Educational Laboratory

Catlin Gabel has long envisioned itself as an educational laboratory, a dynamic school in which teachers and students pursue learning with creativity and purpose. That spirit has led to an engaging curriculum and extraordinary programs.

As we look to the future, we will deepen our commitment to being an unrivaled educational laboratory. We will more fully realize Ruth Catlin’s vision: “To contribute to the community and its schools an educational laboratory, free to utilize the knowledge and wisdom of leading educators." 

Reimagining Education to Focus on the Student, Inquiry, and Experience

Embracing the science of progressive education is our second strategic priority. In the early 20th century, educators John Dewey, Helen Parkhurst, and Francis Parker reimagined education to focus on the student over the teacher, inquiry over memorization, and experience over recitation. Recognizing that the value of new methods would need to be proven, they argued that schools should be “laboratories,” in which new ideas could be implemented and assessed for efficacy. Their goal was to develop a science of progressive education.

At Catlin Gabel, we have inherited that vision. The primary purpose of our educational laboratory model is to continually learn more about how children grow and develop and how they should best be educated, and to put that knowledge to work to improve teaching and learning outcomes. To do that we will equip our teachers to be experts in designing learning based on our principles of progressive education. Research projects in our classrooms and across our school will provide new insights into how we can improve teaching and learning. Tracking outcomes and feeding what we find back to our educators will help us to strengthen our methods. Bringing a disciplined approach to sponsoring educational innovation will ensure resources are invested wisely. Pioneering bold ideas in education and sharing what we learn will position Catlin Gabel as a national leader in education.

Our educational laboratory structures and culture will focus energy and resources directly on improving the student experience. We will model the value of well-planned experiments, the importance of research and data, an openness to learning, and the courage to take bold steps. Students at Catlin Gabel will benefit every day from an improved, dynamic learning environment, and well-documented success will inspire other schools to join us in designing the education of the future.

Focus on Research, Impact, and Innovation

  • Design and sponsor practical, applicable research that is classroom-based and school wide, with a focus on key outcomes.
  • Create a data team to establish success measures, gather and analyze research findings, and determine how the results can be applied.
  • Invest in disciplined innovation that is student-focused, measurable, and aligned with the Catlin Gabel mission and values. 
  • Use empirical processes to document new methods of teaching and learning, and apply insights to improve outcomes and support further research.

Can we improve the experience and outcomes for today’s students by better understanding the experience of past Catlin Gabel students? With sophisticated survey methods and statistical models, we believe that our graduates’ reflections could provide relevant data to inform our current teaching practices, increase student engagement, and help us respond more effectively to students’ social and emotional needs.

Alumni Experience Research Project

Our research will capture information and impressions that can only come from those who have graduated and moved on to other educational and personal pursuits; alumni are uniquely positioned to provide these valuable insights. Longitudinal data–collected annually–will be analyzed and packaged for teachers and administrators, and used every year to inform planning that directly benefits students.  Through the lens of a feedback loop cycle, we will see precisely which academic and character skills are benefiting our graduates at different life stages, and how those skills can be emphasized with our students today. We will learn–and share with partner schools throughout the nation–what factors contribute most to student success and happiness at our school, and how we can use our findings to inform our curricular work.

Lead Education Into The Future

  • In partnership with schools and colleges, pioneer education reforms that fundamentally change and improve the educational experience.
  • Promote and demonstrate the power of progressive education through forums, conferences, publications, and online resources.
  • Create a formal idea exchange with peer schools to share current thinking and practices around progressive education.

Can Catlin Gabel challenge the college admission system–the expectation that accomplishment be measured with only standardized tests and grades–and establish a more comprehensive approach to communicating a student’s knowledge, skills, and character?

Mastery Transcript Consortium Project

In fact, we’re taking steps to reform the system now. In partnership with 14 schools, we co-founded the Mastery Transcripts Consortium, a national alliance of independent schools that aims to redesign the high school transcript, and through that to redesign learning. The mastery transcript we’re developing will allow teachers and schools to assess and report on a wide variety of academic and character skills not validated by standardized transcripts, such as oral communication, digital literacy, analytical thinking, adaptability, and leadership. Our effort is inspiring other schools, and support is growing; over 90 schools have joined our consortium, and the project received a $2 million grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation.

Cultivate Extraordinary Talent

  • CultivateRedesign professional learning to be collaborative and flexible across subjects, classes, and divisions
  • Form an educator-led Ed Lab Team for the 2017-18 school year that will engage in “action research” designed for iterative teacher learning.
  • Establish teacher self-improvement and feedback cycles as an ongoing, embedded process throughout the year.
  • Optimize student learning by aligning professional learning with our experiential learning strategic priority.
  • Promote personal and professional growth with coaching for every employee of Catlin Gabel, and instructional coaching for every teacher.
  • Elevate exemplary teachers by providing leadership roles and opportunities to inspire others.

Can the educational laboratory approach that drives student learning also be used to elevate professional learning?

Professional Learning

By exploring that idea, we’re seeking new ways to balance the goals of the school with individual needs for professional growth, and laying the groundwork for a program to include measurable, goals-focused coaching and training for every member of our faculty and staff. That effort begins with the launch of an educator-led Ed Lab Team for the 2017-18 school year, a cross-divisional program that will engage teachers in “action research” that benefits student learning. The team will guide their peers through an iterative, self-reflective process, in which they learn and grow in their profession by developing research questions, collecting and analyzing data, taking action, and evaluating results.