“Every student is a genius who is destined to change the world,”
“Every student should be in charge of their own learning,"
“Asking great questions is far more important than regurgitating correct answers,”
“Learning to do, and learning to be, far outweigh learning to know.”
These are the beliefs of the Acton Academy school system, an innovative school system where students are called “heroes,” teachers are called “guides,” and classrooms are called, “studios.”
The original Action Academy was founded by Jeff and Laura Sandefer and is located in Austin, Texas. The Sandefers wanted a school system for their children that was innovative and was far removed from the public school systems that are presently employing the same practices that were developed by our founding fathers. Now, there are more than forty Action Academies.
The school’s philosophy is build upon the three beliefs as mentioned above and employs practices such as student-led learning, blended learning, apprenticeships, learning from experts in the field, and Socratic seminar. Using a multiage configuration, each year, the school poses a broad over-arching question and all learning is aligned to that question. A video of a day in the life at the founding Action Academy can be found here. Take a look at what innovation can look like. It is interesting and probably doable in the public school setting. There is flexibility. Can we handle that?
Each year, the school holds a Business Fair. The students create their own products and sell them at the fair. The video is so inspiring! You have to view it to listen to these students talk their experience. This is more than a craft show, folks!
This type of school system makes me question the model we currently have in place. Is there value in the present system? Are we measuring the value of our present system incorrectly?
When students at Action Academy are administered the SAT 10 they perform just as most multiage classrooms do: the students perform similar, if not better, and rarely worse than their peers.
When I listen to the little girl on the video say, “I’m learning more here because when teachers say it to you, you get really board easily, so you don’t listen a lot and whenever you learn on your own you do the process on your own so you, like, build that part of your brain.” I question the tool we are using to place a value on a system that isn’t teaching our students to be curious or encourages students to question the status quo.
I encourage you to reflect on the level of innovative practices in your educational setting. Maybe these three guiding questions will help:
- Who asks more questions in your school… the students or the teachers?
- What percentage of the day in your school is spent on practices that mimic the real world?
- To what extent is your school intentionally motivating your students to picture themselves as heroes?
Ask your colleagues these questions and post your answers in our comments. We would love to hear your thoughts!
Don’t forget to register for the Fall Institute with AJ Juliani. We’ll be focusing on this very topic!