Research Around how Mobility Affects Learning and Life

In 1996, Dr Barbara Schaetti told us that “addressing student mobility is an essential component of an international school’s mandate. You don’t have the luxury of focusing on academics alone. An international school must take into account the environment in which students are living, one in which students and the school community are in a constant state of transition […]. An international school which doesn’t provide transition programming for its students is as negligent as it would be if it did not teach math at all.”

Since then, we all know that the world and international schooling have changed forever, yet the research continues to support what international school educators and counsellors have long known, that unmanaged mobility inhibits learning and life.

Prof. John Hattie (Visible Learning, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2023), conducted the biggest meta-analysis of educational research, with the aim of finding out what actually works to bring about optimal learning. What he found along the way, was that out of 252 factors contributing to learning, mobility is in the top five influences most detrimental to learning.

Higgins & Witford (2018) also found that mobility is a key barrier to wellbeing in international schools. 48% of respondents felt that transition between schools had a negative impact on student wellbeing but only 55% of teachers felt that the strategies their school used for supporting new students were very effective. “Transitions are vulnerable points in time for staff and students. Proactive and planned support for transition both arriving and leaving can be very important for wellbeing.” (7)

This does not mean people need to stop moving. A globally mobile lifestyle holds many benefits and is greatly valued by SPAN. What it does mean is that we need to intentionally manage transitions. We need to learn to master them a little better each time we go through them.

We need to intentionally manage transitions!

(7) Higgins, A. & Witford, A.(2018). Wellbeing in International Schools: The 2018 Report, ISC Research/ Cardiff University

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