Have you ever heard of Paideia? My school is a Paideia Magnet School. Our staff spent the first two days of our Spring Break in our third professional development workshop as we implement the program.
Paideia is an educational philosophy of active learning based on three columns of instruction – didactic, coaching, and seminar. With roots in ancient Greece, it is based on the work of philosopher Mortimer Adler. Didactic instruction (10-15% of instructional time) delivers the “must know” information. Coaching (60-70%) helps students practice and gain mastery of learning, thinking , and life skills. Seiminar (15-20%) is a Socratic discussion that is designed to foster growth in students’ conceptual understanding. The overall goal is a holistic education that leads to life-long learning.
So what does it really mean in daily practice at our school? We are trying to use less didactic instruction (lecture, reading textbooks, teacher-centered presentation) and more intellectual coaching instructional strategies- focused on student practice of skills needed to learn). We have added seminar as a teaching method. In our recent workshop, we focused on the Paideia Project (which focuses on the Coaching instructional strategies) and made plans for the first project for our classrooms to be completed before the end of this year.
In a seminar, students read a text and discuss the ideas and values it contains. We practice having a discussion guided by open-ended questions. We acknowledge ideas of others, express agreement/disagreement and give reasons, and work toward individual and group goals. We are seated in a circle and look at each speaker. We address each other by name during the discussion. The teacher’s role is facilitator, guiding the discussion with questions and taking notes. The students are the participants.
In a recent seminar, the text was Little Red Hen. In the opening question all students agreed the Little Red Hen should not have shared since none of her friends helped. During the discussion, they talked about the idea “no work, no food” in colonial America and exceptions to the rule they thought would be fair. At the end, about half of the group said if it were their “bff” they would share even if they did not help. They planned a follow-up writing, “If I Were The Little Red Hen.”
The Paideia Project is a unit of study that leads to a student product or performance for an audience. I worked with a third grade teacher to plan a poetry project. Our culminating project will be a powerpoint presentation, with parents and school staff invited, in which each student’s poem and illustration will be viewed- and the student’s recorded reading of the poem will be heard. Students will also invite a staff member to come individually to view just his/her own poem.
It is difficult to sum up a broad program in one slice. You can view this promotional video from the National Paideia Center to learn more about Paideia and see it in action.