Predictably Irrational

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 12.07.43 PMPredictably Irrational is the title of a book by Dan Ariely that details a range of experiments undertaken to shed light on human behaviour. The premise is that our behaviour, as individual and quirky as it might seem, conforms to drivers that are universal – and predictable. Here’s one experiment that sheds light on what we understand by organizational culture.

Two groups of participants are placed in separate rooms and asked to complete a scrambled sentence task. For some the sentences comprised words such as aggressive, rude, annoying, and intrude. Others were given words such as honour, considerate, polite, and sensitive. The second part of the experiment involved both groups waiting while other subjects were given instructions that dragged on… How long would the subjects wait before their patience ran out? For those primed with polite words, they waited about 9.3 minutes before interrupting. For those primed with rude words, the time was 5.5 minutes.

A second set of experiments primed one group with scrambled sentences that focused on the concept of elderly while the other group was primed with youthful words. The experimenters then timed the groups to see how long they took to walk down the exit passage. Sure enough, those primed with the elderly words walked slower!

Why is this significant in learning communities?

Because we learn! And the words we use in our community are important – they have meaning for our behaviour beyond their intent. Consider the impact our words have on community culture, on the emotive climate created, on the opportunities for effective communications in the context of the experiments above. I’m interested in your views.

Richard Swart
Director ISBerne

Our Piece of Peace

Today our students get together to bring their ‘piece of peace’ in a gesture that, I believe, typifies international schools around the world. Madiba is, I believe, right on track when he points to the following:


I began my teaching career in apartheid-era South Africa, and was fortunate to teach in the only ‘mixed’ school in the Eastern Cape – a geographical area similar in size to Switzerland – and the only such school in the region. We held similar events then to the ‘Piece of Peace’, watched by the police, and not particularly well supported by our neighbours. The school leadership never wavered in the face of significant opposition – students shot and arrested in townships, our school bus petrol bombed, our sport teams barred from participation. I often wonder how our school families reflect on those times, and if they recognize the significance of their contributions to the creation of a better world.

Some may say that idealism has no place in our ‘real’ world. I could not be in greater disagreement with that. Education has a critical role to play in moving towards a world where greater equity is a real possibility. International schools will continue to lead in this. And should we think this to be impossible, let’s reflect on the following:


Richard Swart
Director ISBerne

Bear With Me

The ISBerne student literary magazine, Bear With Me, is an impressive and entertaining publication that was produced last spring by a group of Secondary students. The magazine is both fun and thought provoking with essays and dissertations on subjects ranging from the societal effect of violent video games to the rendering of certain knowledge as obsolete. These are interspersed with fun articles such as The Real Football and Skateboarding in Bangkok. We have made the digital version of the publication available for download on below. 



ISBerne offers on-campus experience to Online students

Sarah Senanayake is an ISBerne Online student who opted to take advantage of the Study Abroad program in order to spend some time in a campus environment.

An ISBerne 5th grade student explores electric cars

Noah Lofthouse, a 5th grade student at ISBerne, researched electric cars for his end-of-year exhibition. In this video segment, he is interviewed by Ms. Deirdre Coghlan, Communication Coordinator at ISBerne.




Another fruit from the Grade 5 PYP projects, STOP TECHING!, examines how technology affects our daily functioning, for better or worse.

Nathan Brady and Ayush Pannu, from Grade 5, via the Exhibition Action component of the PYP project, hope to raise awareness regarding the impact communication technology has on our daily lives. They have created, written, filmed, directed, edited, and posted a video to youtube in order to spread awareness.

Online Communities for Kids

Gigi Perret, for her Grade 5 PYP project, has investigated the value of online communities to prevent feelings of isolation. One component of this personal investigation was to create this stop motion lego video, starring Brick, to educate kids on the numerous themed communities available.


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