Bronx Lab School prides itself on promoting students’ ownership of their own learning through inquiry-based classrooms, teaching Habits of Mind, and using a mastery-based grading system.
Student-centered inquiry is the bedrock of the curriculum and teaching approach at Bronx Lab School. Teachers develop questions that spark curiosity and drive students to read, write, think, share, explore, solve, create, collaborate, present, question, defend, negotiate, compromise and reflect. Inquiry is a meaningful process that facilitates deep understanding rather than standardized, rote responses.
Habits of Mind
The Habit of Mind are the foundation for inquiry-based learning at Bronx Lab School. Teachers promote awareness of the five Habits of Mind in class daily to prepare students for higher education and participation in society:
- Analyzing Evidence: support a given viewpoint and examine various forms of evidence
- Multiple Viewpoints: see an issue from different perspectives
- Intellectual Curiosity: think critically about the world around them and ask, “why?”
- Taking Creative Risks: step outside your comfort zone to try or explore something new
- Metacognition: reflect on your own learning
The Bronx Lab School community uses mastery-based grading (MBG) to guide all students to achieve the highest academic standards. We understand that grades are not used to punish or reward but to fairly measure student progress and growth towards meeting learning standards. Staff consistently implement multiple assessments that give students opportunities to meet and exceed the standards. Mastery-based grading builds skills in students that allow them to reflect on their growth and progress towards mastery.
MBG is a school-wide form of assessment that focuses on what a student is learning, shown by demonstrations of content knowledge and skills through student work. Students are assessed on Learning Standards, which are the goals and expectations of what each student should be able to do, know and understand over a given period of time.
Grades represent the progress that students have made toward mastering the skills and content outlined for the course. Teachers break long-term learning standards into supporting standards that help scaffold students’ progress. Assessments are then linked with the supporting standards to build a “body of evidence” that provides information about a student’s progress toward meeting the long-term standard.
MBG opens the door for students to take ownership of their own learning. It is expected that teachers, students, and parents have regular communication about what a students should be learning, which standards they have already met or exceeded, and which standards they need to continue working on.
As a member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, we believe that learning cannot be sufficiently demonstrated within the confines of standardized assessments. This means that our students and teachers are challenged daily to read, write, think, share, explore, solve, create, collaborate, present, question, defend, negotiate, compromise, and most importantly, reflect upon themselves as learners.
To demonstrate these skills, Bronx Lab students work towards building a graduation portfolio that includes an analytic essay on literature, a social studies research paper, an extended or original science experiment, and problem-solving at higher levels of mathematics. Beginning in the 9th grade, students present and defend their work to panels made up of teachers, field experts, parents, and community members twice a year through our roundtable presentations. Students continue to demonstrate their learning through roundtables in 10th grade, and move on to graduation-level Performance Based Assessment Tasks (PBATs) in 11th and 12th grade.
What is a Performance Based Assessment Task?
PBATs are long-term projects that allow students to study a topic of their choice in-depth and express and exhibit learning through writing and oral presentation. Unlike standardized tests, PBATs allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in multiple modalities. In addition, a range of topics are available to students, which allows teachers to adjust content sophistication depending on the individual student’s achievement level.
In the preparatory grade-level Gateway projects, students demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have learned and why it matters. In graduation-level PBATs, students demonstrate both deep content knowledge and analytic thinking around their inquiry question of their choice.