Thomas Haney Secondary opened in September, 1992 and is a member of the Canadian Coalition for Self Directed Learning. The Canadian Coalition for Self Directed Learning is a consortium of schools across Canada which operate on a model similar to Thomas Haney.
The school design and the instructional model anticipates the needs of future students and the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed by future citizens. A set of principles was identified and used to shape the personalized instructional model and the design of the building. The principles that shaped the redesign of curriculum delivery were that:
- all students learn at different rates and in different ways
- students will learn better if they take some responsibility for their own learning
- current learning should support students’ life-long learning
- all students can learn and want to learn
- schools must be safe and orderly
- the building should support, not hinder, innovation
The school is organized around a very successful Teacher Advisor System where one teacher takes responsibility for approximately 25 students. The Advisor becomes the prime advocate and contact for these students and forms a triangle involving the home, the student and the Classroom Teacher and Teacher Advisor. Each part of the triangle has a key part to play in the success at school. If any of the parts fail to be an active participant the chance of success is greatly reduced.
The school is organized so that grade eight students follow a “conventional” timetable in structured classes but at the same time are introduced to the concept of learning guides and self – directed learning. When students enter grade nine, each day they create their own timetable daily in conjunction with their teacher advisor. Each course is typically made up of 20 learning guides and students are required to design and plan their year, their week and their days working at a reasonable pace to complete in the year. The flexibility allowed to focus more time on curricular areas where the student may be struggling allows all students a greater chance of success. There are also those students who are able to move through a course more quickly than others and the flexibility of the schedule allows for that as well. We believe strongly that this approach to learning reflects a realistic approach to how people work and function in post secondary settings.
Not all students arrive at Thomas Haney self motivated but students who try will learn to be self motivated and to work in a variety of environments. Students in Grades 9 – 12 generally work individually or in group settings and also receive some direct instruction in their scheduled classes. Students work in the Great Halls on English, Social Studies, Languages and Math; the large Science lab for all Science courses and a variety of specialized areas for other courses. Each student has a partial timetable where approximately 1/3 of their time (more for grade 12′s taking government exam courses) scheduled with 2/3 of their time wide open for self direction. The advantage to the timetable is that it allows students to connect with teachers plus it also maintains flexibility in planning their daily schedules. Students generally choose to work on 4 or 5 courses in a day but, if circumstances warrant, they may choose to work on a single activity until it is concluded.
Since the day the school opened, we have hosted hundreds of educators from around the world who have met with staff and students and have gone back to their own regions with a very favorable impression of the students, staff and programs at Thomas Haney. We at Thomas Haney Secondary School strongly believe we are preparing co-operative, collaborative citizens for the twenty-first century. Our many graduates over the years have done us proud and are recognized by both employers and post secondary institutions as being extremely well prepared for their post secondary life.