Be Well Day Tai Chi at Stamford American School HK

A Glimpse into Curriculum Development

Because each school has its own unique curriculum, does that mean that only established schools can deliver a well-built broad curriculum for their students? Not necessarily—because a curriculum’s strength comes from those leading its development and the teachers facilitating it in the classroom. In addition to experienced faculty, Stamford Hong Kong is fortunate to have curriculum expert Mr. Michael Galligan, who brings a decade of both curriculum development and IBDP experience.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

My journey began as a PE teacher, which later transitioned into a role as Athletic Director. I moved into the planning side of the curriculum through the International Baccalaureate (IB) Career-related Programme. Later this expanded to teaching IB-related courses and eventually the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) and Advanced Placement (AP) Coordinator roles in Singapore. All of these in-depth experiences gave me rich knowledge about teaching and learning in those frameworks, including how to support students; how feedback and assessments work for each of them; and how best to support teachers in the design of courses. Coming to Stamford Hong Kong, I was excited to be able to take that knowledge and to help build the curriculum from the ground up to ensure that we are delivering the most relevant and engaging curriculum for our students.

Q: Your role covers a variety of areas important for the development of the school, what are they?

My role supports building a solid foundation for our high school by working with principals to develop the curriculum. We have adopted parts of our Stamford Singapore curriculum and modified it to suit our context, and then leveraged the talents and expertise of our faculty to make it something truly special for our students. I am overseeing our accreditation processes for the Council of International Schools (CIS) and IBDP, which are critical pieces for the students’ high school diplomas. I also work on coordinating the gathering of student data, which is our real, actionable evidence for teachers to provide personalized learning.

Q: What do you think makes Stamford’s curriculum unique?

One of the things that make our curriculum unique is that we have embedded a strong STEMinn program from the beginning. This means that, at every age, our students are learning those essential critical thinking and cross-curricular skills. Since its inception, we have also made sure we have the staff to support this program and how it is implemented in the classroom.

“Our curriculum is also a unique blend of traditional and progressive. We ensure students are learning through an inquiry-based approach, including projects, while building strong foundations in math and literacy with our rigorous American standards framework without compromising on offering a range of specialist options.” – Mr. Michael Galligan

We also set ourselves apart in our flexibility, by being a non-selective IB Diploma Programme school. The alternative pathway gives our students an option to pursue a blended program where they can experience some IB courses without the requirements of the whole program.

Q: What’s the most important element of curriculum design? How do you measure success?

On a day-to-day basis, student engagement is critical. A task or project has to have some perceived relevance for the student for them to be motivated to pursue it. This is linked closely to the notions of constructivism and inquiry-based learning, two topics being talked about a lot right now. Some ways to measure a student’s success, in addition to normal progress reports, are the observation of a student’s motivation increasing and noticing that a student’s confidence is improving, through more engagement both in the classroom and beyond.

We want students to be able to take knowledge to higher levels—evaluate and analyze it, modify and apply it, or interpret it in new creative ways. We want students to be able to come up with their own independent ideas; a Google search gives us information but successful students take their learning and apply it in unique ways.

Q: Where do you see the future of Stamford? 

Stamford will be delivering an exceptionally international high school curriculum that will combine the American standards framework and give students the choice to pursue the IBDP. Beyond academics, we have the Inspire Me project that will be important to help build character traits, social skills, and sensitivity to social issues.

The Inspire Me project will continue to evolve and I am also excited to see how this, combined with our strong STEM focus, will translate into real-world applications. I see the future of Stamford as an exciting one, where our students are not just prepared for universities world-wide but take the skills they have learned at Stamford to be changemakers no matter which country they choose to live and work in.