Learning is lively, ambitious, and adventurous at Westridge and that is by design. Our faculty members are subject matter experts who spend a great deal of time thinking about the art and science of teaching so that students can deeply and authentically engage with the curriculum.
Core tenets of our approach to teaching and learning are:
Set the stage for learning
The highest quality academic program is only valuable if students are emotionally prepared to take advantage of all that it offers. We help prepare students for learning by: fostering an environment where they feel comfortable being themselves (our students like to say they embrace quirkiness and celebrate individuality); leading with our core value of inclusion; facilitating close relationships between faculty and students (our schedule permits significant time for students and teachers to interact outside of class and often beyond their immediate classroom topics); and, investing time and resources into social emotional learning and a team of student support specialists.
Practice inquiry-based pedagogy
Rather than passively listen to lectures, our students are asked to engage with material, develop projects, and investigate questions and topics. This starts in our youngest grades, through such activities as teacher-guided but student-led book discussions in 5th grade Language Arts like those of the Harkness Method.
Focus on how girls learn best
The true power of a girls’ school lies not in the absence of boys but rather in having girls at the center of all we do. From curricular decisions and pedagogy to our athletic fields and unique human development program, the interest of girls always come first at Westridge.
A significant portion of student work inside and outside of our classrooms takes place in groups. Students learn from their peers and reinforce their understanding when explaining things to others or leading a project. They learn to work with others and gain insight into how collaboration can amplify outcomes by combining a variety of views and strengths.
Encourage risk-taking and provide support for learning through failure
Research shows that we learn more through trial, error, and reflection than by taking the safe and comfortable but less challenging route. Though this can be difficult within a national educational culture centered on standardized outcomes, we must maintain focus on deep learning and habits of the mind. We endeavor to provide frequent, lower-stake opportunities for student risk-taking and to have faculty, as well as student support programs, in place to help students persist through this difficult but rewarding work.
Let girls’ voices lead
In our classrooms, extra-curricular programs, and student life activities, whenever possible we let student voices lead. From Student Tech Partners in Lower School, to the successfully argued uniform change request affectionately referred to as “the 8th grade sock rebellion” and all-school assemblies led by Middle School Student Voices, and the student-directed productions and thoughtful and powerful Town Meetings in Upper School, student voices are front and center at Westridge. We believe students have something important to add to the community conversation from the earliest grades and an imperative to say it. We are here to help them find their voices and discover how to put them to work in support of their passions and the greater good, and that takes practice.