The Australian International School Malaysia (AISM) is a vibrant international school located 25 km from Kuala Lumpur city centre. Established in 2002, the school delivers the Australian Curriculum through a Visible Learning framework to over 650 students, aged between 3 and 18 years old. With students from over 37 nationalities, the school has a diverse population of learners. We are focused on preparing our students for the 21st century by developing their ability to think and learn for themselves. As such, the academic language development for our growing number of English language learners (ELLs) is critical.
The WIDA journey for AISM began in 2015. The English as an Additional Language teachers were looking for a systematic and comprehensive assessment tool for English language learners in our international context. At the same time, our school had embarked on its Visible Learning journey and as such concerns about formative assessment, feedback, learning intentions and success criteria were top of mind. It was clear to us that if we did not know where our students were 'at' with regard to their English language development, we were not in a position to be informing our practice and their progress. And then we found WIDA.
We started small. Towards the end of 2016, one of our EAL teachers attended a WIDA International Institute in South Korea. He described this experience as 'transformational'. The combination of a powerful assessment tool underpinned Essential Actions with consideration of ELL students from an asset based stand point was compelling. Furthermore, the symposium was a rich opportunity to connect and create networks with other teachers in our region. Under his guidance, we began using the WIDA MODEL assessment with our Middle Senior School students.
By the end of 2017 we had rolled out the WIDA MODEL for EAL students across both our Junior and Middle Senior School. Our EAL teachers and school leaders were using the clear and concise assessment reports to guide conversations with other teachers and parents about the levels of support required by our students. However, we were interested in moving our use of WIDA beyond its assessment capability.
In 2018, AISM hosted a WIDA International Institute for 45 educators from across and beyond the region, including 10 teachers from AISM. We wanted a group of teachers trained in the "Can Do" philosophy so both the MODEL assessment and "Can Do Descriptors" could inform instructional planning in a meaningful way. Teachers are now undertaking Visible Learning impact cycles to investigate the impact of using WIDA assessment data and 'Can Do Descriptors' on their curriculum planning and subsequent ELL student achievement. It is an exciting time for AISM EAL educators and learners.
The WIDA journey at AISM is an ongoing one. We are confident that as this journey continues our students and teachers will be the beneficiaries of what WIDA can truly offer, when its assessment and standards framework within our context becomes more fully realized.