What We Do and Why We Do That

What We Do and Why We Do That

Banbury Crossroads is a self-directed learning school. We are a member of the Canadian Coalition for Self-Directed Learning, of which there are 8 schools across Canada. Being self-directed, Banbury is the embodiment of certain philosophical beliefs and practices. The following points delineate what we do and why we do that:

  • At Banbury, one of our major goals is to address the needs of individual students.
  • We want these individuals to develop autonomy. Self-sufficiency is imperative for our graduates when they emerge from school after Grade 12. That is the time they immediately become responsible for all malleable aspects of their adult lives, including their education, their career, their family, their emotional and physical health, their social behavior, their recreation, and so on. They will need to consciously acknowledge the power they do exert over their own lives, so that they can utilize it to make decisions rationally, morally, responsibly and independently.
  • Mutual respect is involved in our belief that healthy children in any culture are internally motivated to master their environment, which means that it is reasonable to trust their willingness to put energy into their learning;
  • Therefore, at Banbury, students develop skills in goal identification, time management and organization, implementation of plans, self-assessment, decision-making and adapting to change. They become autonomous;
  • Individual students also live in a social world. They need to balance their own rights to pursue their goals with the recognition that they need to honor the rights of others to do the same. In this way, our students and alumni will be well-prepared to contribute to, and participate constructively within, their democratic culture, which is based upon the concept of liberty combined with responsibility;
  • Mutual respect is the necessary underlying value of a healthy democracy, and it is this attitude, in practice, that makes Banbury’s whole system work;
  • Mutual respect is involved in our belief that healthy children in any culture are internally motivated to master their environment, which means that it is reasonable to trust their willingness to put energy into their learning;
  • If we are going to be respectful to students, we must let them work on material that is at their level, proceed at their own pace, and design flexible, personally-appropriate schedules;
  • Student-paced learning, in turn, allows learning to mastery;
  • Learning to mastery is preferable to just “covering” the curriculum; quality and depth of learning are more important than quantity;
  • Multi-aged classrooms are necessary for student-paced learning, so that children are not socially penalized by being ahead or behind their peers academically. This multi-aging is more reflective of the real world. It offers opportunities for leadership, peer learning, empathy and confidence in dealing with people of a variety of ages;
  • In such a multi-aged setting with an individual-focussed atmosphere, a lecture-based and teacher-paced instruction method does not work. Instead, we use tutorial-based instruction suited to individual needs, abilities and motivation. Continual individualized planning, support and feedback are given to individuals and small groups, with periodic mini-lectures;
  • This method is highly demanding of teacher attention, so we need small groups, (usually around 10 students to 1 teacher, with 12:1 being a maximum) in each class. This helps teachers to spend the time that each student needs to learn according to their individual needs;
  • In small classes, it is practical for teachers to promote experiential learning for their students, through relevant discussions, kinesthetic inquiry and intrinsically-motivated, personal interest projects;
  • Within these small classes, teachers have the TIME to interact meaningfully with their students within a social and emotional framework. Enduring and trusting mentoring relationships can evolve. These social connections with peers and mentors exert the most significant positive influence upon the learning of students;
  • These meaningful relationships also enable students and teachers to practice effective and constructive communication, negotiation and win-win problem-solving skills—those soft skills so necessary for harmonious living;
  • Our small classes, where people matter, allow us to provide a peaceful, yet stimulating and joyful familial atmosphere. In this environment, children can learn effectively under conditions of relaxation combined with concentration;
  • Since our communication approach is informal and personal, we do not operate on a role-bound behaviorist approach of punishment and rewards. Instead of trying to control children, we try to convince them. We participate in conversation through meetings and in personal dialogue, in order to engage their thinking. In this way, they learn moral and logical reasoning, analyze their values, and thus develop their characters;
  • At Banbury, the adults in children’s lives cherish their role as nurturing mentors and role models for learning and living;
  • We profoundly trust in children’s innate curiosity and desire to master their environment. They use intrinsic motivation to explore and engage in deep, purposeful learning;
  • Children learn best when they are engaged in their experiential activities, are interested in the topics, and are able to assess their progress;
  • We do not stress competition between students, since it is not helpful for collaborative learning, and it creates performance anxiety. Therefore, to reduce performance anxiety, we have no marks until Grade 10.
  • Instead, we encourage students to compare their work to their previous performance and to strive towards their personal goals;
  • The assessment practices that are constantly carried out between learning facilitators and students at Banbury, through a variety of techniques, are for both instructors and students to attain a clear understanding of student knowledge and skill development. Through critical analysis, discussion, and re-teaching, they focus on extending student learning throughout the process;
  • In the big picture, school is the connection between home and the wide world, where teachers may assist parents in their ultimate role of educating their children about the world around them. Therefore, our familial environment, which eases the transition of children into school, is paired with meaningful contact with the community, which eases their transition out of school. This connection is valued and considered as necessary to a broad education. We accomplish this through field trips, volunteerism, personal interest projects, and contributive internships in the outside community;
  • Students can be themselves, here. They do not wear uniforms; they are able to express themselves as unique persons; and
  • This means that, by the time they graduate, Banbury students have developed the resilience, critical thinking skills, initiative and independent learning required for successful participation in post-secondary education. Thereafter, they may take their place within society as competent and contributive citizens, and create a constructive legacy that enhances their wider community.