ⓘ Individual Education

Individual Education

ⓘ Individual Education

Individual education is a school system rooted in the individual psychology of Alfred Adler. Designed by Raymond Corsini, the individual education program includes a number of basic principles. The program consists of three components academic, creative/applied and socialization. Corsini also outlined disciplinary procedures and a number of other principles to ensure the most productive possible school environment.


1. Basic Principles

The following are the basic principles of the individual education school system:

  • Teachers have the right to ask a child to leave a classroom or to stay out of their classroom.
  • Teachers have full freedom in teaching the curriculum, but cannot force children to follow it.
  • Community resources are accessed where possible.
  • Learning is considered a privilege, not an obligation.
  • Rewards, honors and other extraneous motivators should be avoided.
  • Regular full classroom meetings are mandatory.
  • Children can learn in whatever fashion works for them.
  • Children can veto their attendance in a class.
  • Children have the opportunity to develop special talents if they wish.
  • Every child has a teacher-adviser, an in-school parent figure who the child chooses.
  • Teachers are responsible for teaching; children are responsible for learning.
  • Idiosyncratic classroom rules may be established by the teacher for their class, so long as they dont violate Individual Education principles.
  • The school day is divided roughly equally between academic, creative/applied and socialization.
  • The emphasis is on the development of a successful person.
  • The school operates on the basis of natural and logical consequences, using encouragement and intrinsic joy from skill mastery as the primary motivators for learning.
  • Feedback regarding their learning is given to children as soon as possible.
  • All evaluations are objective - not subjective.
  • Criticisms, warnings, or various other forms of punishment are strictly forbidden.
  • Children have the right to go to any other classroom or supervised library or study hall.
  • Children are not in a competition or race; they only compete against themselves.
  • Children decide if and when to study and there is no homework unless the child asks for it.
  • There are only three rules; they are impartially and strictly enforced.
  • Academic progress reports are kept on children, but grades are not given out.
  • The "GO" and "STOP" signals are the only means of enforcing rules in the classroom.
  • On any given day, children can choose not to learn.
  • Faculty has three jobs: academic teaching, creative/applied teaching, and socialization training/advising.
  • Peer teaching is encouraged.
  • An individualized pace of learning is encouraged.
  • Children are offered a wide range of creative/applied courses.
  • Children may be advised to study at the growing edge of their abilities, but the level at which they study is no ones choice but theirs.

1.1. Basic Principles Responsibility

A primary goal of individual education is to make children self-sufficient, giving them the mean to become a productive member of society; to become mature and self-reliant. Individual Education is against the infantilization of the child. Instead, individual education maximizes the childs self-determination.


1.2. Basic Principles Respect

Individual education is designed to develop in children feeling of respect of the self and of others. Traditional school systems make children feel inferior and make many of them feel unsuccessful. A system based on rewards and punishment, praise and disapproval, is considered morally bankrupt in the individual education system. Some children are not born into environments conducive to academics. Some children have strengths not visible in the traditional system.


1.3. Basic Principles Resourcefulness

Every child has innate talents, and some strengths and weaknesses. Whatever resources the child has, individual education permits expression, whether academic or non-academic, long as they can read and do basic math. For others, a broader program will be necessary. The children will determine the program that best suits them. The curriculum will be there when they need it. The teacher will encourage learning of all types of academe, but will not force it.


1.4. Basic Principles Responsiveness

The concept of social interest Gemeinschaftsgefuhl in Adlerian theory is central to individual education. It means responding to the needs of others. It can be seen in school spirit, patriotism, love for family, or elsewhere. This is critical to a child becoming a productive and happy member of society. This goal is not achieved directly, but rather through the achievement of the first three Rs.


2. Academic program

The curriculum in the academic component is similar to that in the traditional system. Language, mathematics, history/geography and science are developed along the mastery model - through a skills list through which children progress from the beginning of school to the end. Children are tested weekly on average but it is the children who request to be tested; teachers cannot demand that tests be written. Instead a progress chart shows how far along the child is 80% is considered mastery. The child doesnt have to learn what he/she has already learned - if the child can pass a test without attending class, the progress chart is marked identically to that of a child that attended hours of classroom study. A quick learner is offered the next level of curriculum and the opportunity to tutor others. No numerical or letter-based grading system is used.


3. Creative/applied courses

These courses can be offered in 6–8 week blocks. 1–3 can be chosen out of 9–12 courses offered. Included are topics students want to learn but do not find in traditional curriculum. They usually involve some physical activities e.g. soccer, some artistic ones visual arts and some applied horticulture. Teachers offer courses in areas of their interest. Community resources are used where possible.


4. Socialization aspect

Teachers socialize children through their positions as teachers and advisers. Children can choose their adviser, though the teacher can choose whether to accept that student. The adviser is an equal to the child in this environment unlike during the academic program, and can only enforce the first school rule, related to dangerous behavior see below. They meet as a group.Among other things, students learn about problem solving, health maintenance, interpersonal communications and purpose in life. The adviser supervises homeroom, which occurs at the beginning and end of the day and is unstructured. At least once a week and sometimes every day, the adviser holds a class meeting during which time the children discuss their various concerns. Rules regarding homeroom and class meetings can only be decided democratically. The teacher can suggest rules but the children decide by a vote.

The adviser is also the liaison between the child and other teachers with whom there may be difficulties, and can act as a mediator. The adviser also liaises with the childs parents but only on rare occasions and only with the childs consent. The child should always be in the room during such discussions if possible.

The socialization program includes "playtime" for younger children. Other teachers are also free to discuss social matters with children, as equals.


5. Disciplinary procedure

Individual education schools have only three school rules:

  • Be in a supervised place or en route to a supervised place.
  • If a teacher gives you the GO signal, leave the room immediately and silently and without distracting the others.
  • Never do anything that could be dangerous, damaging or harmful to yourself or others, or property.

There are no exceptions to these rules. Violation of one of these rules means the child is given a violation slip which they take to the office to have recorded.

Teachers can establish idiosyncratic classrooms, but they cannot violate the three rules above. Because there are so few rules, teachers must ensure that they are strictly enforced.

These rules are largely based on the discipline concepts of Rudolf Dreikurs. Dreikurs concept of logical consequences is particularly useful in understanding the individual education disciplinary procedure.


5.1. Disciplinary procedure GO and STOP

The GO signal is a gesture towards the door. A teacher may quietly say the childs name and make the gesture. The child must then leave the classroom immediately and silently without disruption to others. The child then has a few options: go to another class; go to the study hall; go to the library; seek to re-enter the classroom. The child can return to the classroom but may be given the STOP signal at that time, which means the child must go to another option. The STOP signal is a hand held face up in the direction of the child entering.

Teachers should not keep track of the number of times they give out the GO and STOP signals. They have no meaning in terms of the childs progress in school, and should carry no social consequences. A teacher must not warn the child of an impending GO signal, nor intimidate the child by standing close to them or giving them negative looks. There is no use in intimidating the child, who will rebel against such an attempt.


5.2. Disciplinary procedure Consequences of violations

For each violation there is a consequence. If the ultimate consequence of expulsion is applied, it should include a referral to other professional help.


5.3. Disciplinary procedure Findings

Research articles have indicated the following findings:

  • Parents endorse the system.
  • There are far less disciplinary problems in individual education schools.
  • Students scores on standardized achievement tests typically exceed national averages. Yearly academic gains are similar. Several schools that were initially low in district academic rank made impressive gains in rank. This is in spite of only half the amount of academic instructional time being spent in individual education schools compared to the traditional system.
  • In many cases, 100% of teachers surveyed in a school have said that they prefer teaching in an individual education school rather than in a traditional one. The main comment is that teachers can put their energies into teaching.

6. History and present status of individual education

Raymond Corsini recognized in the late 1960s that adults were mistakenly blaming children for their poor behavior and grades in school when the problems were promoted by the school system in which the children operated. Corsini argued that the traditional system of education was fundamentally undemocratic. Children were "sentenced" to attend an institution where they had no choice of teacher or level of study, and minimal choice in terms of subjects, places or means of study. He set out to design a school system in which respect would be a central principle. Research by Paul Clark confirmed that individual education is an effective method of encouraging learning.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were a dozen individual education schools operating in North America and Europe, including Hawaii, Illinois, Colorado, British Columbia and the Netherlands. One school, the Blooming Grove Academy, operated in Bloomington, Illinois from 1986 until 2011. Forest Park I.E. K-5 and Hufford I.E.6-8, both in Joliet, IL continue to operate using the Corsini system. The original Individual Education School, HoAla School in Wahiawa, Hawaii, continues to be in operation for kindergarten to grade 12. DaVinci Charter School closed down in February 2013.

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