How to Cultivate a Positive Progressive Learning Environment

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How to Cultivate a Positive Progressive Learning Environment

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cultivate learning environment

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How to Cultivate a Positive Progressive Learning Environment
January 17, 2018

Oliverian School cultivates a positive, progressive learning environment by maintaining a low student-faculty ratio, accommodating students individually, and fostering a classroom culture in which experimentation is encouraged and mistakes lead to learning experiences.

At Oliverian School, our mission is to help teens find their places in the world. For us, that starts with the cultivation and maintenance of a positive, progressive learning environment.

An extremely low student-faculty (approximately 1:1.2) allows us to give students the highly individualized support they need without defaulting to rigid external structure. The result? Meaningful personal relationships between faculty members and students that allow for highly customized, adaptive educational plans for every individual. We help our students discover how they learn best, rather than teaching them a prescribed way of learning that may not be right for them.

Making Productive Mistakes

One of the most important things we do here at Oliverian is encourage our students to take risks — and give them space to fail. Our faculty members function a bit like gymnastics spotters — we’re not there to prevent every instructive misstep, but to prevent disastrous fails and guide our students toward better outcomes in the future.

Our disciplinary policy follows the same logic: behavioral mistakes should facilitate learning and inform better future choices.

For instance, say a student damages school property. Instead of simply prescribing punishment, we’d be more inclined to set him or her up with the maintenance staff to help repair the physical damage. That’s a win-win — the property is restored and the student not only faces the harm she’s caused directly, but atones for it in a collaborative manner that reminds her of the community she’s a part of. Similarly, if the damage is relational, we work with students to engage those they have hurt and restore those relationships. Rather than simply mete out a predetermined, unrelated punishment, we might gather a group of those affected and initiate an honest, open discussion. This fosters communication between the offended and the offender, rather than creating silos where hurt feelings and misunderstandings can fester.

Individualized Education

Every student has a unique learning style. That’s why we strive to create an environment that encourages differences — not one that prizes a predetermined paradigm of success. Oliverian’s 1.2:1 student-faculty ratio means our teachers aren’t simply standing in front of a classroom lecturing — each also functions as a mentor and role model (inside and outside the classroom) for the students they work to counsel, coach, and educate. In keeping with our commitment to fostering a family environment, our teachers are committed not just to helping students achieve academic excellence, but providing a breadth of experience and understanding that motivates dynamic young adults.

For us, the goal is to have a class full of front-row learners — eager and excited by the subject at hand because they’ve been given the resources and space to understand its value.

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