great way to start ideating about how your school can embrace a holistic vision for active global citizenship: :


#1: Articulate a clear plan



Articulating a multi-year approach for pursuing and implementing global citizenship education (GCE) is essential. A 3- or 5-year plan can create clear goals and outcomes for everyone, and this clarity can help everyone become committed to GCE as a way to connect curriculum to tangible local and global issues and as a way to empower students to be informed and positive changemakers. A good plan should include supportive and long-term implementation strategies such as:

  • check-ins with leaders and teams
  • defined and clear roles and partnerships (such as which coach or coordinator will meet with specific teams during planning blocks to embed resources, tools and strategies)
  • thoughtful reflection opportunities for students and educators.


#2: Think local



Hiring experienced and passionate local educators and staff members can ensure sustainability and authentic community connections. Local hires tend to stay longer at international schools and bring a more nuanced and whole perspective to the team.


“At COJOWA, where there is deep and impactful global citizenship taking place, a key person creating that momentum is Jessica, the community liaison officer,” says Aaron. “When Jessica came on board, she was able to connect teachers with valuable community partners and she was able to work with Spanish-speaking educators and staff to bridge language barriers. Now that she has worked with us to learn about global citizenship education, implementation in the curriculum, and community engagement, she is able to facilitate ongoing professional learning with the COJOWA team. Her role and her passion for the work has created deep change at COJOWA in a short period of time.”


Aaron values local voices, and feels it is essential to honour and respect local and indigenous perspectives and ways of thinking and being. Inviting local educators and staff into learning experiences with students is an effective way of encouraging students to be open-minded, curious and aware.


The Inspire Citizens Empathy to Impact enhanced curriculum design approach frames the learning journey for teachers and students around the four stages: care, aware, able and impact. When we bring local voices into the center of learning experiences, students can care about the perspectives and lived experiences of others, and become much more aware of the complexities and diversity of local and global issues.


#3: Create positions for GCE leadership



Creating space and resources (financial and otherwise) for jobs that support GCE is a way to ensure teachers will be supported and students will have access to relevant learning experiences. The types of positions most aligned with GCE include:


  • Sustainability coordinator
  • Service learning or community engagement coordinator
  • Global citizenship coordinator
  • Community liaison


“If you know you want your community partnerships to be more reciprocal, hire someone with a background in development work and building partnerships,” says Aaron. “If you put an educator with no training into that kind of position, it can be challenging. It’s key to hire someone who knows how to do that work, or who is passionate and can be equipped quickly to do the work well.”


#4: Prioritize sustainable partnerships


Some schools engage in multiple community partnerships across grade levels and the curricular/co-curricular realms, and this can sometimes lead to a more shallow or tokenistic approach to GCE. Ideally, your partnerships should be deep, sustainable, inclusive and reciprocal. While this takes work and time, it means that your school will engage in meaningful and authentic learning and service, and that your students will have the opportunity to work alongside community partners for multiple years.


“Break down the number of your partnerships and go for depth over time with more connections between grade levels,” says Aaron. “For example, maybe you have grade 11 students complete a needs analysis with a partner, and build the foundation of a new partnership. Grade 12 students can then prototype action plans and share these with the community partner as well as pitch the strongest prototypes to tenth graders so they can take up the torch when they get to grade 11. Prioritizing long-term thinking and action and building organizational capacity across grade levels is powerful.”


In terms of taking the long view, community engagement is an essential area for deep, sustainable impact.


#5: Collect data and evidence


“You can do all kinds of service and global citizenship work, but if students can’t articulate what they learned and the impact they generated, they just performed those tasks and they didn’t internalize the experience,” says Aaron.


He recommends collecting assessment and reflection data from all service learning and GCE experiences so teachers and students can evaluate changes in mindsets and community impact. This not only creates a picture of growth and transformation but also allows leaders and educators to continuously adjust approaches to teaching and learning to maximize the impact for students and community partners.


Data can be collected in a variety of ways, including assessments (formative and summative), formal and informal reflections (written, visual, oral), surveys and interviews.


#6: Create frequent opportunities to work with parents


Parents in our communities are an incredible resource. They work in jobs and fields that can be incredibly valuable for our service learning and GCE experiences. They have local and global connections that can put us in touch with knowledgeable and inspiring people, and they tend to care deeply about our schools because their children are in our care.


“There are so many people who want to contribute to their kids’ learning and to the experiences of all students in our schools,” says Aaron. “When you find the right parent, this isn’t an extra task we’re asking them to take on; they want to participate.”


Aaron recommends organizing multiple parent events each year and creating a parent group or committee related to service and GCE. You could also survey your parents each year so you know the types of positions and jobs and interests represented in your parent body.


#7: Offer mission “refreshers” on a regular basis


International school teachers move around, and each year we have new educators joining our teams. Aaron recommends introducing new hires to your school mission and to your GCE plan early, even including it as part of your onboarding process and orientation.


“If you build the system, it can sustain itself,” says Aaron. “You need to think about the capacity of new staff in terms of their skill as global citizenship educators, and the onboarding process is key for helping new staff understand your school’s priorities, approaches and tools in this area.”


If you offer mission “refresher” workshops for new and returning staff, you can highlight key language, examples and outcomes related to active global citizenship and community engagement. When your team is reminded of your reciprocal community partnerships and foundational GCE learning experiences, you can maintain and grow momentum over time.


#8: Think across disciplines


Supporting interdisciplinary learning experiences for students of all age groups can provide holistic and inclusive ways of learning. It’s a natural fit for English and social studies teachers to work together in creating interdisciplinary experiences. Bringing other core and elective teachers into the mix can also create innovative and connected experiences for students.


You can use time at regular staff meetings or orientation sessions at the start of each semester or year to create common planning windows or ideation sessions. Some interdisciplinary teams may be given common planning time throughout the year. This will look different at every school, and being purposeful about planning GCE initiatives across the curriculum helps students see the connected nature of their learning as well as the connected nature of local and global issues.


#9: Engage with an accountability partner


To create a plan and ensure its implementation over time, it can be valuable to engage with an accountability partner like Inspire Citizens. Working with an outside organization can inspire your team, provide valuable professional learning and equip your team members with the knowledge and passion necessary to continue learning and acting in alignment with your GCE goals.


These top nine tips from Aaron provide entry points for all school teams to evaluate and consider their global citizenship priorities and learning experiences across the PreK-12 spectrum.


If you’re interested in learning more about how to foster sustainable ways of designing global citizenship education at your school, please schedule a discovery call with an Inspire Citizens facilitator and check out more tools on the Inspire Citizens website.


More links from Inspire Citizens:


Global Citizenship Self-Discovery Tool


Whole School Roadmap for Global Citizenship

(Aaron, this page needs an update on the website; it says this is “coming in October 2022”)


Inspire Citizens Vignettes: Stories from Schools Engaged with Whole-School Global Citizenship


Empathy to Impact Design Sprint


Changemaker Action Plan for students


LeeAnne Lavender is a storyteller for Inspire Citizens, and she is also an educational consultant, coach and facilitator for international educators. She specializes in storytelling, digital storytelling, service learning and global citizenship (and all of the powerful intersections that exist in these realms!).

A recipe for whole school transformation towards active global citizenship

LeeAnne Lavender, Inspire Citizens Storyteller


The word “transformation” has energy and power, doesn’t it? The idea of radical change and positive metamorphosis is compelling and, when paired with creating opportunities for students to engage in authentic changemaking, can inspire and empower all educators.


Inspire Citizens co-founder Aaron Moniz and all Inspire Citizens facilitators spend a lot of time thinking about transformation in the context of schools. Their goal? Redesigning teaching and learning to kickstart and sustain active global citizenship for all learners. By making everyday teaching and learning relevant and meaningful in relation to local and global issues, Aaron and the team help educators and learners experience a deep transformation.


“We are really committed to this work,” says Aaron. “When we founded Inspire Citizens in 2018, we wanted to use our many years of classroom experience and passion for changemaking to impact as many schools and classrooms as possible so students feel equipped to lead the positive change we need in our world.”


Aaron and late co-founder Steve Sostak developed a four-step recipe for schools to build cohesive curriculum that can activate PreK-12 global citizens. In partnership with schools, Aaron and the team help educators experience these four stages in a way that makes sense and allows them to tap into their own deep desires to help students understand the world in all of its complexity, beauty and potential.


Step 1:  Mission and Vision Articulation



Most international schools have a mission statement that involves some component of global citizenship, service and/or global-mindedness. To begin a process of whole school transformation, this is where the Inspire Citizens recipe gets started: identifying the parts of your school mission related to global citizenship or designing a new mission statement if it’s time to update this core guiding statement.


The mission statement for a school invested in global citizenship should point towards:

  • desired learning outcomes related to engaged global citizenship
  • evidence that can be collected about growth towards those outcomes
  • tools, resources and approaches based on an understanding of global citizenship that grows out of the mission


“It’s essential to be clear and consistent about this so every stakeholder in the school knows what this means and how to do it,” says Aaron. “One of the biggest struggles for schools is how to achieve the mission for global citizenship with no guidance. You need to have a road map based on defining global citizenship for your school with clear targets so teachers and students know where they’re going.”


Step 2: An Integrative Approach



International schools are busy places, and achieving transformation related to global citizenship curriculum means approaching change in an integrative – not additive – way.


“Look at what you’re already doing with curriculum, instruction, professional growth and systems for assessment; from there, successful global citizenship programming needs to be holistic, not something separate,” explains Aaron.


When global citizenship becomes the foundation of a school’s strategic plan, educators can see multiple entry points for curriculum design and experiential learning that can serve to develop and foster core areas (like literacy, numeracy, digital and global competencies, social and emotional learning, DEIJ/B, and sustainability).


During this stage of an all-school transformative global citizenship experience, Aaron and the team guide and coach teachers through curriculum design and redesign. They also share approaches, resources and strategies to help busy teachers reframe curriculum in efficient, effective and sustainable ways.


Step 3: Build capacity for sustainable outcomes



Programming and curriculum development at international schools can sometimes feel like there’s a revolving door of new initiatives and goals. Aaron says it’s key to have an implementation plan for transformative global citizenship education so schools can weather shifts and maintain focus.


“You have to look at how you’re building capacity so the work sustains over time,” he reflects. “Every human organization is dynamic and you have to build flexible and responsive systems to sustain the work.”


To do that, Aaron recommends:

  • Ensuring professional development opportunities for teachers so there is widespread clarity what global citizenship education (GCE) looks like.
  • Celebrating successes and creating a culture that deeply values the impact of GCE.
  • Evaluating leadership structures so change can be championed and managed over a number of years.
  • Creating accountability systems so it’s clear who is responsible for specific targets and goals.
  • Coaching the coaches or training the coordinators so that they can carry on the work in the absence of the consultant.
  • Having a scheduled roll out/sharing protocol, starting with the school’s global citizenship champions as a pilot team, and eventually involving students, parents, and community stakeholders. With a purposeful roll-out, you can focus on deep work with specific teams during a specified time period and give others time to observe and understand what the pilot team is experiencing; this helps others get excited about their turn in participating in the next pilot team.
  • Sharing conversations and dialogue about GCE so educators and students can learn, grow and develop ideas, approaches and mindsets as well as share common language about global citizenship.


Step 4: Reflect and Grow



When you have teachers guiding students towards everyday teaching and learning tasks and assessments that are based on the development of GCE skill sets, it’s key to evaluate the evidence of the learning that is taking place. Reflection is vital and rich in this stage.


“When teachers have collaborative planning opportunities, access to new teaching and learning tools, and support from instructional coaches and middle leaders, they can experience immense success equipping students to connect content with local and global assets and needs,” says Aaron. “Once they’ve had a chance to reflect on a unit and the learning that occurred, it’s good to run a unit back through steps 1 – 3 so teachers become more experienced and confident. That’s how teachers – and schools as a whole – go from working with a coach to being self-directed over time.”


The whole school model


In the work that Inspire Citizens does with schools around the world, there are multiple examples of transformative all-school approaches for active global citizenship. From COJOWA in Cartagena, Colombia to the AES (American Embassy School) of New Delhi and Seoul Foreign School in South Korea, the Inspire Citizens team has served as an accountability partner for multi-year transformation plans that have radically shifted teaching and learning. Just this past year, the International School of Kigali brought Aaron in to begin the process at their small school, and innovative learning experiences are already emerging.


“It looks different in each school,” says Aaron. “Many schools will begin by creating pilot teams and equipping those teams to redesign curriculum with a focus on active global citizenship and community engagement. This shows the rest of the school what this can look like, and then others can be invited into the work through celebrating and sharing successes.”


As more and more teams come on board and get excited about student engagement and learning related to GCE, momentum grows and the school culture becomes deeply connected to the school’s mission. Once this happens, transformation has occurred and is sustainable because multiple stakeholders care deeply about maintaining and extending the work of changemaking.


“We love to work as an accountability partner for schools to make sure this process stays on track,” says Aaron. “Working with an organization like ours costs a fraction of what it would cost to hire a full-time staff member to take this on, and we ensure consistency and energy throughout the process. We love what we do, and it’s a privilege to help schools develop or realize their mission with students.”


To learn more about transformative whole-school approaches to active global citizenship, check out some of these Inspire Citizens vignettes that showcase what’s happening on specific campuses around the globe:


COJOWA in Cartagena, Colombia


AES in New Delhi, India


SFS in Seoul, South Korea


NIDO in Santiago, Chile


LeeAnne Lavender is a storyteller for Inspire Citizens, and she is also an educational consultant, coach and facilitator for international educators. She specializes in storytelling, digital storytelling, service learning and global citizenship (and all of the powerful intersections that exist in these realms!).

Culture Conversations

Culture Conversations
André Double


The notion of the ‘culture conversation’ is not a new concept. Indeed, in our international schools they routinely take place during the onboarding and orientation process. However, their understanding, widespread use and effectiveness, are hard to measure. If culture really is the glue that binds your people and their purpose together, then the culture conversation is a vital tool for your schools to engage in and get right. But what exactly is a culture conversation and why are they so critical for our schools and their people leaders?


What are culture conversations?


Culture conversations are ways in which you interact with your staff in an ongoing manner and in doing so, use your school’s culture to help shape the future of decision making or changes in policy. They are a proactive strategy used to engage all staff and evaluate whether your staff have the requisite knowledge, skills and other abilities (KSAOs) to do their jobs effectively. They help share success, promote high-order thinking amongst staff and where necessary – pose difficult questions that staff may need to be asked. Finally, and perhaps increasingly important – they help identify malpractice, inequity and actions that can damage your school’s overall culture.

The typical culture conversation is routinely short. But with the skill of those who carry them out, staff can quickly be put at ease. They help fight fires before they get out of control and when adopted at a whole-school level, can lead staff on a path towards highly successful collaboration and interdependence – away from the shackles that dependence can often produce. But perhaps one of the most important aspects of the culture conversation from a Human Resource (HR) perspective is in using them as a diagnostic to measure your school’s culture.


Why are they so important?


Read any book on leadership and management and effective listening will be one of the most essential skills a leader can develop. Knowing what your people think and the reasons behind the way they think are your own form of AI. Accurately predicting work place behaviours, who presents a flight risk and where further appropriate academic support may be needed is highly valuable information. They thus represent what your people are saying.


In our first book ‘Leading Your International School’, I argued for a shift in the mindset of how we view our HR departments and the HR and People Leaders of the future we are going to need to drive change, increase diversity and promote opportunity in our schools. One such example lies in the professional responsibilities of HR when it comes to culture. A traditional approach sees the HR professional act as ‘Culture Ambassador’ – representing the school through their beliefs, actions and interactions. Yet whilst this is important, we need to move towards a role in which your HR and People Leaders become ‘Culture Curators’ and in doing so, help your people to achieve their potential. The figure below heights the difference between acting as a cultural ambassador and culture curator. Take the time to think about where your school currently is. What might your required actions be to move across to become a curator?


Traditional HR Mindset

Ambassador: This is our culture. Staff sought that ‘fit’ it.

School example: ‘In this school we…’. ‘This is what our culture looks like’.


HR and People Leaders of the Future

Culture Curator: This is our culture and these are the cultures of our people. How can we develop them together to become a competitive advantage?

School example: Culture continually measured across multiple variables; refined to add value. Work- placed coaching to maximise potential

Double and Cook, (2023, p. 338)


What do you need to have culture conversations?


When conducting culture conversations, Your HR and people leaders will need to:

  • Understand your workforce and what motivates them.
  • Deal professionally, sensitively and set an overall ‘can-do’ tone that breathes vitality into people’s daily lives.
  • Be aligned with your school’s values and use a language that reflects it.
  • Be honest and at times, handle challenging conversations.


In conclusion


Culture conversations are regular conversations that take place between HR, your people leaders and all members of your school community. They are ‘future focused’ and depersonalised. They focus on the actions, behaviours and strategies needed to fulfill the potential of both your employees and the school overall. They take place on a daily basis and are not limited to brief ‘face-to-face’ check ins once or twice when a new member of staff joins your school. They connect your people to their purpose and show that you – as an employer, display ethical leadership and care about the views, opinions and ideas of your teams, for it is that “great ideas come from anyone at any level of the school”.


Activity: In your school leadership teams or at your next SLT meeting, discuss what your culture conversations currently look like at your school. Do you even allow your HR to interact with teachers? What would successful culture conversations look like? Who might be a skilled operator in carrying them out, and what information could you discern from them that could be used to measure your school’s overall culture and make useful predictions about how your culture might need to adapt?


If you enjoyed reading this, then you may consider ordering a copy of ‘Leading Your International School’, André Double’s debut outing on international school leadership.



Double, A & Cook, W.S (2023). Leading Your International School. 16 Leaves, India.





André Double is an international school leader and author, currently living in Yangzhou, China. He is currently writing his second (and third!) books on international school leadership and collaborates with leaders and educational professionals from all over the world. All ECIS members have the opportunity to have their own voice in his work and you are encouraged to contact André if have a passion in educational leadership to share.

For further information go to

To contact André on LinkedIn go to:é-double-安德烈-杜布勒-b6574591/


It’s All About Relationships

Promotional article from The MARIO Framework

Graeme Scott
Executive Chairperson, The MARIO Framework


We’ve had Baby Boomers, then Generation X. We’ve had Millennials, Gen Y, Gen Y-not, and now Generation Alpha. Many apparent differences have been identified between each of these generations, some of them have substance while others will be consigned to the fiction sections of our libraries. We often seek to identify the differences between each generation, but what about the elements that unite us? I was born in 1964, which makes me a Baby Boomer…but only just.  I was born on 29th of February to be exact, which was a source of endless fun and elementary mathematics for the ten-year-old children I taught, but it is now used by colleagues to poke fun at my real age. “Wow, even your real age divided by four is getting big now!” The most important things in my life are not restricted to Baby Boomers but are common across all generations.  For example, the relationships we all develop throughout our lives are so precious to all generations and all cultures. This became most apparent during Covid-19 when many of us were restricted to an online relationship with those we hold most dear.  For those of us living overseas, our exciting international lives were significantly impacted by the challenges we faced when attempting to travel to see loved ones.  Many of us are still facing these difficulties and some, like myself, decided that this might be an appropriate time to return to home base to be within touching distance of family, at least for a while.


Early Childhood

From the very beginning, the bonding between baby and parents is foundational and critical in the projection for their future mental health and resilience. Anecdotally, we are familiar with testimony from parents who experience an unusually powerful sensation at the moment of their child’s birth. They speak of being willing to sacrifice anything for this tiny human that just entered the world. Life is changed forever at that second, and for the child, these relationships are the first of many that will shape their trajectory and their life.  From early games such as peek-a-boo, to the security-seeking grab of mum or dad’s leg when faced with something or someone strange, the bond between child and parent is critical.  Starting nursery or kindergarten for the first time and leaving parents can therefore be traumatic for some children.  The shift from being the sole focus of attention at home, to being one child amongst many, where care and communication is divided multiple ways, is understandably difficult to manage for many children.  Fortunately, early childhood practitioners are highly skilled and understand the importance of regular one-to-one conversations with every child in their class.


Relationships at School

As we pass the early childhood stage and head to school, relationships are again instrumental in our flourishing. Having moved around the world several times with children in tow, I know how important relationships are to my kids.  Our internationally mobile students are constantly making friendships, only to see them reduced to an online version of themselves when either they or their friends move on to different locations around the globe.  For new students, what actually happens in the classroom can be less of a concern to them as it is a relatively controlled environment.  However, what happens at break time and what happens in the lunch hall can be moments of real stress and anxiety.  Who will play with me?  Will anyone sit with me to eat?  Who can I tag along with, and will I be viewed as a burden?  These are real questions children wrestle with as they strive to fit into their new learning environment.


I was one of those students who, even at the age of 15, spent the last part of the lesson before lunch strategising about where I would sit in the cafeteria, what I might say and to whom.  My favourite teachers and those I learned most from were always those that invested in a relationship with me that was deeper than the norm. Outside of lessons, they spent time with me talking about sport, home life and television (yes they did exist then!). Sadly, the inverse is also true. Now at the age of 57, the subject areas I still struggle in correspond with those teachers who didn’t seem particularly bothered whether I turned up or not.  Relationships are built on trust and can also be fractured by a perceived loss of trust.


Research demonstrates that one-to-one conversations strengthen students’ cognitive processing and facilitate behavioral modelling.  They also support the fostering of a growth mindset, provide real-world meaning and contextualisation, and build a positive student-teacher relationship.  However, the challenge of constructing such conversations on a regular basis with all students is not to be underestimated.




At The MARIO Framework, we recognise the importance of building trusting relationships on a deeper level with students. We do this through powerfully constructed one-to-one learning conversations. Even a five-to-seven-minute conversation, carefully designed, can be a critical catalyst for learning and wellbeing.


MARIO is an acronym for Measurable; Ambitious; Research-informed; Innovative; One-to-One learning centered.  Although the framework is appropriate for all students and provides them with the tools they need to become self-directed learners, we currently work predominantly with students who have diverse learning needs. Our approach has had startling results; to be precise, an effect size of 0.91 on student learning, measured through a 6-year retrospective study.


Everything we do at MARIO is based on a huge database of research and evidence because we believe that with the limited time we have to make a difference, we need to ensure every minute counts.  Our MARIO educators have seen the approach work extremely well with students in a wide range of schools, but to have our principles backed by a veritable mountain of research is extremely reassuring. It allows us to build further relationships of trust, this time with our stakeholders.


There are three elements to the MARIO Framework.  Free research summaries are provided – we invite you to head over to our website and sign up for ‘The MARIO Memos.’ We also offer cutting-edge professional development through a range of flexible courses, the gold standard being the MARIO Educator Certification. This highly successful and robust course, already completed by teachers in almost 20 countries, can be taken with a cohort over a period of eleven weeks or can be accessed asynchronously, pacing out one’s learning over as long as a year. The third piece in the MARIO suite is an innovative and unique software program that connects learning support teachers, mainstream subject or class teachers, parents, and school leaders with the student in the very center of these supportive relationships.


A Unique Software Solution

The ‘MARIO for ME’ software will not only enable students to connect with those teachers who can help them, it will also take care of compliance and accreditation needs, whilst promoting school-wide professional growth and innovation. The software makes the IEP process more meaningful, while reducing the paperwork burden for educators. Schools will gain valuable information about what is happening in students’ classes and will be able to quickly and easily monitor and share their achievements and progress in academic and social-emotional learning.  It will connect students to all those who are in a position to support them, and is therefore an extension of the relationships that matter most.


Educators, whatever generation they belong to, find commonality in a desire to develop relationships of trust within learning communities, and in particular, with our students. The vision of The MARIO Framework states, ‘Empowering ALL students to flourish as self-directed learners.’ However, before our students can be empowered, we need to connect with them in a meaningful way, with real empathy.  We then work with students to identify a focus for powerful 1:1 learning conversations, before by activating them leveraging the highest-impact teaching strategies.  Only then can they be truly empowered.  The MARIO Framework supports students in moving purposefully through these stages, on their journey towards self-direction.  Learn more about how you and your school can be part of the MARIO movement.  Please get in touch with me or check our website





Graeme Scott has 37 years of experience in education, with 26 of these in leadership positions in Hong Kong, Dubai, The Hague and Bangkok. He is also an accomplished keynote speaker and an educational consultant. Graeme’s areas of expertise include a deep understanding of the learning process, school leadership and the development of organisational culture.

Graeme has been Head of an outstanding UK state school and has also worked as Principal at the International School of The Hague, in the Netherlands for seven years, followed by six years at the International School Bangkok. His most recent role was as Founding Director of Fairgreen International School, the Middle East’s first fully sustainable IB school. His roles now include Executive Chairman of The Mario Framework, an organisation that supports students with specific learning needs in becoming self-directed learners.