Learning experiences that inspire and engage.
We believe that education must be experiential, must nurture interdependence, and must enable all members of each generation to develop the judgment necessary to take responsibility for: the conduct of their lives, the shaping of their societies, and their participation in global issues.
We believe that judgment is the integration of knowledge, skills, and standards of ethical behavior guiding decisions, commitment, and action.
- Because you need to move to Proficiency or Competency-based learning but you don’t know how and you absolutely don’t love what you’re being given by the big textbook companies.
- Because you want to do the Maker thing- but you’re not quite sure what that means or how you do it.
- Because you want to apply Design Thinking to your classroom practice, but it feels too big, too hard, or too confusing.
- Because you suspect (or you know) that you’re working harder than your students- and that’s not your vision for powerful teaching and learning.
Whether you start with the Immersion or Institute, an online course, a graduate certificate, or the full MEd Program, the Critical Skills Classroom offers you a set of powerful tools that improve teaching and learning for students and teachers.
The Critical Skills Classroom is a comprehensive model that creatively and effectively integrates four powerful teaching methodologies into a coherent strategy:
- Collaborative Learning
- Experiential Learning
- Problem-Based Learning
- Standards-Driven Learning
These come together in the creation and use of thoughtfully designed and connected challenges Teachers and students then simultaneously and intentionally:
- Build and sustain a strong, supportive classroom learning community
- Target the curriculum in ways that provide both a depth of understanding and meaningful learning
- Develop the critical skills and fundamental dispositions
- Meet or exceed the demands of district and state frameworks and standards
The Critical Skills Classroom is a mindset, a way of teaching and learning that supports a wide array of methods and approaches including:
- STEM/ STEAM
- Maker Movement
- Career and Technical Education
- College and Career Readiness
- International Baccalaureate
- Social- Emotional Learning
- Differentiated Instruction
- Performance Task Design and Implementation
- Designing real-world learning experiences
- Shaping safe, collaborative classroom and school cultures
- Integrating critical skill development with content learning
- Implementing competency-based assessment practices
- Achieving substantive and compelling learning for students
Our program faculty and staff are experienced teachers and leaders with significant experience and success in implementing Critical Skills in their own classrooms. They have not only completed advanced Critical Skills and leadership training, but also meet regularly to reflect on the CSC as contexts evolve, updating tools, processes, and materials to reflect the current realities of teaching. The Critical Skills Classroom has been teacher-created and teacher-led since 1985.
The Critical Skills were identified through an extensive and unique collaboration among educators, business people, government officials, and community leaders. The work of this task force was to examine and articulate the skills critical for success to meet the many demands in today’s complex and ever-changing world. These Critical Skills and Fundamental Dispositions are the skills needed by all graduates from our schools and should be a classroom focus, alongside the subject matter, at all grade levels.
- Problem Solving
- Decision Making
- Critical Thinking
- Creative Thinking
- Self Direction
- Curiosity and Wonder
Challenges are learning experiences that pose a problem for students to solve as individuals, in small groups, or as a full learning community. They create the need to know—allowing students to develop and apply their knowledge/understanding, demonstrate skills/dispositions, attend to their process, and see the big picture that makes the work worth doing.
Critical Skills Master Teacher Bill Vinton explains the design and facilitation of his Massing the Universe Challenge (High School Physics)
The trial of John Brown (Elementary Social Studies)
Name that Rock! (Elementary Science)
Amending the Bill of Rights (Middle School Social Studies)
Collaborative Writing (Middle School English)
Imperialism (High School Social Studies)
French Verb Tenses – Past tense (High School World Languages)
A Critical Skills Classroom has nine notable characteristics- elements that can be seen in successful classrooms throughout the country and created by design in a Critical Skills Classroom.
- Students frequently work as a team.
- Students actively solve meaningful problems.
- Students publicly exhibit their learning.
- Students reflect on what they are learning and doing.
- Students apply quality criteria to their work.
- Teachers mediate, coach, and support the learning process.
- Targeted learning results guide to culture, curriculum, and assessment.
- Work is interconnected.
- Students take responsibility for and ownership of their learning and for the classroom community.
Students at River Valley Technical Center in Springfield, VT share their experiences with the CSC.
- Students Work as a Team
- Students Solve Problems
- Students Exhibit Their Learning
- Students Reflect
- Quality Criteria (Assessment)
- Teachers Coach
- Targeted Skills & Dispositions
- Interconnection of Work
- Student Ownership of Learning
- Frequently work as learning teams and groups
- Actively solve academic problems, scenarios, and real-world problems
- Make public presentations and exhibitions of their learning
- Systematically reflect on what they are doing and learning
- Focus on standards of quality for their work
- Take shared responsibility and ownership of their learning and for the classroom community
- Model, guide, coach and support the learning process
- Design learning activities that are carefully connected and built on one another
- Incorporate targeted learning standards to guide the classroom culture, curriculum, and assessment