The Tilton Experience

A Personalized Education for the 21st Century

Reimagining Education

What if we reimagined the future of education? What if we create an environment where each student and adult could thrive? What if we weren't afraid to fail? What if we unleash the creative side in all of us?

We began our work in spring 2015 when the entire Tilton community came together to start asking "What if?" questions and reimagine what it means to educate teenagers. What we realized then was that the current model of education does not meet the needs of our students. Today's teenagers have very different needs and expectations for learning, including personalization, networking, real-world experiences, and opportunities to make a difference.

Later that summer, students, teachers, administrators, parents, alumni and trustees, came together to begin the work of addressing this issue. Separated into nine design teams, they used design thinking to discover, empathize and prototype new ideas and solutions to address the challenge of educating today’s teenagers. The teams collaborated with outside experts as well as current faculty and students, and began to design a new vision of the Tilton Experience – a uniquely powerful education journey for every Tilton student.

Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation

In the Classroom

The 2016-2017 academic year is a year for exploring and prototyping new ideas for the Tilton Experience. Teachers, administrators and students have been encouraged to dream big and continue to ask the “What if?” questions as we work collectively to create the new Tilton Experience.

Four Tilton teachers  have taken on the challenge of reimagining what the Tilton Experience will look like at the classroom level by using their own classes as laboratories for discovery.

List of 4 items.

  • AP English Lit and Composition - Mike Landroche

    In AP English Literature and Composition, students partner with each other and direct how they learn. AP Lit teacher, Mike Landroche, invites them into self-discovery through choice – choice of what they study and choice in how they demonstrate mastery of understanding and skills.

    How does that look? Through the first two units in Ancient Greek and Contemporary Theater, students chose one play out of a selection of three dramatic works to further explore. They must demonstrate the analytical and critical “close reading” through their choice of presentation activity, such as a scene recreation, character profiling, or screencasting. The presentation activity must then be presented in Skinner Tower or at a school meeting and uploaded as video on YouTube, Google+ or Vimeo.

    For these performances students must align their understanding of the audience, the occasion of the performance, and the purpose of the presentation.

    To encourage deep understanding of character and written communication, Landroche has also invited his students to create magazine-style profiles of campus personalities. What is the image this person projects publicly? Is there someone else behind this public image?  What motivates us to project an image a bit different from our authentic selves?

    “The goal is to get to the humanity of the person behind the image,” Landroche said of this project, “to tone our capacity for empathy and to work hard at finding truths.”
  • AP Psychology - Sara Feldman

    After participating in the TEx Summer Institute in 2016, AP Psychology Teacher Sara Feldman decided that she could try something new in her class starting that fall. Sara describes the process and the journey:

    "What that looks like, in the daily practice of my class, is a competency-based framework in which students design their own learning goals and assessments. This is a fairly big departure from the way I’ve taught the class previously, in which the AP exam was the major outcome and all learning activities were built around preparing for it. In the new model, students still prepare for the AP exam but they are doing so through the pursuit of their own interests and natural curiosity within the subject matter; the course is conceived of as a partnership between students and the instructor.

    "How is that looking this year in my class? Each student completes a learning contract for each unit, identifying their specific learning goals and resource list. The unit assessment must demonstrate mastery in four to six  competencies which come from the AP curriculum. We do three to five days of intensive direct instruction, and using that information and material, students design an assessment product that integrates their interest in the material with the unit competencies.

    A fundamental part of this design process has been the notion that a growth mindset is an essential element of being part of a school, whether you are a student or adult. It’s a common ethos among teachers that failure can be a learning tool, but the irony is that it can be really challenging to admit to moments of failure and ask for help.

    "One of the unintended consequences of my course redesign is that I’ve had to increase transparency with both my colleagues and my students about what is working and what might need reassessing. This openness has made teaching this year feel very real, and very important. This class is asking students to traffic in a “dual economy,” one which asks them to demonstrate mastery in very different ways. They have all been trained to demonstrate academic skills in very specific ways during their time in school – writing papers, taking tests, and repeating back information. Those skills alone don’t necessarily mean success in this newly-designed class, because the emphasis is on synthesizing and applying material in the world outside of the classroom."
  • Environmental Engineering - Tyler McDougold

    The Environmental Engineering class, taught by Tyler McDougold, has partnered with PermaCityLife, a nonprofit organization based in Franklin, N.H., with the task and vision of revitalizing downtown Franklin through the development of several projects along Main Street and the Winnepesakee River. The goal is to create environmental solutions that are safe and sustainable for communities to thrive.

    One of the proposed projects is an eco-village using land from an old mill site. McDougold’s students have been selected as a partner and asked to create a full design for the eco-village, including housing designs and public space configurations, and then present the work to PermaCityLife at the end of the school year.  If the company likes their plan, it will be selected for actual development.

    How is this approach different from previous engineering classes? “The engineering class last year was safe,” McDougold said. “All risks were taken inside the classroom. This year, if the design the students create is not good enough, the company is not going to use it. This year it’s not me telling them what to do. They have to research this on their own,” McDougold said.”

    The class will make its first presentation before PermaCityLife in March 2016. If that presentation goes well and they are asked to further refine their ideas, the students could be on their way to making a real-life impact on the future of downtown Franklin.

    Visit PermaCityLife to learn more about the Franklin revitilization projects.
  • Grade 10 Gateway - Ellissa Popoff

    Gateway has been an important part of the grade 10 experience at Tilton School for several years. It’s an opportunity for students to dive deeper into their education by spending a full year researching a current world problem (poverty, urban decay, infant mortality, to name some possibilities) and then presenting their findings and proposed solutions before a panel of faculty and experts.

    This year, through the process of the Tilton Experience research,  Gateway itself has gone deeper by aligning itself with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, a UN-sponsored program that outlines 17 goals for a better future by 2030.

    “The Global Goals is aligned really well from start to finish with the design-thinking process” of the Tilton Experience, said Popoff. Some of the goals include: No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Reduced Inequalities, and Climate Action - by 2030. “Almost any topic in the world will fit under the goals in some way,” said History Teacher and Gateway Coordinator Ellissa Popoff. “Even if it’s something unique to Tilton, it can fit under one of the goals.”

    Along with ending the year with a presentation, this year’s grade 10 students will also create a final product to address the issue they studied. Products can be an internship, a prototype (for a new style of car, for example), starting a club, creating a documentary, or partnering with an existing organization to address an issue.

    “There’s a lot of potential opportunities to do a lot of really cool things for the community, both large and small, through the global goals,” said Popoff. “Just by talking about them we’re already being a part of the solution.”

    For more information about the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, visit www.globalgoals.org.

The Design Process

We are proud to be partaking in a new model for supporting design and innovation at schools. The work we began in spring 2015 has brought our community together to collaborate in a way most schools only dream about. Throughout this unique journey as a community, we have documented each step. Click on the links below to watch how the Design Process has been used with the Tilton Experience from the very beginning. 

More Information

If you would like to learn more about the Tilton Experience and how design thinking can help your school reimagine education, contact Kate Saunders, assistant head of school at Tilton School.

Our Design Partners