By 2020, experts say, an estimated 65 percent of jobs in the United States will require a college degree and some form of post-secondary education.
Thus, say the visionaries behind ASU Preparatory Academy, their approach to learning is gaining momentum at a critical time in the trajectory of education.
And, as the ASU Prep initiative has become fully energized on the Compadre campus in Tempe, students are learning how to become prepared for college and workforce success.
Under this dual strategic approach, ASU Prep has adopted a deliberately “disruptive” blended-learning approach, say planners. This approach was envisioned last fall when the ASU/Tempe Union collaboration began.
Rather than utilizing the familiar “factory-based” model of classroom instruction in which students are grouped to learn the same topics at the same time—a model that experts say struggles to prepare students for the demands of life and jobs in the 21st Century—faculty advisers give students access to an individualized pace and plan of study with the guidance of a teacher who is a content expert.
Students collaborate with peers and instructors, both in person at the school and online each day so that learning is not accomplished in isolation.
This flexible model, they say, gives students the ability to pursue personal interests while learning in an integrated educational continuum.
The model as described is said to be superior to the century-old, factory-based design and other classroom learning models. It combines the face-to-face component with online familiarity that presents content, interactive practice, projects and assessments in a dual format.
Blended learning offers a customized and personalized experience that addresses each student’s distinct learning needs, interests, goals and backgrounds, and provides a variety of learning experiences and instructional approaches.
For example, students may access online lessons relating to different science topics and then design and carry out an investigation in a science lab with their peers, leveraging the flexibility of online learning and the practical benefit of hands-on inquiry.
This student-centered approach fosters a sense of autonomy and promotes student ownership over the direction and progress of their learning.
Ninth grade scholar Ameenah Evans says he chose ASU Prep Tempe because “it would be a good opportunity to build my own path.” The ability to take ownership and to explore the curriculum as it relates to student interests naturally increases engagement and fosters a lifelong love of learning.”
With the new concept having moved into full operational status, educators at ASU Prep say they have found that a blended learning environment affords students a greater awareness of their strengths and growth areas, inspiring them to set and achieve their goals—and then to create new ones.
Students may master all of the content from a course before the end of the year and begin working on a new course or an applied project that they develop. Further, blended learning provides for deeper learning experiences using state-of-the-art digital tools in a meaningful and intentional way while allowing students to explore interests and passions as they navigate their learning program.
Students who are in the same course and classroom can learn about different topics that are of interest to them. For example, within a math class, some students may be learning about how to calculate conditional probability while others are using the same conditional logic for computer coding.
Teachers facilitate unifying discussions and experiences that allow students to accelerate at their pace while learning with and from each other. The ASU Prep Tempe site is a 1:1 program, meaning each student is issued a laptop for use at both home and school to conduct academic activities.
Students have opportunities daily to develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills by working collaboratively to identify solutions to local and global community issues and to communicate regularly with their peers, instructors and mentors— all essential skills, say advisers, that 21st Century employers seek.
The smaller class sizes at ASU Prep Tempe allow teachers to provide focused and personalized attention to those needing additional assistance and to offer extension activities for students ready to take their learning to the next level.
Students receive an individualized learning plan and meet with a faculty adviser regularly to set academic and personal goals, evaluate progress and celebrate successes.
The students seem to agree, according to ASU Prep 10th grader Jose Martinez:
“Since I started here, my grades have improved since last year. All the teachers are really helpful, and you always have one-on-one time with them. They help you move toward success and understand the content better.”
The school offers monthly open houses for interested parents and students to learn more about its approach to learning. Sessions are scheduled on the third Tuesday of the month at the Compadre campus, 500 E. Guadalupe Road.
Information: 480-752-3560 or click here.