Why challenge?

Welcome to another issue packed with stories of ISB’s Learning in Action! This year, it has been 70 years since the International School of Brussels welcomed its first students and marked the beginning of what is now a thriving and unique place of inclusion, challenge, and success. Every person who joined our community over the years left a mark on ISB that shaped it into the learning institution it is today. It is because of these bold, inspiring, and remarkable people that we are able to thrive and be at the forefront of driving educational innovation. We know that it is our responsibility to continue our legacy and write a story that future generations can be proud of and can build upon. By the end of the last school year, we were able to come to a shared understanding of our next strategic direction. The core aspects of our strategic plan were derived from what we had highlighted as a school in our Accreditation Self Study. All stakeholders of the ISB community were engaged in a process of providing feedback on what our priorities should be. For the next two school years, as a result of this reflection and insight, we have committed to working on these four main overarching areas of development:





We invite you to take a more in-depth look into these priorities in the ‘Future’ section of our latest Annual Report.


Over the course of this school year, the stories of Learning in Action issues will be focusing on each one of these priorities. They will give you a glimpse of what our plans are and what the student, employee, and institutional learning in these strategic areas look like in action. In this issue, we invite you to explore with us the stories of Challenge.

Challenge is such a vast concept. One that different people interpret in different ways. It was therefore very important for us to start being very explicit by what we mean when we talk about Challenge at ISB. We have developed a working definition of Challenge to guide our work:

Learners are challenged when they are striving towards models of excellence, and are stretched in ways that are personal, relevant and aspirational, resulting in high engagement and persistence. Challenge is supported by: 1. Compelling, open-ended tasks which:

  • enable multiple entry-points
  • elicit complex responses
  • stimulate curiosity and exploration
  • inspire and motivate learners through relevant and transferrable tasks
  • utilize strategic and extended thinking to increase the depth of understanding
  • synthesize concepts, competencies and character traits
  • share outcomes with a real and authentic audience

2. Cultures of excellence which:

  • support learner autonomy
  • provide multiple opportunities for revision
  • deconstruct models of excellence

3. Supportive communities of relationships which:

  • encourage learners to question and challenge ideas
  • inspire learners to reflect on their own and others learning
  • assist learners to set appropriate goals
  • embrace a growth mindset that promotes risk-taking, and setbacks as an opportunity Challenge occurs within all learner profiles and in all contexts. In order to prioritize the next challenges that are balanced and appropriate for our learners, we must know our learners well. This includes honouring the learner’s well being, intellectual needs and strengths through data and observation, as well as their agency and international citizenship goals. Equity within challenge is engaging with the next unique next step (Zone of proximal development) to consolidate, confirm, or reject concepts that the learner is grappling with. We are not striving for equality as much as we are facilitating individual paths.

Through the stories in this issue, you will see many of these concepts unpacked in concrete areas of learning at ISB.

As we look ahead at the journey of ‘Challenge’ development at ISB, we have furthermore identified the following areas of focus: Continuing to develop and improve our student support services to meet the full range and diversity of learners; Expanding our educational data systems to improve student learning to help us know our students even better; Implementing structures to better ensure all students receive the appropriate level of challenge in their learning.

We know that our work is a learning process, one that has its successes but also struggles, one that keeps on evolving. We therefore constantly revisit this plan and the developmental activities linked to it, to ensure that we continue to grow in the most relevant ways for the learning of each one of our students.

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