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Shaping a positive, inspiring, engaging, inclusive and supportive culture of learning is essential. Without it, any curriculum becomes either irrelevant or misused. When schools create such a powerful culture, learning becomes easier, fluid, authentic, meaningful, personalized and collaborative.


Explore the key principles of ICA's Culture of Learning

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1. Learner-Driven, Holistic and Personalized

We believe that learners and educators are agents of their growth and development. Therefore, a learner-driven, holistic and personalized approach makes learning more relevant and tailored to everyone's needs, strengths and interests. We all have a unique combination of identity, experience and mindset that must be noticed, valued and taken into account to personalize learning. 


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The central focus of the International Comprehensive learning framework is the lifelong growth of every learner to pursue their aspiration accomplished through inquiry learning and integrating overarching forces of environment, languages, time, relationships and external factors.

This approach has been designed so that schools can create an inspiring, inclusive, meaningful, student-centred and competency-driven learning environment.

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Core Competencies

The learner is at the heart of the framework because our approach is learner-centred and emphasizes that learning is an ongoing and holistic process made of many struggles and achievements. As Brené Brown says in her Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted :

"We are the authors of our lives"


Indeed, the learning process does not start nor end in a predetermined place and time. Through powerful learning experiences and regular reflections, students will activate and develop a set of useful competencies. The term competency embodies skills, knowledge and personal attributes. Skills can be directly taught and are usually specific to a task. For example, being able to use video editing software is a technical skill. According to the Cambridge dictionary, Knowledge relates to the understanding of or information about a subject that you get by experience or study. Finally, personal attributes or dispositions refer to the habits of mind or character traits of a person. Competency is a broad term that can be defined as the ability to use a combination of knowledge, skills and personal attributes in various situations. ​

These competencies are empowering them to grow as active, adaptable, socially aware and self-motivated learners all along their life both personally and professionally so that they can contribute to the rapidly evolving world in a meaningful and purposeful way.

The first of the four core competencies is named Communication and Creativity. It helps us confidently share our projects, ideas, questions and understandings with others in many different ways and contexts. Communication is organically linked to technology, language and collaboration and can therefore positively impact our social and emotional well-being and contribute to building more genuine and trusting relationships. Creativity and Digital competency are critical in a changing world where automated tasks have become the norm. The added value of individuals comes from their capacity to create original artifacts and use technology in a purposeful and responsible way.

The second one is Personal and Social Competency, which is defined in the British Columbia's curriculum as:


the set of abilities that relate to students' identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society. Personal and social competency encompasses what students need to thrive as individuals, to understand and care about themselves and others, and to find and achieve their purposes in the world.”

All human beings take advantage at any age of being able to implement healthy habits, being aware of all our senses, developing our motor and physical skills and being attentive to our mental health.

The third core competency is Thinking & Inquiring. There are many different thinking skills that one can use depending on the learning experience. It is important to acknowledge that Thinking is complex, multidimensional and requires time. As the Harvard Project Zero team and particularly Professor Ron Ritchhart explain in their remarkable work, thinking is a critical component of understanding. Moreover, for students to develop thinking competency, they need to be able to identify, understand and have an opportunity to use the different thinking kinds in various situations, be inquisitive and ask questions.


Finally, some competencies are subject-specific and will be developed through curricular projects and formative assessments.

We owe every learner to empower them to develop the lifelong competencies they need to thrive in their present and future life.

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Learning experiences and Portfolio

Learning is a process and it happens through powerful inquiry-based learning experiences alongside ongoing reflection and purposeful documentation of the process with the use of a portfolio. 

Creating rich and powerful learning experiences to have learners DO, UNDERSTAND and KNOW requires deep thinking and preparation, but also the capacity for the educator to make adjustments, be responsive, release control, observe, facilitate and reflect. Powerful learning experiences allow students to have some agency and choice, ask questions, explore, generate ideas, try new things, make mistakes, investigate to authentic contexts, collaborate, create, go deep, feel curious, challenged and joyful, organically apply technological skills, share and reflect. 
Most of all, they are designed to amplify and personalize learning and foster core and curricular competencies and different types of literacy which altogether highly contribute to the learner’s growth and well-being.

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OVERARCHING FORCES (cultural factors)

Time, Environment, Relationships, Languages and External forces

The outer layer of the framework represents the overarching forces which operate in every community, school and classroom. They are important cultural markers which shape safe, effective, inspiring and engaging conditions for learning to thrive. Time, Environment, Languages, Relationships and External factors are important cultural markers which can shape safe, effective, inspiring and engaging conditions for learning to thrive. These five forces also highly contribute to our well-being and social emotional development. In order for them not to become obstacles or constraints, we need to be fully aware of their influence and think deeply about how we might be able to monitor, adapt and tailor them to build an impactful culture of learning.

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