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Approach to Education

Integrated Academics

Since its inception, Giddens School’s approach to teaching and learning has been steeped in the educational philosophy promoted by John Dewey and commonly referred to as progressive education. Progressive education is grounded by the following tenets:

  • respect for diversity and a commitment that each individual should be seen for their ideas, interests, needs, and identities, and
  • the development of a critical stance that allows individuals to participate fully and intelligently in a democracy.

Schools that adhere to a progressive philosophy prepare children to become citizens who fully participate in democratic institutions and ways of life. They do this by attending to the development of children’s intellect and also to their social and emotional development. Progressive educators understand children as whole beings that need support, care, and challenge to thrive in all the ways they are able. In short, progressive education focuses on the whole child and the development of that child to become a productive citizen in a democracy,

The Three Pillars

While grounded in progressive philosophy, over the past 40 years Giddens has adapted the tenets of progressive education to reflect the most up-to-date innovations in curriculum and pedagogy. At Giddens, our academic approach is grounded in three core pillars that support excellence in learning.

  • We prepare students with deep knowledge and understanding of the core content areas of schooling: mathematics, science, social studies, and literacy. Additionally, the process of learning to learn is central at Giddens. We support students to understand who they are as learners so that they can advocate for themselves.
  • We support social and emotional learning by working with students to develop their own understanding of who they are in relation to learning, to their communities, and to the world.
  • We engage students to understand the world through a social justice lens. This lens provides Giddens students with guideposts for understanding and actively participating in a democratic society.

This is an integrated academic approach. None of these three pillars stand alone at Giddens. They are not separate pieces of a pie, but rather the weft and the warp that is woven by teachers and students as they collaborate to learn.

Collaboration and Learning

Collaboration is key. Learning at Giddens is not a teacher standing up in the front of a classroom and imparting knowledge to students. Nor is it students deciding on their own what or how they should learn. It is a collaboration of a particular kind. Teachers with expertise about content and student development intentionally orchestrate learning tasks for individual students and groups of children. Teacher decisions about instruction in this way are intended to stretch children without overwhelming them. It’s also the collaboration between students and their teacher. It’s a teacher learning about students –who they are, what they want to learn, how they learn—and organizing curriculum in ways that engage students fully –in ways that help students feel seen inside of the everyday learning of classrooms. It is also the collaboration between students and students. All learning takes place in a social context and student-to-student interaction, problem solving together, challenging each other, and talking about what they are learning is fundamental to providing the highest quality contexts for learning. Relationships between teachers and students and students and students are at the heart of productive, thriving learning environments at Giddens.

Progressive education grounds our work at Giddens. Always at the center of our decisions is the perspective that we are educating the whole child—all of who a child is and can be. Always at the center of our decisions is the perspective of how we support students to be and become citizens who actively engage in advocating for themselves and others. Always at the center of our decisions it the perspective of what do students need to know about the content in order to engage intellectually in school and beyond.