In order to help educators and youth workers meet students’ fundamental needs for belonging, autonomy, and competence as well as physical and psychological safety, our programs must:
Set high expectations for all children.
Our programs are designed to be both challenging and supportive, and sufficiently flexible to meet each child’s particular needs. Why? Like adults, children vary with respect to strengths, talents, and interests. But it is critical that all of them be actively encouraged, and helped, to become as knowledgeable, thoughtful, principled, and caring as possible.
Provide important and engaging learning opportunities.
With our programs, we strive to create learning opportunities that, because they are simultaneously important and engaging, build children’s intrinsic motivation and love of learning as they prepare them for the road ahead. Why? All students need learning opportunities that are important—that help them build the skills, knowledge, and commitments they will need to fulfill their later roles and responsibilities. At the same time, those learning opportunities must be engaging—that is, they must connect to students’ personal concerns and current interests, so that they will have purpose and meaning.
Create a caring community of learners.
Our programs are designed to create school and after-school communities, and thereby to provide the close relationships that are prerequisites to learning, and the experience of supporting and being supported by the community’s other members. Why? Children need to be part of “a caring community of learners”—to experience being a valued, influential contributor to a group that is dedicated to the well being of all its members.
So that our programs will be feasible and effective when implemented, we put great effort into shaping them so that they:
Systematically scaffold teachers’ learning.
We deliberately structure and sequence our programs to guide teachers’ learning as well as students’ learning. This enables us to help inexperienced as well as veteran teachers to become proficient in the use of increasingly complex teaching methods. The methods and patterns of instruction in our programs build in complexity and depth across the school year, as well as from lower to higher grade levels.
Assist the principal in providing effective leadership.
We believe that meaningful school change takes a great deal of effort, time, and support, and that the principal’s leadership is key to establishing a shared vision, modeling the values, and mobilizing the resources necessary for effective implementation. Our programs provide various tools that help principals to effectively lead, support, and monitor the program implementation process.
Tightly align our instructional materials with our professional development services.
We carefully fashion our program materials and professional development services to be seamlessly integrated. Our professional development is provided by educators who themselves are experienced, skilled implementers of our programs. Our workshops and follow-up visits provide both conceptual and practical guidance, and they incorporate opportunities for faculty members to participate actively in refining their own practice.