Our Charter

IVA’s capacity for success is also a function of a recent grant of a little over $ 1 million from the John Templeton Foundation. More than $ 600,000 of the grant will go directly to IVA (pending petition approval) and an additional $ 400,000 will go to Loyola Marymount University (LMU) to sponsor a series of events involving scholars and teachers that will immediately and significantly benefit IVA. We will discuss these two parts of the grant project in turn, highlighting their impact on IVA’s capacity for success.

The grant will fund the salaries of IVA’s Principal, a part-time Administrative Assistant, and a part-time Development Officer for the first two years of the school’s operation. The Development Officer will be in charge of seeking out and applying for additional grant funding, coordinating fundraising efforts at IVA, and creating a comprehensive and sustainable fundraising program for the school. The grant also includes substantial funding for a school website ($ 13,000) and advertising and marketing ($ 30,000 per year for three years). These generous budget items will ensure a very strong start for IVA, allowing us to spread the word, generate interest, and build enrollment. Finally, the grant will pay for a weeklong, onsite professional consultation with Harvard’s Ron Ritchhart, the world’s foremost expert on intellectual character and education. Ritchhart will observe classes, meet with and interview teachers and administrators, offer comprehensive written feedback and recommendations, and provide staff training. Taken as a whole, this funding will allow IVA to reach a large audience, provide necessary “bridge funding” as the school grows and builds enrollment, produce a sound long-term fundraising plan, and provide expert consultation and assistance with the implementation of IVA’s unique educational model.

The part of the Templeton grant that will go to LMU will sponsor several events and activities related to intellectual virtues and education. This includes a weeklong academic workshop to be held in July of 2012, a major academic conference in the summer of 2013, and the publication of an edited book volume. These events will assemble leading scholars from across the globe in mainstream philosophy, the philosophy of education, and educational theory and psychology. They are aimed at producing the first comprehensive and systematic articulation of an intellectual virtues educational model. And they will give special emphasis to the very practical question of how intellectual virtues can best be fostered in an educational setting. IVA will be a direct beneficiary of these events, as they will yield cutting edge educational research on an intellectual virtues approach to education—research that will immediately be utilized and implemented at IVA. 

This part of the grant will also fund a series of week-long and one-day “pedagogy seminars” held at LMU and spread out over the course of two years. These seminars, which are directed by IVA founding members Jason Baehr and Steve Porter, will bring together 15 junior high or high school teachers and administrators from Long Beach and Los Angeles to be instructed in, experiment with, and provide feedback on an intellectual virtues approach to education. Among the individuals that Baehr and Porter have already selected to participate are numerous teachers and two administrators that have expressed a significant interest in working at IVA. Because the seminars will begin in the summer of 2012, they will effectively serve as a comprehensive training module for IVA’s first generation of teachers and administrators.

IVA will also benefit tremendously from the writing of an “Implementation Guide” for an intellectual virtues educational model. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Baehr will be on a grant-sponsored academic leave, his primary task being to write, along with education expert and Harvard researcher Ron Ritchhart, a comprehensive “how to” guide for the implementation of an intellectual virtues approach to education. The Guide will spell out in careful and concrete detail what intellectual virtues are, why they matter, and how they can be fostered in an educational setting. It will address, among many other things, how intellectual virtue concepts can be brought to bear on pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. While intended for a broad audience, the Implementation Guide will serve as a manual for the implementation of IVA’s educational vision. Finally, the grant will also fund an “Intellectual Virtues and Education Resource Page,” which will be a one-stop online resource for teachers and scholars interested in learning more about or implementing an intellectual virtues approach to education (the Implementation Guide will be available for download on this site). This resource will also prove extremely useful to IVA administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

This grant project is a major event in the world of education. It is bringing together top scholars from across the globe, as well as many local educators and administrators, to reflect on the importance of intellectual virtues to education and to identify “best practices” for fostering intellectual virtues in an educational setting. All of these events and resources are designed to culminate in the implementation of intellectual virtues educational model at IVA. Thus they have the potential to bring an extraordinary amount of very positive and exciting attention to the city of Long Beach, to LBUSD, and to IVA.

Despite its innovative character, an intellectual virtues educational model enjoys broad support from the literature in educational theory and psychology. This is because (1) personal qualities similar to intellectual virtues, as well as (2) skills and techniques that are part of or proper to intellectual virtues, have been studied extensively and shown to have a powerful impact on academic performance.

Research of the first sort (on qualities relevantly similar to intellectual virtues) falls into three main categories: research open-mindedness, research on “thinking dispositions,” and research on “character education” and “character development.”

Several educational theorists, most notably William Hare (2003, 1995, 1993, 1985a, 1985b, and 1983), have been writing for some time about the importance of open- mindedness to education. This research makes a persuasive case for open- 14 mindedness as an important educational goal and articulates a wide range of strategies for fostering open-mindedness in a classroom setting. Open-mindedness is, of course, a central intellectual virtue. In fact, researchers writing about open-mindedness have tended to think of open-mindedness in rather broad terms, such that it also includes a wide range of other intellectual virtues (Baehr 2011b). The rigorous quality and practical orientation of this research lends considerable support to an intellectual virtues educational model.

“Thinking dispositions” have been studied and written about extensively by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, including David Perkins, Ron Ritchhart, and Shari Tishman. What these authors have in mind by thinking dispositions is very similar—if not quite identical—to what other authors describe as intellectual character virtues. For instance, they identify as primary thinking dispositions such traits as curiosity and reflectiveness (Perkins, Tishman, Ritchhart, Donis, and Andrade 2000; Ritchhart 2002). This research, which consists of multiple studies conducted across three continents, has shown that when approached in the right way, teachers can indeed have a significant impact on the development of their students’ intellectual character, and that this impact can significantly enhance their academic performance. In particular, it underscores the stability of thinking dispositions across time and task, their connection to intelligent behavior, and their transformative effect on both teachers’ and students’ approach to thinking and learning (Ritchhart, Palmer, Church, and Tishman 2006). Additional research supporting an approach to education that gives a central role to fostering thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues includes: Perkins and Ritchhart 2004; Ritchhart 2001; Perkins, Jay, and Tishman, Perkins, and Jay 1993; Ritchhart 2007; Ritchhart, Turner, Hadar 2009; Tishman and Palmer 2005; Tishman, Perkins, and Palmer 1993.

The research on “character education” and “character development” is also extremely relevant to the viability of IVA’s educational model. This literature has tended to focus on the development of moral and civic virtues. However, for two reasons, it is also highly relevant to an educational model that stresses the development of intellectual virtues: first, intellectual virtues are structurally similar to moral and civic virtues (the main difference being that intellectual virtues are directed at distinctively epistemic or cognitive goals like knowledge and understanding); second, if it can be shown that moral and civic virtues can be fostered in an educational environment, it is entirely reasonable to think that, given their clear and explicit cognitive or intellectual focus, intellectual virtues can be fostered in this context as well.

In recent years, a great deal of rigorous educational research concerning the efficacy of character-based approaches to education has emerged (Berkowitz and Bier 2006 and 2007; Berkowitz, Battistich, and Bier 2008; Lickona 1992, 1993; Lickona and Davidson 2005; Davidson, Khmelkov, and Lickona 2010). This research indicates that, when appropriately designed and executed, these approaches can have a significant impact. In a major study of the effectiveness of character education, for instance, Marvin Berkowitz and Melinda Bier (2006; 2007) identified 33 character education programs “with sufficient scientific backing to demonstrate their effectiveness and numerous implementation strategies that commonly occur in such programs” (2006: 24). Also 15 helpful for understanding the proper approach to and effectiveness of character education are: Brooks and Goble 2007; Carr 2007; Curren 2001; DeRoche and Williams 1998; Haynes et al 1997; Hoge 2002; Hurley 2009; Jackson, Boostrom, and Hansen 1993; Kohlberg 1981, 1984; Kohn 1997; Leming 1993; Molnar 1997; Milson 2000; Null and Milson 2003; Piaget 1965; Spiecker and Steutel 1995; Starratt 1994; Steutel 2002. It bears noting that the strategies that have proven most effective at fostering moral and civic virtues align very closely with those that have proven effective at fostering “thinking dispositions.” IVA’s educational and instructional program is informed and will continue to be informed by this literature. This will position IVA for maximal success and impact.

Research of the second general sort (on skills or techniques that are part of or proper to intellectual virtues) is wide-ranging. This is because the skills and techniques in question, while central to the possession and exercise of intellectual character virtues, are a rather diverse lot. We will limit our discussion here to the research on three of these skills and techniques: namely, metacognition, critical thinking, and teaching for understanding.

Metacognition refers to “higher order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning” (Livingston 1997). In recent decades, a great deal of research has been done on metacognitive strategies and their effectiveness at enhancing student performance. This research indicates that training in metacognition markedly improves students’ ability to transfer learned strategies to new contexts and improves their reading comprehension and mathematical problem-solving skills (Cornoldi 2010; Lucangeli, Cornoldi, and Tellarini 1998). Research on the effectiveness of metacognitive approaches in education has an important bearing on the viability of an intellectual virtues educational model. Intellectual virtues express themselves in intelligent and intentional cognitive activity that promotes good thinking and learning. It follows that metacognitive strategies are themselves a natural expression of intellectual character virtues; intellectual virtues manifest themselves, among other ways, in the use of metacognitive strategies. This has important implications for the project of trying to foster intellectual character virtues. It shows that metacognitive strategies can be used as a way of “practicing” intellectual virtues, which over time will lead to the formation of virtuous intellectual habits. Given the research on the positive academic impact of metacognitive strategies, it can be expected that an intellectual virtues approach that incorporates these strategies will lead to significantly enhanced student performance. For additional research on metacognition and education, see: Ablard and Lipschultz 1998; Coutinho 2008; Deemer 2004; Greene et al 2004; Yun Dai and Sternberg 2004; Sperling, Staley, and Dubois 2004; Waters and Schneider 2010; Wolters 1999.

As with the literature on metacognition, the scholarly research on “critical thinking” is vast. A substantial part of this literature focuses on practical techniques and exercises for promoting critical thinking. Research indicates (Tsui 2002; Norris 1985; Paul 1985) that an appropriate selection and execution of these techniques (e.g. certain forms of writing instruction and group discussion) enhances critical thinking which in turn enhances student performance across the curriculum. The bearing of this research on 16 an intellectual virtues educational model is very similar to that of the research on metacognition noted above. Indeed, as Harvey Siegel (1988) and others have argued, a capacity for critical thinking must be rooted in certain habits and passions of the critical thinker himself, that is, in the possession of certain intellectual virtues. More specifically, intellectual virtues capture what being a critical thinker looks like from one moment or situation to another (e.g. sometimes critical thinking requires a demand for evidence á la intellectual rigor; in other cases it requires given a fair hearing to a competing point of view á la open-mindedness or intellectual empathy; and in other cases still it can require following through with a difficult intellectual task or inquiry á la intellectual perseverance or determination). Accordingly, techniques and strategies that have proven useful for fostering critical thinking can also be used to foster intellectual character virtues. For more on critical thinking, including its relation to an intellectual virtues educational model, see: Angelo 1995; Bers, McGowan, and Rubin 1996; Beyer 1987; Costa 1989; Facione 2000; Halpern 1997; Paul 2004; Perkins, Jay, and Tishman 1994; Siegel 1980, 2002, and 2004; Sternberg 1986; Tsui 1999; and Van Gelder 2005.

Also relevant to the viability of an intellectual virtues educational model is a growing body of research on “teaching for understanding.” (This concept incorporates but is broader than the “Understanding by Design” approach developed, most prominently, by Wiggins and McTighe 2005.) The goal of this approach is for students to develop a deep conceptual and procedural grasp of essential concepts and skills. It involves a range of strategies and activities, including explaining, finding evidence and examples, generalizing, applying, making analogies, and representing topics in new ways. In short, this approach “shifts instruction from a paradigm of memorizing and practicing to one of understanding and applying” (Perkins 1993: 32). A recent six-year collaborative research project conducted by school teachers and researchers from the Harvard School of Education produced a wealth of well-documented research on the nature of understanding, its importance to education, and the techniques and strategies most useful for imparting it (Wiske 1998). The techniques and strategies identified by this research have a very natural place within an instructional program aimed at fostering intellectual virtues. For, intellectual virtues aim at deep understanding. An intellectually virtuous person is not content with superficial or ungrounded belief. Rather, this person desires to know—to understand. Accordingly, “teaching for understanding” is an effective way of promoting growth in intellectual virtues. Further research on understanding as an educational goal includes: Ritchhart 2002 and 2007; Ritchhart, Turner, and Hadar 2009; Keil 2006; and Sternberg 2003; Craft, Gardner, and Claxton 2008).

Though we will not discuss them in any detail here, there are at least three additional bodies of research that are relevant to an intellectual virtues educational model and that bear favorably on its prospects. This includes recent literature on “positive education,” an educational movement that is derived from “positive psychology” (Seligman et al 2009; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000); research on “mindfulness” in education (Langer 1990 and 1993; Holland 2004; Hyland 2009; Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Ritchhart and Perkins 2000); and literature on Dewey’s notion of critical “critical reflectiveness” (Dewey 1997; Kitchener 1983; Baron 1981; Rodgers 2002; Lee2005; 17 Ritchhart 2002). As with several of the concepts and approaches just discussed, these have deep and important connections with an intellectual virtues educational approach. And each one has been shown to have positive educational effects. Therefore, research in these areas provides at least some indirect support for the validity of an intellectual virtues approach to education.

One other body of research is very important to note here. It is not educational research per se; but it bears importantly and favorably on the value of an intellectual virtues educational model. In recent years a number of studies have been done indicating that critical importance of a range of “soft skills” to employment and career advancement (Schulz 2008; Murnane and Levy 1996; Andrews and Higson 2008; www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/softskills.htm). These skills are important in any environment or economy, but they are especially relevant today, when much of the technological knowledge and skills taught to junior high and high school students will be obsolete by the time they enter the job market (Smith 2012). While soft skills and intellectual virtues are not same thing, soft skills include several intellectual virtues. For instance, research has indicated the need for successful employees to think critically and to be open-minded and intellectually empathic. This is illustrated by a recent remark from an MBA and business professor in an article on critical thinking in the business world: “You have to let go of any preconceived notions and come into any analysis with an open mind … I think employers are seeking people who have an open mind. When you’re more open-minded, it becomes much easier to work with others and also to come to careful solutions — and those are skills employers definitely want” (Hughes 2011). Finally, in a technologically driven economy, intellectual virtues like innovativeness, creativity, and imaginativeness have been and will remain especially important.

We conclude this overview by noting that while the foregoing empirical research often neglects to indicate much about the identity of the student groups studied, there is good reason to think that the conclusions reached apply across a wide range of student demographics and performance-levels. This is partly because the focus of the educational approaches in question is largely volitional. All students, regardless of background or natural aptitude, can be taught to wonder, to be curious, and to reflect. These tendencies are fundamentally human and not, in any systematic way, less likely to be found among students with disadvantaged backgrounds or unique educational needs. (Indeed, any experienced teacher knows that many “top-performing” students are motivated primarily by grades rather than by genuine curiosity, wonder, or a love of learning, and that some of the least “academically success” students are the most curious and reflective.) This conclusion is especially warranted in connection with the research on character education. First, a wide range of character education programs are aimed at helping diverse and at-risk student populations (Kiltz 2003; Snyder et al 2010). It is reasonable to expect that the notable effectiveness of the techniques and strategies involved in such programs (Berkowitz and Bier 2004, 2007; Benninga, Berkowitz, Kuehn, and Smith 2003) extends to such populations. Second, all character-based approaches to education are care-based: they place a premium on identifying and attending to the unique intellectual needs of every learner, especially those facing unique cognitive, behavioral, or social challenges. Third, there is in fact 18 some research on the effectiveness of character-based education for at-risk student populations in particular (Klitz 2003; Phillips 1995). This research indicates that character education is no less suitable or effective (indeed that it may have special relevance) for this group. These observations are significant, as IVA expects to serve a diverse student population containing many students with unique education-related challenges.

We are in an extremely good position to bring IVA’s unique educational vision to fruition and to make a substantial and long-term positive impact on public education in Long Beach. We will highlight our capacity for success in three main areas: (1) Our founding team; (2) Research supporting our educational model; and (3) The Templeton grant project that will immediately benefit IVA at several levels.

Founders Team and Board

As indicated in our Introduction, the IVA founders team, together with committed Board members and other supporters, possesses a broad base of talent, experience, and skill relevant to the realization of IVA’s unique educational vision:

  • From an education standpoint, there are seven teachers, former teachers, or administrators on the founders team. One of the teachers (J. Baehr) is a university professor who has done extensive research on intellectual character and virtues (see Baehr 2011a). One of the administrators (K. Pace) works in Student Affairs at a local university, where she oversees the student conduct process and ensures compliance with the latest legal precedents and best practices. The other administrator (M. Montiel) is an Assistant Principal and Social Services Administrator at a charter school in LAUSD. One of our Board members is a university professor with expertise in autism and special education (LeBarbera).
  • From a business management standpoint, our team includes an expert in Human Resources management (S. Millsap), a Managing Principal of a fund 13 management company with expertise in real estate operation and private equity (R. Millsap), and a VP of sales at a major Los Angeles corporation (C. Covolo).
  • From a finance standpoint, one of our founding members has overseen the acquisition or disposition of more than $500 million in real estate assets (R. Millsap); another provides national corporate leadership with sales, profitability, trend analysis, and cost analysis (C. Covolo).  From a legal standpoint, one of our Board members is an attorney responsible for a major real estate firm’s legal operations in Latin America and the western U.S. and oversees the firm’s procurement, technology, and intellectual property legal matters globally (E. Castro).
  • From a marketing and advertising standpoint, we have a marketing professional with expertise in events and merchandising (R. Irwin) and a graphic designer with extensive experience in advertising, marketing, and social media (J. Irwin).

IVA has also received offers of assistance and support from several other qualified educational professionals, particularly at Loyola Marymount University, where founding team member Jason Baehr is a professor. While there is no formal relation between LMU and IVA, three education experts at the university have indicated an enthusiastic willingness to provide helpful feedback and assistance. This includes: Bernadette Musetti, Director of LMU’s Liberal Studies Program and previous Director of LMU’s Undergraduate Teacher Preparation; Emilio Pack, Assistant Director of LMU’s Institute of School Leadership and Administration, who has done extensive work on charter schools and charter leadership development; and Darin Earley, Director of LMU’s Family of Schools program. (We also have also included a letter of support from David Burcham, LMU President and longtime supporter of Long Beach public education.) All three of these experts have already provided helpful insight, assistance, and feedback on IVA’s vision and educational program; and each one has pledged to continue doing so throughout the school’s development.

The answer to this question is a resounding and emphatic “Yes!” Nearly every teacher and administrator upholds the importance of becoming a “lifelong learner,” fostering a “love of learning,” and training students to become competent, self-motivated learners. What is less clear, however, is how many teachers or administrators could give a psychologically robust and nuanced account of what exactly these things amount to, for example, of the specific beliefs, attitudes, feelings, values, or habits that comprise a “love of learning” or that make a person a “lifelong learner.”

This is where the educational vision of IVA truly shines. For intellectual character virtues are the very substance of a love of learning and of what it is to be a competent, self-motivated, and lifelong learner:

Intellectual virtues are character traits that flow from and contribute to a genuine love of learning. A person with intellectual virtues is curious, inquisitive, and reflective, and therefore prizes reflection, knowledge, and inquiry; these values occupy an important place within her overall “worldview” and motivational structure.

As such, an intellectually virtuous person is also highly self-motivated. She is intellectually diligent, tenacious, persevering, and courageous. Her commitment to learning is not driven primarily by external rewards or consequences.

An intellectually virtuous person’s love of learning and commitment to her own education ensure that she will continue to learn and grow well beyond her years of formal education. These qualities will be engrained in her overall psychology so as to last a lifetime and to make her a lifelong learner.

A competent learner possesses a wide range of intellectual skills and abilities. These include the skills and abilities proper to a wide range of intellectual virtues like intellectual attentiveness, carefulness, thoroughness, circumspection, adaptability, and rigor.

The organizing principle of IVA is a commitment to fostering a wide range of intellectual character virtues. As such, IVA is deeply and fundamentally aimed at promoting a genuine love of learning and enabling students to become self-motivated, competent, and lifelong learners.

Transformative learning is best facilitated within a culture of thinking (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison 2011; Tishman, Jay, and Perkins 1993). This is a culture that values, nurtures, and rewards a love of learning and a willingness to inquire and think in active and creative ways. In this type of supportive environment, learning is the natural and expected outcome; it is the rule, not the exception.

A further requirement of transformative education is the presence of trusting and mutually respectful relationships. At its best, education is deeply personal: it affects a student’s basic beliefs, desires, and inclinations. However, impacting students at this level requires that they possess a certain degree of openness and vulnerability, which in turn requires that they feel cared for and respected by, and that they also trust and respect, their teachers and other advisors.

Students will not be inspired to grow, to expand their minds, or to push their limits unless they can clearly see and feel the value of doing so. Such growth also requires guidance and 11 mentoring.

For these conditions to be met, students must be exposed to good intellectual role models who are willing to serve as mentors in their intellectual development. By having personal access to these “exemplars” of intellectual virtue, students will see the value of the relevant traits and feel inspired to exemplify them in their own thinking and learning; and with the mentoring they receive from these exemplars, they will receive the required guidance and support.

While learning best occurs in a context that is in many ways student-centered, this does not negate the importance of high objective standards. On the contrary, if intellectual character formation is a central educational goal, high standards are imperative, for intellectual virtues themselves “aim high,” that is, they aim a deep understanding and thoughtful application of important knowledge. However, high standards will promote student learning only if students receive the kind of guidance and support necessary for achieving those standards. This requires considerable effort and forethought on the part of teachers. It requires that they differentiate instruction and use other techniques to meet the educational needs of all students, especially of those who face special challenges (e.g., ELLs and students with special needs). As this suggests, learning best occurs in an educational environment marked by high standards and a commensurate level of student support.

Finally, education is most transformative in contexts where curiosity and creativity are permitted to flourish—indeed where they are actively encouraged and fostered. These intellectual virtues are crucial to the nurturing and sustaining of a genuine love of learning. They also promote intellectual autonomy and open-mindedness, which in turn give rise to a host of other virtues of the mind.

Being an educated person in the 21st century requires, at a minimum, being informed, that is, it requires having a broad base of knowledge across several traditional subject areas, including math, biology, chemistry, history, geography, literature, and art. In an increasingly “flat” world, it also involves being knowledgeable about other cultures and societies, the ways in which the decisions and ways of living of the members of one culture or society can affect those of another, and how the actions of all of humanity affect the well-being of the planet that we inhabit.

But the mere possession of a broad base of knowledge is not sufficient. Education at its best is humanizing. To have this effect, the person being educated must grapple with great questions, ideas, and texts. History’s best minds have explored a range of fascinating questions, including: How does nature work? What is the structure of the physical world? Where did we come from? How should we live? How should governments operate? How should society be structured? What is the nature of love? Of justice? One unique feature of the human species is its capacity for actively reflecting on these questions and on the ways these questions have been answered by generations of scientists, poets, historians, philosophers, and other thinkers across different times, traditions, and cultures. Such activity has a dignifying and ennobling effect. While not unique to a 21st century education, it is an indispensable component.

Another timeless but indispensable feature of a 21st century education is a genuine love of learning. An educated person believes that knowledge and learning are good and worth pursuing. She also desires to cultivate, inform, and expand her mind. She regularly experiences what educational philosopher Israel Scheffler calls “rational passions” or “cognitive emotions,” such as a “love of truth,” a felt “concern for accuracy” and the “joy of verification and surprise” (1991: Ch. 1). This love of learning is the fire that ignites and sustains all of her other intellectual activities.

An educated person in the 21st century is also a proactive, self-motivated learner. This person not only desires knowledge, but also actively seeks it. She takes responsibility for 10 her education. She reads widely and regularly. When she encounters an obstacle to understanding, she does not ignore it or give up. Rather, she takes intelligent measures to overcome the obstacle and to continue deepening her knowledge. She is intellectually tenacious.

Finally, an educated person in the 21st century knows how to think. This is an especially important ability in today’s world:

First, with the proliferation of information technology, we are bombarded with information around the clock, some of which is good and accurate, some of which is not. Therefore, to be a truly educated person today, one must be intellectually discriminating. One must be able to identify a reliable source from an unreliable source, to ask relevant and incisive questions, and to demand and evaluate reasons and evidence.

Second, today’s economy is technologically driven and rapidly changing. As others have noted (Kalantzis and Cope 2005: 33; Smith 2012), many of the vocationally oriented skills and knowledge learned by junior high and high school students today will be obsolete by the time these students enter the workforce. Accordingly, it is crucial that today’s schools provide students with a range of “soft skills,” which include “the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to effectively solve workplace problems” (US Dept. of Labor, www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/softskills.htm). These are among the skills and abilities of an excellent and critical thinker.

Third, today as much as ever, the health and security of democracy across the globe requires, as Martha Nussbaum has said, that all citizens possess the ability to “think for themselves, criticize tradition, and understand the significance of another person’s suffering and achievements” (2010: 2; 93). It falls to the enterprise of education to ensure that such a capacity is widely fostered in schools nationally and abroad.

IVA proposes to serve 150 students in grades 6-8. The school anticipates opening with two sixth grade classes of 50 students in year one, adding one grade and fifty students per year through year three. Projected enrollment in the first five years is as follows:


  AY 2013-14 AY 2014-15 AY 2015-16 AY 2016-17 AY 2017-18
Grade 6 50 50 50 50 50
Grade 7 0 50 50 50 50
Grade 8 0 0 50 50 50
Total Students 50 100 150 150 150


Educational interests

IVA’s target population is not defined in terms of specific geographical, socioeconomic, or performance-level criteria. Rather, our aim is to serve students and the parents of students

who value:

  • A small, personalized learning community; 
  • Small class sizes;
  • An educational approach that stresses a felt appreciation and genuine understanding of academic content;

who believe that:

  • Learning and knowledge are good and that education, properly conducted, should have a humanizing effect;
  • One of the greatest things an education can provide is a genuine “love of learning” and an ability to think deeply, carefully, and well;
  • Education, properly conducted, is personally transformative, affecting many of one’s most fundamental beliefs, attitudes, values, and skills;

who are open to:

  • Becoming curious, wondering, reflecting, asking questions, and thinking for themselves;
  • Engaging their education actively and intentionally;
  • Enjoying knowledge and learning for their own sake;
  • Having their intellectual character stretched and molded by their education.

Given its unique focus, IVA is especially well-positioned to embrace the rich diversity of the student population in Long Beach. IVA’s instructional vision speaks to the humanity of its subjects. As such, it is likely to appeal to students and parents in ways that are independent of their more particular identities and backgrounds. We do not expect students and parents will already be familiar with an intellectual virtues educational model, much less that they will already possess the dispositions in question. Rather, our expectation is that students and parents who are exposed to the model at information sessions or through other outreach channels will find the model compelling and be motivated to apply.

While emphasizing the humanities, other liberal arts and sciences, and academic rigor, IVA’s vision is far from elitist. To illustrate, we note that students who might do reasonably well in exclusive or elitist educational settings could fail to flourish at IVA. A student with a very high IQ or with a capacious memory, for instance, might nevertheless lack curiosity or inquisitiveness—indeed, might be intellectually unreflective, narrow-minded, or intellectually arrogant—and thus be unlikely to feel comfortable or do very well at IVA. Similarly, the ethos of many exclusive or privileged schools is marked by extreme academic competition and an overriding concern with grades and other external markers. There is, however, significant tension between an ethos of this sort and the spirit of an intellectual virtues approach. The latter prizes intellectual humility, curiosity, and a genuine love of learning—a love that overrides concerns with status and other forms of external recognition. Finally, we note that a student who might struggle in many elite educational settings might do quite well at IVA. For instance, a student of mediocre intelligence (understood in the traditional sense), or with a weak ability for memorization or rapid recall, might nevertheless be very reflective, curious, intellectually careful, and intellectually thorough. In many academic settings, such a student would be unlikely to flourish. At IVA, however, the unique needs of students like this will be known and attended to by their teachers, they will be given the tools and strategies they need to maximize their intellectual potential, and their curiosity, reflectiveness, and other intellectual virtues will be nurtured and rewarded. IVA will be an ideal setting in which to “hook” such students, thereby creating an environment in which they are far more likely to master skills and habits important for success in more traditional academic environments.

IVA will be a diverse and inclusive environment that welcomes, supports, and nurtures students from a wide range of backgrounds and with a range of different gifts and abilities. The common commitment among our students and their parents will be to understanding and practicing those personal qualities or intellectual virtues that are essential to being a true “lover of learning” or “lifelong learner.”

To provide an even more concrete idea of what an intellectual virtues approach to education will look like at IVA, we identify the following five “signature features” of an IVA education, followed by fifteen well-established methods for fostering intellectual virtues in an educational setting.


Five Signature Features of an IVA Education:


  1. Personal. IVA’s mission is to nurture the deep personal qualities essential to being an excellent and lifelong learner. It is therefore part of the “cura personalis” or “education of the whole person” tradition in education (Richards 1980; Huebner 1995; Kirby et al 2006). IVA’s small size and small classes will ensure that the school is an intimate, friendly, and personal environment. IVA teachers will attend to and nurture the well-being of each student.
  2. Relational. Character growth occurs most often in the context of relationships. This is a context in which intellectual virtues can be modeled, trust can be built, care can be expressed, and where admiration and emulation are a natural result. IVA teachers will know their students and will actively seek to address their needs. Students will work together in mutually edifying and supportive relationships.
  3. Rigorous. Intellectual virtues do not arise in a vacuum; rather, they are the product of rigorous and reflective engagement with curricular content. Intellectual virtues aim at a deep understanding and appreciation of important knowledge. For this reason, an intellectual virtues approach to education is not an alternative to a rich, standards-based approach. At IVA, the curriculum will be closely aligned with California state standards, and teachers will nurture and inspire a rigorous command of this material.
  4. Reflective. Growth in the intellectual virtues must be pursued in a reflective, intentional manner. Therefore, students and teachers at IVA will be aware of and attentive to their own intellectual strengths and weaknesses and will use this knowledge to their advantage in the learning process. Students will also be reflective in their engagement with academic content: their teachers will routinely reflect with them on why they are learning what they are learning; and they will be challenged to “think outside the box,” generate new ideas and solutions, and consider alternative possibilities.
  5. Active. Students do not become excellent thinkers or inquirers by being passive recipients of tidily packaged bits of information. Accordingly, students at IVA will be expected to take control of their intellectual growth and development. They will be trained to actively engage ideas, ask good questions, demand evidence, and support and defend their convictions.


Education researchers have identified a range of methods and strategies that, when properly employed, are effective at promoting intellectual and other forms of character development. Of particular significance is recent research on “character education” (Lickona and Davidson 2005; Berkowitz and Bier 2007) and “thinking dispositions” (Ritchhart 2001, 2002; Perkins et al 2000; Tishman, Perkins, and Jay 2009). We briefly enumerate 15 of these strategies below. The role that these strategies will play in IVA’s instructional program is clarified later on in Element 1.


Fifteen Research-Based Strategies for Fostering Intellectual Character Virtues:


  1. Creating a “culture of thinking.” A “culture of thinking” is a community in which individual and collective thinking is valued and promoted as part of the regular, day- to-day experience of each member of the community (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison 2011: 219; Ritchhart 2002; Tishman, Perkins, and Jay 1995). Because excellent thinking is the activity most characteristic of intellectual virtues, cultures of thinking are places in which intellectual virtues are practiced. They involve providing ample time and opportunities for thinking, the use of “thinking routines,” attention to “big ideas,” and a focus on authentic learning over “working” (Ritchhart 2002).
  2. Staff hiring and development. An intellectual virtues educational model must be implemented and supported by teachers and administrators who genuinely understand, are passionate about, and are appropriately trained in this model (Berkowitz and Bier 2006; Lickona and Davidson 2005). Schools must give 5 substantial and very careful attention to this fact both in the hiring process and in how they train and support their teachers.
  3. Direct instruction. Research suggests that direct instruction in intellectual virtues is critical to creating the kind of understanding and climate that nurtures these qualities (Lickona 1993; Lickona and Davidson 2005). This includes instruction in what intellectual virtues are, the different groups or types of intellectual virtues, how intellectual virtues compare with related moral, civic, and cognitive abilities, their role in learning and education, and their importance to living a thoughtful and meaningful life.
  4. Family support. A culture conducive to intellectual character growth also requires strong family support and involvement (Berkowitz and Bier 2004; Lickona and Davidson 2005). This means that schools must also instruct parents in an intellectual virtues model and must provide them with concrete guidance and opportunities (e.g. through newsletters, online resources, and volunteering opportunities) to foster intellectual virtues in their children.
  5. Advisory groups. Advisory groups allow for ongoing positive relationships between students and intellectual mentors or advisors. They provide a safe environment in which teachers can nurture students’ character development through conversation, goal-setting, structured reflection, personal encouragement, and other means (Berkowitz and Bier 2004, 2006).
  6. Ongoing self-reflection and self-assessment. Self-knowledge is a critical starting point for all manner of personal growth, including intellectual character growth. For this reason, a key feature of an intellectual virtues educational model is ongoing self-reflection and self-assessment, through which students acquire an honest and in depth understanding of their respective intellectual character strengths and weaknesses (Lickona 1993; Berkowitz and Bier 2007).
  7. Modeling. Modeling of intellectual virtues by teachers and other school leaders provides students with informative and attractive examples of these traits. These examples evoke admiration and inspiration on the part of students, which in turn lead to their imitation of the relevant “exemplars.” Research indicates that natural and systematic modeling of intellectual virtues is a powerful means of promoting positive character growth (Caar 2007; Lickona and Davidson 2005; Berkowitz and Bier 2006; Davidson, Khmelkov, and Lickona 2010).
  8. Positive reinforcement. Calling positive attention to student activity that embodies intellectual virtues is a powerful tool for encouraging such activity and causing it to become “second nature” (Ritchhart 2002; Davidson, Khmelkov, and Lickona 2010). Positive reinforcement of intellectual virtues should occur at multiple levels, for example, through annual awards to students who best exemplify certain key virtues, mid-instruction recognition and praise of student comments or actions, and specific teacher feedback on student work and performance.
  9. Reflective teaching and learning. Teachers concerned with fostering intellectual character virtues will approach their craft and subject matter in a thoughtful and reflective manner. They will not be preoccupied with “teaching to the test.” Instead, they will model—and thereby promote—curiosity and intellectual passion, asking challenging and fundamental questions, and regularly identifying what is most interesting and important in what students are learning (Langer 1993, 2000; Rodgers 2002; Kitchener 1983; Baron 1981).
  10. Thinking routines. Thinking routines are simple cognitive patterns or structures that “consist of a few steps, are easy to teach and learn, are easily supported, and get used repeatedly” (Ritchhart, Palmer, Church, and Tishman 2006; Ritchhart, Church, Morrison 2011; Ritchhart 2002). They include routines for introducing and exploring ideas (e.g. “Think-Puzzle-Explore”), routines for synthesizing and organizing ideas (e.g. “The Micro Lab Protocol” and “Connect-Extend-Challenge”), and routines for digging deeper into ideas (e.g. “Claim-Support-Question”) (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison 2011). (See www.pzweb.harvard.edu/vt/ for more on this topic.) Because such thinking is the basis of many intellectual virtues, thinking routines provide students with wide-ranging opportunities to practice and thereby to further develop these traits.
  11. Making thinking visible. Emerging from the “Visible Thinking” project at Harvard University (www.pzweb.harvard.edu/vt/), “making thinking visible” is a pedagogical approach that involves providing students with explicit representations of the structure and patterns of excellent thinking in order to deepen their content learning and foster critical thinking skills and dispositions (Ritchhart and Perkins 2008; Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison 2011; Tishman and Palmer 2005). This approach fosters intellectual character growth by making explicit, concrete, and visible (e.g. through argument maps, reflective prompts, documentation of students’ answers to questions, the use of thinking routines) the specific sorts of thinking, reflecting, and reasoning that are proper to intellectual virtues. It also provides a framework for imitating and practicing these activities.
  12. Metacognition. “Self-regulating” or “metacognitive” strategies are techniques that can be used to help learners understand, control, and manipulate their cognitive processes (e.g. Cornoldi 2010; Waters and Schneider 2010; Lucangeli 1998; and Winne 1995). They include such strategies as semantic webs, concept charts, mnemonics, and mind-mapping. Metacognitive strategies can be used by teachers to facilitate an active engagement with curricular content on the part of their students. Such engagement sets the stage for and is a crucial step in the formation of “thinking dispositions” or intellectual virtues (Ritchhart 2002).
  13. Critical thinking pedagogy. “Critical thinking” refers to the “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from … observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven and Paul 1987). Research indicates that 7 pedagogical strategies aimed at critical thinking (e.g. case studies, discussion methods, questioning techniques, debates) can enhance academic performance across multiple domains (Paul 2004; Norris 1985; Angelo 1995; Ennis 1993). Because intellectual virtues are the personal foundation of critical thinking (Siegel 1988), critical thinking pedagogy can also be used to foster growth in these traits.
  14. Agenda of understanding. Intellectual virtues aim at deep understanding of important subject matters (Zagzebski 1996; Roberts and Wood, 2007; Baehr, 2011a). Therefore, teachers can promote intellectual character growth by implementing an “agenda of understanding,” which involves “pushing students’ thinking and putting students in situations where they have to confront their own and others’ ideas” (Ritchhart 2002: 223; Vygotsky 1978; Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison 2011). This approach “stresses exploring a topic from many angles, building connections, challenging long-held assumptions, looking for applications, and producing what is for the learner a novel outcome” (Ritchhart 2002: 222; Wiggins and McTighe 2005).
  15. Incorporating virtue concepts into standards and assessment. A final but essential way of fostering intellectual virtues is the integration of intellectual virtue concepts into formal assessment. This can be done in a variety of ways, including the systematic use of virtue-langue in standard grading rubrics (e.g. assessing student answers in terms of their carefulness, thoroughness, creativity, or rigor), the use of “intellectual character portfolios” (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison 2011), and the assessment of student performance in terms of the goals proper to intellectual virtue (e.g. deep understanding or the creative application knowledge).


Given the uniqueness of IVA’s educational model, it is important to be clear about what exactly the model involves. In the present section, we provide an overview of an intellectual virtues educational model. We begin by comparing it with several related models.

An intellectual virtues approach to education bears important connections to more familiar and well-established educational approaches. The notions of “character development” and “character education,” for instance, have a long and distinguished history (Lickona 1992 and 1993). IVA will incorporate many of the “best practices” of this tradition (these practices are nicely summarized in Lickona and Davidson 2005 and Berkowitz and Bier 2006). There are, however, important differences between traditional approaches to character education and an intellectual virtues approach. The most notable difference is that traditional approaches tend to focus on fostering moral or civic virtues rather than intellectual virtues. Moral virtues are the character traits of a “good neighbor.” They include qualities like kindness, compassion, and generosity. Civic virtues are the character traits of a good citizen. They include qualities like integrity, respect, and tolerance. Intellectual virtues, however, are the character traits of a good thinker or reasoner. Like moral and civic virtues, they involve various beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and abilities. What makes them unique is that they aim at distinctively “cognitive” ends or goals: for example, at the acquisition, understanding, and application of important knowledge. Accordingly, on traditional models of character education, the primary question for teachers and administrators is: “How can we shape and mold the character of our students so that they become good neighbors or 1 citizens?” On an intellectual virtues model, the question is: “How can we shape and mold the character of our students so that they become good thinkers or learners?”

An intellectual virtues approach also has some affinity with educational approaches that focus on the development of certain intellectual skills. For instance, several educational theorists have stressed the importance of “metacognition” or “metacognitive strategies” in classroom learning (Waters and Schneider 2010; Ablard and Lipschultz 1998; Coutinho 2008; Deemer 2004; Sperling, Howard, Staley, and Dubois 2004; Yun Dai and Sternberg 2004). This approach is aimed at equipping students with specific strategies or techniques, tailored to their individual learning styles and abilities, that can be actively deployed in the learning process (e.g., semantic webs, concept charts, mnemonics, mind-mapping). Metacognitive strategies have an important place within an intellectual virtues educational model. Like a metacognitive approach, an intellectual virtues approach involves an intentional, active, and intelligent method of learning—one that discourages passive, unreflective, and uncritical reception of information (Winne 1995). But an intellectual virtues approach also has a deeper aim: it seeks to impact students at a basic motivational level, helping them to value knowledge, delight in learning, and care about their intellectual development and growth (Scheffler 1991; Wolk 2008; Goldie 2012).

An intellectual virtues educational model also bears a resemblance to a critical thinking model (Sternberg 1986; Siegel 1980, 1988; Ennis 1993). Indeed, intellectual virtues are, as it were, the “flesh and bones” of critical thinking. To be a critical thinker, one must be curious and reflective, and one’s thinking must be marked by rigor, carefulness, and fair- mindedness. Thus an intellectual virtues approach is consistent with but also adds important content to a critical thinking approach. It also addresses student motivation in a way that a critical thinking approach might not, insofar as a student might know how to think critically, but be too dogmatic, stubborn, lazy, or otherwise unmotivated to do so.

As this initial comparison suggests, an intellectual virtues approach has many important benefits:

  • It avoids controversial notions of values and morality that often accompany more traditional approaches to character education and complicate their integration into educational settings that are increasingly diverse and multicultural. To “buy into” an intellectual virtues approach, one need only accept the value of knowledge, learning, and the personal qualities that facilitate these important goals.
  • By targeting student motivation as well as ability, an intellectual virtues approach bridges the “action-ability gap.” As Harvard education researcher Ron Ritchhart has noted, intellectual virtues – or “thinking dispositions” – “act as both a descriptive and an explanatory construct, making clear the mystery of how raw ability is transformed into meaningful action” (Ritchhart 2002: 34). In other words, in addition to providing students with certain knowledge and skills, an intellectual virtues approach also provides them with drive and desire to deepen and use these important goods.
  • By making students careful, critical thinkers, this approach equips students to cope with and process the barrage of information that we are all confronted with on a daily basis. Via the internet, television, and other media, we face a steady and potentially overwhelming flow of information. Today more than ever, it is crucial that all citizens be capable of discriminating between true and false, credible and non- credible sources of information. This important capacity consists precisely in the range of intellectual habits and skills fostered by an intellectual virtues approach to education. This approach teaches students to ask the right questions, to demand and evaluate evidence, and to persevere in their pursuit of the facts.
  • An intellectual virtues approach equips students for success in the workplace. Whether one is a school teacher, paramedic, salesperson, electrician, attorney, artist, or accountant, success at work requires the ability to think—to think carefully, critically, and creatively. By promoting the acquisition of important knowledge and the personal qualities that aim at such knowledge, an intellectual virtues approach provides students with many of the “soft skills” that research indicates is vital to career advancement and success in today’s economy (Schulz 2008; Andrews and Higgson 2008; www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/softskills.htm).
  • An intellectual virtues approach also prepares students for success beyond the workplace. As any adult knows, life is filled with difficult challenges, decisions, and questions. Negotiating these aspects of life well requires that one be a careful, thoughtful, reflective thinker; it requires a kind of “wisdom” characteristic of an intellectually virtuous person. In this respect, an intellectual virtues educational model teaches students, not just to learn well, but also to live well.

At IVA, we will give special attention to nine “Master Virtues,” which are curiosity, intellectual humility, intellectual autonomy, attentiveness, intellectual carefulness, intellectual thoroughness, open-mindedness, intellectual courage, and intellectual perseverance. These virtues fall into three categories, corresponding to three stages or dimensions of learning: getting the learning process started and headed in the right direction; making this process go well; and overcoming challenges to productive learning:

Getting Started

Curiosity: wonders, ponders, asks why; involves a thirst for understanding.

Intellectual humility: an awareness of one’s own intellectual limits; a lack of concern with intellectual superiority and status.

Intellectual autonomy: a capacity for active, self-directed thinking; an ability to think and reason; also involves knowing when to trust and rely on others in an intellectual context.

Executing Well

Attentiveness: keeps one focused and on task; zeroes in on important details and nuances of appearance, meaning, etc.

Intellectual carefulness: an awareness of and sensitivity to the requirements of good thinking and learning; quick to note and avoid pitfalls and mistakes. Intellectual thoroughness: seeks and provides deeper meaning and explanations; not content with appearances or easy answers.

Handling Challenges

Open-mindedness: an ability to “think outside the box”; gives a fair and honest hearing “to the other side”; can also involve an ability to think in creative or original ways.

Intellectual courage: persists in thinking, inquiring, discussion, and other intellectual activities despite the presence of some threat or fear, including fear of embarrassment or failure.

Intellectual perseverance: hangs tight when learning becomes difficult or challenging; keeps its “eyes on the prize” and doesn’t give up.

IVA’s mission is to create and sustain an atmosphere that inspires significant growth in “intellectual character virtues,” which are the personal qualities of an excellent thinker, inquirer, or student. Intellectual character virtues include curiosity, wonder, attentiveness, intellectual carefulness, intellectual thoroughness, intellectual autonomy, creativity, open- mindedness, intellectual humility, and intellectual perseverance.

IVA’s vision is for a small, intellectual virtues-based learning community that is uniquely personal, relational, reflective, active, and academically rigorous. This community will equip all students to think carefully, critically, and creatively. IVA graduates will be on their way to becoming lifelong learners, having productive and successful careers, and living lives of meaning and wisdom.