What do an elementary school and a medical school have in common? I wrote the Trinity’s administrator blog post this week and it’s cross-posted here.
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” –John Dewey
In the Administrator Blog Post last week, Emilie Henry beautifully describes the environment in which Trinity children learn. She writes, “Our mission is to enable children to achieve their unique potential—our goal is to do this in a nurturing environment that encourages exploration, creativity, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, play, and curiosity, all skills that will prepare our students for success throughout their lives.” As I walk the hallways of Trinity, I am reminded that the School’s position as an elementary-only environment does not preclude “real-life” or “real-world” learning from taking place. This fact was only made more evident when I received my alma mater’s alumni magazine in the mail last month which included the article entitled Adjusting the Prescription: University of Virginia’s School of Medicine Overhauls its Century-Old Educational Approach.
What do a medical school and an elementary school have in common? More than you may initially think. The UVA medical students in the Class of 2014 are undergoing a learning experience that is radically different from that of previous generations. With a new medical education building, upgraded curriculum, and innovative technology, these students are being offered a learning experience like very few in this country.
I feel the same way about what Trinity currently offers our students as well as the School’s vision for the future. Trinity children – whether they are three years old or twelve years old – are being offered a learning experience like very few in this country.
Cooperative Learning: The Medical School’s “Learning Studio” is a radical departure from the lecture halls of the past. The large circular room with tables houses 155 first-year medical students, and Randolph Canterbury, Senior Associate Dean of Education, explains that “one of the goals of this whole model—of having students do a lot of the learning themselves rather than passively listening—is that they need to be lifelong learners.” In every classroom at Trinity, you will find only tables (no desks) and often you will see students working collaboratively on an art project, debating the best medium for a group presentation, or engaging in a cooperative learning task that requires problem solving and creativity. These tables require that students sit “eye to eye and knee to knee” in order to do the active learning that Dean Canterbury describes.
The Power of Reflection: UVA’s Medical Simulation Center is nationally recognized. While some may think the prestige lies in the six adult and two pediatric medical simulators (one of which costs $250,000), rather it is the Center’s focus on debriefing (or reflection) which is an essential component of the simulation experience. At Trinity, students are expected to not only master content but also understand their role as learners and the power of the learning process. One-on-one conferences during writer’s workshop, carefully planned friendship groups with our younger students, and a well-designed Trinity Advisory Process (TAP) provides our students with time to reflect on who they are as learners both in and outside of the classroom.
Active Engagement: Students in UVA’s Class of 2014 indicate that this new approach has made them feel less stressed and more engaged than their peers at other institutions. Tom Jenkins, a first-year student, explains, “The faculty really wants us to understand, not parrot back a lot of rote information…and I like the way everything meshes.” At Trinity, teachers place a premium on understanding. Students – whether they are in the hallway working in partnerships, in the technology lab grouped in small clusters with laptops, or sitting in the council ring in the ELD or ULD playground – are actively engaged in the learning process. They are exposed to countless opportunities for the worlds of art and science (or math and language arts) to collide, just as they do at UVA’s Medical School and in the world outside of the Trinity School gates.
Cooperative Learning. The Power of Reflection. Active Engagement. It’s easy to think that elementary education is merely preparation for secondary school or even college. However, I tend to agree with the educational philosophy of John Dewey and believe that education, even at the elementary level, is life itself.