Sylvan Park Paideia Design Center practices the Paideia teaching philosophy, a three-column approach that uses facts, skills and goals to achieve recall, performance and understanding. The ultimate outcome is the best education for every student. In individual and group settings, students learn in an environment that provides safety and respect, one that nurtures growth and development for all fellow students, as well as teachers and staff.

What is Paideia?

Paideia is a holistic philosophy of education that nurtures a child and leads to a more active and comprehensive way of learning. Originally introduced in the 1980’s by Mortimer Adler and the Paideia Group, its core beliefs are described in the 12 principles (listed at the bottom of this page) which focus on equity, rigor, and life-long learning. The philosophy integrates three instructional practices: 1. Seminar for conceptual understanding. 2. Coaching for the learning of skills. 3. Didactic instruction for the recalling of knowledge. Our students participate in seminars that involve close reading of a text, an intellectual conversation about the text facilitated by the teacher, and writing to reflect on their understanding of the text. Students’ creative and critical thinking skills are developed during this process along with the other literacy skills. Students are also engaged in projects tied directly to grade level content that use the three instructional practices of Paideia and allow students to take a more active role in their learning. Projects also allow students to develop skills such as being able to collaborate, problem solve, persevere, and communicate effectively.

The 12 Paideia Principles from the Paideia Group

We believe…

  • that all children can learn;
  • that, therefore, they all deserve the same quality of schooling, not just the same quantity;
  • that the quality of schooling to which they are entitled is what the wisest parents would wish for their own children, the best education for the best being the best education for all;
  • that schooling at its best is preparation for becoming generally educated in the course of a whole lifetime, and that schools should be judged on how well they provide such preparation;
  • that the three callings for which schooling should prepare all Americans are, (a) to earn a decent livelihood, (b) to be a good citizen of the nation and the world, and (c) to make a good life for oneself;
  • that the primary cause of genuine learning is the activity of the learner’s own mind, sometimes with the help of a teacher functioning as a secondary and cooperative cause; that the three types of teaching that should occur in our schools are didactic teaching of subject matter, coaching that produces the skills of learning, and Socratic questioning in seminar discussion;
  • that the results of these three types of teaching should be (a) the acquisition of organized knowledge, (b) the formation of habits of skill in the use of language and mathematics, and (c) the growth of the mind’s understanding of basic ideas and issues;
  • that each student’s achievement of these results should be evaluated in terms of that student’s competencies and not solely related to the achievements of other students;
  • that the principal of the school should never be a mere administrator, but always a leading teacher who should be cooperatively engaged with the school’s teaching staff in planning, reforming, and reorganizing the school as an educational community;
  • that the principal and faculty of a school should themselves be actively engaged in learning;
  • that the desire to continue their own learning should be the prime motivation of those who dedicate their lives to the profession of teaching.