"Best academic experience of my life was the Senior Exhibition. It was harder than I thought it was going to be, and I thought it was going to be very hard. But it was so rewarding to work out those difficult thoughts, and to go into that exhibition feeling confident that I could identify the strengths and weaknesses of my argument and have an insightful conversation about the book with some really awesome teachers." -VI Form student
In all four years of study at St. Andrew's, students participate in the "exhibition": an public expression of academic mastery in the model of the artist's exhibition (originally conceived of by educational reformer Ted Sizer). In our III Form and IV Form English courses, students build critical analysis and argument-development skills through mini-exhibitions, in which students gather in small groups to read and discuss each other's literary analysis papers. In our V and VI Form English courses, students are required to use these skills to pursue an independent line of inquiry about a particular text, and defend their arguments in a formal critique before both student and faculty readers. As the concluding project of English 3 (taken in the junior year), a student will interrogate a text in an 8-10 page analytical paper, and then discuss and assess her paper in a scholarly critique with her teacher. For the culminating project of English 4 (taken in the senior year), a student reads a novel (chosen from a list established by the English Department) over the summer, re-reads it throughout the school year, then develops an original thesis and sophisticated argument in a 10-15 page paper. The student then assesses and further complicates his arguments in oral exhibitions with at least two English Department faculty members. Students also participate in exhibitions in Religious Studies and Modern Languages courses.
We find our students embrace the exhibition process, which provides them with the opportunity to advance their thinking; discover new analytical approaches; expand, refine, and reflect on their writing; and imagine what the next, stronger version of their papers might become. Students learn to self-critique and revise both their thinking and writing, and to engage in complex, dialogic reading and writing processes. The exhibition process is born out of an approach to learning that assumes learning never truly concludes, and creates a collaborative space for deep learning, rather than strategic learning "for a grade."