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Inspiring Lives of Purpose

Goal 1 of Vision 20/26, Shipley's Strategic Plan, focuses on Educational Excellence—which Shipley defines as the balanced pursuit of student achievement with individual and collective well-being. The goal challenges us to enrich our program as a means of further strengthening each student’s ability to engage and lead in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. The strategies to achieve this bold and pioneering vision of educational excellence entail driving curricular innovation; challenging the parameters that have traditionally defined and shaped education; focusing on the individual and collective well-being of students and adults in the school community; as well as attracting, retaining, and developing top-level teaching talent. 

For Shipley’s Director of Curricular Innovation and Learning Design, Wendy Eiteljorg ’86, implementing Shipley’s vision for the future of education has meant focusing on the strategies addressing curricular innovation and developing teaching talent.

Developing a Common Vocabulary

“I thought about the importance of all of our teaching colleagues coming to these aspirational goals well-prepared to engage in this kind of curricular thinking,” reflects Eiteljorg. “We would need a common language and understanding.” Using Grant Wiggins’ and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design model of backwards planning, where one begins planning with the desired results in mind and works backwards, teachers and administrators participated in the creation and adoption of School-wide goals for Shipley graduates, or our Long Term Transfer Goals (see below). 

Long Term Transfer Goals

Understanding by Design co-author Jay McTighe worked with the School’s full administrative group to understand backwards planning and was integral to the school-wide effort of adopting and defining Shipley’s Long Term Transfer Goals:
  1. Generate questions and solve problems through deep, critical investigation.
  2. Connect ideas across disciplines to address real world situations.
  3. Communicate effectively and creatively, in a range of forms, with varied audiences, and for various purposes.
  4. Responsibly collaborate with others with confidence and humility in school and beyond.
  5. Develop skills and character traits to support well-being and personal growth.
  6. Approach learning as an active and personal endeavor for which one takes responsibility, pride, and enjoyment.
  7. Cultivate empathy and sympathy.

Advancing the Curriculum

Another tactic Eiteljorg has pursued is the restructuring of the School’s curricular leadership group. The makeup of the group balances voices from each division and represents interests beyond traditional academic subject areas through the inclusion of Service Learning, Global Programs, Sustainability, and Horticulture program leaders. As arbiters and leaders of curricular change, the group has broad curricular oversight and is critical to the School’s efforts to drive innovation in the classroom and academic programming. The group is also critical in maintaining the direction of the curriculum, ensuring that it is aligned to our mission and Long Term Transfer Goals.

Creating a Standard of Teaching Excellence

The publication of the Shipley Teaching Handbook is another way that Shipley is supporting Educational Excellence. “It includes institutional information, as well as the defining characteristics of what it means to achieve excellence in areas like instruction, assessment, creating an effective learning environment, advisory, etc. These provide the criteria by which we evaluate ourselves,” explains Eiteljorg.  The annual week-long Teacher Summer Symposium and the many sessions offered via Shipley’s Teaching Resource Center during the school year provide teachers more opportunities to work on their craft in ways that support Shipley’s definition of educational excellence while supporting innovation in pedagogical practices, course content, and program design.

Curricular Innovation

Innovation in school classes can come in several forms—within the material, structure, and process of an established and more traditional course, or as a new, specialized course. Some updates to the Upper School Course Catalog for the 2021-2022 school year include:

Civil Rights, Human Rights: A Global Perspective
This course will examine the concepts of “civil rights” and “human rights.” Contrasting civil rights movements in American history with global movements, the course will also explore the histories of genocide, modern slavery, and the exercise of free speech and freedom of religion. Students will consider the question of cultural relativism in an effort to offer multiple lenses through which to view all of the issues under consideration.

History 9: Modern World History
This new history requirement reflects a shift in the Upper School curriculum to teach American history in 10th grade instead of 11th, allowing for more history electives. The course will explore what it means to be “modern” and feature a broad range of events representing Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, in addition to North and South America. A global perspective will be shared through debates, projects, research papers, and student presentations.

Interpreting Data for Installation Art
Scientists and artists are both seeking to understand the world around them. In this course, students will interpret data on multiple levels to develop ideas for an installation art project, learning to collaborate as both scientists and artists in the project’s creation.

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.