Creating a Culture of Learning

Through Intention, Collaboration, & Responsibility

“Learning Cultures”

A socio-genetic approach to pedagogy, based on the idea that higher forms of thinking have their genesis in the context of social interaction. In Learning Cultures, classroom social activities are deliberately designed and organized to catalyze targeted forms of higher-level thinking and cause them to develop.

“Learning Formats”

The model is designed around learning formats. Formats specify conditions for familiar classroom learning situations, like small group- and one-on-one lessons. But instead of the traditional emphasis on the transmission of information or didactic delivery of lessons, formats are organized in ways that require collaboration, distribute responsibility for learning to students, and maximize their engagement. They provide a support system for learners to develop academic abilities through their interactions with others.

A class period is 70 minutes long. Within these 70 minutes, students experience a variety of different LEARNING FORMATS.

A class experience might look like this:

Screen Shot 2019-07-10 at 2.50.10 PM.png

How does YOUR mind work?

Ancient Sumerian classroom

Ancient Sumerian classroom

Ubiquitous classroom systems that still exist today

Ubiquitous classroom systems that still exist today

For millennia, humanity has believed that knowledge can only move from the people who know to the people who don't. Paulo Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, talks about how this idea silences those whose voices most need to be heard.

Learning Cultures®, the revolutionary teaching method developed by NYU professor Cynthia McCallister, turns this idea on its head. We believe that knowledge isn't pushed from one person to another, but rather it is created by people engaging in conversation, in discourse.

. . . ideas for the future are implemented in Learning Cultures . . . the most important thing to learn is how to learn itself.
— Christina Erneling, influential author and Professor of Psychology at Lund University
Contemporary theories, including those of Edmund Gordon, David Olson, Joshua Aronson, Christina Erneling, M. Bahktin, John Frow, Carol Dweck, Deci & Ryan, Tomasello, and Searle support the power of our discursive, innovative approach to education.

Contemporary theories, including those of Edmund Gordon, David Olson, Joshua Aronson, Christina Erneling, M. Bahktin, John Frow, Carol Dweck, Deci & Ryan, Tomasello, and Searle support the power of our discursive, innovative approach to education.

Giving ownership is one of the biggest things . . . if it’s not a choice they’re making, they don’t get much out of it . . . in sports, as in school, through cooperation, “there’s always a victory to have.”
— Ahmad Mickens, Revolution Training

Our core values, intention, collaboration, and responsibility, reflect our belief that students - actually all people - are most successful when they have ownership and choice over their environment.

In our one-of-a-kind writing program, Genre Practice®, every project begins, and ends, with the student's own purposes. This intentionality extends to all curriculum. Our students explore the world on their own terms, and find their own voice.

Since implementing Learning Cultures®, we have experienced tremendous growth, moving from an F rating to a Well-Developed School while graduation rates and regents pass rates have steadily increased. While, at the same time, suspension rates have dramatically decreased. The community at UAGC - teachers, students, and parents - have worked hard to see these increases, and it is only through constant collaboration that such success has been achieved.

Growth at the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers

All of this work is anchored in the principle of equity. New York City states that "the right to a free public school education is a basic 'student right' guaranteed to all children." On that foundation, we maintain a policy of open enrollment and do not reject students from UAGC based on past performance, which is the policy of many New York City public schools. Instead, we work to support all students who wish to attend our school.

Every student:

meets regularly with an advisor to set Academic Achievement goals

Has mandated monthly conferences with every teacher, in every class

IS guaranteed the opportunity to work with a variety of students*


*Classes are heterogeneously mixed - we firmly believe that all students should have the opportunity to learn from each other. For example, a reading group in a given class might have 9th-12th graders, students with disabilities, and English language learners working together in collaboration. We believe the tracking of students by age or ability undermines democracy. This represents the most democratic approach to education, and responds to the sad statistic that only 4.4% of students in segregated, self-contained classes graduate.

Want to be part of something exciting? A program that challenges and delivers? Take a look at what we offer our students. In the 21st century, learning will look a lot less like that Sumerian classroom. We believe in educating doers and thinkers. Whether you are a future student, an innovative educator, a parent who wants the most for their child, or a part of our society who cares about the future of education, come and see what we are about.

Learning . . . should be a balance between freedom and control, since real freedom comes from the ability to bring one’s own mental abilities under control.
— Dr. Edmund Gordon, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Yale and Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia

Check out the Learning Cultures® YouTube channel, explore our site, or come and visit us. We're excited about what's happening at UAGC, and we think you will be, too.