As part of creating an inclusive environment for all students, International School Bangkok (ISB) provides teachers who can give extra attention to students when necessary. Students learn in different ways and at different speeds. Some students require additional, individualized support.
Learning support teachers at ISB help students who need additional support to become self-motivated, well-balanced learners who are capable of independently managing themselves and their studies. This task takes care, commitment, and a special respect for the learning style of each individual student.
As educational specialist John Hattie has observed, “excellence in teaching is the single most powerful influence on achievement.” And indeed, one key example of a teacher’s awesome impact on student success can be seen in the context of learning support. These teachers have a unique opportunity to shape the development of individual students in their care, helping them develop the learning styles, study strategies, and self-management skills that will affect their performance in all other classes.
Continuous support for learners
As a High School Learning Support teacher at ISB, Philip Bowman embraces the challenge. His background in Science and Master’s Degree in Special Education prepare him for the demands of a Learning Support role, while also keeping him familiar with many of the subjects his learners will study.
Mr. Bowman spent five years as a Learning Support teacher in the United States before moving to Bangkok, Thailand to work in International education, and he has now been in his role at ISB for eight years. While here, he also co-founded the Special Education Network & Inclusion Association’s Thailand chapter, in hopes of bolstering the learning support profession. His partner in this endeavor was Tamara Redmond, another Learning Support teacher at ISB.
Mr. Bowman’s enthusiasm for providing student support is unmistakable, and is also shared by his wife Najwa, who is an Instructional Assistant in our Intensive Learning Needs classroom and currently working towards her Master’s Degree in Elementary Years Special Education. Mr. Bowman takes special inspiration from his students, whose effort and determination make every achievement profoundly meaningful.
Mr. Bowman teaches a High School Intensive Studies class, where much of the period is spent engaged in one-on-one coaching and assistance with each of his learners. These moments of focused, personal attention are consistently rated as the most valuable part of the course, as Mr. Bowman helps them achieve real personal and academic growth.
The deep commitment shown by Mr. Bowman – both in providing support for learners, and in becoming a better teacher himself – helps his students gain confidence in themselves as well. This effective quality is described well in John Hattie’s research, which finds that teaching expertise is often found where this level of commitment is greatest. As Hattie puts it, expert teachers show “involvement and caring for the students, a willingness to be receptive to what the students need, not attempting to dominate the situation.”
Mr. Bowman cites John Hattie as one of his major educational influences, and tries to model his teaching after many of the concepts described in Hattie’s work. Indeed, Hattie’s description of ideal teaching methods closely matches Mr. Bowman’s own approach. According to Hattie, “Expert teachers engage students in learning and develop their students’ self-regulation, involvement in mastery learning, enhanced self-efficacy, and self-esteem as learners.”
These personal qualities are precisely the ones which receive the greatest focus in Mr. Bowman’s Intensive Studies classes. They greatly help students to succeed in their other courses, by contributing to their creativity, adaptability, and self-management skills.
Mr. Bowman’s students also value a special project that he introduces in each of his senior level classes, where the students are asked to develop a flexible but comprehensive plan for their lives after graduating from ISB. This process takes half a semester, and at least six hours of one-on-one time, but it helps students learn how to find a direction for themselves that they are satisfied with. The plans they develop are globally-minded and value-driven – but just as importantly, they let their students gain valuable experience in making decisions for their own lives.
Mr. Bowman’s ability to observe and analyze such improvements allows him to fine-tune his methods, providing his learners with an even more significant experience to aid their development. This focused approach follows another recommendation from Hattie, about the importance of examining one’s own work. As Hattie puts it, “those teachers who are students of their own impact are the teachers who are the most influential in raising students’ achievement.”
Through constant, close attention and support, teachers like Mr. Bowman make ISB an excellent environment where students can learn, develop, and thrive. The lessons they learn soon transcend their original context, helping each student grow into a more well-rounded person – curious, creative, and highly motivated to enrich the community around them.