What Does Engaged Learning Look Like at GPS?

By Katye Adams Couch '92, Dean of Teaching and Learning

It is no surprise that there is a culture of engaged learning at GPS, that girls are celebrated by teachers and peers, and that faculty and staff learn from each other and from students. If you walk into a classroom in the middle school, you will find further examples of these learner-centered practices—authentic, equitable, personalized, and competency-based.
You would likely see girls in every class collaborating, being playful, finding meaning, and digging into challenging concepts with support. You would see sixth-grade science students working collaboratively on an initiative that is meaningful to them and that could be put into practice to make the GPS community more sustainable. You would see real-world learning experiences and connections between the classroom and community such as eighth-grade English students writing and illustrating an allegory and then reading it to third graders, who in turn, practiced their own English skills by writing thank-you notes and poetry. If you go to the UTC Barnard Observatory in Brainerd on a Sunday evening this spring, you may see seventh-graders following up on their presentations to the Barnard Astronomical Society Advisory Board, by presenting astronomy topics again to Chattanooga community members at a Star Party. 

You would see a range of choices and opportunities to boost student voice, from students choosing a passion project, to mindfully practicing communication skills such as sharing the talking time, listening carefully, and celebrating contributions of others in conversation by using R.E.A.L discussion protocols in history and English. Thanks to pre-algebra, students are learning to apply their knowledge of decimals to plan out a full day of meals along with a food-city shopping list and budget. 

You would find reflection, self-regulation, and perseverance being fostered in classrooms, in help classes, and in the center for teaching and learning. The upcoming Winterim experiences are woven with classroom connections and provide opportunities for teachers and students to learn side by side. 

As my daughter is a senior, it is a natural time to reflect on the entirety of her GPS experience, starting in sixth grade. I’m so thankful that she has had a community that has lifted her, challenged her, and provided guidance and opportunity. She’s been able to utilize collaboration, communication, and other skills learned at GPS beyond the classroom. She knows what it feels like to have her voice amplified and is well-prepared for her next steps. As a parent, faculty member, and alumna, I’m so happy to be a part of a learner-centered community that is dedicated to continuous improvement!