Learning Design

Learning Design

At Acton Academy Southwest Austin, our children learn in a collaborative studio of multi-age learners. Our flexible approach challenges each student with their own differentiated learning plan and inspires them through real-world projects and experiences. Our Learner Driven Community puts children at the center of their learning, allowing them to create and maintain personal goals and relational covenants, as they Learn to Learn, Learn to Do, and Learn to Be.

1. Core Academic Skills

"Learn to Know"

Master the foundations of reading, writing, and math

Example:

Instead of one-size-fits-none teacher lectures ...

... Self-paced mastery of 3rd-grade math with cutting-edge personalized technology and peer mentoring.

2. Quests & Projects

"Learn to Do"

Hands-on projects to master the skills needed to solve real-world problems

Example:

Instead of memorizing the periodic table ...

... You are an ER doctor in a 6-week simulation.

You learn the processes, tools, decision trees and facts to triage patients. On the final-day Exhibtion, parents come with prepared "diseases." You can order an MRI, an X-ray, etc., paying for each. The winner of the simulation is the ER doc who saves the most lives (correct diagnoses) for the lowest cost.

3. Socratic Discussions

"Learn to Learn"

Think and speak clearly to develop wisdom and judgment

Example:

Instead of memorization to cram for the test ...

... You are Harry Truman.

  • Do you drop the bomb?
  • Reflect on this video of Hiroshima after nuclear force. Does this change your mind?
  • Reflect on this photo and personal account of a Japanese POW camp. Does this change your mind?
  • Which ethical approach is more important to you: a values approach — "We do not kill people" — or a utilitarian approach — "Fewest total lives lost"?

4. Servant Leadership

"Learn to Be"

Develop habits and character traits that make an abundant, fulfilling life

Example:

Instead of schools designed to minimize behavior problems ...

... Young people learn to lead by doing so, with Servant Leader Badges celebrating the most important milestones, like:

  • Leading a conflict resolution discussion
  • Developing a mentor relationship with a personal hero
  • Completing deliberate practice of a skill you want to develop
  • Mentoring a team from a younger studio
  • Leading a team in accomplishing a big goal
  • Mastering a productivity skill like the urgent-important matrix
"My kids love going to school everyday because Acton is built to help them find their voice, take charge of their education, and practice collaboration and self management with a fun group of peers that is truly a community."

The Hero's Journey

Learning at Acton Academy Southwest is an invitation to a Hero's Journey. We believe that each of us has a special calling in life, and a series of trials and tests that must be faced with integrity and purpose, in order to live a life of meaning. Our mission is to prepare everyone his or her special journey.

“When we first saw Acton Academy, we realized:
1. Young people are capable of vastly more than they're given credit for.
​2. This was the most nurturing, deep-learning, student-centered school we had ever seen.”

Outcomes

Above all, we believe in delighting families with a school experience you're thrilled about.

One of the great experiences of life is the feeling of learning something challenging and worthwhile. Real growth is hard work – just like developing a muscle. It's often even harder for parents than it is for children. It's not easy, but few meaningful things are.

For those up for the challenge, some of the outcomes we've observed are:

  • Young people who love school Students who can't wait for summer break to be over, want to come to school on weekends, and sing on their way to school.
  • Families feeling more unity and purpose Families discover the joy of learning is a shared journey. As one parent described: "Acton Academy has transformed our family, inspiring each of us to find a calling and discover a Hero's Journey."
  • Mastery of core academic skills While only a small portion of the day is spent on Core Skills, and there is zero "teaching to the test," over the 9 years of Acton's history we've seen an average of 2.5 grade levels per year growth on the IOWA standardized test.
  • Self-management and leadership The result parents likely appreciate most is seeing their children take ownership of their learning. Meeting an Acton student speaks for itself: they look you in the eye, ask powerful questions, are curious about the world around them, and have plans they're passionate about.
"The thought of a learning environment that incorporates active learning, includes all the senses, and emphasizes a pursuit personalized to your individual gifts, sounds amazing. What kid doesn't deserve that?"