Welcome Cohort 2


Great to meet with all or at least most of the researchers!

It’s looking like we will have a lively bunch of around 28-30 researchers (a few more parents still to join hopefully).

This is a pretty fantastic response!

2 IMPORTANT things to set up before we break for the holiday:

  1. Suggestions for holiday reading see the RESOURCES page and the subpages on ethics and educational research; do try to read this chapter though…

    1.  pine g conductingteacher action research. I
      Parents – it is specific to teacher action research but explains the research process from choosing a question, data collection, analysis and sharing findings in a very clear manner.
    2. And have a look at the Sutton Trust Toolkit  for impact and evidence around some central themes.
    3. Teachers and research– a done to model?
  2. MEETING with Phil immediately after the holiday break in preparation for Friday and Saturday Face to Face 1 on January 10 and 11th (see below for timings)

    1. TEACHERS – please could we meet during the school day when you are free on Thursday 9 and Friday 10th. I’ll send out a timetable with 30-45 minute slots.

    2. PARENTS – please advise but if you could it might be better we met again on Thursday 9th out of school time as convenient? I’ll liaise with Nina and update.

A big thanks to Nina for her organisation skills and a massive appreciation to all for the PASSION!

Copy of Nina’s resume of the meeting for parent researchers:

Dear All,

As you know, Thursday evening marked the kick-off of the research project that will involve us parents as researchers.  We had a super turnout of 10 parents, while another 11 parents have expressed interest but were unable to make the meeting.  No worries, all who are interested have a chance to come to the next meeting on January 10 (more on scheduled meetings later in this mail).
What follows is a summary of our meeting, such that those of you who were unable to attend might get a flavour of what the project is all about:
1. Opening Introduction by Phil
Phil Whitehead, Head of Research and Learning at ISF opened by sharing with us his own professional background and how that led him to focus on research, initially as a consultant and now as a member of staff at ISF since this school year.  Phil’s career spans teaching, junior school administration, reviewing schools for accreditation, teaching teachers, consulting schools on best practices, and in the most recent ten years working as an independent research consultant with schools all over the world (including an international school in Paris where he met Simon Murray, our Head of School).
An important side note for transparency, Phil continues to work as a research consultant with the schools he was already serving before he took the assignment at ISF, but all of the consulting fees he collects for that work come directly back into ISFs purse.
Phil proceeded to explain that he has done many research projects with many schools all over the world (Europe, Asia, the Americas, …) and that each research project takes on a unique character of his own and evolves as the group begins work.  It is very important to understand that research is all about CHANGE and not only the change the guiding parties intend to impact when they embark on the project, but rather change amongst those parties, that is the people who commissioned the research and the researchers themselves.  Often one sets out thinking to discover one thing and in the end finds oneself discovering something entirely different.  He emphasised that the process and the people involved must be malleable, open-minded, curious and driven by an innate passionate interest in the subject to be explored.  Phil also highlighted that while he has guided countless research projects with a similar format, he has never done so with a group of parent researchers.  We have the privilege of being the first!
Phil closed his introduction by sharing his belief in the 80/20 rule, defined as “20 percent of your actions generate 80 percent of your results”. The formal definition of the rule defines that as high value effort and continues to post that “80 percent of your actions generate 20 percent of your results (low value)”.  The 80/20 rule can be applied in various ways in various areas and Phil also stated his belief that in education, the teacher should talk 20 percent of the time while the students should do 80 percent of the talking.  With that, he proceeded to ask us to each introduce ourselves.
2.  Parent Introductions
Each of the ten parent participants shared with the group what our background is in a nutshell and what passion or interest brought us to take an interest in the project.  The sharing generated interesting side discussions about our convictions, about possible areas of inquiry and so on.
To summarise, we had a truly international group of participants representing the interests of children at various ages and a range of subjects that we’d like to explore, which somehow still seemed to be united by a common thread.  One parent even shared her story in Italian, with a translation into English, and Phil highlighted that he worked with a school in Barcelona where one of the teacher groups conducted the entire project in Spanish and even presented the results at the research conference in Spanish!
As a further summary, I’ll list here the words that stood out as a summary of the interests expressed (in perfectly random order): inquiry, empathy, love, service to others, stimulation, academic excellence, curiosity, independence, guided learning, transition, challenging the students, life skills, creativity, learning by doing, multi-cultural, unique learning styles, unique teaching styles
We concluded by noting that while the three potential research questions proposed thus far pull together many of the interests expressed by parents, these research questions might morph into something different, given the interests of the parents involved and also given the already stated fact that the process is always fluid and things change during the research project, right from the start!  Phil also stated that in some cases, parents might join a research group already formed by the teachers (there are ten teacher research projects on the board) because their interest is in line with one of those.
3. Research Process and Timeline
Phil outlined the research process in general as follows:
  • Define the Big Idea: This can take the form of one of the following types of questions: What are you curious about? What inquiry do you want to make?  What hypothesis do you want to test? What proposal do you want to try out?
  • Describe What We Know: What is the accepted wisdom or current state around your subject? What are other schools or communities doing in this area? What does the secondary research say? What “solutions” exist already?
  • Identify Emerging Sub-questions: As you started to research your big idea, what new questions came about?  What is the subtext to the Big Idea?  How as your Big Idea changed?
  • Perform an Intervention: Now is the time to propose an action plan and try it out: this might take the form of a pilot program, a change in a practice or doing something different, a new type of action brought into play.  This intervention is implemented on a small scale as a pilot, its effects are observed and the results are documented.
  • Analyse the results:  The results of the intervention are collected, analysed and synthesised so as to result in a formal recommendation.
  • Present the study:  The big idea, the research methodology, the results and the final recommendation are presented in a formal setting, in our case the ISF Research Conference 2020 in October of next year.
Phil described the methods by which he will guide the teacher and parent research teams (notice all meetings are for the combined group of teacher and parent teams).  –
  • The ISF Research Programme website:
this a WordPress website managed by Phil where he shares on an ongoing basis all work in progress, documents the status of each research project, previews next steps, collects all information and shares resources, dates, and any other needed information with the researchers.  The site is available for all interested in research to study, but please don’t pass it on to the community in general since it is very much a “working place”, i.e. the information is not packaged for public consumption and the other schools he works with have their projects documented on it as well so it’s not fair to broadcast it broadly.  Please do peruse it to understand the project better and check current information about dates, see the ten teacher research subjects already defined, look up research resources, etc.  www.isfresearch.wordpress.com
  • Formal group and team meetings:
    • There are 4 whole group meetings scheduled already, 3 to take place this year and one in the new school year prior to October’s conference.  These take place for two hours on a Friday evening and 5 hours the following day on Saturday morning.  The dates are (please note that the first meeting is scheduled for the first weekend upon our return from Winter Break and anyone still interested in participating who didn’t come to the kickoff should absolutely attend this meeting):
-Fri Jan 10 from 5 pm to 7 pm + Sat Jan 11 from 9 am to 2 pm
-Fri March 27 from 5 pm to 7 pm ) + Sat March 28 from 9 am to 2 pm
-Fri June 5 from 5 pm to 7 pm ) + Sat June 6 from 9 am to 2 pm
-TBD in the fall of 2020 (presumably late September or early October)
    • Prior to each of the 4 whole group meetings, Phil meets for roughly one hour with each research team (focused on one Big Idea) to preview what they have done since the last meeting and prepare for the whole group session.  These meetings will be scheduled with Phil once the research teams are formed.
Note that if you are passionate about becoming a member of one of the research teams you may do so even if you can’t make one of the scheduled meetings, but if you would be unable to make yourself available for multiple meetings then it’s probably not a good idea to participate.
  • Individual team meetings and independent research work:
The final component is the shared work done by your research team and the individual contributions of each team member.  You can guess what that might entail from reading the summary of the research process.  Here there is a lot of flexibility in terms of how each team conducts their work.  In fact, we hope this makes it possible even for parents who travel for work or have long working hours to participate, if they can find the individual time to dedicate.
  • Research Conference 2020:

All parent researchers will be part of the Research Conference in October of 2020, where each completed research project will be presented to the teachers, the students and the broader community in various venues during the two day conference.  Stay tuned for more information about the details.

As I believe I have exhausted you with this summary already, I’ll sign off here 🙂  Please feel free to forward this summary and my email address or phone numbers (see below underneath the signature) to anyone whom I have missed on this email or to any other parents who might develop an interest in participating.

In closing, a grand thank you from myself and Phil for your dedication to this exciting project and to the part you will all play in furthering ISFs Strategic Plan by getting involved or considering your involvement in this exciting project.



Welcome Event: Parent Research Group

Thursday, December  12th, 6.30-7.30pm Upper School Room 22

The purpose of this meeting is to

  • welcome you to the ideas behind the programme and how it runs

  • provide an opportunity to share your initial ideas for change

  • consider some of the important elements in the programme – ethics in educational and school based research, expectations and outcomes, possible time commitment, support…the chance to make a difference and enjoy our gatherings.

  • set the calendar of future face to face sessions 

Please see the information for the teacher groups below which broadly applies to this group with some important differences, mostly around:

  • ethics
  • the nature of the enquiry –
    • for teachers this is inquiry into their practice and how to improve it;
    • for parents this is essentially about how we can improve the student experience through a series of investigations into best and innovative practice in schools (and other organisations)

This is not just something that schools should do…


action cycle simple

An important discussion this evening is around parental experience in, and expectations of, their research project.

The intention is that the parent researchers and the teacher researchers meet and share experiences and approaches in a collaborative spirit, notwithstanding issues around ethics and data protection in particular.

Suggested dates for the 4, Face to Face Meetings (F2F), all researchers:

  1. F2F1 January 9-11, 2020

    1. 1:1 meetings January 9th and 10th by arrangement with Phil during the working day (teachers; parents by arrangement) – 45 minutes max.
    2. 10th Twilight session, 5.00-7.00pm
    3. 11th Saturday 09.00-2.00pm
  2. F2F2 March 26-28, 2020

    1. 1:1 meetings March 26 and 27 by arrangement with Phil – 45 minutes max.
    2. 27th Twilight session, 5.00-7.00pm
    3. 28th Saturday 09.00-2.00pm
  3. F2F3 June 4-6th, 2020

    1. 1:1 meetings June 4 and 5 by arrangement with Phil – 45 minutes max.
    2. Afternoon of June 5th, 2.00-5.00pm  Research Symposium with teachers from Sund Upper School, Reykjavik, Iceland (TBC) – shared experiences.
    3. No twilight session – social event with Sund teachers TB6
    4. 6th Saturday 09.00-2.00pm
  4. F2F4 September – dates to be confirmed

Welcome event: Monday December 9th, 4.00-5.00pm

Room 22, Upper School


The purpose of this meeting is to

  • welcome you to the programme
  • provide an opportunity to share your initial ideas with your research partners as critical friends
  • invite you to consider reconnaissance in your field and how you might gather any baseline data available (list of educational research sites will be linked on the Resources page but here’s a decent starter for research sites to explore; and from our home page scroll down to the bottom for JSTOR login)
  • consider ethics in educational and school based research
  • set the calendar of future face to face sessions which will include:
    • 4 face to face sessions during the research year – around January, March, June, and September. This entails…
    • an individual or group meeting with Phil for 45 minutes during the school day at the time of the face to face period
    • a twilight whole group meeting on Fridays between 5.00pm and 7.00pm followed by an invitation to supper
    • a follow up Saturday session between 09.00 and 2.00pm followed by a light lunch
  • Suggested first Face to Face meeting (F2F1) – Friday January 10th and Saturday January 11th, 2019.
    • Note we have explored later January dates which clash with skiing trips

For an overview of themes so far please see the Projects 2020 Tab

And a brief bit of reading on research in education

  • IMG_8009


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