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What it’s like to participate in a remote evaluation visit

Despite experiencing one of the toughest COVID-19 (Coronavirus) lockdowns in the world, Oakleigh Grammar, a Middle Years Programme (MYP) school in Melbourne decided to continue with remote evaluation, finding the experience to be an insightful opportunity to grow.

What it’s like to participate in a remote evaluation visit

By Melissa Fitzgerald 

Last year, we were one of the first schools in the Southern Hemisphere to experience ‘remote’ evaluation in June 2020 due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). It was an intensive three-day experience that involved time zone differences considering the IB team was based in New Zealand and Bangladesh and the use of online platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Docs and many more.

I’ve been a member of the IB community for over 10 years but this was my second evaluation experience. In this article, I want to help other Middle Year Programme (MYP) practitioners feel confident so they can properly capture the individuality of their school and support their teams virtually.

The evaluation process

After you have submitted all the required documentation, the next step is to meet your evaluation team and prepare the agenda. I really enjoyed meeting my team because they were experienced and very approachable. They gave me great advice and told me that each staff member should prepare three or more points to ‘brag’ about during each meeting. Furthermore, my IB World Schools Manager was very supportive and he expressed the importance of positivity throughout the experience and that an evaluation is about identifying what is going well, as well as areas that need addressing.

I used the IB Asia Pacific MYP evaluation visit agenda template to structure my agenda as there wasn’t a virtual template at that stage. The agenda took a lot of time and discussion as the IB team wanted to meet everyone and see the span of subjects across the school. This prompted teachers to video an on-site year 10 class through Microsoft Teams so that the IB team could visit lessons virtually. Additionally, I organised interviews with the board and parents via Zoom and with students via Teams. It’s important to ensure you practice using the relevant technology, with both parents and students, and be prepared for the possibility of it failing by sharing contact numbers and booking your IT team for support during the entire visit.

Since we only had year 10 students on-site, I asked them and the principal to prepare a video tour of the school so that the IB team could see our facilities. Some of the school tours you see online are so polished and can be unrealistic; we had bloopers, sound and lighting issues which I feel had a lot of value. The school librarian also created a video to accompany her interview, showing our libraries resources and displays.

What it’s like to participate in a remote evaluation visit

The IB team was able to visit longer than usual because there were no travel restrictions. The additional time was necessary as it allowed us to accommodate the time zone differences between Australia, New Zealand, and Bangladesh. Following an intense three days of evaluation, we then waited 10 – 12 weeks to receive our report which only indicated two matters to address.

Lessons learned and advice for schools

Supporting Oakleigh Grammar through the evaluation process virtually was an exciting challenge. Despite having an online evaluation, I felt it was very thorough and we were able to capture our MYP journey accurately. From this point on, we need to build on our success with creativity and with the IB mission statement at the centre of our teaching and learning philosophy.

Would I do anything differently? Yes, I would include some more dynamic apps such as Bitmoji, Linoit and Padlet to support our evidence in the MYP evaluation. Apart from that and the stress of COVID-19, our evaluation was successful and it was risk-taking, balanced, and reflective!

What it’s like to participate in a remote evaluation visit

Melissa Fitzgerald is the Middle Years Programme (MYP) coordinator at Oakleigh Grammar in Melbourne, Australia. She spent more than 10 years teaching at two IB schools in the Middle East before returning to Australia to become an MYP coordinator. She is a keen networker who is always available to share resources and loves collaborating with other international schools. You can connect with her here.

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