The Power of a Network: How Two Schools Reimagined Programs with GOA

Schools are continually seeking to develop innovative programs that foster meaningful engagement and deliver lasting learning outcomes for students. In doing so, school leaders seek ways to enhance their capacity for reimagining existing programs or launching new ones, with a focus on enabling students to develop relevant competencies and offering more personalized learning options. In partnership with GOA, the innovative programming at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida and the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) in Malaysia reshapes and reframes the structure of learning experiences in a way that empowers students to broaden their perspectives and harness their interests.

Promoting Global Competencies

In the fall of 2023, The Bolles School launched the Global Scholar Program to provide a new academic track for students with an emphasis on global competencies and leadership. The Global Scholar Program was developed to both recognize the diversity of students on the Bolles’ campus and provide opportunities to grow students' cultural competencies throughout a long-term experience. The program emphasizes skills like intercultural communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

When re-examining their own portrait of a graduate, the need to enhance opportunities that develop global competencies emerged. The school spent several years intentionally designing the Global Scholar Program to create an experience that would shift the point-of-view of their students outward. Part of the challenge in developing the program was providing clarity on the meaning of “global” within the context of their program. The Bolles team used global competency frameworks provided by the Asia Society to identify specific look-fors or learning targets in order to solidify their definition of global and align outcomes.

Global Scholar students gain perspective while developing skills. “You do need to be immersed with people that look and sound different than you in order to have meaningful conversations and not just conversations where everyone thinks the same thing in the same room,” says Natalia Aycart, Director of Global Learning and Engagement at Bolles. The program also promotes a more expansive understanding of what “global” means and the implications that being globally competent carries for student’s future university and career choices.

The Impact of GOA’s Networked Approach

GOA courses play an essential role in Bolles’ Global Scholar Program and fulfill a required part of the program's curriculum alongside on-campus requirements. The ability to access GOA’s course catalog provides students with the opportunity to engage in a globally networked learning experience in a broad variety of subjects. While globally focused programs often rely on courses in the humanities, Aycart noted the breadth of the GOA catalog, which includes opportunities for students interested in STEM subjects to experience the global relevance of their learning. GOA courses help students gain global perspectives, engage with diverse peers from around the world, and enhance their intercultural communication skills in ways that go beyond what is possible in an on-campus course.

Bolles Inter­view — Glob­al Networks

While the program is still new, the Global Scholar Program at Bolles is intended to promote students' personal growth and foster an understanding of how their identity fits in a global context. “​​I hope that we’re graduating a cohort of kids that have a different perspective,” says Piper Moyer-Shad, Assistant Upper School Head and GOA Site Director. By taking GOA courses alongside other programmatic requirements, students develop skills such as empathy, effective communication, and the ability to collaborate with individuals from different backgrounds. These experiences equip students for success in an interconnected world and provide them with valuable future-ready skills for their continued academic and professional journeys.

Personalized Learning and Student Choice

The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) offers the IB Diploma Program to students in grades 11 and 12. Alongside that program, ISKL offers their own Pursuits Program, which provides students a more flexible pathway that allows them to lean into their interests and develop real-world skills through rigorous engagement and self-directed learning.

From the outset, the Pursuits Program was designed to have a significant impact on student learning while enabling students to exercise their agency in shaping how learning happens. The pillars of the program are personalized, self-directed, and applied learning. Throughout the two years they are in the program, students learn research and self-management skills while diving into topics such as learning about identity, habit-formation, and the design cycle. The program also connects students with learning partners in their immediate community and across the world. Those partnerships serve as catalysts for student learning through authentic project-based learning opportunities. As students begin the program, they start by determining an area of distinction, which frames the program and provides students with the opportunity to identify potential topics for further exploration. Along the way, they are consistently practicing critical reflection as they investigate their subject area.

Students also identify a project that requires in-depth investigation over time. The power of the program, GOA Site Director and ISKL Art Teacher Jo Tilton noted, is that the student projects often relate closely to what students intend to study at the university level. So, they are building portfolios alongside relevant skills that they will be able to share in their university application. The projects, according to Tilton, “are very meaningful for the students, but they are also turning out to be really effective in their life choices moving forward.”

GOA’s Place in Students’ Pursuits

The connection between GOA and ISKL’s Pursuits has existed since the inception of the program with GOA subjects aligning to Pursuits’ Areas of Distinction. Pursuits Coordinator Dan Miles added, “The opportunities about GOA and how they might extend and expand upon a student’s exploration or area of distinction are introduced to them directly.” The flexibility in combining selected IBDP subjects with GOA courses empowers students to explore their passions, create resumes and portfolios, and develop valuable skills. According to Tilton, “At least half to three-quarters of Pursuits kids are doing a GOA course.”

The focus on agency and application of transferable skills aligns with GOA’s student program and impacts future choices of students. Tilton recalled a conversation with an ISKL graduate who found her passion in psychology through her GOA course and completed the Pursuits Program at ISKL, noting the student reflected on the rigors of the program and the agency given to students in the choice of subjects and planning for projects.

ISKL Con­ver­sa­tion with GOA — Stu­dent Interests

Miles added that “Many of the students utilize GOA as a way to get a class that we don’t offer. And so it’s a wonderful method for us…especially for these students who are looking for a personalized educational approach. They can reach that need that they so desperately desire.” Through personalized and self-directed learning, students take control of their education, developing resilience and learning from mistakes. Pursuits offers students a unique platform for academic and personal growth. It provides the freedom to make choices about their education and adapt it to their own needs, ultimately benefiting the students by allowing them to explore their interests and gain valuable skills.

ISKL Con­ver­sa­tion with GOA — Skills-Dri­ven Learning

"The minute you get out of a kid's way, and you just give them the resources and give them the time, they run," said Miles.

In a rapidly evolving educational landscape, GOA member schools are at the forefront of program innovation, redefining the way we think about learning and the programs that students access in order to reach their educational goals. GOA seeks to partner with schools who reimagine learning through envisioning, launching, and sustaining programs that deeply engage students and help them thrive.

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This post is part of our Mission in Action series, which profiles how GOA member schools align GOA’s Student and Professional Learning Programs to meet their school’s mission. Want us to profile your school? Email us at with the subject title “Mission in Action.”

GOA serves students, teachers, and leaders and is comprised of member schools from around the world, including independent, international, charter, and public schools. Learn more about Becoming a Member. Our professional learning opportunities are open to any educator or school team. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter.

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