- Students learn best when they are relaxed and connected socially with their peers and mentors.
- Multi-aged classrooms are more reflective of the world at large and offer opportunities for leadership, empathy, and confidence in dealing with people of a variety of ages.
- Students learn best when they are engaged in their activities, interested in the topics, connected to meaningful mentoring relationships, and can assess their progress.
- Small groups of students in each class help teachers to spend the time that each student needs to learn according to their individual needs. Ratios average around 8:1.
- Tutorial-based instruction is given, with periodic mini-lectures, rather than lecture-based and teacher-paced instruction.
- We emphasize collaborative learning instead of stressing competition between students which can create performance anxiety.
- Instead of trying to control children, we try to convince them. We meet with children to have a conversation about any issues. In this way, they learn moral and logical reasoning. We avoid the behaviourist approach of punishment and rewards.
- Children need encouragement, guidance, and practice to develop communication and negotiation skills.
- The adults in children’s lives need to cherish their role as mentors and role models for learning and living.
In Self-Directed Learning, or SDL, students have:
- input into their academic programming and assignments
- flexible scheduling
- access to teachers and mentors for advisement
- continuous progress through self-pacing of work
- authentic assessment of knowledge and skills
- an environment of collaborative learning
Self-Directed Learning is the alternative approach to teacher-directed learning, which has been the approach in most conventional schools across the Western world since the Industrial Revolution. Teacher-directed learning is teacher-paced and lecture-based. The teacher is the source of power over curriculum, organization of workspace, and time management.
Self-Directed Learning is a more participatory approach, in which decision-making is two-way. Teachers guide the curriculum, help with resources, guides skill development for SDL, gives feedback, manages class dynamic, and organizes any learning activities. Children know what their own interests are, what they are motivated to do, and what their level of energy or ability is. Together, decisions are made, in the best interests of the child. In addition, the teachers’ maturity and developed communication skills allow them to be altruistic and empathetic; in this way, they can be guides and mentors for children who are still learning pro-social behaviour. Banbury Crossroads is designed to be a school that is convenient for children.
Benefits of Self-Directed Learning include:
- developing autonomy and independence
- increased student engagement
- increased self-confidence
- learning organizational skills and time management
- mastery of material before moving forward
- taking initiative
Self-Directed Learning’s dual decision-making process between teacher and student ensures that students receive necessary assistance in goal setting and achievement. As students are aware of their own interests, enthusiasm, energy, and abilities, they are expected to keep those ideas in mind as they pursue their aspirations and plans. Together, teachers and students determine what the students need. Time is set aside to discuss goals and progress at the beginning and end of the days for elementary students and during project block time for secondary students. All students receive individual and small-group attention at some point in the day.
Multi-aged grouping is a key element in our student-paced method because it eliminates the negative social effects of single-age grouping that often ignores the unique progress of each individual student. This also promotes natural peer instruction, leadership, and trust among students. Furthermore, having students of different levels of independence allows teachers to focus on providing more assistance to those who need it the most. We do not “socially promote,” nor do we “hold children back.” A multi-aged approach is convenient for students to collaborate on projects, such as science or math fair projects, either spontaneously or organized by the teacher.
At Banbury Crossroads, we have a continuous enrollment policy for both domestic and international students. This means that domestic students have the flexibility to start their studies at any time throughout the year, as per their individual needs and circumstances. Whether it’s the beginning of a new school term or any other point during the academic year, we welcome new domestic students and ensure a smooth transition into our school community.
On the other hand, international students have specific start dates at the beginning of each semester, which occur in September and February. This allows for a structured onboarding process and ensures that international students have the necessary support and resources in place for their academic journey.
It’s worth mentioning that our enrollment policies are subject to change in the future. Therefore, we encourage all prospective students, both domestic and international, to reach out to us at any time to inquire about enrollment. We are available to provide information and assist with the enrollment process, regardless of the current start dates in effect.
Yes, we typically give students a two-day trial, without cost to the parent, to try Banbury Crossroads. This allows students to give parents feedback about their feelings of comfort or suitability so that they are more likely to buy into the school experience. This also empowers young people to contribute to the major decisions affecting their lives. During a trial period, teachers and students within the school may assess if the potential student would be a good fit for us. We want to ensure that we are a suitable match for your student, and vis versa, so that everyone is satisfied in the long run.
We recommend that students arrive with report cards or formal assessments from their previous schooling. This provides extremely helpful information for academic assessment. Parents of any student with special needs within the purview of our school’s philosophy must provide complete assessments to staff, so that we may consider whether and how we would address those needs. Since we are not a designated special needs school, our ability to assist students is limited to whether those students are capable of existing independently within our classes, and of learning the competencies we focus upon philosophically.Teachers at Banbury Crossroads assess each child when they come, through individual discussions and demonstrations of student ability and skill. We have a relatively small ratio of students to teachers, so this is what we do regularly with all students as they progress with their work.
One of our key objectives is to address the specific needs and desires of each student. By doing so, we strive to empower them to be self-sufficient and to make informed choices on their own. We are a Self-Directed Learning school. This approach allows students to collaborate with their teachers in creating their own learning schedule, which incorporates core courses. They progress through the curriculum at their own pace, mastering the material before moving on. Additionally, students are encouraged to pursue projects and activities that align with their interests, set their own goals, and take ownership of their education by seeking guidance and accepting individualized and small-group instruction.
We offer complementary courses, such as Spanish, music, French, art, art history, philosophy, foods, drama, and psychology. In addition, clubs are offered each year focusing on interests such as crafts and other arts, chess, dance, outdoor education, computer-related topics, knitting, and extramural sports.
Elementary students have a schedule based around complementary courses like music or drama, as well as playtime and snack at recess, and lunch. They all have time at the beginning of the day to set goals and to decide what they will work on, where they will work, for how long, and with whom. They learn to organize their time and recognize their own learning style in an organic and intuitive fashion.
Secondary students create their own weekly schedules and may change them throughout the year. They may allocate one, two or three courses per morning, and usually one or two for the afternoons. Complementary courses and Physical Education are at set times, so students work their core subjects around those timetables.
The day starts at 9 a.m. and goes until 3:35 p.m., except on Fridays, when it ends at 1:45 p.m. There are no bells. Students get one 10-minute break in the morning at a time of their choosing. Students have 55 minutes for lunch, and on Friday, since they get out early, they may grab their lunch whenever they want during the morning.
Having small classes makes it possible for teachers and other staff to easily supervise students, both inside and outside the school. We believe that our school is a peaceful, caring, and safe place. We place importance on eliminating bullying and other dangerous behaviours. We have students who have come here to get away from bullies, or who have developed social anxieties. Strangers do not enter our hallways unnoticed. We are small, having 70 to 80 students in all. We do not believe in a behaviourist approach to social functioning. We believe in mutual respect. We follow a communication and problem-solving approach from Dr. Thomas Gordon’s P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training) program. We have a comprehensive Conflict Resolution Policy.
Due to our smallish enrolment, students need each other to participate in collaborative learning. When a new student comes, the current ones are excited to see whether the new person might be a new friend for them. Children maintain their general personalities, but it is difficult to remain painfully shy at Banbury Crossroads. Students vary widely in the amount of time they’ve attended the school, too. It’s almost unheard of for students here to exclude a new (and shy) student, simply to maintain existing circles of friendship.
We tend to not get cliques forming here, as our small student population makes it easy for individuals to find meaningful places to belong. Overall, the Banbury Crossroads way is for students to be civil and friendly to everyone, with individuals finding a few other peers that they relate to especially well and may spend more time with. We have watched many “shy” students blossom into socially connected people.
Extracurricular activities change from year to year. We have had outdoor education clubs, chess games and scrabble ladders, crafts clubs, debate, and extramural sports between our students and other private schools. We focus on individual sports, rather than team sports. We also take overnight ski trips and usually host an out-of-country trip each year.
Our goal is to nurture students’ love of learning. By fostering this, we aim to help them approach life with open hearts and minds. This will ultimately enable them to pursue their passionate interests and engage in meaningful relationships that sustain them and make the world a better place. With this aim in mind, it makes sense to take young people out into the world to explore it directly, rather than enclosing them within a school building and teaching them about the world through pictures and explanations which disconnects them from the world itself. Considering how children learn, it doesn’t make sense to disconnect them from the world around them. This explains our deep and abiding devotion to field trips, volunteerism, personal interest projects, and internships.
We see our students as whole persons, not just academic producers. This means that the emotional, social and physical state of our students matters to us. We have such a small ratio of student to teacher that we have the time and inclination to notice and observe them. We also have time to interact with them through discussion and problem-solving sessions.
Academic assessment is conducted in a variety of ways. We assess their work daily through teacher observation of their writing and other presentation skills, feedback, and re-teaching cycles. Assessment also happens through student demonstrations of understanding with hands-on projects and multi-media presentations, dances, skits, and songs. Students produce essays, art pieces, reports, and do quizzes and exams, both oral and written. We want students to demonstrate in some form what they know and the skills they have learned. We use rubrics meaningful to students; we make sure that students know what they need to do to improve their work. We do not issue marks until Grade 9.
We teach to mastery, until all students have accomplished the material to their individual potential, rather than simply stopping the learning process at a point where we can compare students with each other. We aim for students to evaluate their performance by comparing it to their past achievements and their personal goals. By the time students reach grade 10, they have a clear understanding of the meaning of their grades and have the option of retaking tests if they wish. They are aware that they are entering a new phase of development, known as the “prove what you know” stage.
We communicate with parents personally and through detailed and lengthy report cards twice a year. We have Exhibitions at both parent-teacher-student meetings and at the conclusions of their internships. We do not have enough students writing standardized government exams to be able to produce relevant results. We simply try to help every student learn to their fullest potential, and to learn how to organize their time, set goals, and reach them.
We teach according to the Alberta Programs of Study. We see this as our bottom line. However, we remediate and enhance the students’ learning in whichever ways are appropriate to their engagement and abilities.
Teachers are very important for our school. They have significant influence upon the accomplishments and atmosphere at Banbury Crossroads. Over the years, we have become more efficient at recognizing those teachers who are in sync with our philosophy and practices—those who “get it.” We choose new teachers based upon two things: their mastery of subject matter, which includes their education, experience, and professional expertise; and who they are personally. This latter aspect is crucial, because it determines their effectiveness as a mentor and guide in children’s lives.
Banbury Crossroads is a place that appears simple as there is a great consistency between what we say and what we do, but it is also a complex place in terms of how our teachers translate every aspect of that theory into practice on a daily basis.
One strength of a student-paced schedule for our students is that this approach recognizes that all children have areas of proficiency, but may have differing levels of proficiency in other subjects. This approach, which involves having students collaborate with their teachers to find a pace that aligns with their abilities, allows them to work at different levels in different subjects. They proceed with each subject until they master the components of it before they move on. Providing students with the opportunity to learn and progress at their own pace, based on their true understanding, and working towards mastery, is the most respectful approach for students. It allows them to learn and grow in a way that truly matches their abilities. It is a fantastic way to learn because it reduces stress for them, it affirms that they don’t have huge, glaring gaps in their understanding, and it gives them a sense of confidence that they orchestrated their own success.
Some parents may discover that their children are proceeding more slowly and are falling behind their “typical” peer group. This discovery can bring up fear—fear that their children will not finish school, will finish disastrously late, or will not be able to compete in the global market. It truly is a worst-case-scenario vision that gets spun before their eyes. We make a point to inform parents well ahead of time about this potential outcome, so they will be able to manage it should it occur. Our belief is that, if it takes a student an extra half-year or year to finish, there must be a reason for it particular to that student, and it must have been necessary. In the end, if that student is older when entering a post-secondary institution, they may be more mature, and perhaps will cope with it better. In other words, we do not guarantee that any particular student will complete a full grade’s worth of work in all subjects within the 10-month school term. This depends upon the work that the student actually does.
We can assure that our teachers will make every effort to reach out to each student with support, to mentor and instruct them, and to collaborate with the students to help them discover interest and/or meaning in the work they are doing. The teachers are available and willing to participate in that dual-decision-making relationship. Our school places a strong emphasis on understanding the interests, strengths, and challenges of our students. Our teachers put in significant effort to collaborate with the students to identify their needs.
We do not have an entrance test. Our focus is on our methodology, which is progressive and suitable for children with a wide range of academic accomplishments and aptitudes. Our goals are in line with those outlined through the Inspiring Education Initiative by Alberta Education. Our school is focused on the development of well-rounded citizens, and we do not see students as simply brains on chairs. Children’s emotional, social, physical, creative, and philosophical development are considered. What matters is that students are motivated to learn—this means that they are willing to put in effort on their academic work, willing to put in time for personal instruction from a teacher, and able to concentrate enough that they can work independently. They also need to be socially pleasant (not aggressive), socially adept enough to use appropriate behaviour, and to be responsive to other students’ and teachers’ input. In addition, they must be respectful of the needs of others
Our school does not have uniforms. We want our students to explore their individuality; having all of them wear the same thing would be counterproductive. In addition, the issue of social competition over style of dress is not an issue here, as our numbers are small at any one age group, so students tend to simply wear what they like. We hold to a standard of tasteful and clean clothing.
We see relationships as being central to creating harmony within our school, with mutual respect being at their core. Therefore, we attempt to live according to humane principles such as empathy, kindness, patience, diplomacy, and responsiveness to others. We believe in cultivating influence, rather than power and control.
Instead of attempting to control children using rewards or punishments, we attempt to convince them—helping students to discover their own intrinsic reasons for doing things. We problem-solve, in order to preserve all persons’ rights to determine the course of their own lives, as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of others. We encourage the development of critical thinking skills through individual and small-group discussion. For more information, please see our Conflict and Resolution Policy.
Currently, we do not offer an IB program, but it’s a possibility in the future. However, we do currently provide some Advanced Placement course options.
On an everyday basis, we offer enrichment in a variety of ways. Our Self-Directed Learning approach is flexible enough to meet the needs of intellectually gifted and talented children. Our bright students have many benefits: they are able to receive intensive individual instruction; to work at their own pace and according to their own schedules; to design projects suitable to their interests and abilities; to develop meaningful and collaborative mentoring relationships with adults and with peers of a variety of ages; to participate in dual enrolment at both high school and university, and to contribute to the school community and the wider community through volunteerism and internships. Through these means, students develop not only academic competence, but confidence, initiative, entrepreneurial spirit and, as well, soft skills that are needed in the outside world. Our graduates get accepted at universities within and outside of Alberta. They complete honours theses, master’s degrees, and doctorates.
The Internship Program assists in our goal to help students discover the world around them. It is a favourite with our secondary students, as it takes them out into the community to apply what they are learning in school, and to absorb the direct experience of participating in our local culture. These internships are based on students’ personal interests and/or potential career routes and are immersive and contributive in nature. Students spend somewhere between 25 to 125 hours out of their classes volunteering for an organization in the community. During their time at that placement, they are paired with an adult mentor who guides them in designing or participating in a project to give back to the organization. Students keep a journal of their experiences, and the internship is concluded with an oral and visual exhibition of the learning and of the connections that were made to the curriculum.
Due to COVID-19, our Internship Program has been temporarily suspended. However, we are actively working on bringing it back in the near future. We are adapting the program to ensure student safety while still providing a meaningful experience.
We have had many high-school graduates with high marks, and almost every student who has graduated from our school has gone on to further education in universities or colleges. These are the reasons Banbury Crossroads students acclimatize well to post-secondary education:
- At Banbury Crossroads, students come to understand that their teachers are dedicated to helping them learn and are invested in their success. Therefore, when they go to university, they easily establish working relationships with their professors. This leads to networking that results in honors theses, master’s degrees, leadership roles, out-of-country courses, and so on.
- Our students learn how to work independently. They consciously set goals, organize their own time, understand their own learning styles, strive for quality in keeping with their abilities, and self-assess their work. This is crucial for success in the outside world, as adults are more effective and emotionally healthy if they are aware of their own autonomy and can make decisions based upon the merits of each case.
Students here gain valuable “soft skills” that translate smoothly into the world of post-school. Our emphasis upon effective communication and negotiation, problem solving skills and empathy make for socially enlightened and confident individuals going out into the world.
We offer all the required courses for entrance to post-secondary education: English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Physical Education, and Career and Life Management. Options can include Art, Spanish, French, Drama, Philosophy, Psychology, Food Studies, World Religions, Art History, and Band. In addition, we offer students the option of creating an Internship or a Personal Interest Project that falls under the CTS (Career and Technology Studies) courses, or Special Projects. Our school is fully accredited, and Banbury Crossroads follows the Alberta Programs of Study. This means that students who complete our program are eligible to be accepted into post-secondary institutions.
By taking initiative to advocate for themselves in their education during and after high school, students develop the skills and mindset that lead to their success in adulthood and as active members of their communities.
From their internships, they have had experience at real businesses and developed trusting relationships with adults, with whom they are able to converse maturely. They organize and manage their own time. They tend to become entrepreneurs, often creating their own jobs or projects at work. They have exceptional communication skills, which increases the possibility of their solving work and personal problems.
They are likely to recognize abusive situations and not accept them. Their soft skills and their ability to make autonomous decisions make them desirable collaborators, particularly because they fulfill their obligations, they are creative and self-motivated, and they are comfortable and respectful dealing with people of all ages.
They often mentor those younger than themselves, and they are happy to be mentored by those older. They recognize their freedom and empowerment to create healthy and balanced lives. They are courageous and able to take calculated risks. They display initiative and take responsibility for their behaviour. They learn from their mistakes and persist until they discover the means to achieve their goals. They can do this, because they have adopted a positive attitude towards the challenges and demands of a rapidly changing and complex world. They are seen as competent, likeable leaders, who are also able to follow cooperative plans to achieve mutually held goals.
Yes, Banbury Crossroads School offers busing services to our students through Southland Bussing. To apply, simply email your information to [email protected]. While we do our best to accommodate all students, please be aware that we cannot guarantee a spot, and availability is subject to change. Stops are subject to monthly review, and new locations may be added based on demand. The cost of busing is $350/month/student. If any changes occur or you have specific requirements, please let us know, as we can adapt bus routes based on monthly assessments. For more detailed information or personalized assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our admissions team.