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Current Reality and GAPSS Assignment Description

Margareta (Margo) Tripsa

ITEC 7460 Professional Learning and Technology Innovation

Dr. Anissa Lokey Vega

Kennesaw State University

Version: Spring 2016


Vision International School (VIS) is a separate gender, college preparatory school located

in Al Wakrah, Qatar. VIS is managed by International School Services (ISS) and uses an

American curriculum. As a start- up school, which opened its doors in the fall of 2014, VIS

embarked on the journey of building a strong school culture, of reaching increasingly higher

levels of student achievement, and implementing rigorous leadership structures. Meeting the

highest school performance standards is an endeavor that cannot be reached in just a few years.

With that being said, I will lay out in this paper the current reality in regards to the professional

learning and school performance at Vision international School, Qatar, which has been in

existence for less than 3 years at this point. Currently, VIS is seeking accreditation from Qatars

Ministry of Education through the Qatar National School Accreditation team, who will visit our

school this spring. The school also applied to the Council of International Schools for


Vision, Mission, School Improvement Plan and Needs Assessment

While the school does not have a vision at this point, its mission is shared publicly on its

website. According to its mission, VIS is committed to preparing students for the 21st century

by providing an academic environment in which students learn how to creatively solve problems

and to learn independently. In addition, students will learn to express themselves through the fine

arts, athletics and a wide range of activities and experiences designed to enrich their lives. We

seek to instill a sense of ethics, care and compassion for others through engagement in

community service and global citizenship. (VIS, website)

VIS school has a School Improvement Plan, but it is missing a Professional Learning plan.

Through its current School Improvement Plan (SIP), Vision International School (VIS) targets

four important aspects: shaping students who are problem solvers, independent learners, able to

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express themselves through fine arts and athletics, and ethical and compassionate citizens. The

SIP has five components and, at this point, technology is a no show. The five critical areas of the

SIP are (1) assessment, (2) school and classroom leadership, (3) student engagement, (4)

curriculum, teaching and learning, and (5) home, school, and community partnerships. To

provide the students with new opportunities for self-expression and for enhancing and expanding

their learning experience beyond the classroom walls, an important step in switching the gear

would be revamping the school improvement plan by including technology as a tool for

addressing curriculum demands. During an interview, last years principal, Terry Factor, posited

that, as a start-up school not having had the benefit of the pre-planning phases typically enjoyed

by the founding administration, the scope of our school's needs was so significant that the role of

technology as part of our school's instructional paradigm was not a top priority. One has to

realize that we literally started from scratch, with nothing, upon opening the school. To say that

technology wasn't important however, regarding all aspects of its use throughout the school for

both instructional and operational purposes, would be misleading (Factor, T., personal

interview, June 2016).

The fact that VIS, Qatar, does not have a clearly defined vision for technology use

generates a lack of consistency in regards to technology integration, and also lack of clear

direction. Various accreditation committees across the school, work towards outlining

expectations for technology use. VIS, Qatar adopted a number software programs focusing on

supporting instruction and skill development along with systematic programs supporting the

operations aspect of the school enterprise. And, as systems and programs were established, the

leadership team started to focus more on professional development for faculty. As a committed

to G Suite, the leadership team utilized technology in a variety of ways that helped our faculty

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build the capacity to utilize the applications in G Suite. Now that the school has established the

foundational elements, the school needs to incorporate technology into the SIP as it is an

essential component of the 21st century learning paradigm. On the school website, it says that

one essential element that makes our school different is that fact that technology is used as a

natural extension to enhance learning opportunities and that students are exposed to and

engaged in the use of technology on a regular basis as a means to expand their classroom

experience and provide them new opportunities for self-expression and discovery. (VIS, Qatar


Student Populations Needs

The wide majority of Vision International Schools student population is comprised of

English Language Learners (ELLs), so the benefits of technology integration can be significant

in supporting their language development, in making content accessible, and in shaping the

students as global citizens. A second tenet that makes our school different is the fact that aims at

instilling global citizenship by celebrating the culture and traditions of Qatar and other countries

of the world. By experiencing the world through the eyes of others, and recognizing our

similarities and differences, students become more grounded in their own culture, values, and

traditions while gaining a broader understanding and appreciation of human diversity. (VIS,

Qatar, website). Technology can help teachers develop and implement a culturally responsive

pedagogy, it could help teachers differentiate their instruction by providing access to

remediation, intervention, as well as gifted students resources and services, and it can broaden

students opportunities for learning and choice. When used strategically, technology can help

build cultural understanding and global awareness by giving students the opportunity to engage

with learners of other cultures. Additionally, while classrooms are becoming more and more

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culturally and linguistically diverse, teachers need to narrow the ever growing gap that arises

between native speakers and second language learners by helping the latter approach rigorous

content and increasingly complex tasks in classrooms with ELLs. George, Pope, & Reid, (2015)

noted that, literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared

among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. (p. 8)

Because VIS, Qatar aims at cultivating 21st century learning environments, teachers should also

focus on teaching new literacies. The new literacies have to do with new ways and challenges of

reading, creating knowledge, content creation, and curation of resources (NCTE, 2005).

However, at this point in my schools development, addressing new literacies should come up on

future school improvement plans. Technology can also serve the specific needs of second/foreign

language learners by giving these students the opportunity to have access to supplementary

resources that can scaffold learning or address particular needs such as audio/video support,

dictionary resources, language support, or individualized learning programs that allow them to

take control of the rate of their learning.

Mishra & Koehler, 2006, acknowledged the critical interplay of technology with content,

pedagogy. To be able to integrate technology effectively, the teachers need to have specific

technological, pedagogical, and content (TPACK) skills. Currently, the professional

development that takes place at my school has been strictly related to the technicalities of using

specific software such as Rediker and there has been no professional development that aimed at

improving teachers technological pedagogical and content knowledge this current year.

Teachers Professional Learning Needs

There is no strategic protocol for identifying the professional needs at my school.

Teachers receive every year $1,200 for professional development and they are free to attend any

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training of their choice around the world. While last year, all teachers had to set at least one goal

that was related to improving the academic performance of our English Language Learning

(ELL) population as part of their appraisal process, this year no requirement was established in

this regard. Last year, the school followed up by bringing Dr. Virginia Rojas to give a three-day

workshop on ELL strategies and, in addition, the teachers were provided with the opportunity to

take a series of ELL courses via International School Services. In regards to the students with

specials needs, there has been no training offered at the school so far. International schools

typically have a big teacher turnover, and so does VIS. The big teacher and administrative

turnover brings on many challenges such as the struggle to make long-term plans and ensure

consistency in terms of practices and expectations from year to year.

Professional learning sessions are typically based on immediate needs and not on strategic

needs analysis. This school year, for instance, there have been only a few professional

development sessions organized at the school level. These sessions revolved around assessment:

Gradebook, standards-based assessments, and the grading system. In terms of professional

learning preferences, the teachers indicated their preference for differentiated professional

development and individualized coaching sessions (Instructional Technology Survey, September,

2016). However, this school year, no differentiated professional development has been offered.

After school wide professional learning sessions, teachers are not provided with sustained

support because of the fact that the instructional coach position was cut at the end of last year.

The ELL students benefit from the support of ELL specialists either through a pull-out or push in

model. Professional learning at my school is mainly individual. There are no professional

learning teams, book study groups, coaching teams, or mentoring systems. The teachers have

worked on professional learning communities (PLC) that were led by an instructional coach, up

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until this school year. Starting with the fall of 2016, the PLCs have been replaced by common

planning meetings. The common planning meetings are composed of the teachers who are

teaching the same grade level. Teachers are provided with whole school workshops a few times a

year. The professional learning opportunities offered this year seemed to revolve around a single

component of the School Improvement Plan, which is assessment. The other components (school

and classroom leadership, student engagement, curriculum, teaching and learning, and home,

school, and community partnerships) have not been the focus of any professional development.

This school year, almost the entire professional development time was allocated to

working in committees for accreditation purposes. Preparing for the accreditation visits requires

teachers to look closely at and analyze their practice, identify strengths, weaknesses, and identify

next steps. All committees are required to provide evidence and develop sound action plans for

school improvement. Therefore, for the first time since the school opened, the school started

looking critically at its performance and promises to go through a transformational change.

Professional Learning Impact

The impact of professional learning is measured through observations, walk through visits,

and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) data. The girls principal, Ms. Affour, pointed out

that the impact of professional learning is harder to measure, since most international schools

have transient population, and oftentimes, the school reaps professional development benefits for

a limited period of time, before teachers move on to new opportunities. (Affour, interview,

January, 2017). As a concluding remark I would note that, following the evaluation that is being

conducted by various accreditation committees, VIS needs to revamp its school improvement

plan. To achieve the schools mission, long-term goals, and rigorous initiatives and a strategic

plan for their implementation need to be articulated in the SIP. The teachers should be provided

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with training and support along the way and the implementation of the initiatives would need to

be closely monitored. Teachers need to be empowered to make effective use of technology by

augmenting, modifying, or redefining learning experiences. The school should also greatly

benefit from building a data-driven culture in order to measure progress towards the realization

of the vision. The data team should foster the use of data-driven instructional decision-making at

the school level. My schools vision depicts a 21st century environment where students can

showcase their creative and problem solving skills, as well as their depth of knowledge and

dispositions in three main areas: general and content specific academic content knowledge,

special area content, and character development and global citizenship. Technology should be

used as a gateway to fostering inquiry learning. The pace of change in our lifetimes has been

rapidly increasing and students and teachers have to learn at the pace of change. George, Pope,

Reid (2015) claimed that, we clearly will still need to be adaptive teachers, ones who both

anticipate and ride the curve. We cannot know all the technologies in advance, but we can do as

we always haveanticipate the future, share the future with our students and our colleagues, and

partner with individuals and organizations who are engaged in similar pursuits. (p.11)

At this point in my schools development, the accreditation committees have initiated a

transformational change. Teachers across the school are collecting data and evidence, are

analyzing strengths and barriers, are identifying student learning problems, are establishing

goals, are examining patterns and trends, are reflecting on educational practices, ware designing

and implementing instructional research-based data driven instructional scenarios, and are

promoting data literacy throughout the school. The process of improving teaching and learning

through systematic collaborative inquiry and data driven decision-making has just started and

this is very promising.

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Affour, M. Personal interview, January, 2017

Factor, T. Personal interview, June, 2016

George, M., Pope, C., & Reid, L. (2015). Contemporary literacies and technologies in English

language arts teacher education: Shift happens! Contemporary Issues in Technology and

Teacher Education, 15(1), 1-13.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A new

framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108, 1017-1054. Retrieved

from Punya Mishra's website


National Council of Teachers of English. (2005). Position statement on multimodal literacies.

Retrieved from

Version: Spring 2016