Leeway has adopted a learner-centered curriculum by recognizing the needs and interests of students. Here are some of the principles that guide our community:
Learning is a life-long activity.
Human beings are naturally inquisitive. From the time we are infants, we seek to make sense of the world and are motivated to accomplish tasks “all by ourselves”. As we grow older, we can no longer rely on others to tell us when to learn or what is important to know – we have to figure it out ourselves. At Leeway, we think that people can this develop this self-direction at any age. We want everyone to retain their love of learning for the rest of their lives, not just until they go to college or find a career.
Everyone’s learning style should be valued.
While we all share a drive to learn, we don’t all walk the same path to get there. There is no one correct way to master a subject, fix a problem or gain insight. Learning something new can involve periods of working alone, listening to others, talking, playing with ideas, thinking quietly and having fun with our friends. But we all share a desire to grow and excel, which if nurtured, will last our whole lives, enabling us to learn everything we need to know to be successful adults.
People learn best when they design their own education.
Research studies have found that personal interest and choice offer many educational benefits. These include increased knowledge retention1 and creativity,2 better performance,3 greater persistence,4 deeper involvement in activities,5 the use of more complex operations,6 increased learning,7 lessened anxiety,8 and greater integration of learning.9 One team of researchers commented that “In terms of education, it has become ever more apparent that self-determination, in the forms of intrinsic motivation and autonomous internalization, leads to the types of outcomes that are beneficial both to individuals and to society.”10
These studies are supported by anecdotal evidence collected by various Sudbury schools that report many students increasing their reading level several steps in a matter of months, or understanding the equivalent of three years of math in a semester.11
Everyone has the right to engage in a wide variety of pursuits.
At Leeway, all pursuits are valued, whether you are a beginner or an expert. We also value whatever you’re interested in: art or music, negotiation or self-reflection, running, computer coding, or carpentry. We recognize that self-knowledge, creativity, resourcefulness, and responsibility are important in a variety of activities – building healthy relationships, networking with other people, succeeding in our chosen careers, and inventing creative solutions to modern problems.
Students at Leeway are appreciated no matter what their contribution to society is. They are not made to feel like they’ve failed if their chosen career or interests don’t involve or require traditional academic subjects. Students at Sudbury schools engage in a wide variety of activities and have gone on to careers in everything from space exploration to horse grooming to social work.
Respect and responsibility require reciprocity.
At Leeway, all students and staff have an equal say in how our community is organized. This includes everything from making budgetary decisions to hiring staff and setting rules. Leeway uses a deliberative democracy model so that the minority voice is given as much attention as the majority voice. All decisions are made at our voluntary School Meeting, which meets once a week. This mutual respect encourages members of our community to understand how their actions affect the greater community.
Community feeds creation.
In many ways, humans are social learners. We learn by watching and interacting with other people. Our community serves as a source of knowledge and inspiration and students are free to mix with a variety of children and adults.
This “age-mixing” helps to foster greater collaboration and among students who are at different levels of experience. This helps less experienced students by increasing opportunities for learning from other students who are close to, but slightly above, their ability level. More experienced students have an opportunity to teach others, which is a good way to solidify what they know.
2. Edward L. and Richard M. Glenn Gould, “The paradox of achievement: The harder you push, the worse it gets,” in Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education, ed. Joshua Aronson (San Diego: Elisevier Science, 2002), 81.
3. Adele Eskeles Gottfried, “Relationships Between Academic Intrinsic Motivation and Anxiety in Children and Young Adolescents”, in Journal of School Psychology 20, no. 3 (1982):535.
4. Diana I. Cordova and Mark R. Lepper, “Intrinsic Motivation and the Process of Learning: Beneficial Effects of Contextualization, Personalization, and Choice,” Journal of Educational Psychology 88, no. 4 (1996): 716.
5. Ibid., 726.
8. Adele Eskeles Gottfried, “Relationships Between Academic Intrinsic Motivation and Anxiety in Children and Young Adolescents,” 535.
9. Wendy S. Grolnick and Richard M. Ryan, “Autonomy in Children’s Learning: An Experimental and Individual Difference Investigation,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52, no. 5 (1987): 897.
10. Edward L. Deci, Robert J. Vallerand, Luc G. Pelletier, and Richard M . Ryan, “Motivation and Education: The
Self-Determination Perspective,” Educational Psychologist 26, no. 4 (1991): 342.
11. Daniel Greenberg, Free at Last: The Sudbury Valley School, (Framingham: Sudbury Valley School Press, 1995).