How does the structure of the Academies of Nashville support more meaningful learning?
The Academies of Nashville are backed by research of best practices and have been carefully structured to improve student learning. Key components of this structure include smaller learning communities, business partnerships, work-based learning experiences, and interdisciplinary projects to provide meaningful learning opportunities. Each of these components is discussed below. In an academy, students are part of a smaller learning community. Rather than being just an individual in a large school, students are part of a group of only 200 to 300 students. These students share many of the same teachers and are able to build strong relationships with adults and other students. This allows students to have critical support in their studies.
Each academy in Nashville is supported by business partnerships. These businesses serve several roles in the academy. As part of their role, the businesses serve on the academy advisory board where they provide valuable advice on the curriculum for the academy classes. This helps ensure that what is being taught in the academy classes is relevant and authentic.
The business partnership also provides real-world business context to the learning experiences. Partners do this by making classroom visits, hosting field trips, and having students job shadow or intern in their offices. Based on feedback from students, these experiences are among the most meaningful in their high school experience and provide a much deeper understanding of potential careers.
There are five to ten teachers in each academy that share planning time. During these planning sessions teachers put together interdisciplinary lessons based on the theme or careers of the academy. These lessons provide important context to all of the subjects being studied and enhance the student learning experiences. At the same time, this common planning time allows teachers to coordinate their efforts and monitor the progress of all students more effectively.
Many supports are built into the structure of academies to support learning. Years of experience from academies throughout the United States have provided Nashville with a research-based set of best practices that are proven to enhance learning.