Skip to content

Our Guiding Principles

February 8, 2013

I think it is important in this era of great challenge and opportunity to remember what principles can guide us as we seek to design and execute the best high school liberal arts program in the country. It is true that education is a field that resists change and innovation, especially at a time when education is increasingly viewed as a commodity, an investment in success in college, graduate school and the professions. Thanks to great educational thinkers, philosophers and reformers, we know the following about inspiring authentic student learning:

  • The true measure of distinguished teaching writes Ken Bain are “remarkable feats of student learning” – this learning is not the repetition of content, the memorization of facts and formulas, the strategic approach to giving the teacher what he or she wants: rather, it is the ability to, in the words of former Princeton President William Bowen, “to take a new problem and make headway in the company of others.”
  • Ted Sizer taught us that the primary metaphor that should guide great schools is “student as worker” and teacher as coach. Great schools ask students to think, to write, to argue, to analyze, to experiment and to synthesize. They do not use tests that turn students into compliant, passive, strategic learners. Rather, they develop assessments that are authentic, open to constant revision, feedback and revision again.
  • The great school provides opportunities for students to seek excellence by exhibiting work publicly through papers, critiques, defenses and revised arguments.
  • Great assessments produce these feats of student learning that bring us out of our seats, especially if we excel in the art of feedback, the art of setting exemplary standards of excellence in each discipline.

In other words, the most important questions to ask ourselves as classroom teachers are these:

  1. Are students achieving remarkable expressions of learning, and is our teaching responsible for such moments?
  2. Are our assessments preparing students to take on, confront and explore new questions, often in collaboration with others?
  3. Do we provide comprehensive, effective and timely evaluation of student work and most importantly multiple opportunities for revision?
  4. Have we established standards of excellence that are exemplary, held by not only our department but other scholarly communities? Does each class build specifically towards these exhibitions of student mastery?
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: