Promoting critical thinking and creativity

Listening, speaking, writing, analytical thinking, teamwork and problem solving skills. These are the tools that St. Andrew's–Sewanee seeks to cultivate. Our approach is to engage and challenge, to teach not only facts but critical and creative processes. St. Andrew's-Sewanee's academic philosophy is based on the following principles:

Learning through doing is more effective than rote memorization.

The first thing new students notice at St. Andrew's-Sewanee is that you don't get credit for just showing up. Faculty members expect students to master the facts and know how to use them. Whether it's reading Shakespeare or finding the volume of a sphere, students are taught to come to the material from multiple angles. Teachers expect arguments and want to be challenged. Students begin to see the world in new ways and, most importantly, find that learning isn't confined to a classroom or to the school day.

To the extent possible, instruction should be personalized and address individual needs and interests.

SAS is dedicated to multiple diversities, including intellectual diversity, and supports students across the spectrum of abilities. In addition to the demanding courses on our campus, students requiring a greater challenge are encouraged to take classes (at no additional cost and for college credit!) at the nearby University of the South. Students requiring extra help have access to our Learning Resources Center. Students may also receive course-specific help from the peer tutoring program or hired tutors. Faculty members encourage students' unique interests; whether it's helping a group of students build a trebuchet or run a radio station.

Students thrive in small schools and classrooms, where teachers and students know each other well and work in an atmosphere of trust and high expectations.

St. Andrew's-Sewanee is very intentionally a small school, eschewing the trend towards “super-sized" private schools. With fewer than 300 students on campus, individual students never fade into the background. Everyone contributes, whether it's in the classroom, on the stage or on the playing field. Teachers know the names of all students, not just the ones in their classes, making it possible to engage and challenge students in the classroom and out. To best meet the challenges faced by an individual student, groups of faculty, residential staff, advisors, and coaches work together as a team to create an academic plan.

Students and parents should have access to multiple assessments based on performance of authentic tasks.

As many schools begin to rely on increasing numbers of standardized tests (and the ever-present temptation to begin teaching to those tests), St. Andrew's-Sewanee believes in more meaningful assessments. Students receive frequent opportunities to “strut their stuff" whether it is on traditional tests and papers, on group projects, exhibitions or presentations. After all, when was the last time your work required you to “bubble in" your responses? Teachers provide students and parents with meaningful feedback through a combination of grades, qualitative comments, and opportunities to see presentations and final projects.

Does it work?

When SAS students co-enroll in courses at the University of the South, the faculty members there tell us that our students are the stars in their classrooms. Our students publish and present original research. They are named National Merit Scholars and receive national recognition for their writing, art work, and foreign language abilities. The majority of our students get into their first choice college. Perhaps, most importantly, we pride ourselves on producing thoughtful and well-rounded graduates for whom learning is an on-going adventure, not just the means to a grade or a diploma.

I never felt I could make anything of beauty until I started my SAS English courses. I am quite blessed that my teachers disagreed. They forced me to write. They challenged me until I could author a work in which I could take pride. They showed me that I could produce something of worth. My English courses have given me something incredible: they have given me an ability to create and love my creations. ~ Spencer Fugate '14, Macalester College '18

I love Spanish with Señor. We get to read and talk about philosophical ideas, all in Spanish. You know you've learned to speak a language well when you can make up jokes in it. ~ Ruth Swallow '14, Carleton College '18

SAS really taught me to pursue what fascinated me as well as to recognize the value of a well-rounded education. I gained the necessary academic skills, but I also gained an appreciation for community, leadership, and the world around me. ~ Nate Peters '02, Claremont McKenna College '06


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