The Path: A Systematic, Embedded, Technology-Infused
A. Introduction: The Path Academy
I’ve devised the general
framework for a curriculum that can be easily embedded into the daily schedule of any traditional high school. The purpose
of this approach is to make it practical to impose on a system and flexible enough so that it can grow with any system to
which it is added. It is a technology infused program that uses a systematized approach to student-centered learning. It is
well structured and balances both bottom-up and top down teaching methods and is always respectful of teachers and students
strengths and weaknesses.
The Path is a systematized, standards-based approach to project learning combining structured,
direct and constructivist theories of instruction and peer mentoring with the ultimate goal of developing individual and collective
paths to understanding.
· School-Within-A-School (SWAS) or Small Learning Community (SLC)
· Easily integrated
· Standards-based; run in accord with traditional curriculum
· Minimal financial cost to school community
· Flexible and adaptable to change
· Strong emphasis on technology and media
· Learning Plans (ILPS)
· Group oriented
· One day per week only
· Internships are encouraged
· Each Path group has a student leader,
student mentor, and faculty advisor
· Interdisciplinary: Math-Science, English-Social Studies; Art and Drama could be
involved in both sections
· Roll-out in 11th grade
· Alternative assessments agreed upon by teacher, student leader, student mentor,
and faculty advisor
· Projects must all be integrated into a website that features: independently gathered
text, graphics, and video. These websites can represent various entrance points to understanding such as: dance, animation,
drama, newscasts/journalism, literature, interactive games, puzzles, sculpture, fine arts, film, documentary, and sports.
B. How it Works
I think it best to start with one section. This would be
comprised of two 11th grade cohort classes which share the same period, preferably sections of English and Social
Studies. This could be taken from the Humanities framework, if one exists. At the
start of the year teachers in these classes and faculty advisors, about six should suffice, meet and prepare the basics of
the curriculum. The goal is to set aside each Friday for Path day. At the start
students are coached on the purpose and goals of project learning and given numerous potential projects as examples. They
are told that whatever they do must be integrated into a website and that some Path
days will be set aside for project coordination and DreamWeaver study.
Each class is divided into groups and members assigned positions
in the group. Later a senior student is selected to be a student advisor (as years pass, these advisors will be thoroughly
trained in the procedure because of participation in previous years). The group chooses a topic and outlines the plan including
time “checks." The teacher approves the plan and puts it on file. Students can modify the plan but its integrity must
be respected. It should be treated as a contract. Each Friday the group has set goals to achieve with the mentor’s help.
Every other Friday the faculty advisor is present to aid and assist groups with problems.
This framework is positioned for projects to intersect with
core subjects in a curriculum of discovery led by students’ natural curiosity. By this I mean that a list of potential
projects, maybe 30 or so, should be researched and then offered to the students. The students should also have the option
of submitting an independent project that could be approved by the team. All projects should have at least two subject area
components and also possess the possibility of interconnecting with more. These outcomes cannot be easily predicted and should
grow from the students’ own curiosity about how their project is affected by varying influences. For instance, a project
studying the history of the internal combustion engine could look at the science and mathematics of the engine, literature
written on the joy and danger of driving, as well as the social and environmental impact of automobiles. The core connections
for any well thought-out project can be numerous.
At the end of each four week period groups must present to
the class what they have accomplished and where they are going. All advisors and mentors should be present during these presentations.
The goal would be one major project per semester. The last week in the semester would be Path
Week and students would share finished projects with their classmate and instructors. Certain projects would be shared
with the school community.
C. Final Vision
I envision an interconnected school community of teachers,
students, administrators, and parents who meet to create coherent plans of practice with the execution of goals a primary
focus. This is a school community that carefully plans and sees the need for the “justified” use of technology.
It is rational in its desire to create expectations that are achievable through means which are provable. Staff works together
to teach all students and curriculum is led by existing standards which are “unpacked” into digestible clusters
that are utilized to ensure learners are hitting their marks.
These groups realize the changing demographics of school
populations and embrace the change by accepting the vibrancy of creative solutions. The learning community is dynamic and
is examined and observed at regular intervals. A type of ongoing grounded action that uses a research based operational theory
to formulate adjustments is a critical element of the school’s research procedures.
Finally, when a fully integrated system of research and learning
community planning exists which includes cogent use of technology and ongoing curriculum and pedagogical examination, my vision
will be complete, and hopefully, a school that serves and respects all its members and is grounded in scientific examination
while guided by its heart and soul will emerge.