What is an Intellectual Virtues Education?
The goal of an intellectual virtues educational model is to foster meaningful growth in the personal qualities of a good thinker or learner: curiosity, wonder, attentiveness, open-mindedness, creativity, intellectual tenacity, and related traits. Intellectual virtues are sometimes referred to as “habits of mind,” “thinking dispositions,” or “non-cognitive skills,” and include grit and persistence.
Teaching for intellectual virtues is not an alternative to teaching rigorous academic content. Rather, rigorous content provides an opportunity for teachers to foster intellectual character growth. The Academy's curriculum is closely aligned with the recently adopted Common Core State Standards. Our teachers approach the curriculum thoughtfully and reflectively so that students may develop a deep understanding of the material and practice good thinking, while mastering the standards.
The Academy’s focus on intellectual character transforms the typical teacher-student interaction, student-student interaction, and even teacher-teacher interaction. Our model encourages discussion, argument, deep conceptual understanding, and metacognition -- the ability to decide when and how to use a particular problem-solving strategy. Our intellectual virtues model also determines our homework (home learning) and grading policies.
Education researchers have identified a range of methods and strategies that, when properly employed, are effective at promoting intellectual and other types of development. We recognize that students learn in a variety of different ways and at different rates. Therefore, Academy teachers make skillful use of differentiated and personalized instruction to develop and deliver curriculum that is accessible to heterogeneous groups of students.
Instructional Strategies Include:
Creating a “Culture of Thinking”: Teachers and students alike are free and encouraged to wonder, ask questions, and pursue their curiosities. Moreover, students respond to and further develop what others in the group have said, requiring knowledge that is accurate and relevant to the issue under discussion. This gives students daily opportunities to “practice” intellectual virtues as they master standards‐based core content.
Project‐Based Learning: Teachers use well‐designed, well‐supported, and carefully monitored projects across different core subject areas. Students are engaged by being provided authentic, real‐world application that promote a deeper grasp and thoughtful application of important knowledge.
Socratic Dialogue: A spontaneous but structured “Q&A” approach to instruction is an effective way of getting students to introspect and discover knowledge for themselves.
Focused Direct Instruction: This focused approach to direct instruction is an important and powerful means of conveying and connecting students with important knowledge. It builds their foundation for curiosity and wonder across all disciplines. This practice also hones the note‐taking, call and response skills of students, as they develop as thinkers and learners.