Learning By Doing

Thursday, July 25, 2013 - By: David McCarthy

The 2012-13 academic year was an exciting one for many reasons. The opening of the new Centre for Art and Humanities was, of course, the major change with both students and teachers eager to experience this state-of-the-art facility. The learning spaces proved to be everything we had hoped for and more. Beautifully crafted and spacious rooms were augmented by flexible furniture that facilitated a variety of classroom set-ups. Collaborative and dynamic are perhaps the best words to describe the teaching and learning modes that this building promotes.

With the closing of the old classroom block, the English and Mathematics Departments were also given an upgrade to better and more spacious accommodation on the top floor of the Ross building. Teachers here also noticed the positive difference that these spaces made to their teaching compared to the cramped and static rooms of the outdated annex.

In the fall, our strategic planning process included a task force to explore the best practices in contemporary teaching with a view to making informed and forward-thinking decisions in the years to come. This involved a highly energized and collaborative group of faculty who researched a wide spectrum of topics and enjoyed the collegiality of sharing their findings. Among some of the key trends in modern education is the idea of “STEM” which stands for a merging of Science, Technology and Mathematics. Applying science and mathematics to real life situations and incorporating technology is one way of bringing out the best in students in terms of divergent thinking and collaborative problem solving.

This year also saw the inception of a robotics elective taught by Mr. Wardrop, a class that demonstrated how engaging these kinds of learning opportunities are for students. The other new prong in this direction was Mr. Doehler’s senior engineering elective in the arts afternoons, a class that builds on the junior creative science program and allows students to design individualized projects. Providing opportunities for students to learn by doing rather than simply listening or watching and, at the same time, be creative in their approach to these sorts of activities, is likely to be a theme moving forward. Next year, for example, we are offering Law 12, an elective that will be taught using a variety of techniques, including simulated trials and debates. Debate coach Neil Bryant will be assisted by practicing lawyer Mrs. Robin Gage who will join the classes once per week to add her expertise and experience.

It was a pleasure this year for me to observe many teachers in action, particularly in the social studies and mathematics departments. This was part of a professional growth process that will see one department each term given extra focus in terms of classroom observation, professional growth and collegial discussions. In this way we hope to stimulate a lively conversation at the department level regarding teaching practices and curriculum. Guarding against complacency, promoting a culture of openness and a mindset towards constant improvement are vital to providing the best experience for our students within the classroom.

Mr. David McCarthy, Director of Academics

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