For over 95 years, Lacordaire Academy has provided a challenging and rigorous curriculum in the Dominican Catholic tradition to a diverse student body. Today, educators face an interesting challenge; we can no longer predict with any certainty the job market or skills that students will need fifteen, ten or even five years from now. We do, however, know that students will need to be articulate, confident, and creative problem solvers who can work collaboratively, think critically and adapt to any environment. Students need to be globally aware and proficient in the latest technology, but they also need to develop character traits, such as honesty, resilience, independence and a sense of humor. The administration and faculty at Lacordaire are committed to providing a curriculum that is responsive to our students’ needs, prepares them for their futures and challenges them individually. For specifics about the curriculum by grade and subject, click the Academics button on the home page and search for the content by school, Lower, Middle or Upper or see our comprehensive Course of Studies pdf.
The answer is threefold: 1) an on-going assessment and revision process for curriculum development; 2) a commitment to inquiry/project based learning and the professional development the faculty requires to stay current in best practices; and last but not least, 3) a philosophy that embraces the belief that all students can learn and grow to their potential, and to that end, encourages faculty to teach to the top while providing the support necessary for every child to succeed.
Inquiry Based Learning: Traditional education often ignores the fact that children are born curious and that they learn about their world by asking questions. At Lacordaire, students of all ages are encouraged to keep that curiosity alive by learning to ask questions and to think indepedently. Learning at Lacordaire is active not passive; students are engaged and interact with each other and their environment. In the youngest grades, learning happens through play and exploration. As students grow older, students continue to learn through project based learning and innovative teaching practices. Inquiry-based learning does not happen in a single subject or grade but is part of philosophy of teaching and occurs at every level across every subject in the Academy. See Technology for discussion of S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M. initiatives.
Harkness Method: The Harkness Method was originally developed at Philips Exeter and is based on the Socratic Method. The purchase of the table, as well as professional training for our faculty, demonstrates Lacordaire’s commitment to inquiry-based learning. Students lead discussions at the table with the teacher as a facilitator or observer in order to experience learning on a much deeper level than a lecture can achieve.
Curriculum development, review, and revision are on-going throughout the year for grades pre-k to 12. Over the last five years, the Academy has offered many new enrichment classes to supplement our core curriculum of math, science, English, reading, religion, social studies and world language. Recent additions in the Middle School are geography, current events, study skills, character development, Latin and writing workshop. In the Upper School, new electives, such as Molecular Gastronomy, Genetics, Intro to Latin, Film, Photography, Intro to Theatre and Creative Writing have been added in response to student interest.
The faculty and administration work together to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Academy’s program. Instructional improvement plans, data analysis, student surveys, departmental meetings and curriculum mapping are part of the review and revision process. Most importantly, the curriculum is revised each year with the rising students of the next academic year in mind; curriculum revision is not based solely on the test results of the prior class. Feedback from teachers is critical to our curriculum development and revision process.