EARCOS - East Asia Regional Council of Schools Differentiation Conference

May 22, 2023

GSIS Shares Insights from the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) Conference on Differentiation

Green Shoots International School's staff attended the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) conference in Hanoi to learn about differentiation in the classroom. The conference focused on identifying student needs, finding effective strategies, and using data to continuously improve differentiation. After the conference, the Green Shoots staff developed a workshop to share their newfound knowledge with the rest of the school, showcasing strategies for homeroom and specialist teachers to use in their own instruction.  

What We Have Been Up To

This past October, several of our staff went to Hanoi to attend a conference on differentiation in the classroom. Differentiation, in essence, is learning support for students with different learning needs and goals. The idea of differentiation is to create optimal learning and a learning environment for students to maximise their learning success. 

The desire to bring together educators in East Asia began all the way back in 1958. Out of this, over the years, came EARCOS which held its first successful conference in Bali in 2000. Leading this conference was Tania Lattanzio, who helped co-found Innovative Global Education, which has a team that lectures and collaborates professionally for conferences and workshops internationally. In the conference, educators from Vietnam, South Korea, and India were in attendance to share their knowledge from their own classrooms and to continue their own education in bettering their pedagogy. 

Afterwards, the staff in attendance created a workshop to educate the rest of the staff according to the focus and values of our school in particular. As our staff continue to learn best practices, changes have begun in the classroom to best help students.

The Conference: Differentiation for Diverse Learners

The conference was spread out over two days and was often modelled on the differentiation strategies that were being discussed to give educators a chance to see how it can be implemented in a functional way. Using padlets to share thoughts and develop new perspectives, the workshop focused on five main focuses, including: identifying learning styles, concepts vs topics, choice vs voice, skills vs ability, and differentiation laterally. 

This conference focused on developing differentiation by identifying student needs, finding effective strategies, and how to use data to continuously improve differentiation. The process of creating these learning supports starts from the arrangement of the classroom, to how instruction is created and given, the activities designed, and how assessments are implemented. From all of this, educators look at the data they collect throughout this process to help make improvements to each step. For teachers, the challenge comes from the unique needs and diversity of their students, especially working in international schools where students create a patchwork of national identities and backgrounds. 

Sharing and Application at Green Shoots

Upon completion of the conference, our staff returned and developed a workshop for the rest of the Green Shoots educators to share their newfound knowledge. This took place during the staff Professional Development day in April and focused on identified needs for our school. Staff were asked to share their reflections on a visualisation board and stations were set up to showcase strategies for homeroom and specialist teachers to use in their own instruction.

Green Shoots International School is unique among international schools in Vietnam because of its incredibly diverse student population. Our students come from over 20 different countries, many of them joining us this school year now that borders have reopened. Creating an effective and safe learning environment for students to thrive depends on targeting their academic and interpersonal needs. Our focus on differentiation is to develop both of these areas. As students build their confidence academically by finding a way to showcase their understanding and mastery of curriculum, they will also gain valuable life skills and lessons through the connections they develop among their peers and in their community. Differentiation is a way to foster that community spirit that we are known for and continue to strive to develop even with upcoming changes. Each of our students has something unique to offer and differentiation gives us a chance to recognize and celebrate each in their own right. 

As you walk among our campus, you will notice that each classroom is different in their set up, their instruction, and activities being run each day. The teachers at Green Shoots have developed all of the above to address the needs of their class demographics in a way that each student is supported. In a class of active kinesthetic learners, you might find tables and chairs pushed to the walls and students learning about area and perimeter by using the classroom floors. Other classrooms have a need for more visual support and you will see whiteboards, screens, and even windows used to provide written instruction and examples for those students. The flexibility and freedom of teachers to create a dynamic school environment every day - come take a look!

Cited References

EARCOS | East Asia Regional Council of Schools. (n.d.). https://www.earcos.org/history.php

IGE Purpose & Mission — Innovative Global Education. (2022, January 26). Innovative Global Education. https://www.innovativeglobaled.org/ige-purpopse-mission

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