Advanced Seminar/Advanced Studies Program
In an effort to provide a rigorous alternative to the standardized curriculum and testing of AP courses, the Upper School offers a suite of Advanced courses for seniors and selected juniors that equal or exceed AP courses in terms of conceptual challenge, complexity of material, development of critical skills and overall preparation for college academics. They are therefore the most academically rigorous courses we offer. These courses, which are either one semester (Advanced Seminar courses) or full year, (Advanced Studies courses) are proposed by faculty with a particular interest and expertise in a given field and are subject to a thorough peer-review process, overseen by a committee of experienced teachers with college teaching backgrounds. These advanced courses foreground critical thought and discussion, require students to work independently and are flexible enough to encompass a broad range of course themes. In all Advanced courses, the level of reading, writing and discussion equals that found in a first-year college course. Both Advanced Seminar and Advanced Studies courses are designated with the prefix “AS,” indicating a level of rigor comparable to or exceeding AP courses.
Earned Honors Model
In keeping with the idea of a growth mindset and the awareness, definitively established by research, that intelligence is not fixed but capable of continuous growth in the proper learning contexts, we have created an “Earned Honors” model in many classes whereby students are not preslotted as “honors” or “regular” but are placed in heterogeneous classes and given the opportunity to earn honors on the basis of the work they produce. The honors distinction is not based on quantitative factors (i.e. “more work”), but is measured by the qualitative rigor and analytical depth of the tasks undertaken to earn honors.
The Humanities approach to the study of English and history in grades 9-11 merges the traditional subject areas of these departments to create a richer and more engaging experience of both literature and history. An integrated curriculum, organized thematically and global in perspective, allows students to make new and surprising connections among different cultures, works of literature and time periods, while enhancing a common set of critical skills. The program relies heavily on analytical writing, critical and creative thinking, discussion-driven classes, close reading and oral presentation. It is also a model of cross-disciplinary collaboration for both students and faculty.
Our Independent Study program encourages students to explore areas of interest that fall outside the traditional course catalog. Under the guidance of selected faculty members with a special expertise or interest in the field, students work side by side to develop a scope and sequence curriculum, create authentic class specific content and create original assessments. Independent Studies are ideal for motivated, high-achieving students. Current topics include Acting for the Camera, Bioethics, Ecosystems Modeling, Sign Language, Quantum Physics and Songwriting.
Writing Across the Curriculum
Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is a pedagogical movement that values writing as a method of learning across all fields, not merely in the traditional areas such as English and history courses. When students are given frequent opportunities for WAC, they think more critically and creatively, engage more deeply in their learning, and are better able to transfer what they have learned from course to course, context to context. In 2011, MBS established a comprehensive Center for Academic Writing (modeled closely on the writing centers found in every college and university) led by a trained composition specialist who has helped to establish a robust writing program at the School. Transformative assignments have been integrated into Science, Math, Wellness, Foreign Language, History, and Performing Arts departments. In 2013 we created a junior elective designed to train students to be peer tutors in composition. Students engaged in academic writing at MBS are supported through a variety of writing workshops, feedback from faculty and peers, and other services offered by the Center.