Education Week recently highlighted an increasing trend in private education, called Micro-schools. Harkening back to the early concept of the one-room schoolhouse, Micro-schools intentionally promote small class size to provide an environment where students and teachers know each other well and where flexibility in learning modalities is a given. These small schools specialize in hands-on and project-based learning and community collaboration.
Cross-grade and cross-curriculum groups can form and sustainability and minimal environmental impact is realized through the more efficient use of available resources. For example, using a town or city as a living classroom can lower the tuition cost to a more manageable standard than seen in the traditional independent school. Michael Horn, a co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, a think tank focusing on disruptive innovation, says "This is the first innovation in the private system in the U.S. in a long time.”
What are the benefits of the small classroom?
In a micro-school, teachers understand the learning style of each student and respond with tailored lessons and homework designed to achieve personalized goals. Students are encouraged to follow a passion, a new interest, or to dig deeper. The transformed structure of the classroom supports:
- Deeper learning through more discussion
- Less lecture and hands-on exploration and research
- Longer class periods focused on fewer subject areas
- Online and experiential learning allowing the student to individualize study
Why is belonging to a community important?
Teachers and students develop collaborative relationships built on respect which fosters the building of a community of support among peers and with adults. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning both in the classroom and beyond. Clubs form through student interest and leadership, and students recommend speakers, events, and activities they feel will enhance their lives.
As Markus Hunt, of the Logan School for Creative Learning, says, "When students drive the content and use inquiry and reflection to set the course, amazing things happen.” Micro-schools are setting a standard of innovation among independent schools, and amazing things are going on in education.