You have probably heard the phrase “Knowledge is power.” Obtaining the knowledge is unquestionably important, but at Visitation Academy, we believe educating our young women involves more than just giving them the information they need to pass an exam. The true power lies in possessing the skills necessary to analyze what has been learned, think about it critically, and apply it creatively. At Viz, we are committed to an approach to education that blends traditional knowledge-based learning with skills-based learning opportunities, preparing each student for success in higher education as well as the global society of tomorrow.
Learning by Doing
Traditional education has historically followed a knowledge-based approach. The concept is simple: the instructor has the information and is responsible for delivering it to the students within a given timeframe. Later, an exam is given that determines how much information the students retained.
There is definite value in this approach, however, as a stand-alone teaching method, it falls short. Viz takes the traditional knowledge-based approach and integrates skills-based learning opportunities throughout the curriculum to close the gap. Skills-based approaches are all about getting students active and engaged in what they are learning. Rather than asking them to retain and regurgitate information, a skills-based approach fosters hands-on, experiential learning. At Viz, this includes:
- Our Makerspace, a dedicated laboratory of inquiry where makers, designers, food scientists, movie producers, and coders are able to design solutions to real-world challenges. The possible applications of this space are limitless. As part of a music maker project, students in our eighth grade learned the physics of sound, drew orthographic designs of instruments, solved problems, engineered multiple iterations, and ultimately created functional instrument prototypes using upcycled materials.
- Field trips which give students the opportunity to personally engage with the information they have learned from textbooks. A perfect example of this at Viz is the annual trip to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont where students apply the scientific method learned as part of the earth science curriculum.
- Peer editing, which gives students practice collaborating with their classmates to improve a project or writing sample.
Students at Viz also have ample opportunity to become confident leaders as they are able to fill every leadership role. Not only do they get to participate in leadership opportunities more often, but they are also able to see wonderful examples of girls fulfilling other duties successfully.
Blending Knowledge and Skills
Our educational philosophy at Visitation Academy is deeply rooted in helping students, “Be who you are and be that well.” Viz combines a rich blend of skills-based techniques – that help students interact with the material – with traditional knowledge-based assessments (quizzes, tests, oral presentations) and less conventional assessments (projects, presentations, observations, written reflections, peer evaluation, journal writing) to ensure they continue progressing in their education. Our educators work with students to develop a strong knowledge base, then as facilitators of group projects and activities, they coach students as they practice valuable life skills.
We believe the skills our students gain from this approach build character and contribute to the overall portrait of a Viz grad. These include:
- Communication and collaboration with their peers
- Critical thinking that brings new ideas to the table
- Confidence in their ability to achieve their goals