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The CHIP Program Overview

CHIP was a self-directed learning program that ran in a secondary school during the first semester of two consecutive years. It operated as a school within a regular school. Students spent their days together in one dedicated classroom, and it was by choice that they enrolled in the program.The program demonstrates a way to change public education on the basis of choice. Instead of the only option being traditional education, students could choose between a traditional or a democratic education. Change by choice, however, the marketplace way of ushering out the obsolete and bringing in the new, requires that people’s choices be equally visible and accessible. A CHIP type program makes the choices equally visible and assessible to all students. It is also a way to make democratic learning equally available to all students, not just the ones with parents who are more inclined to look out for them, more savvy with respect to admission policies of other schools, more able to pay extra costs, and more able to arrange transportation to charter, magnet, or private schools.The CHIP room was not furnished like a typical classroom. The students set it up to best meet their needs. How the CHIP Students Organized Their Room describes how they arranged it.The only requirement for students choosing the program was that they be committed to learning. An average of 25 male and female students enrolled in the program each year. They were comprised of a three-year cross-age mix ranging from grades 10 to 12 and they represented a general cross-section of the entire school community of approximately 800 students. Their lunch hour was the same as the other students and they participated in the extra-curricular activities of the parent school.

The program was not a full implementation of democratic learning. CHIP students were expected to complete the requirements of four regular courses and to write the same exams as other students. They therefore didn’t have control over the content of their learning, but they did have control over when, where, how, with whom and for how long they worked on a task. For example, they could work on their math course when it suited them and for as long as they wanted. They had the freedom to plan their own days, but with the freedom came the need for them to learn how to be responsible, self-directed learners.

Two teachers were involved in the program. One was on duty in the morning, the other in the afternoon. This provided the students with the resourcefulness of two teachers while preserving some continuity that would be lost with more teachers involved. It also provided the teachers with a colleague for support and development.

The teachers’ role was non-coercive. They were facilitators, coaches, co-learners and equals striving to be good role models. Democratic processes were used to solve problems. If a resolution required a vote, the “one-person, one-vote” principle applied. Like the students, the teachers had only one vote with no veto power which was important to setting the stage for equality. It also meant that the teacher was not responsible for discipline. Students were responsible for themselves and if they had conflicts with others, they could launch a grievance which a judicial committee would work to resolve.

See also:

A CHIP Student Testimonial

A CHIP Parents Testimonial

Anecdotes of Well-being

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