AVID – An Academic Powerhouse

AVID – An Academic Powerhouse

Curriculum Designer Caroline Slee-Poulos is back with a guest blog on the topic of AVID – An Academic Powerhouse.

When you get right down to the nitty-gritty of things, Socrates was right. No, I don’t mean our Owl, Socrates, the Learning Without Scars logo. I do mean the ancient Greek philosopher who was generally regarded as a figure to ridicule during his own time. His methods of questioning and building argument are referred to as the “Socratic Method” to this day.

If you think about it, teachers are treated the same way: they are heroes to villains, archetypes more than individuals. This blog post isn’t about that, however. It’s about a program that has been quietly at work for 43 years: AVID.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It is taught as an elective in public schools, and was developed by Mary Catherine Swanson in 1980. 

The program was a response to a bussing program taking place in San Diego, California. With the arrival of students who were economically and otherwise disadvantaged, there was a belief that these students could NEVER be college ready. Today, AVID is a program that focuses upon both career and college readiness. The greatest value, in my opinion, is the emphasis it places on questions. An AVID student is required to do a tutorial (usually twice each week) in which the student must bring in a question about one of their content-area classes. This process asks students to go through their process of learning, understanding, and problem-solving to pinpoint where they are stuck. In response to this question, students (including peer tutors) work together to help the student answer their question. They do this by…asking MORE questions!

The results of this method are wonderful: students are able to refine and solve their own questions, as well as building collaborative skills, communication skills, and critical thinking skills.

As we look at the struggles faced in the job market today, we often here that new hires are lacking the critical thinking skills required to succeed on the job. In one of our classes, we highlight open-ended questions as a key tool for engaging with customers.

AVID classes address both of these issues, starting in elementary school. Some schools are working to bring these methods into every content-area class, as opposed to just an elective. Although AVID was created as a response to an opportunity gap, its benefits are applicable to all students, and in more places than just the K-12 public school classroom.

As a teacher and curriculum designer, I look at AVID as being on a spectrum with other courses and educational opportunities, including our own here. It is never too late for a student to gain a new skill. We always continue to learn, as long as we live.

Today, I encourage and challenge you to bring questioning into your academic vocabulary. It will change the way you think about problems.

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