No Participation, No Gain

Josh Bottomly
Associate Head of School for Academics, Josh Bottomly, shares thoughts on the development of curriculum at Casady that promotes students engagement through doing and participation each day.
o Participation, No Gain
Educational researcher John Hattie makes the case in his book Visible Learning for Teachers that everything in education moves the dial in a positive direction, but that some teaching strategies and methods are more positive than others. The “learning pyramid” illustrates Hattie’s point. The seminal research supports the idea that active student participation is the key to durable learning, which is one of our strategic academic priorities.

Ironically, what’s new in the world of educational research around durable learning affirms what is quite old.

Take the Chinese maxim attributed to Confucius:
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

What both ancient wisdom and current research tell us is that durable learning is the consequence of doing.

Here at Casady we’re committed to a pedagogy of durability. We aspire to foster a learning environment that empowers students to be active participants in their education. Indeed, much of the work we’ve undertaken as part of our strategic academic plan has been to reflect on our teaching for the purpose of honoring strong pedagogical practices that have always been productive for student learning: deep discussion, projects, field work, writing, presentations, lab investigations, and strong teacher-student relationships. At the same time, our strategic plan has allowed us to examine less-productive practices: rote learning, “transmission” teaching (i.e., teacher talking, students only listening), recall testing, knowledge acquisition without context, and summative assessments only.

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to see our teachers across all four divisions offering up to our students opportunities for durable learning. Whether it is 6th grade students “pitching” an Egyptian invention to a panel of “sharks” (Shark Tank style) in Mr. Odom’s World History class. Or students building a Lego replica of the Apollo 11 in Mrs. Fryer’s third grade science class. Whether it is students coding a Tetris-like video game in Mr. Ebert’s computer programming course. Or students drafting a bill proposal for a mock Congress session in our new signature seventh and eighth grade Civics program with Mr. Staats and Mr. Hermansen. Whether it is students producing a Marvel comic-book short film in Mr. Chaverri’s Spanish class. Or students creating a short “Colony podcast” in Dr. Wardrop’s US history class.

Our exceptional teachers understand, in closing, that adding active, student-centered, research-based activities into our instruction helps students build more pathways in their brain, see patterns, connect to prior knowledge, experience some novelty so they remember the material better, and, most importantly, apply their skills and knowledge in multiple contexts.


Josh Bottomly
Associate Head of School for Academics
Casady School welcomes a student body that reflects the diversity of the world around us and therefore does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, nationality, or ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletics, and other school-administered programs generally accorded or made available to students at the School.
Casady School is an independent, co-educational, college preparatory, Episcopal day school serving students in pre-k-12. Educating Mind, Body, and Spirit.