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Research Programme

Welcome to the International School of Florence Research Programme.

"Improvement... change... curiosity... perplexity... making a difference... and exploring the idea that research in schools is 'systematic inquiry made public.'" (Stenhouse, L. 1978)

These are the starting points for thinking about research at ISF. We look for a ‘tension in the environment’ - something we feel passionate about changing. We start with a simple question: How can we improve…? For teachers, this will likely be a change in their teaching practice, and for parents a change in the way the school or wider community does something. Whatever happens, by the end of the research project, something will be different and researchers share the differences with our school community and sometimes wider afield.

How does it work?

Each Summer/early Autumn, staff and parents at ISF are invited to make proposals to join a year-long inquiry into areas of school life they want to improve, change, investigate, or are just curious about, and feel others might want to know more about too. Once research groups are formed with common areas of inquiry, they meet regularly to discuss their plans and actions, and explore research methods and methodology. There are also 5 weekend meetings comprising Friday evenings and Saturdays through the research year. At the end of the journey, or at least the end of the first cycle, researchers are expected to present their findings to the community and make recommendations for change.

The programme is supported and led by the Director of Learning & Research at ISF. Whilst it is difficult to quantify exactly, the programme will take up approximately 70 hours in total of directed and independent study over the year. 

In October 2019, Research Cohort 1 presented their findings at the inaugural ISF Research Conference. 10 staff researchers presented 5 different projects.

In December 2019, Research Cohort 2 was formed and met formally in January 2020. A significant difference this time was the invitation for interested parents to join the programme. For Cohort 2 we had 7 project groups involving 10 members of staff and around 5 parent researchers. Parents worked alongside teachers as partners. Also significant was the tenacity of researchers to continue through COVID-19 and present their findings at our second Conference in April 2021.
Cohort 3 was established between May and September 2021 and will present their findings at the third Research Conference in April 2022. There are 14 researchers, including 3 parents, working across 10 project areas. Again we have a parent group - this time researching how we can improve transitions between Grade 10 and Grade 11.
All groups are supervised by the Director of Research and a code of ethics agreed at the outset and revisited at each meeting.

Cohort 3 Projects (2022)

  1. SEL Theme: How do individual students respond and interact with their learning environment?  The intention is that as educators we better understand the learning experience of the students we teach and are more able to personalise learning.
  2. Teaching & learning Theme: Interactive methods, such as escape rooms and games, to teach and enforce content,  improve student engagement, and develop 21st Century life skills. 
  3. MFL Theme: Using translanguaging to develop language learning skills.
  4. Parent Group: Ways in which parents/carers and teachers can prepare students for a smooth transition from grade 10 into the Diploma Programme.
  5. Teacher Professional Learning Theme: Bite sized ideas and innovation to improve teaching and learning. How can we improve learning by providing a short, regular forum for teachers to share innovative practice akin to the TeachMeet structure?
  6. Assessment Theme: Using the Studio Habits of Mind to develop students’ creativity skills and support a greater focus on formative assessment.
  7. Achievement in Maths Theme: Using targeted interventions with small groups of students to improve core maths skills.
  8. PE Theme: Bridging the movement gap through student agency.
  9. Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Theme: Exploring and developing students’ understanding of ‘privilege’ through Literature units of work.
  10. Science Learning Theme: What are Grades 9 and 10 students’ perceptions concerning their learning and inquiry skills in science?

Cohort 2 Projects (2020)

  1. How can we better serve the needs of the highly able learners through online learning at ISF?
  2. How can an awareness and application of character strengths promote engagement in physical education?
  3. 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?
  4. How can conferencing be used to meet the diverse needs to students during writers workshop in Grade 4?
  5. What is homework for in the Junior School? How do we actually and measureably value the learning which takes place in the home environment?
  6. What are the feelings and attitude towards Mathematics of ISF students? Are there any gender differences?
  7. How does outdoor learning impact on Grade 2 students' focus and engagement in learning, as well as their social skills and emotional wellbeing?

Cohort 1 Projects (2019)

  1. DOCUMENTING LEARNING IN THE EARLY YEARS: How can we use documentation to make learning more visible to our students, parents, and school community?
  2. FOCUSING ON RESEARCH BASED EARLY LITERACY PRACTICES WITH CHILDREN AGES 3-8: What does research tell us about developmentally appropriate Early Literacy practices for children ages 3-8?
  3. How can we integrate digital technologies to improve teaching and learning?
  4. SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING/TEACHING METHODS IN THE HS CURRICULUM: How can we improve the engagement and general motivation for learning of our High School students?
  5. How can a student-led approach combined with project-based learning motivate, challenge, and lead all students to success?