Central to IVA's mission to create an atmosphere that inspires growth in the personal qualities of excellent thinkers is a weekly, virtues-based Advisory, in which every student participates.
Throughout the year, groups of around students meet with their assigned advisor, a trained adult mentor who creates opportunities for the practice of intellectual virtues. Curriculum developed for Advisory includes direct instruction in the nine master virtues, methods for self-assessing intellectual character growth, and the opportunity for each student to explore, in depth, a topic of specific and intrinsic interest to him or her.
Devoting time to self-initiated study helps develop students’ natural curiosity, a master virtue, and gives students a practical way to grow in this capacity with their peers. We protect our Advisory hour in order to protect the development of students' curiosity.
Moreover, Advisory offers a safe environment for students to discuss their personal development of intellectual character through the weekly check-ins and conversations. Students are guided to bring what they are curious about to the group for intellectual exploration and play. Advisors teach students how to creating a big how or why question, choose a Thinking Routine or protocol for exploring the question together, and choose a text, which can be a podcast, Ted Talk, video, article, or other reading selection.
Advisories Cultivate Cultures of Thinking
Practices like Advisories create, "... a dynamic group of people who feel that they are learning together and creating something greater than that which any individual might produce. It feels good to be a member of a culture of thinking...A culture of thinking produces the feelings, energy, and even joy that can propel learning forward and motivate us to do what at times can be hard, and challenging mental work."
- Ron Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking
Bring Advisories Home with Family Advisories:
Families - try out one of our Family Advisories at home. We "assign" these optional and fun conversation guides occasionally over the holidays. The following examples aim at guiding families to explore what they are curious about together using an Advisory-type approach. Develop a culture of thinking together where you can reflect on and learn about ideas as well as how you approach learning.
These conversations should be fun where intellectual exploration and play combine with the safety of a supportive environment that practices the types of values that IVA has adopted as an organization.
- Family Advisory: Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
- Family Advisory: Controversial Topics
- Family Advisory: Studying Empathy
Thinking Routines at Home?
Download the reference sheet that is provided to students and try out one of these Thinking Routines in your own conversations. Thinking_Routines_with_Intellectual_Virtue_Connections.pdf
Read About Our Virtues
Our co-founder Dr. Jason Baehr has written extensively on each of the intellectual virtues and our faculty and staff as well as our students study the virtues in Advisory. Learn about our bookshelf and resources to learn more here. The selection below comes from Dr. Baehr's virtues implementation guide available online called Cultivating Good Minds.
Advisory groups, which meet 8:20 to 9:25 a.m. every Thursday, are one of the most important and distinct features of IVA students’ education.
Check our our Advisory in a Minute video to catch a glimpse.
Interested in being an Advisor?
The main purpose of the advisory groups is to further the personalization of IVA’s educational model by having weekly, in-depth check-ins with an adult mentor (the advisor). The overarching goal is for the advisors to get to know their advisees as thinkers and learners and to create opportunities for intellectual exploration and the practice of intellectual virtues. A curriculum developed for advisory groups will help form the texture of these groups. We anticipate that advisory groups will become a safe environment for students to discuss their personal development of intellectual character.
Much of the success of IVA’s Advisory groups depend on securing Advisors who are committed to their own growth in our nine master virtues, who have some insight into the minds of middle school students, and who can foster meaningful conversation amongst the members of their group. Parent and community volunteers help provide adult role models of thinkers and learners at school that represent to our students a greater diversity of adult leaders than our small staff.
Developmental theory suggests that middle school students are in a period of separation from primary adult caregivers (parents, etc.) but remain in dire need of meaningful interaction and emotional connection with adults. With that developmental tension in mind, advisory groups we have realized are one of the most important features of IVA students’ education.
Practically speaking, Advisors will need to commit to:
- Required Training: 4-hour training on our first Faculty Academy day in September (potential summer training too)
- Weekly Advisory Schedule: each Thursday from 8:20am-9:20am during the school year
- Ongoing Training: One Thursday every other month Advisors will meet after school for the hour after school gets out from 1:30pm-2:30pm for discussion and further training.
- Training “on the job”: The first four Advisory blocks of the upcoming school year will be conducted in a full school program introducing IVA Values and concepts that will be valuable for creating a safe culture of thinking such as growth mindset and kinds of listeners. Advisors will need to attend these meetings as they are an introduction to concepts and relationships we develop with students.
All Advisors complete an application process, are tested for tuberculosis, and complete a Live Scan (Our office will make arrangements for all of this and the school will pay for the cost of the Live Scan).