Clark Zhang has been an integral part of our founding staff team here at Huili and in the next academic year he will be taking on the position of Director of Studies – a role that requires the right mix of organisational diligence for the day-to-day school operations and the ability to plan for the future of the school’s academic direction.Clark ZhangDe House Tutor/ScienceWhat made you want to take on the role of Director of Studies here at Huili?Clark: I have always had a passion for exploring and developing the academic part of school life, and this role is the ideal chance to touch many different aspects of it and be a positive influence in each case.What are the main duties involved in the role?It is a job that focuses mainly on developing the teaching and learning elements of Huili. I like to think of it as a bridge between many people – school leadership and other department heads, teachers, parents and pupils, to make sure that our school provides pupils with the best learning experience.
In terms of duties, mainly it involves curriculum development, assessment analysis, organising workshops and meetings, producing useful documents and guidelines based on best practice, performance appraisal, timetabling and resourcing and more. However, above all, you need to work closely with academic teams while instilling all of our pupils with the Huili Values and Identity by our day-to-day teaching routines.
What qualities do you think are necessary in an effective Director of Studies?I think you definitely have to remain passionately committed to progressing all academic aspects within your school, rather than focusing more intently on just a handful of them. You need to be genuinely excited by the idea of making teaching and learning better, more effective, more useful and relevant.Being a good communicator is also key, given that you are working with so many different parties, each with their own priorities, deadlines, past experiences and so on. It’s important to be diplomatic and accepting of other people’s ideas in order to work together to figure out the most practical way to achieve your goals for the good of the school.
As Huili's Director of Studies for 2019-20, what do you hope to achieve with the role? I would say that John Hattie’s explanation of Collective Teacher Efficacy has been quite influential during my preparation for this role. This is the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect their pupils. Together, as a teaching team, all of us are trying to develop the curriculum as best we can by pooling our ideas and experiences, and collaborating to utilise best practices based on firm evidence. I completely believe that this approach is what makes Huili special and that it led us to enjoy such academic success during this first year. I hope to help deepen the collaborative nature of our work as teachers here at Huili.I also want to see Huili become more involved with the wider community of international and bilingual schools, now that we have ‘found our feet’ during our founding year. I am very much looking forward to seeing Huili build more academic teams to take part in activities and competitions at the local, national and international levels.
Can you give one or two examples of specific policies or events you want to establish?Most importantly, we want to provide pupils with more opportunities for self-assessment. Based on the research of James H. McMillan and other leading practitioners, there is strong evidence to suggest that self-assessment is the key to stronger pupil motivation and higher achievement.However, it is not just about getting best academic results, it is also about pupils becoming more self-aware overall. We want them to be able to take feedback from their teachers, to use assessments to inform their approach to any given task. In short, we want them to begin to shape their own learning, to be responsible for their own learning process. This is very important to me and want it to be important to all of the pupils in our care. Not only is it great preparation for higher education, being independent and proactive in one’s own learning journey is a great attitude to maintain throughout life.
6Will you be closely collaborating with many of your colleagues to put these policies/events together? If so, what will you be relying on them to do?Surely. I mentioned Collective Teacher Efficacy earlier and it is an essential part of achieving our goals. When we are aiming to develop our pupils to become more independent, all teachers must work together to succeed. If this is maintained throughout the school then every pupil will have the importance of this lesson reinforced.
7Is there anything else that you would like Huili parents to know about the Director of Studies role or anything you have planned for the next academic year?There is a lyric from the School Song of Tsinghua University: “Value good morality and behaviour, and have a thorough knowledge of both Chinese and Western.” “立德立言，无问西东”（《清华大学校歌》).
This is an integral part of the Huili way of teaching and learning. We are ambitious. We are not satisfied with merely combining the best of East and West (中西合璧). Instead, we are moving to （无问西东）– we aim to integrate the Eastern way and Western way so deeply, so naturally and so smoothly that you will not tell which part is which. Ideally, parents or any observers won’t even think to ask, they will see Huili simply as an integrated whole. This is what I think we can achieve together as a school.