Every system is perfectly  designed to get the results it gets, or so the saying goes. What if we were to design a system around the overarching goal of individual growth?

That’s the question Doris Korda, CEO of The Korda Institute and a member of our leadership team, challenged us to explore during our design team retreat last week. The retreat brought our Core Design team together for the first time in person.

We’ll be interviewing the members of the team on the Redesigning High School podcast summer series, “Meet the Team.” I’m looking forward to all of you getting to know them as I have over the last few weeks, months, and in some cases, years. It’s an extraordinary privilege to work with such a thoughtful, multidisciplinary team of people who are committed to building something in a deeply collaborative way.

We were also lucky enough to spend two days with the Expanded Design Team, a group of Upper School faculty who joined us in exploring what it would look like to design learning experiences around student growth. Along the way, we grappled with questions like:

  • What is the purpose of having Mastery Credit Areas?
  • Are there some things that we value deeply, but don’t believe we can ethically measure?
  • What’s the difference between the learning terrain and the assessment model?
  • And what the heck do we mean by terms like “academic” and “curriculum,” anyway?
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When you’re building a new model of school, there’s lots to think about and plenty of things to worry about. Sometimes the most important thing is figuring out what to worry about. It sounds funny to say it that way, but it’s really just an indicator of your strategic thinking.

By the end of our five days together, we had figured out a lot about what matters most. Instead of thinking narrowly about disciplines, or thinking abstractly about qualities like “curiosity,” by the end of the five days we had converged on core areas of measurable skills in which we want all students to learn and grow, such as citizenship, critical thinking, communication, and creative problem-solving.

And we’d taken one more step — an important one, I believe – down the road of building the Mastery School.

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Julia Griffin

Julia Griffin

I'm the Director of the Mastery School of Hawken, and I was born in New Hampshire, love yoga, Shakespeare, Thai food, The Office, and seeing new places. I studied political theory at Harvard University (A.B. 2003) and went on to grad school at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, spending most of my time studying global literature and theater. Along with John Dewey, I believe that “education is a process of living, not a preparation for future living,” and I’ve always learned more by getting actively involved than by sitting and listening. As an educator, my goal is to help all students discover and cultivate their unique strengths in order to make a difference in their community.

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