`Odyssey' Encourages Active Learning

Article excerpt

STUDENTS can often be some of the most trenchant opponents to education reform.

"Kids resist change," says Craig Simpson, who teaches "Odyssey," an innovative, interdisciplinary course at Andover High School in Andover, Mass. "By the time they get to the high school, most of them have been taught for eight or nine years in a system that has been leading them toward a traditional high school." If that school then begins to change, it's unsettling.

Many students are highly grade conscious and if teacher expectations change, it could affect their grades. Other students simply don't like the idea of having to work hard.

Theodore R. Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools is based on the concept of "student-as-worker" - making students rather than teachers responsible for their education.

"Kids don't like that," Dr. Sizer says. "They like the deal they've got: School, for a lot of them, is quite soft."

At Andover High, seniors who elect to take "Odyssey" are finding out what it means to be "workers."

In this interdisciplinary class, they are asked to form opinions and, most importantly, to substantiate those opinions with facts. …