Overview of Category: Academic Programs
A school's academic program determines the substance of a student's education. It's important to consider not only the content of what is taught, but how this content is organized and offered to students.
One way to assess an academic program is to look at the range of offerings at a school. Does the school offer a variety of courses in core academic areas and in other areas of study? Does the academic program provide opportunities for learning to occur outside the classroom, in the form of internships or service learning? Are students able to make choices about what they study and how they fulfill requirements?
Another way to view an academic program is to consider how the subject areas are organized. Most high schools and many middle schools have distinct departments that teach their academic programs independently of one another. In most elementary schools, however, one teacher instructs students in all subjects areas in a self-contained classroom. Many schools are finding ways to combine disciplines, integrate academic work, and use collaboration to help students make connections and find more meaning in their studies.
Finally, it's important to examine what is emphasized in an academic program and what that reveals about an approach to learning. For example, do most activities and homework assignments emphasize developing skills through practice and repetition, or is more importance placed on learning concepts? Are students asked to present what they know mainly through writing, or are they asked to express themselves through multiple means?
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