Intellectual Approach

Understanding by Design – Year at a Glance

To facilitate an intellectual approach to learning, CSA District utilizes the Understanding by Design (UbD; Wiggins & McTighe) curriculum-planning framework. Teachers develop a year-at-a-glance (YAAG) planning document before the beginning of each school year. Using the year-at-a-glance as a guide, the curriculum is organized with the backward design approach, beginning with large conceptual ideas, leading to enduring understandings and essential questions, from the Michigan core standards and benchmarks, followed by assessments and instructional activities. This model ensures an interdisciplinary, thematic and differentiated approach to instruction. The backward design approach also results in a curriculum that matches the stages of human development, is challenging, integrative, and exploratory by design, and utilizes multiple learning and teaching approaches to enhance and accommodate the diverse skills and abilities of the students.

Habits of Mind

Embedded in the CSA curriculum are the Habits of Mind (Costa and Kallick, 2000), a composite of many skills and attitudes associated with successful living, problem solving and effective thinking. The sixteen characteristics of intelligent behavior are:

  • Persistence
  • Managing Impulsivity
  • Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  • Thinking Flexibly
  • Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
  • Striving for Accuracy
  • Questioning and Posing Problems
  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  • Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
  • Gathering Data through all Senses
  • Creating, Imagining, Innovating Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  • Taking Responsible Risks
  • Finding Humor
  • Thinking Interdependently
  • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

We believe these habits and attitudes are essential for the success of our students and that by practicing these habits in learning settings and in everyday life, students will learn to draw upon their intellectual, moral and emotional resources to make informed choices to guide their actions. We teach a solid core academic program, but our teachers and faculty are also busy promoting and encouraging intelligent behaviors in the students.

Intelligent behaviors become “habits of mind” that begin at birth and strengthen over time with consistent encouragement and recognition at both school and home. These habits of mind build internal motivation and a strong inner locus of control. Children with developed habits of mind gain their strength and personal efficacy from within rather than relying on external rewards and consequences to manage their lives.

Seeking relevance and “understanding”

We strive to incorporate an active and engaging approach to learning. Students engage in experiences that incorporate multiple modalities and learning styles. Teachers strive to provide experiences where students go beyond paper and pencil assignments, and demonstrate their learning in a constructive way that incorporates higher-level thinking. We also provide a balance of instructional formats throughout the school day; students engage in large group, small group and individual activities each day. The instructional practices incorporated in our secondary program encourage students to make cross-content and cross-curricular connections. Teachers also build connections between what is being taught and how it is important. Students understand the relevance of what they are learning and how it applies to their previous knowledge and life experiences.