Research Study Status: Complete!


It has been a long slog, but my research study is finished! I took a deep dive into the state of online teaching and learning in the performing arts during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was my hope to find a new approach to an old problem. 

Did you know schools around the world still struggle to provide arts programs to their students even though the value of the arts is well documented? Core subjects with unified standards and assessments are given priority in resource allocation, resulting in diminishing resources available for arts education. Many schools eliminate their arts program altogether to maximize time, money, and personnel available for other subjects. An arts-rich educational environment actually boosts outcomes in core subjects like math, reading, and science. Performing arts, in particular, has much to offer students in social and emotional learning, physical development, and of course critical and creative thinking. Some underserved schools and communities cannot provide these benefits for their students. But what if there was another option?

In 2020, performing arts teachers around the world discovered they could teach music, dance, drama, and more online! This may have been forced on us by a pandemic, but teachers stepped up, learned new skills, pulled together as a community, and took risks to provide performing arts to their students. Through my research, I was hoping to find teachers newly willing to teach arts online for students who have no arts program in their schools.

Guess what? A lot more performing arts teachers feel ready and willing to do this now. We can provide high-quality performing arts programs to these underserved schools through online teaching and learning! I wrote about all this and more in my final capstone project report.

Walker and Riordan’s Advice for Leadership in Culturally Diverse Schools


Allan Walker and Geoff Riordan explain collective capacity and what this means in execution in culturally diverse faculties in their paper Leading collective capacity in culturally diverse schools (2010).  My international school has a diverse faculty from all over the world and I can see many of Walker and Riordan’s points being plausible and actionable in my own workplace.

The authors speak of leadership in terms of relationship building with attention to the intercultural dimension of this, which would be sensitivity to the cultures of each party in the working relationship.  Collective capacity, as they explain it, is the group efforts towards agreed-upon, shared ideals, values, and objectives which is modeled and projected from the leaders (administrators and others) and which is known to lead to improved outcomes for students.  Walker and Riordan breakdown their leadership framework into five parts that combine to increase the collective capacity of the teaching faculty and staff:

    • Positioning
    • Structuring
    • Expectations
    • Expression
    • Profiling

I will discuss each section’s outline and prescription from Walker and Riordan with my own opinions added.


This is one of the easier of the five components to implement, I think. The authors discuss positioning as the leader (and there may be many leaders) thoughtfully dissecting and reflecting on his/her/their own cultural identity and biases, then comparing that to the faculty members’ own cultural identities.  This will position the leader’s cultural dispositions in a multidimensional spectrum of influences among the entire staff. Armed with this knowledge, a leader can better determine the commonalities and differences in the group and exactly what are the shared values. If the group is aware of the well-articulated values, these ideas will get attention, resources, and effort from the group.

This self-reflection seems approachable and immediately actionable to me.  Julia Middleton’s concept of Core and Flex might be a good place to start (2015). This understanding of one’s own cultural composition is important and useful when working in a diverse group, but it can be challenging and may not be self-evident.  Careful consideration and deliberate reflection is required.  This part can be done, but the communication necessary after this positioning falls into the more difficult category of expression which will be discussed later.


Walker and Riordan tell us that leaders can thoughtfully structure the physical space of the school and the working teams/departments to maximize relationship building.  They describe how working spaces, meeting rooms, classrooms, offices, etc. can be conducive to individual work or group collaboration, with their prescribed emphasis on the group-focus. I understand their point and believe there is some balance required here.  I can get very distracted when there is too much noise and commotion in my working space.  This decreases my efficiency and makes me irritable with the group, because I cannot get my work done.  There should be spaces available for collaboration and group meetings, but I am not a fan of open offices, personally, and I know I’m not alone in this.

Similar to the physical building, furniture, and spaces, leaders can structure the working teams and relationships to heighten collective capacity.  Departments or administrators can welcome input from more members on some topics that have traditionally been the domain of those at the top only, such as creating assessments, choosing textbooks, designing curriculum, and hiring new teachers, according to the authors. This group input and consideration is noble, though Walker and Riordan discuss it in contrast to teachers working on their own in their own way.  At times there is merit to this independent way of working, as it allows teachers to think creatively and take risks without the pressure of Big Brother watching or the anxiety of possibly making a mistake in front of peers. With balance in this arena, teachers may increase their confidence and then have something positive to report to the group, rather than stifling their creativity in an effort to only do it in the group-approved way.


Expectations of staff and student behavior, job details and responsibilities, appropriate interaction between teachers, proper classroom management, etc. can all vary greatly depending on staff members’ cultural backgrounds. With a diverse staff there is bound to be a range of expectations in many areas that effect day-to-day operations of the school, and thus effect student learning.  Walker and Riordan remind us how difficult a task it might be to explicitly outline expectations that match the group’s collective thinking. In fact, the authors recommend this discussion happen as a large staff development exercise or school revisioning, not in smaller, piecemeal ways. After the difficult fact-finding mission to determine the shared ideals and acceptable expectations, I would suggest making those expectations available to potential new-hires before they join the faculty.  For example, at my school, I was given the employee handbook which outlined the expectations for employees working with children, interactions between teachers, community connections, and more so I knew exactly the school’s cultural expectations before I agreed to join that culture.  These expectations may be more obvious in a local, public school with a less-diverse faculty, but they are not necessarily conspicuous for international hires traveling to different countries from various home cultures.


The authors tell us about expression in terms of how each member communicates with others.  The effective leader will model this through face-to-face interaction with all members of the staff, rather than perhaps hiding away in a closed office and emailing pronouncements out to the group.  In building relationships across the staff, it is imperative to communicate with each other, but how that is accomplished is a matter of cultural identity.  Walker and Riordan discuss at length the amount of personal information one may or may not reveal about themselves in the work setting based on their cultural conception of what is appropriate.  The key here, I think, is to allow the freedom for those who wish to share more of themselves to do so, while not requiring anyone to share more of their private selves than they desire. I can imagine this manifesting itself in some getting-to-know you activities organized by leadership at the beginning of the school year, for example. Well-intentioned questions (and assumptions) about marriages could be a potential minefield for LGBTQ people or divorced people who may have an interest in remaining private about this aspect of their lives.

This leads into the authors’ four requirements for positive intercultural collaboration. They are:

    1. successful relationships among group members
    2. respect and belief in the meaningful cooperation towards the endeavor
    3. efficiency of the group work
    4. members are not stressed by the cultural differences amongst the group

The first three are easier for a leader to facilitate with foresight and through creating a respectful cross-cultural atmosphere at the school. The fourth one seems a wildcard to me, because it depends on individual group members identifying and perhaps challenging their own biases in order to overcome the hurdle.


This section of Walker and Riordan’s argument is a cautionary tale of how the pursuit of cultural diversity in the group can be taken to a dangerous extreme.  Personal experiences and circumstances shape one’s cultural identity in addition to any national culture or demographic membership. Profiling happens when assumptions are made about someone’s skill set, knowledge, or professional/personal attributes based on their cultural identity.  This leads to tokenism which expects a certain level of cultural insight or key knowledge based on cultural membership, discounting or ignoring the personal, individual composition of the whole person. This results in decreasing a person’s power within the group, marginalizing them, personally, and their contributions. This would work against the collective capacity of the group.  The authors describe how this can happen accidentally as leadership endeavors to diversify their faculty by simply hiring people who increase representation of a particular culture without accounting for the whole identity of a person, beyond the cultural stereotypes. From my vantage point, I see this accidental tokenism as a relic of the past that is dying out.  I think my generation and those younger than me, do not pigeonhole people based on their cultural labels the same way older generations did.  In the past, it may have been convenient or useful in some ways to categorize types of cultures.  However, growing up in a multicultural, increasingly global world, younger people do not seem to have this same stifling mindset that separates and marginalizes whole cultural groups. It is a positive direction.  I believe this problem is working itself out slowly over time.  The advice from Walker and Riordan is useful for everyone to keep in mind, but the advice is more obvious to younger people with a global perspective.

Harnessing the power of the collective capacity can be successful or a missed opportunity based on the leaders’ choices and actions.  Walker and Riordan offer a useful framework, though it requires some commitment and delicate discussion of difficult topics.


Middleton, Julia (2015). Cultural intelligence: the competitive edge for leaders. TEDxTalks, YouTube.

Walker, A. & Riordan, G. (2010). Leading collective capacity in culturally diverse schools, School Leadership and Management, 30:1, 51-63, DOI: 10.1080/13632430903509766

Supporting Cultures in School to Climb Towards Social Justice


Classroom teachers and the school community are a first line defense against inequities in social justice.  Children spend a significant portion of their lives in school and involved in activities driven by the school community.  Therefore school can be a powerful vector for transmitting the messages and values necessary to raise a generation of adults who are culturally competent and prepared to recalibrate inequities in social justice.

Walker and Riordan teach us that role of the school administration in this effort is not detached from the daily happenings in the classroom.  Modeling and projecting the values of the school begins with the administration and moves through the teachers and staff to students, then on to their families and community (2010).  This culture may not match precisely the dominant culture of the geographical community or the culture(s) of the teaching staff, and this in fact, is the opportunity to teach a more socially just “correction” if you will.  Administration can create the spaces, experiences, and opportunities for teachers and students to recognize their own personal biases and blindspots derived from their cultural identity (Walker & Riordan, 2010).  The school can have a community of collaboration and learning from each other, a safe space for challenging debates, diverse representation, and goals for cultural competence for students and teachers directly orchestrated by the leadership of the administration.  One of the most direct ways for administration to accomplish this is through creating professional development (PD) opportunities for teachers and staff that open their minds to issues of racism, language, immigration, biases, and civil rights (Finch, 2014).  If teachers are not aware of these things, their teaching will reflect only their own unconscious cultural biases, possibly perpetuating inequities in social justice (Foundations of Multicultural Education, 2012).

At my own school in Japan, the administration does an admirable job of recruiting a diverse teaching staff.  This is an excellent first step in ensuring students experience a multicultural space at their school.  However, issues of culture and unconscious bias are not raised in a formal way (and not usually discussed informally either).  Having token diversity misses the reality that one’s individual cultural identity is more than a prominent or dominant cultural membership.  Here is a telling quote from an African American teacher in the US:

“Teachers here think I know everything about Black children, but I never grew up in the city and never experienced the difficulties these students have had… Yet, the teachers expect me to have access to every Black student, and I find that really troubling.” (Walker & Riordan, 2010, p. 59)

We would benefit from focused PD such as the Identifying Privilege Activity or Immigration segment from the “Developing Cultural Competence Among School Staff” module in Inquiry to Action Group (Finch, 2014). Our school could do more to learn about inherent cultural biases and how to look beyond ourselves.  This is not a criticism, but rather a suggestion to improve what we offer our students.  The teachers at our school definitely have hearts open to this effort, but need the time and space allocated for it in order to do a deep dive.

Cultural competence in the classroom requires a teacher to investigate the differences in cultures below the surface (Pratt-Johnson, 2006).  Diverse classrooms and schools provide ample opportunity to learn about cultures superficially from the many people representing them in the school community, but that is not enough to be culturally competent.  Teachers must understand on a deep level the interaction of language, immigration, national/regional cultures, gender identity, economics/personal finances, and more that collectively create individual cultural identity for students.  The size of the task sounds like an insurmountable impossibility, but Pratt-Johnson reminds us that this is a gradual process that rolls out over years of experiences with students, families, and colleagues (2006).  In order to take the first steps, teachers can look to this list of six topics of inquiry to become culturally competent classroom leaders:

    1. Ways of Knowing
    2. Ways of Solving Problems
    3. Ways of Communicating Non-Verbally
    4. Ways of Learning
    5. Ways of Dealing with Conflict
    6. Ways of Using Symbols (Pratt-Johnson, 2006)

Globally mobile students in my classroom will bring with them a plethora of cultural conceptions that may or may not be in line with the global, intercultural ideal I would like them acquire.  My students are all supposed to be native English speakers or near-native level, but in actuality there is a wide spectrum of English language ability.  As the teacher, it is incumbent on me to set the stage for overcoming English language differences and indeed communication differences to open accessibility to my class to all students (Foundations of Multicultural Education, 2012).  If I communicate with written English, verbal instruction, body language, peer-to-peer guidance, and beyond, my students will know I am open, supportive, and respectful of their differences by reaching out to them any way they are willing and able to receive the message.  This is a key step in developing an inclusive classroom where all are welcome and we learn from each other’s cultures.  Just as teachers did during clinical practice to become licensed educators, we can continue to hold ourselves accountable for this through rigorous and regular reflection.  InTASC standards require this and Foundations in Multicultural Education suggests this can be accomplished through self-reflection, video recording, and peer observations (2012).  From my own experience, video recording is the best tool for me to see the brutal truth objectively.  If I cannot assess my own teaching by having the hard conversations with myself and my video evidence, how can I tackle the hard conversations of racism, classism, gender discrimination, and others in the classroom that are required to be a culturally competent fighter for social justice (Pollock, 2012) (Ladson-Billings, 2015)?

Being a teacher in the classroom is a great honor and a calling I am happy to fulfill.  It also comes with great responsibility as school is such an all-encompassing institution in a child’s life all the way through adulthood.  Family and church also work in this same all-encompassing space to influence a person’s individual cultural profile.  At my school, families are heavily involved in the daily operations of the school and discussion of religion is welcomed.  In full disclosure, it is a Catholic school, but all religions are welcome and mingle harmoniously in the curriculum and discourse among community members; it is not a subject we shy away from.  My students’ parents are a window into this side of my students’ cultural composition.  We know classroom teachers must be open to input from families and through whatever modality the parents are willing to communicate (Foundations of Multicultural Education, 2012).  My relationship with the parents can make or break my effort to conduct a multicultural classroom environment.

I have attempted here to share thoughts on how critical teachers and the school are in establishing the groundwork for a respectful and equal multicultural, global world. None of us is working or living in a vacuum.  The interactions and active engagement of all the cultural resources available to us must be leveraged for success in improving cultural competence today and in reaching social justice tomorrow.


Finch, Avery. Ed. (2014, March/April). Inquiry to Action Group: Social Justice Educators on a Path to Cultural Relevancy,

Foundations of Multicultural Education (2012).

Ladson-Billings, G. (2015). Critical Race Theory and Education. Lecture presented in University of North Carolina, Asheville. Retrieved from

Pratt-Johnson, Yvonne. (2006, February). Communicating Cross-Culturally: What Teachers Should Know. The Internet TESL Journal, 12(2),

Pollock, Mica. (2012, March) Adopting an Anti-Racist Framework


Walker, A., & Riordan, G. (2010). Leading collective capacity in culturally diverse schools. School Leadership & Management, 30(1), 51-63. doi:10.1080/13632430903509766

International Mindedness vs. Intercultural Literacy vs. Global Competence


Cross-Cultural Models Venn

International schools are preparing the students of today for the world of tomorrow.  To do this, the schools are navigating flowing, dynamic currents that are sometimes dissonant and sometimes harmonious. The students and their families are globally mobile citizens bringing their own cultures into the melting pot of the school – a culture all its own – before moving on to other countries and cultures. Schools are operating in the present global space, but preparing students for a future that is expected to be even more closely connected and interdependent across national boundaries and societies. International schools are therefore juggling the current needs of their perpetually changing student body with their students’ anticipated needs for happy, fulfilling lives in the future. With the lofty goal of preparing their students for active participation in the global world, these schools must teach international mindedness, intercultural literacy, and global competence to some degree and hopefully in harmonious balance. The Venn diagram above highlights similar aspects of these, illuminating shared values in the global 21st century.

On first reading these three terms may sound quite similar, almost synonymous, but in fact there are subtle and overt differences. International mindedness seeks to develop students into global citizens who are members of their own national heritage, but also citizens of the world with responsibility to both national and international interests. These include responsible stewardship of the local environment and the planet, multilingualism for international communication, and deep knowledge of world history and people.  All this is toward the greater good of ensuring world peace and cooperation.  Unfortunately, this framework still reinforces an “us” and “them” construct. Everyone is expected to stay in their lane and do the appropriate or expected amount of learning and outreach to connect with other people from other countries. This presupposes that everyone has the resources and opportunities for an (expensive) international education with the same understanding and orientation toward these goals. There is criticism that international mindedness perpetuates a global elite operating in their own international space while everyone else in lower classes are left behind (Sriprakash et al., 2014).

Intercultural literacy shares the goal of connecting people from all over the world, but focuses more on culture and humanity than on national boundaries or political constructs. Students who gain intercultural literacy are prepared to communicate in several languages as well as read the needs of other people and empathize with their situation.  These students adapt to new places and cultures by diving in, participating, engaging with, and reflecting on daily experiences (Heyward, 2002). Whereas international mindedness could be interpreted as competitive, intercultural literacy is cooperative. With cooperation, inclusion, and empathy, the interculturally literate respond to dynamic, changing environments with an understanding that not one size fits all.

Global competence shares similarities with both intercultural literacy and international mindedness, yet is still a unique conception.  This framework focuses on preparing students for work life and economic considerations in the global world of tomorrow.  Many of the same skills are helpful and beneficial here insomuch as they strengthen active participation in solving global problems.  More than the other two, global competence equips students to proactively identify, assess, and solve large-scale problems of the world.  This requires understanding of other cultures to leverage cooperation and resources toward transnational issues, smoothing the way for cross-border exchanges of money and ideas (Mansilla & Jackson, 2012).  Transactions of the most innovative ideas, valuable resources, and best products sets up nations for successful, competitive participation in the world economy.  Once again, we revisit competition, an under-the-radar aspect of international mindedness, but an overt pillar of global competence.  In fact, competition is right there in the name of the framework.

As you can see in the diagram above, all three efforts prepare students to understand their own relationship to the world around them, not simply their individual role in a national frame as a citizen or worker. This shared space between international mindedness, intercultural literacy, and global competence is perhaps the most important of all. Global citizens must be able to evaluate their own perspectives as well as other perspectives. This is true today and will be true tomorrow. The imperative to communicate effectively with diverse audiences of people different from oneself is present in these three constructs and is indeed a major objective of international schools. None of these would be possible without global engagement and each one accomplishes this in its own way. It would be advisable for schools to focus on these shared strengths as there must be great value in those similarities. Each framework, with differing and sometimes overlapping goals, finds camaraderie here.


Drake, B. (2004). International Education and IB Programmes. Journal of Research in International Education, 3(2), 189-205. doi:10.1177/1475240904044387

Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education, 1(1), 9-32. doi:10.1177/1475240902001001266

Mansilla, Veronica & Jackson, Anthony. (2012). Educating for Global Competence, Preparing our Youth to Engage the World. doi:10.13140/2.1.3845.1529.

Sriprakash, A., Singh, M., & Qi, J. (2014). A Comparative Study of International Mindedness in the IB Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India. Retrieved from

Van Oord, L. (2007). To westernize the nations? An analysis of the International Baccalaureate’s philosophy of education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 37(3), 375-390. doi:10.1080/03057640701546680

Survey released to the world!


I officially released my survey today seeking insight from K-12 performing arts teachers on their experiences with teaching and learning online in 2020. ? If you teach performing arts, please participate through this form.  ? If you know someone who teaches performing arts, please pass along the link.  This survey takes less than 15 minutes and is anonymous. ✅

Understanding the Philosophy of International Schools


International School Consultancy (ISC), a research entity that helps connect international schools and various investors and service providers, defines an international school as one that:

“delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country.” (Who we are, n.d.)


“is in a country where English is one of the official languages, it offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and the school is international in its orientation.” (Who we are, n.d.)

I feel this definition is too broad.  Yes, it includes international schools in the traditional and modern sense, but it would also have to include any slapdash language school in Asia for example.  I think the last part of the definition  – “offers an English-medium curriculum other that the country’s national curriculum and the school is international in its orientations,” – is closer to the working definition understood worldwide.  Even this outline shows signs of weakness as Ian Hill points out in What is an ‘international school’? Part One:

“Although the majority teach in English, it ignores those international schools operating wholly or partly in other languages of instruction such as IB World Schools in Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and Indonesian.” (2015, p. 64)

As ISC acknowledges, international schools were established originally as market-driven entities to educate the children of expatriate workers and diplomats assigned to posts around the world, outside their home country. (Informing international investment, 2019) (Hill, Part One, 2015)  Mary Hayden and Jeff Thompson remind us that the notion of international schools and international education preceded even this definition. (1995) This separation of the international school and the idea of international education is an important one as many people speak of international education in a more defined way while discussing international schools with a wide and varying definition.

Ian Hill in What is an ‘international school’? Part Two discusses the difference between the international school and international education.  The traditional sense of the international school as an institution set up for the education of mobile, expatriate children no longer feels like a useful category as the majority of international school students are now local students. (Informing international investment, 2019)  That traditional definition fits very few schools now and Hill discusses at length the “purity” of international and national schools. Schools teaching international mindedness – rather than teaching local students for local and national needs and interests – is the more salient measure for categorizing this group of schools and thus being able to identify the unique needs of their students.  Hill describes the school’s raison d’être as the key defining point that makes a school truly international, not where the school is located or who comprises the student population. (Hill, Part Two, 2016)

It is instructive here to discuss the philosophy of Kurt Hahn who extolled the virtues of experiential education amongst peers from other cultures.  In a lifetime spanning the First and Second World Wars, Hahn realized the importance of young people spending quality time with those from other countries as a way to avoid repeating history’s mistakes of overblown national pride and jingoism. “Such sentiments do not thrive in a community where boys of different nations share the experiences of an enthralling school life.” (1936) He believed in the robust power of youth to temper adult extremists, to empathize with others, and to help us see the goodness in each other. (1943) He viewed youth as the key to a world beyond international wars for power and resources and saw the necessity of providing them an international education sourced from all the best practices, regardless of country of origin, that would develop warm, open, empathetic international mindedness. (1965)(1943) This educational philosophy still plays out in schools whose raison d’être is honed to developing students’ global citizenship and harnessing their energy, passion, and intellect for the good of the world, not simply the nation.  This is not the same defining characteristic found in every “international” school.

Schools with a truly international focus, teaching international mindedness with the intention to develop global citizens, have needs quite different from national schools with the funding, infrastructure, curriculum, and governance provided by the state.  Depending on the situation, an internationally-minded school may have any one, or all, of these support pillars coming from various sources in different countries.  This forces an independence on the school, troubleshooting on its own.  Not every organization will be equipped to do that successfully, so it is easy to understand the necessity of international support organizations such as the Alliance for International Education to help pick up the slack. In The Alliance for International Education: retrospective and prospective, Hayden describes the mission of this alliance as arising from the multitudinous support organizations, such as like-minded school associations, curriculum developers, professional development creators, accreditation agencies, and postgraduate links, all tasked with supporting and influencing international education in their own ways without unifying direction. (2016) Internationally-minded schools are only increasing in popularity, and as they do the need for this unifying framework will continue to grow.  Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles to achieving this unified direction across international borders, including funding, inclusion, language, logistics, and continuity. (Hayden, 2016)

While mostly originating in Europe, the greatest growth in international schools in the last 20 years has been in the Middle East and in Asia.  Both of these regions have middle and high-income populations who can afford the educational option outside of national schools that international schools provide.  This opportunity as local residents of the host country to attend international schools is seen as a vehicle for these students to attend elite, competitive universities in the West and to make international connections that will benefit their career prospects in the future. (Homden, 2019) The appeal of western universities is not likely to wane anytime soon.

Even in the face of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the economic hit to the world economy, Asia is still likely to be the area of widest growth in international school student enrollment looking ahead.  Dr. Stephen Whitehead writes that China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and others are already experiencing an international school boom and they are also the countries best able to sustain the economic impact of COVID-19 based on their national infrastructure, governance, value placed on education, healthcare, and other factors. (2020)

The popularity of “international” schools, especially internationally-minded schools in the mold described by Hahn, Hayden, and Hill, will continue to grow for some decades as will the number of students they serve, teachers and staff they employ, and communities in which they operate.  Though I don’t want to focus on economics, tuition fees, profits/non-profits, funding, etc., the amount of money involved cannot be ignored either.  It would be perilous for policy makers, universities, corporations, and other influencers to neglect this vast education system with so much to offer the global community, merely because it falls outside existing national borders and older, traditional education frameworks.


Hahn, K. (1936, March 24). Education and Peace: The Foundations of Modern Society. The Inverness Courier. Retrieved from

Hahn, K. (1965, May 9). Harrogate Address on Outward Bound. Address presented at Conference at Harrogate, England. Retrieved from

Hahn, K. (1943). Two Sermons. Address presented in Gordunstoun School, Elgin. Retrieved from

Hayden, M., & Thompson, J. (1995). International Schools and International Education: A relationship reviewed. Oxford Review of Education, 21(3), 327-345. doi:10.1080/0305498950210306

Hayden, M. (2016, April). The Alliance for International Education: Retrospective and prospective. International Schools Journal, 35(2), 86-93.

Hill, I. (2015, November). What is an ‘international school’? Part One. International Schools Journal, 35(1), 60-70.

Hill, I. (2016, April). What is an International School? Part Two. International Schools Journal, 35(2), 9-21.

Homden, A. (2019, June). Why are there so many international schools, and what are the implications? International Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from

Informing international investment. (2019, August 7). ISC Research. Retrieved from

Whitehead, S. (2020, May). The Future of International Education. Educational Digest International, COVID-19 Special Edition II. Retrieved from

Who we are. (n.d.). ISC Research. Retrieved from

New research on the way!


A picture of me teaching online from my school’s website.

I am about to embark on some original research into teaching performing arts online.  COVID-19 has forced many teachers and students across the world to study online from home rather than on campus at their schools.  This could have a profound impact on my subject area in the very near future.  I plan to investigate the current status of teaching performing arts online and the future of teaching these subjects online and in the classroom.

Recent Migration Trends – Asia


There are some interesting migration patterns happening in Asia. In collaboration with Kaitlin Zbonski-Wagner and Kate Boardman, we dug into UN statistics and migration research to create this presentation visualizing the trends.  Additionally, we have some information on the rights of immigrants to education in South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia and some guidance for teachers and schools in Asia with immigrant students. There are many obstacles to navigate in preparing a nurturing space for all children.

Struggles and Changes Faced by Migrant Students


Immigrant students, including refugees, face incredible challenges – challenges for which their young minds and bodies are not equipped to navigate as deftly as their parents or other adults.  It is important for schools and teachers to recognize and address these obstacles to learning in order to lift students to their highest potential academically and personally.

Students entering a new country, a new school, and a new way of life are likely to struggle with academic learning to some degree as they become acclimated to their new home and environment.  However, it is important not to let those initial slow steps define the student’s academic outlook forever.  As the OECD points out, voluntary immigrant families, and often involuntary immigrants, are usually eager to take advantage of all resources available to advance their children’s education and career prospects.  The children in these families, too, are highly ambitious.  In Australia, Israel, and the United States more immigrant students from disadvantaged households perform in the top quartile on PISA than their non-immigrant counterparts.  These students are overcoming dual obstacles of poverty and acculturation.  (Helping Immigrant Students, 2015, p. 18) (Schleicher, 2016)

Many immigrant students may be faced with language difficulties in that their native language or previous language of instruction does not match their new situation. While some schools may feel the need to hold immigrant students back a grade level or enroll them in an alternative language program before moving into the mainstream classroom, in order to help immigrant students succeed in their new school, they should be integrated into the mainstream classroom as early as possible.  This should be done in addition to concentrated language training to avoid falling behind academically as they age.  Younger students tend to acclimatize to their new school and country more quickly and more successfully than older students. (Helping Immigrant Students, 2015, p. 10, 12)(Here’s how schools, 2019)  Inclusion in the mainstream class will also help students’ to adjust to their new culture and to make friends.

“These highly motivated students, managing to overcome the double disadvantage of poverty and an immigrant background, have the potential to make exceptional contributions to their host countries.” (Schleicher, 2016)

Maintaining high expectations for student learning should be a blanket policy, but it is of even greater import for the immigrant student. Schools cannot fall into the trap of assuming a child is of a certain ability, attitude, or experience based on misconceptions or stereotypes of that child’s situation or culture.  In a riveting presentation “The danger of the single story,” author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns us, “…the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” (2009) As educators, we would take our students’ best interests into consideration by conducting enrollment interviews with immigrant students and their families, including an interpreter, if necessary.  This will set the basis of trust as well as provide an opportunity to collate data on the student’s health, previous schooling, background, cultural considerations, etc., dispelling myths, misconceptions, or preconceived notions. (Here’s how schools, 2019)

In a way, the academic and language struggles for immigrant students is quite a straightforward endeavor.  There is content to learn, skills to master, and assessments to measure achievement.  With the right environment and pedagogy, any child can succeed in this realm.  A more challenging part of a child’s transition to a new country and new school is in their sense of well-being, belonging, and cultural identity.

According to PISA results, when asked, 15 year old immigrants report a feeling of acceptance at the same rate as non-immigrant students in some countries, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel. (Helping Immigrant Students, 2015, p. 6-7) However, this is not always the case and in many countries and situations students struggle mightily to feel a part of their new group.

Philip Harrington writes this “Sense of Belonging” arises from kinship with other children in their situation. Harrington’s studies of international schools describe the unique cultural construct formulated by students there built on their shared experiences (several cultural influences on identity, unidentifiable “home” country) rather than from either of their parents’ cultures or the culture of their host country. (2008, p. 13)  These children are sometimes referred to as Third Culture Kids or TCKs. This term has been around since the 1950s to describe anyone who identifies with two or more cultures, which often includes International school students, as well as the more traditional usage to describe immigrant children or children from parents of two different nationalities.  (2008, p. 12) Recent discussion with my own classmates reveals that many TCKs actually prefer the term Cross Culture Kids or CCK, because it feels a more suitable fit for those who have moved often in their childhoods and beyond.

Of course not all immigrant students or CCKs will find themselves in international schools; they are more likely to attend public school in their host country.  As an Indian-American child growing up in Rhode Island, Jhumpa Lahiri, observed friends whose ancestors had immigrated to the US who felt confident in their “hyphenated labels,” but Lahiri, as the first-generation immigrant herself, struggled to reconcile the two cultures pulling at her identity. (Lahiri, 2006) Yes, it may be an exceptional opportunity for an immigrant student of one culture to integrate into the second culture of their host country, “but it can also mean a child does not adequately acquire either.” (2008, p. 12) If students are feeling lost and adrift without a sense of belonging to a culture, a group, a classroom, this will have negative consequences for their academics and their development as a healthy, whole person.  With sensitivity and awareness, educators can make the transition into a new school and culture easier for immigrant students, setting them up for success.

“[PISA] results suggest that the psychological wellbeing of immigrant students is affected not only by differences between their country of origin and country of destination, but also by how well the schools and local communities in their country of destination help them to overcome the myriad obstacles they face in succeeding at school and building a new life.” (Helping Immigrant Students, 2015, p. 6)

I’ve recorded my own story of being an immigrant adjusting to Japan in this video.


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. (2009, July). The danger of a single story. TEDGlobal 2009.

Harrington, Philip. (2008, November). The negotiation of identity in an intemational school setting. International Schools Journal. 28(1). 12-16.

Helping Immigrant Students to Succeed at School – and Beyond. (2015). Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 1-19.

Here’s how schools can help migrant students succeed in school. (2019, March 5). Study International News.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. (2006, March). My Two Lives. Excerpt from Newsweek World News.

Schleicher, Andreas. (2016, February 10). Migrant students ‘more motivated to learn’. BBC News Online.

Impact of Globalization on Education


National governments and policy makers do try to maximize educational quality and achievement within their own countries, I like to believe.  That may be my overly optimistic view, but for today let’s hold on to that Pollyanna attitude.  In a traditional way, these leaders try to affect change from the perspective of their understanding of the role of education in their societies.  Nicholas Sun-Keung Pang (2013) outlines this view of the role of education nicely as follows:

“Education has essential functions of enhancing the development of individual, society and country. Education provides opportunities for individuals to develop physically, intellectually, morally, socially, aesthetically and spiritually, to maximize their potentials and prepare them for the future. Education facilitates the strengthening of a civil society, and enhances social justice, equity and cohesion. Education helps a nation inculcate civic and social responsibility among its citizens, develop capacity building, promote national integration, and enhance national competitiveness. Each country in the one world strives to establish an education system for the well-being and development of its younger generation, the society and the nation.” (p. 17)

This fits neatly into a former world order where education served the national interest, rather than a wider international or global interest.  We find ourselves in the 21st Century world of global communication, commerce, economy, and technology, but not yet with globalized education.   International education abounds, but not global education.

It would be instructive here to discuss differences between internationalism and globalism.  Internationalism, as explained by Futao Huang (2007), is the idea that national governments are the leading actors guiding the world order while keeping intact national boundaries and defined societies. Globalism, on the other hand, is the view that speedy, cheap, and frictionless communication through technological advances has reshuffled the world order in way that governance and policy must come from above the national level to attain beneficial outcomes for all people, regardless of traditional national boundaries or cultural divides. (p. 49) Pang describes this as the new “One World” where “economic, political, and cultural factors” are crossing through formerly robust barriers of national borders, societies, time, and distance. (pp. 18-19)

This 21st Century globalization requires an educational framework that prepares citizens of any country for full participation in this global society. Society is growing beyond national borders, however, as we become more connected across the world in international global initiatives, international governance, international commerce, work, economy, and education.   However, Susan Robertson and Roger Dale (2017) argue that enhanced globalism is not at the expense of the national in a zero-sum exchange, but rather the nation-state can be the “major force in advancing regional and global projects.” (p. 861) How can students reach their full educational potential in the global world we live if limited by national frameworks that are not focused on a global perspective? National policy makers are retargeting.

The rise of neoliberalism in the 20th Century streamlined national and international industry and commerce with a focus on productivity and efficiency and a fealty to market forces. Lubricated by technological and communications advances, the international was elevated to the global. Fazal Rizvi and Bob Lingard describe a similar effect on education underway and cite the rising involvement of extra-national organizations such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in shaping educational policy. (Nagahara, 2011, p. 372) Has business and the global economy exerted enough force yet to raise international education into a truly global education paradigm? No, not yet, though those same players stand to benefit a great deal from education moving towards preparing global citizens for participation in the global economy.

Nonetheless, it seems national leaders are left behind the conversation and trying to refocus their priorities towards the new global targets. Global neoliberalism – enhanced competition, streamlined efficiency, focus on productivity – in education is breaking down international political boundaries between countries.  Education is attempting to prepare students for an internationally sensitive, globally-oriented service economy, but policy, until recently, was left behind in national and sub-national priorities. (Robertson & Dale, 2017, p. 860) There is a need for international data to compare educational policies and programs across borders to find the best practices and establish global education to prepare global citizens for a global economy.  There is some dissonance, however, in the utility of the international assessment data available as the assessors tend to be those same business interests mentioned by Rivzi and Lingard who stand the most to benefit from the world following their leads on educational priorities.  International comparisons are problematic with the data we have, because some people draw the wrong conclusions and the data itself becomes the desired outcome.

“This illustrates another aspect of the kinds of comparison carried out by PISA [Program for International Student Assessment administered by the OECD]; what are compared are outputs, in the form of test scores generated by PISA itself, not the different educational processes that led to them, nor the criteria used to produce them.” (Robertson & Dale, 2017, p. 865)

This rise of international assessments and comparisons is also mentioned by Pang (2013) as one of the fundamental changes to education resulting from the push towards globalization.  The other effects he describes are increased spending on education; focus on math, science, and English; inclusion of IT, computers, and the internet in the classroom; reorganization of work and the type of work we’re educating towards (the service economy, for example); and the demand for complete secondary education leading to post-secondary training and tertiary education. (pp. 20-21)

In higher education, Huang (2007) tells us this influence from economic interests and global competition is evident across the world, though in various phases of development in different areas. He describes the situation as follows:

“As for driving forces, policy and practice concerning the internationalisation of higher education in individual countries are not only affected by their national policy, character and identity, but are also influenced by calls and pressures from international, regional or global organisations. Various factors, especially the rapidity of economic globalisation, the advancement of information technology, and the introduction of market-oriented mechanisms, exert an increasingly significant influence in individual countries.” (pp. 50-51)

While higher education in developed countries is highly influenced by economic factors, less-developed countries express their internationalism through research trips and efforts to enhance the curriculum, teaching, and learning. Standardization of diplomas, programs, and content becomes “quality assurance at a global level.” (Huang, 2007, p. 52)  Former national education initiatives or programs are being replaced by international versions, standards, and exchanges.  Increasingly private money is entering through partnerships and study funding, as in the West.  Still “…in most non-Western countries, government-oriented policies and links or co-operation between governments and institutions are still strongly emphasised.” (Huang, 2007, p. 52)

The world is in flux right now as national education policies are being reorganized to an international view, while economic and business globalism exerts further pressure towards a global paradigm.  As Robertson and Dale tell us, the national leaders are not redundant, but as the policy makers, they must be cognizant of globalism, carefully balancing economic interests and national interests. Education must now prepare individuals for international competition, not just national, with the globally competitive leaders’ success reflecting positively on their home countries, increasing the countries’ power and influence on a global level. (Pang, 2013, p. 19) Nations and global business leaders are dancing around each other in the boxing ring of international educational power, policy, and influence.


Huang, Futao. (2007). Internationalisation of Higher Education in the Era of Globalisation: What have been its Implications in China and Japan? Higher Education Management and Policy, 19(1), 47-61.

Nagahara, Minori. (2011, May 21). Fazal Rizvi and Bob Lingard: Globalizing education policy [Review of the book Globalizing Education Policy]. Springer Science+Business Media, 371-377.

Pang, Nicholas Sun-Keung. (2013). Education in One World: Perspectives from Different Nations. BCES Conference Books, 11, 17-28.

Robertson, Susan & Dale, Roger. (2017, July/September). Comparing Policies in a Globalizing World: methodological reflections. Educação & Realidade, Porto Alegre, 42(3), 859-875