Wednesday, February 3, 2016


A friend of mine who moved from London to the north of England put her daughter into the local village school.  There were 2 classes, what we would call in England the "infants" class from ages 5 - 7 and the "junior" class from ages 8 - 11.  Both classes involved mixed age teaching.  My friend's daughter is now about to embark upon her Ph.D.  An early education in a "micro-school" clearly worked for her.

In last month's R&D meeting we discussed micro-schools - not really schools set up by themselves but more the concept of a "school within a school".  We discussed how a micro-school could be one way of testing new ideas about personalizing learning.  A micro-school is one that would serve less than 153 students (the magical Dunbar's number, mentioned in a previous post) as research has shown that when a school gets beyond 150 students it becomes difficult for adults to keep track of individual students.  In a micro-school learning is mainly student-led, with students given more power to determine how they spend their time.  Teachers in such schools are most definitely the "guides on the side", managing a wide variety of learning styles in a community of learners where students are free to follow their interests and curiosities and where they have autonomy and ownership over their work.

Although all micro-schools vary, there are a number of commonalities, including the push to make learning more authentic.  The focus is on interdisciplinary learning, customized for each child, where students construct their knowledge and skills through inquiry. Today's micro-schools use technology to capture data on student progress, and so can easily evaluate what each student is learning, and at the same time many of these schools empower the students to collaboratively create and define the standards of the class.  These schools generally focus on one project at a time, and allow students to go through several iterations of the projects when creating and redefining their work.

Research into micro-schools brought us to The Future of School website, where there are posts about creating tiny schools.  The following quotation is taken from the article about micro-schools:
Obsolescence - not brokenness - is the problem.  We need to explore entirely new methods of organizing our schools, distilling what the most important role for schools might be instead of heaping ever more requirements on an old model.
At our R&D meeting we started discussing what a micro-school would look like, based on the school within a school model.  We looked at The Innovation Academy at the American School of Lima in Peru, and we made a very early start on ideating what a micro-school could be like in our community. Watch out for future updates as we continue this work.

Photo Credit: peaceful-jp-scenery via Compfight cc

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