Kerri-Anne Nolan is the former Middle School Principal of Country Day School, an American school in Costa Rica. She has successfully coordinated the United States based accreditation process for three international schools and organized international conferences to develop youth leadership. She has a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Instruction and Curriculum from University of Florida, Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from Framingham State University, Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies from University of Florida, and Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from East Carolina University.
“Education is a social process; education is growth.”
John Dewey (1859-1952) was one of America’s greatest thinkers, philosophers and educational reformers. He believed that creating a society of informed and engaged inquirers was the best way to promote human interests.
Dr. Dewey's progressive view of education, especially his insight that children learn best when their natural curiosity is tapped, is integrated into the International Baccalaureate (IB) philosophy. I believe using the IB framework together with Chinese curriculum provides an education that is interesting, student-centered, and prepares our students for the challenges of a global, future world.
Over my 30-year career as an educator, I have realized that the real purpose of education is growth and that children learn by doing and interacting with their social environment. I believe that, while there are some universal truths and great literature that should be passed down, most of a school's curriculum should be based on students' experiences, their interests, and problems. While we must make sure children understand and can apply knowledge from mathematics, history, geography, and science, children must see that these are not separate subjects, but interrelated, and have real-life applications.
We only think when we are confronted with problems.
Children need regular opportunities to interact with their environments and to solve problems. Understanding and using a problem-solving process is the best way to learn high level thinking, especially when done within social settings. We learn best when incorporating other people's ideas.
Humans are not the same everywhere. Our environments, both cultural and social, lead us to having different experiences. These experiences help shape our humanness and determine our values. They allow us to grow.
Traditional education systems focus on memorization of information. Modern education systems focus on the development of skills such as those used in problem-solving.
In Xinhua Academy, students learn complex problem-solving strategies through Project-Based Learning (PBL).
· PBL opportunities allow students to define a real-world problem and design and test solutions to that problem.
· Students are the center of their learning, resolving their own problems with teachers and each other as they arise.
· Teachers support students and guide them in seeking solutions to problems that are posed in the classroom on a regular basis.
· Students work on group projects where they learn to plan, delegate, communicate, and hold one another accountable for meeting a common goal.
It is important to teach leadership and problem-solving skills because we know that our students will be tomorrow's leaders and will have many problems to solve.
Teaching is more than providing instruction. Teaching also means paying attention to children's needs and feelings so that they learn.
Schools must also provide an atmosphere where children feel safe to express themselves without fear of ridicule.
I am proud to be part of the Xinhua Academy learning community, where we are able to implement an educational philosophy that allows our students to be curious and creative, while developing into productive, happy citizens, with the skills and knowledge to solve the problems of the future world.