Conference April 1, 2021

The Conference for COHORT 2, 2021 will take place on April 1st, with the Community Evening on March 31st.

  • 7 research groups will present their findings in full to staff and in summary to the ISF community.
  • A key feature for Cohort 2 is the inclusion of parent researchers working alongside teachers. This has been of tremendous benefit to the whole process and a truly unique feature of the ISF Research Programme.
  • It is a testament to the commitment of these researchers that they have sustained their energy and enthusiasm for their projects throughout what has proved to be one of the most difficult times imaginable in any social or educational context.

You can see an ABSTRACT from each group below and links to the Community Evening and Teacher Conference Programmes

spreadsheet sign-up link

project 1

project idea

 Highly Able Learners and Online Learning

project question:

How can we better serve the needs of the highly able (HA) learners through online learning at ISF?


As professional educators, it is our obligation to better understand and equally serve the needs of all learners.  High ability students have particular social, emotional and academic needs that are too often overlooked.  According to the CIS Commendations and Recommendations for ISF, “…Identification and strategies to address the needs of the very able learner are reported to be inconsistent through the school…”  This research study was developed in part to address the recommendations of CIS but more importantly to address the needs of some of our high ability children.  The study began in the classroom and the unexpected transition to virtual learning presented new opportunities and challenges.

Within a fifth grade classroom, differentiated learning was developed in response to student needs.  The study focused on the differentiated learning experiences of the small group of high ability learners.  A variety of data was collected in an effort to interpret student responses to various enrichment and acceleration experiences during online learning.

During our presentation we will share the virtual learning experiences and student responses to that learning.  We will also examine some general information in the field of gifted education.  While our study confirmed a few of our expectations, it also gave us a surprise or two and certainly left us with other questions.  It is our hope that our presentation prompts others to better understand the needs of our high ability learners and also helps ISF to better serve the needs of all of its students. 


Toni Hillman, grade 5 teacher researcher; Ginevra De Bellis, parent researcher

key words:

Highly Able Learners; High Ability Learners, Gifted and Talented, Identification, Differentiated Instruction, Differentiation Strategies

project 2

Project Title:

Character development through Physical Education

Project Question:

“How can an awareness and application of character strengths promote engagement in Physical Education? ”


Physical Education and sport has a great potential to develop character in young people. Specifically by focusing on character strengths we can help students to develop their confidence and ability to learn across all curriculum subjects. Through this research we wish to explore the concept that to continue to develop our character strengths we need to be put in uncomfortable positions and challenged. A selected class will complete the VIA Character strengths survey. Students will explore the concept of character strengths and will undertake a unit of net games with a specific focus on applying our character strengths to learn new and complex skills. Qualitative data from the students and reflections on the impact of a different teaching approach informed the findings.

Key Words:

Experiential learning, character development, self-awareness, teaching pedagogy.

Research Team 

Denley Jones – Physical Education Learning Leader

project 3


“Learning to serve, serving to learn”: Developing Service Learning at ISF

research question

How can we extend and develop service learning at ISF as a whole school feature in a way that optimises benefits to both students and service users and which promotes a culture of solidarity within and beyond our school?


Many of us will have experienced the personal growth and fulfillment that come from helping others. As an international, IB World School, ISF educates its students to engage in reflective action that serves the community, promotes social justice, innovates, and fosters awareness of and respect for diversity. This approach is formally integrated in the IB Diploma curriculum through the Community Activity and Service (‘CAS’) programme for years 11 and 12 but currently operates in a less structured, ad hoc mode for other year groups. Our project aims to develop recommendations for extending and developing ‘service learning’ for all year groups at ISF. To this end, we analyse and evaluate existing ISF service learning practices, trial new approaches to service learning for younger students, and synthesise the lessons from best practice leaders in the field.

Key words

Service learning, evaluation, programme development.

research team

Clare Fox-Ruhs (parent researcher), Celi Harper (teacher researcher JS), Sue Yiannakis (teacher researcher, US)

project 4

Project Title:

Promoting Inclusion Through Conferencing

Project Question:

How can conferencing be used to meet the diverse needs of students during writers workshop in Grade 4?


The aim of our project was to improve student writing skills and to empower students as learners. 

We attended IB workshops on social-emotional learning and inclusion and diversity, which emphasized the importance of empowering students,  reducing barriers, and promoting inclusion within the classroom. Common teaching practices such as differentiation target students’ academic needs, but often segregate students into levels, and negatively impact their self-esteem. Recognizing that all students are unique, our goal was to provide instruction that would engage students, meet their individual needs, and empower them as learners. Through conferencing, we helped students clarify their learning goals, and articulate strategies to achieve these goals. 

We implemented Writers Workshop for 45 minutes a day, four days a week and held individual conferences with students at least once every two weeks. 

To evaluate the effectiveness of our intervention we used student writing rubric assessments, MAP scores, and student interviews. 

Key Words:

Inclusion, conferencing, writing, metacognition, empowerment,

Research Team 

Alessia Busoni – Inclusion Coordinator (Cross Campus) 

Mary-Anne Runge  – Upper Level Primary Phase Leader / Grade 4 Teacher 

project 5

Project Title:

Homework…Home Learning…Home Intrusion?

Project Question:

What is homework for in the Junior School? How do we actually and measurably value the learning which takes place in the home environment?


Is homework the job of childhood? Since the end of the 19th Century, working at home on school assigned tasks has been a source of a debate influenced by geo politics, cultural movements, educational research and occasionally by what children themselves want. What is homework and what is it actually for? 

Much of educational research has focussed on what are the measurable benefits of homework. Through data gathered from large scale surveys of students, teachers and parents as well as many books written by leading educational researchers we are able to reach a firm conclusion: the debate around homework is far from over. It is an ongoing, pendulum swinging issue that has its roots in a simple question. What is childhood for?

In this presentation, I aim to gather together the voices and words of the main protagonists in the story of homework and explore their influence alongside other key actors and factors. Should homework consolidate or provocate? Should it be teacher assigned or student led? Should we ditch or flip the classroom at home? Distilling current research into what’s best for our students is an essential part of any school’s homework policy. This presentation is intended as a beginning rather than a conclusion.

Research Team 

Anthony Davidson, EAL Teacher, JS

Key Words:

Choice. Communication. Intention. Feedback.

project 6

Project Title:

Gender Gap in Mathematics

Project Question:

What are the feelings and attitude towards Mathematics of ISF students? Are there any gender differences?


Students’ feelings and attitude towards a subject have a huge impact on students’ progress and performance on the subject itself, sometimes more than the specific pupils’ natural ability. This is particularly relevant to Mathematics, where there is extensive research showing that students find it hard to achieve their full potential. Moreover, there is a general belief, supported by some academic research, that girls have lower self-belief in their own mathematical ability compared to boys and this results in female students underachieving in Mathematics and being under-represented in STEM careers.

We will present a review of the literature on the matter. We will then show the results of a thorough analysis of students’ mathematics achievement at ISF to identify any gender pattern. We will finally discuss the results of a survey we have designed and asked all students to complete; we will present its main outcomes and how these should inform how we teach mathematics and how we support those students that find it harder to achieve their full potential in the subject. 

Key Words:

Math Gender Gap, Equal Opportunities, Attitude, Learning Experience, School Achievement

Research Team 

Andrea Antoniazzi, US Learning Lead for Mathematics

Margaret Zulkey, US Teacher of Mathematics and Timetable Coordinator

Project 7

Project Title: 

Outdoor Learning

Project Question:

How does outdoor learning impact on Grade 2 students’ focus and engagement in learning, as well as their social skills and emotional wellbeing?


This research combines qualitative analysis of Grade 2 students indoors and outdoors at ISF with the sample results of research and practitioner findings about outdoor learning inj the UK, where such findings are most comprehensive.

Following the success of outdoor learning in Scandinavia, natural learning environments are increasingly claimed to have restorative qualities that help in relaxing and coping with everyday stress (Louv 2008, chapter 8). They are claimed to promote adaptive processes in child development (for instance motor fitness, physical competence and self confidence) (Louv 2008, chapter 4). They are said to support creativity, learning and education (Louv 2008, chapters 5 and 7).

To examine these claims we looked at three specific topics:

1. Focus on the task
2. Engagement with peers/teacher
3. Social skills and emotional wellbeing

Under these heads we compared Grade 2 writing and drawing inside and out; maths; unit of inquiry work and practical experiments; teamwork.

Our findings are that while ‘the pedagogy… is undertheorised in the outdoor education literature’ (Mark Leather, Lecturer in Outdoor Education at the University of St Mark and St John, in Plymouth, UK quoted in, it is the case that even when outdoor learning is just ‘taking the classroom outdoors’, the anecdotal and small sample findings can be quite striking with our own results, for example, for Grade 2 children feeling positive outdoors (66.7%) being six times higher than feeling negative (11.1%).

Key Words: 

Outdoor learning; social and emotional learning; wellbeing; engagement; focus. 


Please follow this link to a short review of the literature

Research Team 

(Name & role – teacher/parent): Catherine Marshall, Grade 2 teacher; Tamara Jonjic, J.S. parent researcher; Jenny Crowley, J.S. parent researcher; Katrina Tanner, J.S. parent researcher.

Work in Progress

project 8

RESEARCH TEAM: Emma Homerlein


Coaching for sustained, self-motivated improvement


How can I improve my core coaching skills to support learning conversations with staff and students at JS?

How can we introduce a holistic coaching approach to improve self-efficacy across the JS community, empowering teachers to engage in sustained self-improvement?


Hattie ranks teacher efficacy as having one of the highest impact ratings on student learning outcomes. Teacher efficacy is when a teacher believes in their own ability to guide their students to success. 

Daniel Pink states that motivation comes from 3 main factors: purpose, autonomy and mastery.

Coaching as a strategy to support others to develop mastery in their chosen area supports purpose and autonomy. 

Therefore, I believe the most effective way to improve learning, is to use a coaching model to support and encourage teachers to actively  engage in sustained, self.-motivated improvement. 


3 Phase intervention as part of an action research cycle (2-3 years)

PHASE 1 – Becoming a coach

  1. Clarify my understanding of different models available to support reflective practice and learning dialogues – coaching, mentoring and counselling.
  2. Build my ability to utilise a coaching model for improved self-reflection and reflective dialogue with colleagues.
  3. Develop the skills of coaching and design a coaching model to trial with 3 teachers at ISF during 2020.

PHASE 2 – Introducing a coaching culture (2020-21)

PHASE 3 – Embedding a coaching culture (2021)


To build a culture of coaching throughout the school, developing the skills of listening and coaching in leaders, teachers and students.

This in turn will lead to self-efficacy and self-motivation 


Coaching, improving teacher efficacy, sustained improvement, self-motivated learning

RESEARCH TEAM: Emma Homerlein (JS Principal, researcher)