Learning should be learner-centered
Sisu is built around the learner and her needs. Learners are active participants in their own learning and engaged in the design of their experiences. Learners have choice and voice in their educational experiences as they progress through competencies in ways appropriate for their developmental level. This approach increases intrinsic motivation to learn causing deeper, more meaningful learning to take place. We take this value seriously and put our money where our mouth is from the beginning. Only teachers and staff with a matching mindset are hired, we used the design thinking process to design SIsu with our first group of students, and we will continue to incorporate this value by filling a third of our board with learners. As you can see, learner voice is embedded in the core of our model.
Learning should be competency-based
As opposed to age or grade-based learning, in competency-based learning, each learner works toward competency & strives for mastery in the domains of knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Competency-based learning recognizes that all learners are unique & that different learners progress at different paces. The role of teacher shifts to one who guides, manage and supports the trajectory toward mastery. Assessments, both formative & summative, are utilized on a continuous basis to inform the learning and instructional strategy for each learner. Additional resources are provided to learners who need help to accelerate the pace of competency development. Learners will be active participants in knowing what they need to learn for each competency and when they are ready to move forward, thus owning their own learning.
Learning should be customized
We know that everyone has a unique set of strengths and challenges both academically and social-emotionally. At Sisu, we co-create customized learning pathways with each learner to build and grow her strengths as well as support her in areas of difficulty. Learning experiences integrate student interests, passions and academic needs, and offer enough flexibility for each learner to access what she needs in a way that fits her. This might mean she chooses what she learns, how she learns it or how she shows proof of her learning. Our flexible model along with extra time to learn in a boarding school model allows each learner to follow their own unique path.
Learning should be socially embedded
Although learning is customized for each learner, that doesn’t mean she is learning alone. We believe that learning should be rooted in meaningful relationships with family, peers, qualified adults, and community members and is grounded in community and social interaction. Independent exploration and practice; collaborative group work; structured, intentional instruction; and cooperative play, among other experiences, are integrated to develop learners’ competencies. Both peers and adults are recognized as integral partners in learning, and learners are encouraged to interact with those developing at different competency rates, from different backgrounds, and with different interests.
Learning should be relevant & contextualized
Learning at Sisu is rooted in real-world contexts and empower the learner to demonstrate his or her learning in a variety of authentic ways and settings. We know that learning important academic skills can be meaningful when planned carefully and with learners. As we grow as writers, you might see students publishing articles or books. Our girls might be growing as readers by teaching literacy classes to adults or reading to preschool students. We will learn science and design skills by actually getting out of the classroom to find and attempt to solve community and global needs. The on-campus farm, makerspace and business incubator provide additional opportunities to grow as empathetic innovators.
Learning should be open-walled
We know that learning can happen anywhere at anytime. Why aren’t we honoring and supporting those experiences at school? Piano lessons, sports, girl scouts, blogging...these are all valuable learning experiences that may not typically be recognized on a high school transcript. These out-of-school examples can be brought in and supported at Sisu as we find ways to incorporate learners’ talents and passions into the learning. We also break down the walls between subject areas by offering integrated learning experiences. Learners will not go to a language arts class or a biology class. Instead they will participate in wholistic projects that blur the subject lines. They might have a storytelling course where they study astronomy, myths, history, and practice narrative reading and writing. Or possibly a dream car course where learners build soapbox cars powered by solar energy, learning math, physics and engineering along the way.
Inspired by Education Reimagined's