Strategic Improvement

HS Library Students

Excellence is a core value at ASD. The pursuit of it comes through ongoing, strategic improvement in all aspects of the ASD experience. In 2016, the community came together to set three strategic priorities, as captured in the 2017-2020 Strategic Plan. This strategic work takes place in the context of a long-term vision:

  • That every student will embody the skills and characteristics articulated in our Student Profile, and
  • That every student can go deeper in areas of personal interest or passion (a curated collection of experiences, deemed “pathways”)

Every Student. Future Ready.


Improvement (and thus success) is not linear, nor should it be laid out in blueprint fashion. The world is rapidly changing due to the technological revolution. The utility of brick and mortar schools (including universities) are under question. We can’t be certain like we once were of the exact knowledge, skills and dispositions our students need in order to adapt and contribute to this new world.

As leaders, we must develop a degree of comfort in this ambiguity. We must be persistent and resilient. We must overcome our cautious nature. We must question the status quo: i.e. what worked for us. We must strive toward institutional focus. We must adapt and continue to learn. The stakes are high, and we accept this challenge.

The recent revision of our Student Profile allows it to play the central role in this drama of schooling. ASD’s standards-based liberal arts curriculum, supplemented by the development of the pathways, will produce students who embody the skills and characteristics of the Student Profile. 

Several parallel improvement efforts support this vision:

  • Becoming a more inclusive school. In meeting the diverse learning needs of all students, we can thus provide access to the curriculum, and manage the various barriers that may exist for any given child.
  • Using internal and external data in order to measure, report and respond to what we learn about student achievement and growth.
  • Placing social and emotional learning outcomes on equal par with academic outcomes, as these skills and dispositions are deemed “future-ready”, and less prone to automation.
  • Promotion of experiential education at all levels, to develop unique skills that this type of learning best facilitates. Service learning is a natural complement to experiential learning. 
  • Ensuring spaces are aligned to programmatic needs and to the school’s values. ASD embraces the flexible learning environment movement. 

Stages of Strategic Improvement

A Solid Foundation

ASD underwent dramatic growth and improvement in the years following the move to the Barsha campus in 2010. Dr. Mutsch and his team built the solid foundation that the current leadership team now enjoys. ASD can now say it emulates the well-known, big international schools in Asia.ASD is an excellent school, but is still built in the traditional model. Incremental improvement, while still needed, will not fully carry the day. The traditional model must be disrupted, and new methodology and approaches developed. This includes approaches to time, student groupings, space, grading, and other aspects of the Victorian model of schooling.

Maker Animation
A Shift In Practice

ASD has highly-qualified, caring and competent faculty and staff. All teachers have been asked to make a shift in their practice. The focus and promotion of student-centered instructional strategies requires teachers to shift the balance away from teacher-led learning toward more student-led education.

Six student-centered instructional strategies have been promoted through our Responsibility for Learning (RFL) professional growth model (link):

  1. Design-thinking
  2. Inquiry
  3. Play-based learning
  4. Service-learning
  5. Project-based learning
  6. MTSS
Green Screen
A Culture of Innovation

Integral to this ongoing improvement is the cultivation of a culture of innovation, where faculty and staff are asked to be entrepreneurial, to experiment with new methodologies in order to learn and grow. We have made excellent progress toward establishing this culture in the past few years.

In early 2020, the school will for the first time articulate how each division is facilitating the “pathways” in its curriculum, though full implementation is not expected for another few years.

Middle School Gallery
Flexible Learning Spaces

In terms of spaces, the opening of the new Early Learning Center in August 2020 will achieve our desired flexible learning environments for Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, and also allow for paired classrooms in grades one and two. Maker spaces and STEAM labs across each division will undergo expansion for 2020. The top two floors of the ELC will open with non traditional spaces to support the “pathways” in 2021. These are incredibly exciting developments.

The ASD Student Profile

The American School of Dubai strives to achieve its mission by providing learning experiences to support every child to embody the skills and characteristics of the Student Profile.


Student Pathways

The “pathways” are a curated collection of experiences that promote student voice and choice in highly-relevant real-world themes. Specifically:

  • Technology and Innovation
  • Business & Entrepreneurship
  • Global Citizenship
  • Performance (Arts & Athletics)
  • Language Acquisition

These collections of experiences cross all grade levels, but will look different based on the age and developmental readiness of the students. For example, elementary school students may be exposed to entrepreneurial concepts, where in middle school, they can go deeper and explore the concepts. Furthermore, high school students may take their interest in business off-campus through an internship experience.

The pathways do not result in a different ASD diploma, but they may lead to special distinctions or an even external credential. Could some students through their pathways experience go immediately from graduation into a high-skill job? Why not?


Think back to one of your best memories as a student. Was it personalized? Did you have any choices? Did it have real world application and relevance? Was it based on an enduring understanding or ‘big idea’? Isn’t it amazing that you can remember the content decades later?  It is because great teachers have always differentiated instruction dependent upon student learning styles and needs, made the content contemporary and meaningful, and built strong relationships with their students. I bet you still understand what you were to learn, and the point of it all. Universities are thirsty for students who go beyond the content to make meaning in their lives and in the world. Yes, students will learn content, but ASD students will stand out because they will apply that content to the real world. They will be change makers.

Dear teachers: We know that you went into this profession to change the world.  Simple, right? We honor that at ASD. We are part of a special team of professionals that chose to band together and make it happen. As far as what is on or off of your plate—we will figure that out together. As we innovate, ideally grade levels, teams and departments will figure out what no longer has the impact it once did and remove it from their plates themselves. (David Perkins from Harvard’s Project Zero calls this “niche content”) Some strategies, techniques may no longer serve our students in preparing them to be future ready. None of us are experts in all matters, or futurists who predict what the world will be like when our students graduate, but we are all in this together. If we need more training - we will get more training.  If we need more time together to plan and scheme - we will carve out more time. These are not simply technical fixes, but adaptive challenges that will be messy but meaningful. We are the pioneers. We are the crazy ones. We must create a system that is nimble to change, and we must do so in a culture of innovation.

At ASD, using Design Thinking and Action Research processes, we are committed to a specific way of approaching change: from the student through the adult experiences. In such systematic cycles, we gauge our progress against our goals, and determine where to go next. This guards against merely doing for doing’s sake, without proper reflection before taking further action.

The cost of not making these changes is insurmountable. We will lose this moment in time where we have a world class quality of staff and families assembled and ready for action. Also, the relevance of ASD as a premier educational option could erode.  But more importantly, we have a moral imperative to ensure we are equipping every student with what they need to reach their amazing potential—and to change this world for the better.

Nearly every candidate we interview for leadership positions is coming from a school that is engaged in a similar change process. Student voice and choice, use of space as the third teacher, relevant coursework, and real world experiences are examples of such changes that are occurring as we speak in top tier international schools. Why? Because it is the right thing for our students. Are we ready? One might argue if we will ever be fully ready. Change is hard, messy, and fraught with issues. But the cost of not changing is too high. We cannot afford to sit this one out.