2023 International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) Annual Conference
Amy Allison, English Language Arts Teacher and Cycle I Coordinator at Trafalgar School for Girls; Christianne Loupelle, Science Teacher and Department Head in Science at Trafalgar School for Girls; AdrianaRuffini, Mathematics Teacher at Trafalgar School for Girls
This year’s IALS (International Association of Laboratory Schools) conference was held this past April 26th-28th and hosted in Toronto by the Jackman Institute of Child Studies (JICS) in collaboration with several other Toronto area Lab Schools. Many different educators, researchers, and administrators from Lab Schools around the world were in attendance. This was Trafalgar’s first year attending, and we are the newest members of IALS.
We had two presentations at this conference. The first presentation was a workshop titled Designing Inquiry-Based Learning Experiences Through Cross-Curricular Collaboration in Middle School. Its purpose was to inform the audience about Trafalgar’s innovative inquiry projects that emphasize collaboration within departments and explain how educators can go about implementing similar work within their own classrooms and at their respective schools.
IALS Presentation: Designing Inquiry-Based Learning Experiences that Foster Collaboration in Middle School by Amy Allison, Christianne Loupelle, and Adriana Ruffini
The second presentation was an educational poster that chronologically mapped out four (4) different areas of growth we have experienced in teaching and learning:
the evolution of the Secondary 1 inquiry research project;
the implementation of innovative, collaborative inquiry-based and project-based learning activities across Cycle 1;
the evolution of the CoLab from its early ideation to where we are presently in its planning and development; and
the inspiration behind each teachers’ decision to further their education in related graduate studies at the master’s and doctoral levels.
The poster was created with interactivity in mind, including several QR codes leading to final student products and resources for teachers.
IALS Poster: Our Transformation Odyssey in Teaching and Learning by Amy Allison, Christianne Loupelle, and Adriana Ruffini
In addition to our own presentations, we attended a variety of workshops on everything from diversity, equity, and inclusion to decolonizing curriculum and spaces in school. We also took in workshops on teachers as researchers and the use of shared spaces in schools. We toured both the Jackman Institute (K-6) and the University of Toronto Schools (UTS, 7-12) campuses to see lab schools in action. Most importantly, though, we had the opportunity to speak to teachers, administrators, and researchers in lab schools to ask questions and begin making connections with like-minded colleagues; this new network will be invaluable as we continue to design and develop our unique CoLab model.
During this conference, we had a chance to connect with educators who have knowledgeable experience in their lab schools, in addition to tour or visit three Toronto Lab Schools. Essentially, each lab school was associated directly with a university (for example, the University of Toronto) and much of the research by both teachers and university researchers and students happened at the respective lab school, which, for many, is a requirement in their agreement with the university with which they are affiliated.
A memorable takeaway includes the culture of several of the lab schools; much of the schools’ values and student interests could be seen on the walls while walking through the school, especially at Jackman. This spoke to us as this is the same homey and welcoming feeling that we feel when we walk through Trafalgar and what we envision and hope to maintain for our new school building.
What makes the CoLab stand out from other lab schools is this: Trafalgar will remain Trafalgar without becoming an extension of McGill University’s Faculty of Education. Our lab school model is truly unique in that it is a partnership between two pre-existing and storied Montreal institutions.
The opportunity to engage with other communities of practice lies at the core of the CoLab's mission. Pillars 2 and 3, in particular, guide us in cultivating collaborative practice and research hubs, through the establishment of vibrant communities of practice with fellow teachers and researchers. Additionally, these pillars prompt us to disseminate research on educational practice and partnership, providing in-service and pre-service teachers with access to evidence-based educational research and resources. By offering continuous professional development opportunities, the CoLab aims to fulfill its mission and expand the reach of our practices.