Re-imagining the ISB admissions experience

Earlier this year, the ISB Advancement Office opened the doors to a brand new Experience Room for visiting families. David Willows, ISB's Director of Advancement, explains some of the thinking behind this exciting design project.

A few years ago, reflecting on the way students learn through guided inquiry at ISB, we began to think about how we might re-imagine admissions at ISB - no longer seeing it simply as a point of information, but as an exciting learning experience for families. We wanted to find new ways of helping families learn whether ISB is the right school for them.

In January 2018, the ISB Experience Room was opened on the newly renovated ground floor of the Chateau. To understand better how this new facility is changing the way we welcome families to ISB, let's look briefly at the four connected ideas: the game, the space, the script, the brain.

1. The Game

At the heart of the new Experience is an interactive game. Each family is invited to look at a series of "cards" on a digital wall. On one of them is written, "The playground", on another "College Acceptances". On another, it says "Friends". In total, twenty "reasons" for choosing an international school.

Each member of the family then selects one or two cards that reflect what is important for them in choosing a school. Once done, they are asked, as a family, to place their cards in some kind of priority order.

This interactive "game" is changing the role of the admissions officer at ISB. Our role is no longer just about giving out information, but providing a space in which the family can discuss what's important to them. The game also ensures that the admissions officer can tailor a visit to match with what is most important to a family.

2. The Space

The thing about admissions offices around the world, we noticed, is that most of them look roughly the same. In contrast to the innovative learning spaces in international schools, their admissions offices are functional. Rarely do they inspire or celebrate a particular school.

Working with internal colleagues and our external architect, every detail of the ISB Experience Room has been designed with a purpose in mind. The result, we believe, is a truly innovative space in which families feel engaged, connected, empowered... and ready to learn.

4. The Script

When families walk around the Campus and walk by a particular classroom, what do they see through the glass walls?

The answer, of course, is that they see students working alone or in groups, a teacher, tables in different configurations, learning resources, and perhaps a 3D printer or two; but these are just random elements that don't necessarily make sense and tell the story of learning at ISB.

The ISB Experience Room has therefore also been designed to prepare families by framing the Campus tour. The admissions team now uses a range of new digital resources to highlight key features of teaching and learning at ISB: feedback, collaboration, perspective and learning goals. So when families walk into a classroom, they can better see and understand the learning that is taking place.

4. The Brain

Finally, research shows us that we all have individual thinking styles and that we use different parts of our brain whenever we engage in a specific task - including when we make a decision about where to send our children to school.

Working in the Experience Room, we are increasingly conscious of ensuring that we recognise and tailor what we do to help every member of a family make their choice in a way that suits them. We don't have degrees in neuroscience, but what we have found is that deepening our understanding of people and the way they think has helped us understand how they learn and to differentiate the admissions learning experience accordingly.

These four, connected ideas form the basis of the new ISB Experience Room. But the project isn't completed yet. We are continuing to develop new resources and adapt our work based on feedback from the families that are visiting our school. Like many of our fellow faculty colleagues and students across the school, we too are learning by design.