The first aspect of the Fuller Model is to take an existing school and divide it into academies. These academies are created around a central theme/focus that directly addresses the school’s identity, teacher expertise, community needs and resources, and student interests. When we talk about creating academies within existing schools, there are two different aspects that academies offer.
Academies as “Small Schools”
While we know that there are benefits to working with smaller groups, too often existing districts and schools cannot alter the size of their building, nor control the number of students within their boundaries. Creating academies within existing schools allows for the benefits of small school communities without having to alter the physical space or number of students. Students are encouraged to choose which academy they want to be a part of based on their interests, academic goals, and strengths and weaknesses.
Academies allow for more connection between students and faculty, the ability to pursue academic interests, more allowance for differentiation and individual student support, more opportunities for leadership and involvement, and a sense of belonging and identity. These are often found as results of small school environments, but can be accomplished within large, already established schools.
Teaching within Academies
In addition to the benefits that the academy structure provides, the actual teaching and learning experiences that happen within the academies is also important.
Academy learning happens in groups led by interdisciplinary teaching teams. In other words, instead of having an English class and a Math class, students instead would be addressing an overarching topic or theme through different lenses. Students are able to see connections between disciplines and learn to think in interdisciplinary ways that are more reflective of real-world problems and situations. As a culmination, students are asked to complete a task, project, presentation, etc., that allows them to use what they have learned and apply it directly.
On top of content knowledge and skills, we acknowledge that there are other forms of knowledge and skills that must be taught if students are going to be prepared for the world outside of high school. Working collaboratively, thinking creatively, and communicating effectively—all skills necessary for post-high school pathways—are practiced and refined. Self-direction, time-management, and accountability are a natural part of the model. As students spend up to one-third of their day at school, it is essential that we support life skills as much as academic skills.