The Academies schools aim to do more than merely teach skills and standards; SVA strives to develop lifelong scholarly habits and a growth mindset within each child in order to develop the dispositions described in our “Learning Outcomes.”
“Habits of a Scholar”
Throughout the school year SVA faculty, staff, and students study and celebrate the “Habits of a Scholar,” based on the work of Dr. Sandra Kaplan of the USC School of Education. Dr. Kaplan identified characteristics that are present in the lives of life-long learners and successful students. Each month, SVA classrooms highlight a particular “Habit of a Scholar.” These include:
Multiple perspectives and varied resources
Students exemplifying the month’s highlighted “Habit of a Scholar” are selected by their classroom teacher for recognition with a Habit of a Scholar Award. When students observe a peer-model performing a behavior and receiving recognition for that behavior, research shows this provides a model that they are likely to want to emulate (Bandura, 1986). Explicit teaching of scholarly behaviors and habits, in tandem with the practice of using Gifted Education for All and Project-Based Learning, will assist students in transitioning from dependent to independent thinkers, and become more and more able to engage in self-directed learning over time, as they make connections with the world, reflect to define themselves within it, and come to understand that there are myriad pathways to problem-solving. Focusing on these “Habits of a Scholar” will create scholars with habits of mind that will build a foundation for a lifetime of learning.
Children will receive explicit instruction and modeling of how to develop a growth mindset. Growth mindset is the core belief that abilities are malleable rather than fixed and is based on new insight on the structural, physical effects of learning on the brain (Dweck, 2006). In contrast, in a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intellect or aptitude, are simply fixed traits. They believe that talent or inherent ability alone creates success. When students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. Children at The Academies will come to learn that intelligence is not a fixed characteristic and that all people share potential for learning and growth.
Each student will learn that regardless of past successes or failures, socio-economic status, or family culture, they all share the same capacity for learning and growth. High achievers will understand that their ability is developed, and will learn the value of effort and understand that failures should not threaten their sense of intelligence. Low achieving students will learn that through hard work and application of appropriate strategies, they too can find success and will be encouraged by embracing mistakes as opportunities to grow (With Math I Can, 2016). Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity and fosters a love of learning and resilience, affective elements that are essential for great accomplishment (Blackwell, 2002). It is critical to creating learning-oriented behavior and attitudes in order to equip children to persevere through challenge.
Children at our schools will learn to embrace, even seek, challenge, and to celebrate making mistakes while persevering through obstacles. Students will be able to focus on improvement instead of worrying about how smart they are. Students who possess a growth mindset show greater motivation in school, better grades, and higher test scores (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007). More importantly, this shift in understanding how our brains work can empower staff and students alike to approach challenges and obstacles in their everyday lives with an expectation that perseverance promises success.
Good parents rear their children to become independent adults. Similarly, the Charter School’s philosophy and practices are designed to engender the development of independent thinking and learning within our scholars. Life-long learners are necessarily independent learners. We believe the best way to develop independence in students is to provide them with a variety of lesson types/structures. Over-reliance on any one lesson type, particularly “explicit, direct instruction” promotes reinforcement of deductive reasoning and expectation of learning to come from an external source (such as a teacher, text). The Academies' teachers are equipped through professional development to be curriculum designers and lesson-planners so they can provide a variety of learning experiences to foster growth and the development of a wide range of thinking skills.
“What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community.
Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” -Dewey, 1916