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Academic Blog

Academic Vision Update

We are excited to share our first post of the year in our ongoing series to keep the community informed of our progress towards Derryfield’s new Academic Vision and schedule, which will be implemented in the fall of 2019. Click here for our final post last year and click here for the Academic Vision.

Just a few weeks ago, from Tuesday, September 25 to Friday, September 28, Roxanne Higgins of Independent School Management, a consulting firm based in Wilmington, DE, visited Derryfield. While here she spoke with over 50 people, including students, teachers, parents, and administrators. These interviews supplemented over 200 pages of documents she had received from the school in June. Then on the faculty professional development day (Sept 28), she presented her research, observations of Derryfield, and three schedule models for us to ponder and discuss in the weeks ahead.

Although the models vary in terms of class length, frequency of meeting, and transition time, all three are based on key areas of research from ISM, which include the concepts of deep learning, homework, memory, reflection, flexibility, assessment, and wellbeing. In sharing this research Roxanne was drawing on the work ISM has done with 4,500 independent schools since 1975. She covered key scheduling myths concerning time and student learning and focused our attention on the best ways to meet the goals of our Academic Vision, including more real-world problem solving, the development of 21st century skills, individual pathways, and our new Advanced Topics courses. She summarized the key ideas with the following:
  • People learn best through experience and discovery.
  • Education should be more than just disseminating facts; it should prepare learners to be critical thinkers and thoughtful citizens.
  • Multiple styles of learning are needed to address the diversity of intelligences, talents and learning styles. Teachers must educate “the whole child.”
  • Classrooms need to include engagement (reflection, student-directed learning, student-centered and project-based learning, and personalization).
More recently, on our second faculty professional development day, held Tuesday October 9, teachers and administrators carefully analyzed each new schedule model in light of three key areas - academics, student life, and afterschool opportunities. The work is challenging and complex. How do we keep the best of what Derryfield has always offered - strong teacher/student relationships, rigorous college preparation, and a caring community - while combining it with the best of what’s new - preparation for a rapidly changing world, opportunities for passion pursuit and development, and the science of deep learning. In addition, how do we best take advantage of the new Science & Innovation and Athletic & Wellness Centers due for completion in November 2019?

The hard work of deciding a schedule is now upon us and will be the focus of faculty and administrative time in the weeks ahead. It will involve student and parent input along the way, so please look for opportunities to get involved, as these are exciting times for Derryfield, and we welcome everyone’s input.

Brent Powell and Lindley Shutz
Deans of Academic Program
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The Derryfield School

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