Our school’s pedagogical project is based on the idea that each child actively constructs knowledge as they explore the world around them. The curiosity and excitement that accompanies each child’s discovery gives us a new perspective on education.
The basic pillars of our educational project:
– Holistic education: Through our project we encourage our students to develop from a cognitive, social and emotional point of view. The perfect balance between these skills is what makes children happy and healthy.
– Our notion of a child: As adults we think that children, before anything else, are competent, capable of complex thinking and emotions. And therefore, not empty vessels that need to be filled up.
– Social Constructivism & other Contemporary Educational Theories: Our educational project is based on the latest cutting-edge educational theories. For example, ‘social constructivism’, which means that we believe that any human being is able to build their own knowledge within an appropriate social context; hence the importance of student relationships and group work. We also focus on other theories such as ‘connectivism’, ‘mindfulness’, Gardner’s multiple intelligences, and Ken Robinson’s ‘The Element’.
– Pedagogical approach based on investigation and personalised learning: It is crucial that students develop their skills and understanding to know how to ‘learn to learn’. These skills are developed through investigations, cooperation and teamwork, dialogue, reasoning, and critical thinking. All of them are developed through an inter-disciplinary approach which promotes and facilitates links between different areas of learning and their experiences. And for us as a school, it is essential that all of the above takes place in a learning environment which promotes ‘The Three Es’: Enjoyment, Engagement, Enthusiasm, stated by Renzulli in 2004, and which enhances the acquisition of knowledge.
– Multilingualism: Lessons are taught mainly in English (80%) with five hours per week of Spanish (20%). But for us it is also important to preserve each student’s mother tongue through books, technological resources and learning experiences.
– New technologies: We live and interact daily in a digital world and it is important that students know how to use different technologies in this digital era. However, our project looks to balance analogue and digital inputs, people and technology, so that our children do not forget how to use their mind and senses.
– Learning landscapes: The environment has a crucial role in children’s learning and development. The spaces and materials become a ‘third teacher’ and thanks to them, our children are capable of creating new worlds.
– Creativity: we not only think of creativity as an artistic process, but as a school, we believe that every activity is a unique and creative opportunity which at the same time allows us a child to express and develop their personality and their identity.
– Documentation: based on Reggio Emilia´s pedagogical approach and ‘Making Learning Visible’ by Harvard’s ‘Project Zero’ led by David Perkins, we aim to make learning and critical thinking visible for our students and teachers. To achieve this, we use documentation as a research tool to record the learning process.
– Values: throughout our project, which has no specific religious focus, we work on human and social values, with all ages of children, starting with our youngest students. Respect, altruism, caring for and living alongside others, generosity, responsibility, autonomy; all of these are essential and fundamental values in our daily lives.
– Building a healthy and complex image of themselves and others: We support our students to help them discover who they are, to identify their strengths, to set targets, to improve their weaker areas, to know how important each one of us are is as an individual is in the lives of others. Our aim as educators is to help them to find their place in the world.
– Participation and collaboration with families: It is very important to build a close relationship with our students’ families so that together we can offer their children the very best. It is also essential to take into account the resources that surround us that allow us to integrate our educational project outside our school, so that step by step our students can become citizens of this world, as outlined by Jerome Bruner.
– Continuous and meaningful evaluation: Our assessment and evaluation is a circular process of knowledge: self-evaluation, reflection and subsequent action. We use assessment rubrics along with portfolios of students’ work to inform and guide individual success. In this way, each child has clear personal targets and knows exactly what areas they can improve and how to do so. They also have a clear understanding of their strengths.
How do we put this into practice?
During the first school stage, from 3 to 11 years old, TIC (Torrequebrada International College) guides its students through the important first steps of early education: reading and writing, cooperation, symbolism, language skills, logical and mathematical thinking. We cover the British National Curriculum content which is delivered through the PYP (Primary Years Program), which is in process of authorisation by the International Baccalaureate (IB). During the academic year, students work on between four (for the younger students) and six ‘units of investigation’ related to different areas. This learning process is reflected on each student’s Portfolio; a tool that belongs to each individual and which reflects not only the learning process but most importantly, the process behind all knowledge.
Classes are organised into small groups of students so that from a young age they can talk and share ideas with other students, which is enriching for all. The teacher becomes a guide for the student to help each one build their own learning process in conjunction with the rest of the group and the context; the teacher always being ready to listen and help students with what they need. We also believe in teachers working as a team, not in isolation, who together make sense of the daily relationships and experiences that make our students’ time at school so worthwhile.
To support the above, we have also implemented the KiVa Program, a zero-tolerance approach to bullying which is very successful in Finland. Students and teachers work on a series of activities in class to promote inclusion, identify emotions, acceptance – of themselves and others, and tolerance; all the values that we feel should be present in our school in an attempt to tackle any issue of bullying before it arises. It is a preventative approach to any unacceptable behaviour and a whole-school initiative.
In conclusion, in Infants and Primary, we help our students to develop physically and to develop an open mind for them to become wise, happy and capable people. For these reasons, sports, new technologies (including our BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – project), volunteering, exploring knowledge, languages, creativity, and teamwork are so important. We do not want our school to have a limited cultural base, but we want it to generate a culture so our students become the men and women of tomorrow’s global world.
Lower School (from 3 to 7 years old)
During the first stage of their school life we encourage our students to become self-sufficient, to take responsibility, capable of critical thinking and decision making, but at the same time to respect the educational community and others. We want them to enjoy and live the joy of learning. We want them to understand that knowledge makes them free, responsible and part of a group. This is why each moment they spend at school is thoughtfully planned: lunch and break times, brushing their teeth, working with others, arrival at school and home time. They are learning experiences and most importantly life experiences. This is how projects like our ‘Table4Six’ were created in Primary, or the Infants dining area where students set and clear their table and serve their own food.
Middle School (from 8 to 11 years old)
Students start what many experts call the reasoning stage; they start to look at everything subjectively, adapting their behaviour to the environment, reasoning what is best for them and others. It is a period of relative tranquility and this is why we want to offer our students the opportunity to face a variety of situations and possibilities that allows them to continue working on their self-sufficiency and responsibility, but with an awareness of everything that surrounds them (people, materials, spaces, time). It is a moment for them to discover and investigate who they are and start to mould who they want to be.
To create a sense of ownership not only to their school section but to the whole educational community, students of this age can choose to be elected to join the Student Council, formed by students from Year 4 (3º Primaria) to 2nd of Baccalaureate. This gives them the opportunity to make decisions for the school, plan events, take care of their peers and create a school culture.