(Season 4) Bridging the Faculty/Admin Divide Presents Episode 1: Unpacking Graduation Requirements with Colin Dunnigan

Last month I blogged about the theme of this spring’s set of podcasts: bridging the faculty/admin divide. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, and it’s one that has produced a host of complex topics of conversational focus, thanks to the faculty planning and hosting. In this inaugural episode of our fourth season, we take on the controversy of graduation requirements with our oh-so-visionary host Toby Lowe, fifth grade math faculty, and guest Colin Dunnigan, Associate Head of Upper School and Director of College Counseling.  If you don’t know Colin, let me just say . . . you should. He’s hilariously witty yet grounded in a way that makes you simultaneously think: “I’m a little scared of you,” “Will you be my best friend?”, and “I would trust you with my life.” You will be compelled and also entertained. What more could you ask of a podcast?

0:00- 2:10: Julie takes a trip down memory lane, and and introduces the point of this particular season’s theme: “Bridging the Faculty/Admin Divide.” 

6:50-14:01: The (pretty juicy) faculty meeting that inspired this topic of graduation requirements, as captured by Toby and Colin’s distinct perspectives.

14:02-18:07: Colin gives his honest assessment of our fairly traditional curricular requirements, cites the importance of giving students opportunities to create with technology for jobs of tomorrow, and mentions Global Online Academy and Malone as key pathways into more interest-driven coursework.

18:10-19:40: Should taking calculus be the gatekeeper of “you are a serious student”? 

19:42-20:45:  The one good thing that came of Covid in relation to college admissions, very vividly described in a way that only Colin could do . . . 

20:48-24:15: What students should do if they want to go to the most selective schools in the country . . . and why this particular criterion makes Colin want to cheer. 

24:57-28:24: What colleges are actually looking for in admission materials, and why Colin is not a fan of the phrase “student’s passion”) 🙂 

28:39-30:48: Julie chimes in with some “end goals” that she’d add to the list if she ruled the world. . . and wonders how we can design coursework that helps get students to those ends.

31:09-36:38: Can a student learn everything they need to learn by playing the guitar? Come visit Toby-Land’s version of school: “the stuff you’re interested in can teach you a lot if you follow it”; moving from content requirements to domains or habits of mind to produce lifelong learners.

38:08-45:10: How to inch our way to Toby Land, even with a fairly traditional model: identifying habits of mind that matter, incorporating programs that immerse youth in experiential learning, and collectively examining whether our current required coursework mirrors the world we live in today

45:18-46:30: Julie talks about her electrical engineer dad (because he tends to come up a lot) and his distaste of “Legos for Kids,” and she wonders out loud whether our traditional course categories are actually in practice as traditional as we assume. 

48:10-48:42: Toby proposes we need a more systematic approach to revisiting our curricular requirements; are we still doing what we should be doing for students? 

49:22-51:20: Colin’s final thought: We need youth to have the capacity to confront difficult material and persist.

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