We Encourage Questioning And Inquiry

People have been concerned with teaching and learning for a long time.

Socrates died in 399 BCE, convicted and sentenced to death. His fellow Athenians believed Socrates corrupted youth by helping them question the status quo instead of simply accepting the conventional “wisdom” of the time.

In the tradition of Socrates, we encourage questioning and inquiry among today’s youth.

As Socrates understood, the process of inquiry puts one on the path to wisdom, as well as understanding oneself, understanding others, and much more.

We Encourage Student Learning

“I never try to teach my students anything. I only try to create an environment in which they can learn.” 

–Albert Einstein

Our Instructors Encourage Deep, Active Learning, Not Short-Term, Surface Learning

Our instructors promote student learning by:

  1. Letting students learn by doing, using Inquiry-Guided Instruction, in which knowledge is constructed not merely read and regurgitated.
  2. Keeping instructor lectures to an absolute minimum.
  3. Giving learners practice, and measuring their improvement, especially in critical and creative thinking.
  4. Embedding practical “real-world” skills vital for the information economy:
    • deep reading,
    • critical evaluation,
    • analysis, and
    • clear communication
  5. Assisting learners in moving from dependent to more autonomous learning, a process that involves three stages of intellectual growth.

We Teach Historical, Creative, and Critical Thinking

Historical Thinking

Teaching history (and social sciences more broadly) means also teaching historical thinking (imagination, interpretation). We want students to think and work like historians, to apply a historical perspective when examining evidence.

Students must learn to locate and evaluate evidence. To that end, we have students critique and analyze primary source documents and scholarly journal articles or monographs.

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking requires making and communicating connections to:

  • think of many possibilities;
  • think and experience in various ways using different points of view;
  • think of new and unusual possibilities;
  • guide in generating and selecting alternatives.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking requires analyzing and developing possibilities to:

  • compare and contrast many ideas;
  • improve and refine ideas;
  • make effective decisions and judgments;
  • provide a sound foundation for effective action.

Read our approach to history page for a discussion of how Inquiry-Guided Learning shapes the way we construct historical understanding.

We Are A Learning Community

Some students are satisfied to take a course at face value and to jump through the hoops. Deep learners wish to know more about the “whys” of a course.

Why do we do what we do? What value does it have?

To explain the “whys” of Polyhistoria course design, we use as our heuristic a research-focused learning community.

“The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses, and to involve students with ‘big questions’ that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lens of different disciplines.”

George Kuh, High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter

Learning communities emphasize collaborative partnerships between students and instructors, and attempt to restructure the curriculum to address structural barriers to educational excellence.

“A learning community is any one of a variety of curricular structures that link together several existing courses – or actually restructure the curricular material entirely – so that students have opportunities for deeper understanding and integration of the material they are learning, and more interaction with one another and their teachers as fellow participants in the learning enterprise.

Learning communities purposefully restructure the curriculum to link together courses or course work so that students find greater coherence in what they are learning as well as increased intellectual interaction with faculty and fellow students.”

Faith Gabelnick, Jean MacGregor, Roberta S. Matthews, and Barbara Leigh Smith, Learning Communities: Creating Connections Among Students, Faculty, and Disciplines

Learners and instructors bring different experiences, interests, ideas, goals, commitment, and information resources to the course. Together we engage in a process of discovery and problem-solving.

“A learning community is an intentionally developed community that exists to promote and maximize the individual and shared learning of its members. There is ongoing interaction, interplay, and collaboration among the community’s members as they strive for specified common learning goals.”

Lenning, 2013

Another facet of deeper learning is metacognition – thinking about our thinking. To that end, we practice self-assessment, giving learners the opportunity to develop this important lifelong learning skill.

Read Three Stages of Intellectual Growth