Personalized Instruction is one of the hallmarks of a Summit education. We tailor instruction to each individual so every graduate walks away with the tools needed to succeed in college and an understanding of how to continue learning as they face the challenges of a changing world.
The founding sisters of Notre Dame de Namur believed that teachers deliver the best education by developing a personal insight into each individual student. That ideal, which dates back to our founding in 1890, is the essence of Personalized Instruction. Through continuous professional development, innovative teaching methods based on the latest science, state-of-the-art technology and a commitment to the standards of a Notre Dame education, our faculty helps each child develop to their fullest potential.
Our approach to Personalized Learning is organic because it requires teachers to adapt, often on the spot in the middle of a lesson, to each child’s innate interests, skills and learning styles. Our approach is systematic because it sets measurements and reviews into motion that guarantee children progress through our stringent curriculum. Our approach is eclectic, because it combines a number of time-tested techniques with new scientific research on how the brain functions.
Personalized Learning techniques endeavor to teach students how to learn through their entire educational process. Here is a snapshot of some of the methods which guide every Summit student into developing life-long learning habits:
- Learning Styles are a focus in all the grades because of ongoing professional development on learning techniques and brain science. Research indicates only 10% of the population fits the traditional teacher/lecturer and student/listener learning style. Teachers adapt their lesson plans to meet the needs of all seven types of intelligence: spatial, linguistic, logical, kinesthetic, rhythmic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. In Middle and Upper School, students are taught to recognize their own learning styles so they can adopt the study techniques that help them best learn.
- Inquiry-based instruction encourages students to take charge of their own learning. When the students direct their own learning activities, they have a greater personal investment in learning outcomes while having more fun in the process. In the third grade, students may pick their own social-studies research topic from the curriculum rather than being assigned one. In fourth- or sixth-grade science classes, students may devise their own theories and develop methods of proving whether they are right or wrong. High school students are involved in a Senior Search project which allows them to explore a topic of interest beyond the basic curriculum.
- The Montessori Program places an emphasis on letting children learn the curriculum on their own. For example, in the 2-year-old Toddler Program, students choose what task to learn by picking projects from a shelf. Eventually, they learn all the tasks, but giving them this active role directs them down the road to becoming independent learners. We believe as Dr. Maria Montessori did that learning is a natural, self-directed process. A child’s spontaneous desire for goal-directed activity, intellectual development, thirst for knowledge and academic achievement emerges when their environment is committed to observation, individual liberty and preparation.
- In the Lower School, pre-assessment and post-assessment testing in math and reading identify how much students know as they progress through the curriculum. This testing allows teachers and their assistants to divide students into various skills groups so they can undertake more advanced work in some strands of the curriculum or review other topics. Reading skills tests offers the first substantial evidence of children’s learning styles. Taking notice of each student’s personal interests is a third element of how teachers in Grades 1-4 help students become more interested in learning.
- Middle School students are assigned to formal Advisement groups in which one faculty member becomes their personal advocate and mentor each year as they explore character development, study skills and academics. The Advisement process guarantees that no child falls through the cracks. Students know there is one adult in the building devoted to their personal success -- a person they can turn to when they need help. We believe that learning how to ask for help is a key milestone in developing a habit for life-long learning.
- Upper School school students can select from a broad range of Advanced Credit classes which tap into their personal aspirations. Formal writing, oratory and leadership programs allow students to explore self expression and take their personal interests to the next level.
Our approach to Personalized Instruction has created a cooperative and innovative learning environment for our faculty which, in turn, produces measurable academic success for our students. Our teachers continually identify changing circumstances and seek out best practices to address change. We expect each and every graduate who walks out our door to keep learning. We expect no less of ourselves.
To learn more about Personalized Instruction at The Summit, read a series of stories this special report in The Summit magazine: "Understanding Each Child," "Tailoring Instruction in the Lower School," "21st Century Skills in the Classroom" and "Learning Styles." Read online now.