We Develop Mastery and a Growth Mindset Through Applied Work

At LePort, knowledge is ultimately a means to action, to pursuing goals and interests – it is not something stale to stuff in a student’s brain for a test, only to forget it right after.

To keep knowledge meaningful and fun, we create real application opportunities in each subject, all the time.We are deliberate with the exercises we create: applying knowledge happens when students have to think about the content; thus, our exercises are not “popsicle stick” projects, or papier-mâché dioramas – but require real intellectual work.

This is very obvious in our Montessori program: the lesson the teacher gives only provides the initial impetus for the real learning, which happens during the child’s independent work with the educational material. As he orders color tablets by their shades, as he uses the bead stair to teach himself addition, as he traces sandpaper letters over and over again, the child is working: he is concentrating in the pursuit of his goal, namely, mastering a new skill he is interested in.

As our students progress, their work becomes more mental and less physical – but it is meaningful work just the same. In vocabulary class, our students write creative stories with vocabulary words, and actively use their minds (as against passively checking off multiple-choice answers.) In mathematics, our students learn concepts – and apply them in increasingly challenging word problems (as against mechanistically reproducing process steps.) In literature, our students draw implications from what they read, and write essays comparing characters and their choices across novels (as against merely retelling a story’s plot.)

Throughout, we create applications that engage the children’s minds on the topic they are learning: they think about the content we want them to remember, and thus make the knowledge their own. Contrast this to many of the “hands-on projects” found in other schools: making a diorama of an icy world with penguins may be fun, but unless it is a carefully crafted expression of a deeper intellectual lesson, does little to stimulate thinking about what living in Antarctica means.

Because we expect each student to apply himself, to revise his work, to develop his skills, and because we emphasize that success is within his control, our approach helps students develop a mastery-focus and a growth mindset. Our students aren’t discouraged by a bad performance or a low grade – they persevere, because they have learned that with effort, they canmake good things happen.

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