Oxford’s Leonard Elementary was selected as the only school to represent the United States in an IB research study last week.
The International Baccalaureate Organization commissioned the research to test the effectiveness of new enhancements to its elementary curriculum, the Primary Years Programme (PYP).
International Baccalaureate is an educational foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization
“aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to its mission statement.
IB programs are offered in schools in 157 countries. Oxford Community Schools became involved in IB ten years ago.
The research team is led by Dr. Jane Medwell, Associate Professor in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
Eight schools are participating in the study from the United States, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Jordan, Sweden and the UK. Leonard Elementary is the only school representing the U.S.
Schools were selected based on various criteria to include large and small, private and public, and rural and urban schools. Leonard fit this sampling structure.
Dr. Medwell visited Oxford Community Schools for three days from Dec. 9 to Dec. 11.
“We were delighted to be welcomed to Leonard,” Dr. Medwell said. “It is a school with a really warm, community focus and was a great place to spend a few days.”
The research team wanted to learn how the recent changes have affected the school and to identify better ways to implement the program’s philosophy and transdisciplinary framework.
“I looked at the key aspects of the enhancements to the IB PYP,” Dr. Medwell explained. “These include multilingualism, inclusion of all children, promoting agency in students and students taking action for their community, as well as others. Leonard has given me wonderful examples of these aspects of the curriculum.”
As part of her research, she interviewed teachers, students, parents and administrators. Oxford Community Schools IB Coordinator, Rita Flynn said that since teachers are usually isolated in their classrooms, it was a refreshing opportunity for them to have a dialogue about their practice and what they think of the enhancements. She said it was also informative to see the interviews with students to get a sense of what they understand of the curriculum changes.
“I was very impressed by the quality of the relationships I saw and the way Leonard values each and every child,” Dr. Medwell said. “I am sure Mr. McDevitt will not mind me saying that the school has a wonderful ethos.”
Leonard Principal Paul McDevitt said, “When we have opportunities to showcase our schools, even if it is part of a research project, all the staff, students and parents should be very proud.”
Dr. Medwell’s visit came at a busy time of the year. “The holiday season is always exciting in school and I saw students engaged in a wide range of projects, performances and activities,” she said.
The results of the research will be shared with the International Baccalaureate Organization, which will publish the full report. Aspects of the findings will be shared at professional conferences and published in academic journals as well. The research will help further develop the curriculum in IB World Schools. Dr. Medwell plans to return in May to follow-up and continue her research. “It will be really exciting to see when she comes back how much has changed and improved.” Flynn said.