Teachers at Pius XI foster inquiry-based learning in the classroom and strive to nurture student-centered teaching. Students are encouraged to think critically and be reflective, thus developing high-level problem-solving skills that go far beyond the classroom.
Walking the halls of Pius XI, you’ll hear a lot of questioning and discussion going on in classrooms. There are high expectations that students not only master knowledge but are also able to analyze and apply that knowledge. Project Lead the Way, a national, rigorous engineering program, is one of our newest initiatives. Students in this program engage in challenging learning experiences through hands-on activities. In our theology department’s Big Buddy Program, you’ll find seniors preparing lesson plans for mini-courses with freshman students. Students in Advanced Placement Art Portfolio take part in critiques of each other’s work, asking probing questions and supporting each other in deepening their understanding of their pieces and the process of creating art. Some English courses have reading groups, where students form small learning communities, select a book to read, and meet regularly to discuss their progress.
Teachers at Pius XI see themselves as learners, taking part in professional growth opportunities to become more skillful educators. Many explicitly talk to their students about learning styles and help students identify their strengths and weaknesses. Partnership is a word you’ll often hear, especially student-teacher partnership.
We realize that for students to succeed and perform optimally, they need to be responsible for their own learning and the direction of education. It’s not at all uncommon to see students in small groups, working on projects or engaged in learning activities. Students learn early on that inquiry-based education requires teamwork and collaboration. It also requires responsibility. Along with their teachers’ and parents’ support, students select their courses and are responsible for the registration process. Over time from freshman to senior year, students gain more and more independence, for instance in choosing which resource rooms to study in or which teachers to see in the course of a school day. This growing responsibility serves our students well when they leave to go on to college or enter the workforce.
Students also play an integral role at Pius XI outside the classroom: Important committees have student members who work alongside teachers and administrators. Students plan all-school events, such as our Multi-Cultural assemblies, our Thanksgiving drives, and our prayer services. Many of our strongest school-wide programs, such as the Peer-Tutoring, rely heavily on student involvement.
At Pius XI, whether it’s in a classroom, in a resource room or at a committee meeting, students are at the center of the learning process. And this educational process is one of inquiry—of questioning, reflecting and creating meaning of the world around us.