A unique approach to learning
How 'independent' is independent study?
As covered in Delphian's Mission and Philosophy, our emphasis is on students developing a discipline of study expertise and the ability to think with and use knowledge to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
In the section on the Delphi Program, we discuss how our students study on personalized academic programs. Essential core curriculum courses are augmented with courses tailored to a student's strengths, weaknesses and interests. Students study on these personal academic programs independently.
But what does this mean in practice? Do the students still have teachers? Classes? Classrooms? And if not, how do they learn—or more importantly, how are we ensuring that our students are actually studying and understanding the material?
We firmly believe that with the right study tools, a student can be his own best teacher—learning directly from his materials, through careful (sometimes guided) observation of the world around him, and through practical application of the subject matter, so he can see for himself how the subject applies to his life.
The Delphian curriculum has been refined and honed over forty years to support independent study. Rather than learn from teachers then, our students learn from their materials, which were created specifically for our program by our curriculum experts.
But students still need help resolving questions and confusions. That's why Delphian employs academic supervisors. Supervisors are the guardians of Delphian students' educations, their cheerleaders and expert guides through each form—sometimes disciplinarians—but always there to assist, support and encourage students on their educational journey.
Supervisors call roll in the morning and check in with each student individually at the beginning of every academic day to set a target for that day's production. They read essays, observe drills and demonstrations, meet with students directly to consult their understanding on important points of their materials or to help them clarify a sticky problem; and they work individually with each student every day to ensure that students are moving as rapidly as possible through their academic programs.
In-depth personal attention for every student isn't a 'nice to have' at Delphian; it's a core component of our success.
Supervisors begin working with students from the moment they arrive, helping to tailor academic advance programs to resolve past misunderstandings encountered in their earlier studies. At the same time, new students will be learning Study Technology to help them prevent the accumulation of future misunderstandings—what amounts to holes in their educational foundation. During this process, most students quickly realize that learning can actually be fun, interesting and valuable to their lives.
Once they're assured of a strong academic foundation in the subjects studied previously, students move forward into new material and the Delphian curriculum.
A checksheet is a checklist of steps designed to take a student through a certain subject matter and bring about understanding and the ability to apply the information being learned. It's designed so the student can follow the steps himself, without needing much help or guidance. Though a student's supervisor will always be there to answer questions or help clarify confusions, the checksheet itself is designed to build understanding of a subject on a gradient, step-by-step approach.
Combining sections of reading, practical application, essays, drilling and demonstration of concepts to others, the checksheet is the teaching conduit between the student and the subject being studied. In any one supervisor's class, every student could potentially be studying on a different checksheet—some may be learning Algebra, others English, still others Chemistry or Physics, and some students might just be reading books towards their literature requirements.
When a student finishes all of the steps on his or her checksheet, their supervisor consults their understanding of the material studied through questions about the materials (a kind of oral pop quiz). Once the supervisor determines the student truly has mastered that subject and can apply the important concepts therein, he sends the student to the examiner.
Exams For Understanding, Not Letter Grades
You won't find students 'cramming' for exams at Delphian. Every course examination is conducted in a one-on-one session between the student and the examiner. Many exams are given orally to allow the examiner to truly determine a student's understanding and ability to apply the material. All Delphian exams are and remain confidential.
If a student misses any questions on the course examination, the examiner writes a re-study assignment to address missed areas of confusion. Once all confusions have been resolved and the student knows he understands and can apply the material—only then does the examiner give him a pass on the exam. The student can then move on to the next course on his academic program.
Delphian School has spent forty years honing and improving our curriculum, most of which utilizes this checksheet format. The checksheet allows for truly independent study within a structured framework and supervised courseroom, all of which ensures productivity, mastery of subject content, and academic rigor.
To demonstrate means to 'describe, explain, or illustrate by examples, specimens, experiments, or the like.' When a student is asked to demonstrate his understanding of a concept or idea as part of a checksheet he's studying at Delphian, he may do this using small items such as stones, marbles or even bottle tops—items he's assembled into something we call a 'demo kit.' No matter what items he uses, when we're asking a student to demonstrate an idea at Delphian, we're requiring him to show that he not only understands that idea but can also apply it to his life.
Other forms of demonstration may include sketching diagrams, building models, creating a scene in clay, or actually showing to another student or his supervisor how a machine or some other complex item works.
Demonstration of key concepts is a vital component part of achieving understanding of a subject and is covered as its own topic in detail in Study Technology.
[Quotes used in the Demonstration video are excerpted from The Study Book created by Delphian School's curriculum team based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard.]
An education is more useful if it can be effectively applied to life outside of the classroom. That's why Delphian students will spend a good part of their day in a variety of tasks that require them to put what they are learning to real use—no matter what subject they're studying. This hands-on approach takes the form of practical projects which are included in the courses they're studying. Students learning logic courses might head out of the classroom to inspect an area for examples of faulty logic. Math courses would include actual use of equations or other forms being studied to solve material universe problems. Sciences would include conducting experiments. History might involve research of current events, with an essay discussing their relationship to past events.
Emphasis on the practical application of academics ensures that students are learning with the purpose of applying their materials to their lives, rather than with the purpose of passing a test. Changing the focus of why a student is learning a subject from "to pass a test" to "to use it in life" makes the material studied more important to the student and aids his remembering of it. Moreover, in learning to apply it to his life, the material actually becomes useful information to him (and the process of learning about it valuable experience) for his evaluation and understanding of future study and the world around him.
Practical Projects as Form Requirements
In addition to the work students do as part of a course checksheet (see above for explanation of checksheets), each Upper School Form also requires students to conduct product-based practical projects. These projects provide an opportunity for the student to explore areas of interest, pursue practical areas of knowledge, develop certain abilities further, and work to strengthen weak areas. Practical projects help students to learn and demonstrate practical ability in key areas, such as career interest, science, planning and organization, communication, community outreach, etc., with plenty of room for exploration through elective projects as well.
Each project is developed and proposed by the student, advised by a faculty member skilled in the area, and overseen by the student's academic supervisor. As students near the end of the Delphi Program, they start doing projects in areas that align with their career interests.
Students create their own practical programs based on these requirements and their own interests.
Students are required to choose projects that require a fair amount of time and skill. A minimum number of practical projects showing proficiency in specific graduation requirements are necessary for the completion of each form in the Upper School program. Here are a few examples of some student projects:
Project areas could include fine and performing arts; design and engineering; heath and family; research; creative writing; computer programming or game design; plant- or animal-related projects; chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology; agricultural; small business/finance; government/political; education or other social betterment; new and experimental projects, or any type of project a student is interested in or wants to do for any reason whatsoever.