This is a June 1973 white paper written by 3I students after the program's first three years. It introduces the program and analyzes its performance. Its title is unknown. The text is from a production mechanical, yellowed from old paste, that once included photographs.
The 3I Program (Inquiry, Involvement, and Independent study) represents an alternative approach to learning within New Rochelle High School. At present the program, which began in 1970, has about 145 students and seven teachers. Its major objectives are
The program has eliminated grades and operates on a credit system. Three times a year students and teachers write evaluations, the last of which in June takes the form of a lengthy, comprehensive essay on each student's work for the year.
Student activities take the form of classes, usually one and one-half hours long, held one to three times per week and of a more or less traditional character; teacher-coordinated group projects; independent study projects; service projects; and tutorials in which groups of approximately 20 students meet collectively once a week to discuss various aspects of the program and individually with their tutorial teacher to consider personal problems and to assess progress.
Most 3I enterprises involve a written agreement or contract in which students and teachers state the particular learning objectives and activities to be reached or engaged in and the credit to be assigned for satisfactory completion of work.
The 3I Program offers opportunities for students to learn in various contexts and in various manners but requires of students more than the usual amount of responsibility and self-discipline.
In the remaining pages of this pamphlet some of us who have been in the program attempt to summarize what we believe to be significant learnings about the 3Is.
Learning How to Learn
What do we mean when we use this phrase, "learning how to learn"? In most conventional schools the emphasis is placed on the product or content of learning. You take a class, learn certain facts, and maybe score well on a test. When you finish a course you may be able to talk fairly intelligently about the subject, so you assume you've learned something.
But learning how to learn is at least as much concerned with the process of learning as with its product. In fact, in a good learning experience process and product become one. This process is a difficult and tricky thing to cope with, especially at first. It involves wanting to know or do something, figuring out how to go about doing it, and doing it. Even if you never end up with a final product, you usually learn something about yourself, other people, and how to use resources. These learnings should help you in other endeavors throughout life.
The advantage of learning how to learn is that when nobody is around telling you what to do and how to do it, you will have the discipline and know-how to learn on your own.
Conducting One's Own Education
Learning how to conduct one's own education is a major objective of the program, which is based also on the assumption that one learns best when one has a major role in determining what, when, where, why, and how one is to learn.
What We Have Learned
1. Many feel that their biggest problem is not knowing what they want to do. After having spent years in a traditional structure organized by others and having usually been told what to do, students often find it difficult to see possibilities other than the ones to which they have been exposed. One result, at least at first, is that they tend to fill in their programs with courses and project offerings organized by teachers.
2. Students feel pressures regarding college entrance and as a result take certain courses regardless of interest. Thus, students are sometimes inhibited from becoming more actively involved in project work which might have a greater interest for them. The feelings about college pressure, however, tend to lessen the longer students are in the program.
3. We have experienced the problem of waxing and waning student enthusiasm. Students have frequently begun but not finished independent and group projects. The main reasons seem to be an inadequate sense of the amount of time, effort, and skill usually required by a project, which in turn probably stems from an inadequate school background in such work.
4. Despite the above problems, we have learned that students can demonstrate that they are capable of learning how to play a major role in developing their own education. Students have initiated and conducted their own courses in contemporary books and folk dancing; they have played a part in determining how teacher-offered courses would be run; they have developed ideas for group projects, such as one at a farm at Ward Acres and various consumer studies; they have planned and carried through many independent projects; and they have worked very productively in service areas.
5. Conducting one's own education presents problems, but, given a reasonable amount of careful guidance, students can become independent as learners.
A major purpose of the 3I Program from the beginning has been to give students the opportunity to participate directly and authentically in the life of their community, fostering thereby an understanding of the adult world and the development of productive relationships between youth and adults.
In the 3Is there have been three basic types of community involvement: service projects, group projects, and independent projects.
What We Have Learned
1. Service work is work done in an existing institution in the city that is of use to a part of the community or an individual. Some examples of service work by 3I students include teaching art, physical education, and speech therapy, assisting in open and traditional classrooms in elementary schools, and working with retarded children; hospital work and helping in old age homes are other forms of student service.
Of all the community involvement efforts by 3I students service work has unquestionably been the most effective. Students have profited from it; they have learned how to work with both young and old, and their services have frequently been in demand. The probable reason for the popu1arity and success of service work is that it is often more specific and individualized than other forms of community involvement. The results are usually relatively easy to see and are therefore gratifying.
2. A group project is one that is usually set up and worked through by a group of students and a teacher. A good example is a project associated with Ward Acres, a tract of land of about 60 acres in the middle of a residential area of New Reehelle. On about 15 acres of it, 3I students are trying to set up an educational farm for the public schools. They are planning gardens, restoring nature study trails, and studying the ecology of the area.
Other successful group efforts have been a monthly community newspaper, a weekly 3I newspaper (both of which frequently deal with commuity issues), a "walk for development" in which students have taken leading roles and through which money has been raised for various self-help programs, an effort to provide better recreational facilities for young people, a project to develop an alternative program for junior high school students of which this pamphlet is one result, and such organizations as Dial Help and Sunshine, many of whose staff members have been 3I students.
3. A notable example of an independent project of a community involvement type was an effort by one student to make Nature Study Woods more accessible for public use. The student spoke with many public officials and researched the area thoroughly both first hand and through city and county records. While he did not succeed in his chief aim, he learned a great deal.
4. The 3I Program has made several attempts at getting more community involvement. In the spring of the last two years there were efforts to encourage community involvement. Both were only moderately successful. The general consensus is that in these efforts the ideas came from just a few students and teachers and that the rest of the students did not seem particularly interested. Some courses, however, resulted from these efforts, among them one related to the Ward Acres project, another to the junior high project, a political science class dealing with local politics and consumer problems, and a class on such social problems as prison reform. It appears to us that projects taking students into the community are not likely to be successful unless they are well-organized and led.
5. Analyzing the reasons for the recent and considerable decline of student interest in community involvement in various social, political, and ecomemic areas is difficult. One reason might be the feeling that it is mach easier to get credits towards college in classes. Another seems to be the national decline in student activism, related perhaps to the feeling that students cannot produce immediate results.
6. A number of adults other than teachers are involved with 3I students. They include student-teachers, parents and other citizens who conduct classes, and adults who work in community agencies. It appears to us that students working with such adults, as well as the adults themelves, sometimes need the guidance of 3I teachers. It can be useful, therefore, for such a teacher to act as a coordinator of the activity.
Involvement in Decision-Making
From the beginning it has been a premise of the 3I Program that students and teachers should participate jointly in decision-making about the operation of the program. The major avenues for student participation have been group meetings, a steering committee, tutorials, and project groups.
What We Have Learned
1. Group meetings have sometimes been effective but were more frequent during the formative first year of the program when almost all decisions were made at weekly meetings [rather] than during the past two years. The absence of many large-group meetings recently seems to be a result largely of a lack of student interest.
2. The steering committee has been effective off and on in its year and one-half of existence. This student-teacher group has been involved in teacher selection, social events, evaluations, tutorial makeup and a range of program problems, among them the organization of a physical education program.
The steering committee has discovered that, as with projects of various kinds, written agreements on program matters is important. Last year, for example, the 3I teacher-coordinator was informed that the 3Is was going to have to have a stricter gym program. He brought the letter to the steering committee. After representatives talked to the physical education teachers and apparently straightened out the matter, it was forgotten until the fall. At that time the physical education teachers called a student meeting and explained the new agreement. It was different in some important respects from the one the students thought they had made. Ultimately a written contract was prepared, something which, if it had been done in the first place, would have prevented the controversy.
3. In tutorials students have frequently participated in small-group discussions about the program and through them have made proposals about such matters as the form which evaluation should take and various organizational matters. Student interest in using tutorials for the solution of 3I group problems, however, has not been strong.
5. We have found that enthusiasm for student devision-making about the program during the first months of the program but that interest thereafter declined until a particularly controversial matter required decision. While student participation in reaching decisions continues in the program, we have been only moderately successful in interesting students on a regular basis in participating in determining mundane matters.
Teacher Selection: Choosing teachers for the program is not an easy thing to do, especially for a program like the 3Is. We have learned that just an interview with a candidate is inadequate. A person can sound very convincing when being interviewed, but not work effectively later on. We have found that a student-teacher committee for teacher selection is important but that having an applicant, when at all possible, spend some time in the program familiarizing himself or herself with it and giving students an opportunity to know the candidate better is probably essential.
Location: Being in the high school has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that certain facilities are at our disposal, for example the science labs and the art room. Disadvantages include the application of high school rules to 3I students that unnecessarily interfere with the program, for example rules about using the library after a high school period begins and rules regulating being in the corridors.
Student-Teacher Relationships: The student-teacher relationship in the 3Is is quite different from the usual one. Everyone is on a first name basis. Classes are informal. Most of the time students feel comfortable about and can speak freely to a teacher and vice versa. Generally speaking, the program has fostered a much closer student-teacher relationship than the usual one. The reasons include, in addition to the above, the relatively small size of the program, the frequency of independent study requiring student-teacher conferences, the tutorial arrangement, and the social affairs which students and teachers attend together.
Evaluations: Our chief learning about written self-evaluations is that they are both difficult and necessary. Assessing what one has learned or accomplished when one has probably relied for years on tests and grades is difficult. However, the process of making such an assessment is not only necessary for college entrance and for informing parents about progress but is also often valuable when both students and teachers have to examine in specific detail the results of a student's participation in the program.
Credit System: Most new students in the program are concerned about acquiring certain credits which are state requirements. After a few months, most realize that they will be able to acquire all necessary credits and no longer let it worry them. We have learned that not getting grades produces a more relaxed type of atmosphere in the classroom, one which is more conducive to learning. We have learned also that the absence of grades permits students to feel freer about undertaking unusual projects and that it is a stimulus to self-motivation and to a greater concern about what one is really learning.
Age Grouping: High school sophomores, juniors, and seniors participate well together in most 3I enterprises. Our experience indicatess that there is usually no good reason why students of various ages can't learn and work together.
College Entrance: Contrary to fears expressed during the early days of the 3I Program, college entrance is not a special problem for students who have been in an unconventional program and are not graded. All 3I students who have wanted to go on to college have been admitted. 3I graduates have been admitted to a wide range of institutions, among them St. John's, SUNY, the University of Pennsylvania, Manhattanville, Rider, Boston University, Antioch, Colgate, Western, the College of New Rochelle, Alfred, Sarah Lawrence, Syracuse, Bard, Shimer, M.I.T., Princeton, Hofstra, Goddard, Barnard, NYU, Beloit, Michigan State, George Washington, and Duke.
Photography by Frank Dalgin
Faculty Advisor: Alan Shapiro
Printed by: Joel Peck
Graphic Arts Instructor: Fred Todora Jr.