A conversation took place earlier this week amongst a group of faculty and administrators about how to best communicate academic rigor at Proctor in the admission view book that will be printed this summer. Should we highlight the number of AP classes offered? The number of students enrolled in Honors classes? List the competitive colleges to which our students have matriculated in the last few years?
As this blog has noted over the course of this year, articulating academic rigor at Proctor can be challenging. Rigor takes on many different forms, it is as equally present in an AP class as it is in the Mountain Classroom
or Ocean Classroom
program, simply in different forms. It is not something a caption or singular image can adequately communicate because it is not one thing, but rather many things.
Director of Communications, Chuck Will, circulated an article
to faculty featuring last year's assistant school leader, Aaron Thomas, and his journey from his Navajo Reservation in Arizona to Proctor and eventually to the University of Arizona this past September.
The article, and series of related video interviews
, discusses various challenges Aaron has faced throughout his life with an emphasis on how Proctor helped prepare him for his current role as a freshman studying biochemistry and serving as president of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society
(AISES) he founded at the University of Arizona.
Proctor undoubtedly helped ready Aaron for his college experience, but what were the most influential skills he honed while here? Were they gained in the AP and Honors classes he took or were they so engrained in his academic and residential life curriculum at Proctor that they developed naturally through his varied experiences on and off campus? Does it matter?
Earlier today English teacher Tom Morgan shared this infographic
with me from a Millennial Branding study on the employment gap present in graduating college students. When 225 major corporations were asked what skills they were looking for when they hire, but are hardest to find, the following responses were provided:
• Communication skills (91%)
• Positive Attitude (85%)
• Adaptable to change (85%)
• Teamwork Skills (82%)
• Strategic thinking and analytics (78%)
For nearly all of our students, a primary goal of a Proctor education remains admission to a variety of competitive colleges that best fit individual learning profiles. The infographic referenced above highlights the fact that 65% of employers feel that their talent needs have changed over the past two years. Neither of these trends is likely to change, and therefore, we must find the most effective means of educating students who will both be viable applicants to higher education institutions AND be well equipped for life after college through their diverse skill sets.
While many schools emphasize the transferable skills listed above, few have a curriculum like Proctor's that implements communication skills, adaptability to change, appreciation of teamwork and the presence of a positive attitude as core components of both on- and off-campus offerings.
As colleges continue to adjust curriculums to best serve students who are being directly prepared for shifting job markets after college, they must continue to shift their 'ideal applicant'. A Proctor graduate who has been exposed to a tremendous breadth of experiential learning programs, taken part in Mountain Classroom, Proctor en Segovia or European Art Classroom, or perhaps taken AP courses, has not only been challenged academically, but has developed desirable transferable skills that simply cannot be taught in a traditional classroom. While this point has been made before on this blog
, we cannot emphasize enough the notion that academic rigor and experiential learning go hand in hand, rather than being mutually exclusive.
The concept of disruptive innovation entered a conversation I had with a member of the Board of Trustees following his work with my Economics students two weeks ago. The brainchild of Clayton Christensen
, the term disruptive innovation refers to firms that develop a 'product' that skews the status quo in such a profound way that a market is transformed.
As we continue to refine our curriculum and to communicate the relationship between our programs and how they best serve our students, we must take into consideration our role as a disruptive innovator in the field of education. Can Proctor's unique approach to learning, and therefore teaching, be a catalyst in transforming how schools seek to educate students? Can our success integrating communication, teamwork, adaptability to new situations, strategic thinking, and a positive attitude throughout our diverse curriculum that graduates desirable applicants to both higher education institutions and
changing job markets shift how other schools approach academic rigor?