When someone decides to become a teacher, they already know they’re about to embark on a journey of growth and development. When this teacher is tasked with guiding students through a new educational program, this journey transforms into an innovative experience.
In 2020, 28 trailblazers entered the Minerva Baccalaureate program during its debut year. This is a four-year curriculum available to Academy scholars who wish to elevate their high school education and benefit from an online, collaborative learning environment designed to drive real-world application of academics. We wanted to check in with some of the teachers currently leading these pioneers and gain their perspectives on the program.
Melissa Wilson has been teaching the World Cultures course as part of the Minerva Baccalaureate program since December 2020.
How are the Minerva Baccalaureate classes you teach different from standard high school classes?
There is a high expectation for student participation, collaboration, attendance, and accountability, as they are required to come with pre-work completed, knowing that they will be assessed on it. Students are encouraged to share what doesn’t make sense and know that they will be supported in finding the solutions and answers. They leave class with real-world applications of the theoretical concepts discussed and personal learning connections.
What kind of preparation is needed to be able to facilitate Minerva Baccalaureate classes?
While preparing to teach Minerva Baccalaureate classes, professors need to have a good understanding of [the platform] Forum as well as knowing how to assess students’ work in Forum. Students are graded on a 4-point mastery rubric from “No Knowledge” to “Deep Knowledge,” inviting students to justify and explain responses using examples from their reading and personal experiences. Students are graded both on in-class contributions through written polls or spoken contributions and several longer assignments in each course.
What kinds of activities do you find work well or that students thrive on in an active learning environment?
Building a community that continues after the course is completed is key in supporting students. I also find that collaborating on content—for example, in breakout rooms where they apply theoretical concepts to real-world scenarios—really helps students thrive, as they debate different topics, support each other, and ask each other questions to collectively find solutions. In one class, students took on the voice of United Nations representatives to advocate that their particular country’s intangible cultural heritage was deserving of funds.
What is a moment in your Minerva Baccalaureate course that stands out as being active, interdisciplinary, and calls students to engage in high-level thinking?
All moments are memorable to me, as students must be actively listening to be effective team members and they engage with content prior to class so they are able to contribute. They utilize verbal and written skills during every session and lead discussions themselves. They must be able to understand the content and apply it to real-life scenarios. Students are analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating on all levels, in class, and in coursework. For example, for the “LO” (Learning Outcome) scales, students identify the meaning of scales in the simplest forms to the most complex within specific content and context—from cross-curricular examples to daily life—and the reasons behind its importance.
What is your favorite thing about teaching Minerva Baccalaureate classes?
The students and their love of Forum! It provides a real opportunity to collaborate with their peers in a way that has high expectations of ALL in a very trusting environment.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? We’d love to feature it on the Laurel Springs blog! If you’re a Laurel Springs student, parent, teacher, or alumni, please fill out this form and share your accomplishments with us.