Over Memorial Day Weekend several Queens Paideia staff members decamped to Chicago to attend the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABAI) Conference. At this annual event, behavioral scientists, analysts, and other interested parties converge to share their research and application work. We were delighted to see the work of Francis Mechner, PhD, cited and highlighted in multiple sessions, because we know how valuable that work has been in the establishment and building of QPS.
Most of our families are aware only of the net result of this work: their child’s daily activities and our evaluation of them. But over the past 10 years, our staff has stayed steady in shaping its program around the thinking of Dr. Mechner, which draws on how we specify learning objectives for a given student, observe them, and evaluate them in the framework of a supportive environment. In other words, individualizing education–academic, social-emotional, self management–within a community that promotes self-esteem, self-confidence, relationship building, and unbounded growth.
Our work at QPS is informed by (1) the knowledge we have about our students due to our 6:1 student-staff ratio and the personalization we can achieve because of it; (2) the expertise and experience of our learning managers. Their contributions reflect an overall culture where growth is encouraged and mistakes are part of the learning process. Allowance of these errors in our students and our staff is one of our greatest strengths; and (3) exploration of learning theory and how it can be translated into practice. It is part of our job to stay current on and incorporate important research and teaching methodologies.
On this last point, we use and subscribe to what works best for our students, and that is very much a living process. But it all starts with observation, feedback, evaluation… repeat, which derives from ideas that Francis Mechner and other thinkers in the field have been studying and articulating for decades. These ideas have made their way into the mainstream, but QPS remains in contact with and indebted to their origins, and to the work of other educational luminaries (Lev Vygotsky, Fred Keller, Jerome Bruner, Lucy Calkins among others). We also understand that only by systemizing these ideas can they actually have their intended impact.