HOW DO COURSES “DO THE TEACHING” IN STEPS?
STEPS consists of courses. We offer hundreds of courses.
Each course is built to teach one part of a subject, for one age and literacy skill level.
Step 1 is for ages 5-6, some bright 4 year-olds, and for preliterate students.
Step 2 is for ages 7-8, or for students who are developing literacy.
Step 3 is for ages 9-10, and reasonably literate students.
Step 4 is for ages 11-adult, and for students who are literate.
Each Step offers at least 4 areas of study: history, science, creative writing, and study & life skills.
Example: Step 4 Science covers the large subject of science, for students ages 11-up who are literate. Step 4 Science is further broken into eight courses, each covering one area of science, such as Step 4 Geology, Step 4 Biology, etc.
Each Steps course is made up of lesson plans. Each lesson plan might take a student around an hour to do, though some may take more time, and some less. Some courses have over eighty lesson plans, some as few as six or seven. Most fall somewhere in-between.
Each lesson plan consists of step-by-step actions for the student to do, simply and clearly described. The student does all the actions in today’s lesson plans, in order, and he does this for each subject he’s studying today.
Unless you're doing Step 1 (ages 5-6), the teacher doesn't do much but look in, perhaps discuss what's being studied, and deliver tests.
Much of the “teacher's” effort won't be needed as a student matures. The student, when old enough, reads each action to be done, and does each action, often unsupervised. In this way, the student is walked step-by-step through today's lesson in, say, Geology.
Actions a student does often include defining words, locating places in the world on maps on the Internet, reading selected material, watching selected film (often available for free on the Internet), doing selected study exercises or experiments, etc.
The student might do a lesson plan a day in selected subject, or as few as three lesson plans a week, as indicated for some subjects.
After completing a number of lesson plans in a subject, a test is given the student to see what he learned from his studies in that subject. (Tests are written and built into each course.) Once the student passes a test, the student moves on to the next lesson plan, or the next course.
Completed lesson plans and completed tests lead to completed courses.
When a course is completed, the student starts the next course for that same subject and same Step.
Example: a student completes Step 3 History 5 by completing the final test for that course. He would then start Step 3 History 6.
Completed courses eventually lead to completed subjects in a Step of study.
Example: The student completes the final Step 3 History course, Step 3 History 16. There is no more Step 3 History. So the student would then start the next Step up for that subject, in this case, Step 4 History 1, the first history course in Step 4.
So, actions done by the student = lesson plans done = tests passed = completed courses = completed subjects for a Step = the student completing all the subjects on a given Step = the student moving up a Step to more difficult studies.
The work of deciding what and how to teach, down to every step in every lesson plan for every subject, has been done in its entirety. So, the courses teach the student.
A STUDENT MOVES UP LESSON PLAN, BY COURSE, BY STEP?
Yes. Steps courses are an ever-broadening river of knowledge and ability. Each action within a lesson plan flows logically into the next action in that lesson plan; each finished lesson plan flows into the next lesson plan, until a course is completed; each finished course flows into the next course for that same subject and Step; each Step of study flows up into the next higher Step of study. The ocean that this ever-widening river of knowledge and experience lets out at, is life.
As the student completes steps in lesson plans, completes lesson plans, takes and passes tests with 100% understanding of the studied materials, completes courses, and finally completes entire Steps of study, he or she should increasingly understand each subject, and increasingly handle their own studies.
Example: A student would (if he started at age 5) do Step 1 Creative Writing Courses 1-4 in order (that's all of them), then do all the Step 2 Creative Writing 1-4 in order, and then do all the Step 3/Step 4 Creative Writing 1-5, in order. This would cover their years in Steps, for Creative Writing – at no time would they be likely not to be doing Creative Writing (language skills) as a subject. We then have a Master’s Writing Program, if that is where the student’s interests are.
The same approach is used with every subject.
Example: A student, age 5, would do Step 1 History 1-11, and completing it, then do Step 2 History 1-12, followed by all of Step 3 History 1-16, and then Step 4 History 1-11, all in order – unless at some point studies become too easy, and the student was ready to shift up to the next Step.
Regardless of where a student starts Steps, this same approach is at work. A 7-8 year-old who starts Steps with Step 2, or a 9-10 year-old starting Steps with Step 3, would do that Step fully for each subject, and then move up each subject to the next higher Step.
Step 4 students, having no “higher Step”, move though each course in each area of study, in order, until they complete their STEPS education.
WHAT KIND OF TESTS DOES A STUDENT DO TESTS IN STEPS?
There are many tests in Steps. Almost every course has at least one test, and longer Step 4 courses have as many as ten tests.
But Steps does not test in the same way, or for the same reason as most other study programs do. Our tests are designed to quickly show what a student did and did not understand in a section of study. And that's all we want to know. What did he learn? What didn't he learn?
Using your teacher answer guide for each test, found at the end of each course, the teacher (you) sends the student back to look again only at the lesson plan which answers a question the student missed on the test.
How does this work? Simply! A student studies a number of lesson plans, as specified in the course. He then does a test. You (teacher/ mom) look at his test and notice that the student got an answer wrong, or had no answer at all for a question. The teacher answer guide tells the parent/teacher two things: 1) the right answer to each question is, taken from the materials that the student studied, and 2) the exact lesson plan to send the student back to in order to re-study, if the student missed that question.
You send your student back to that lesson, he re-studies, and then he answers the question knowledgeably. That's all we ask – that he knows and understands what he studied, and can “think with” the materials.
We don’t want a student “parroting” or memorizing materials and answers. We want the student to understand the materials, and answer test questions in his own words. What's more, our tests ask no “multiple choice” or “take your best guess” questions. The student knows, or he doesn't.
And we never use tests for grading purposes, or punitively. No grades! After all, the student is not allowed to move on to the next part of his studies until he gets 100% of the last test right, as described above. He MUST either get them all right the first time, or re-study any missed questions and answer them with understanding – and once EVERY question on the test has been answered by the student in a way that demonstrates understanding, he is allowed to move on to the next section of study in that subject – AND NOT BEFORE.
So, the student will know 100% of the materials studied when he moves on.
What grade do you give a person who gets 100% of their test questions right? We're interested in what the student has learned, and not in giving the student a “grade.” But if you’re in a situation where the student must have grades or report cards or transcripts – give the student straight “A”s. He’ll have earned it!
YOU EXPECT STUDENTS TO GET 100% OF ALL TESTS IN ALL SUBJECT?
Yes. For several reasons. And we don't “expect” it – we've gotten it done with thousands of students.
First, the way our lesson plans are put together, the student always is always provided definitions of words – before they read study materials that use those words. In that way, the student understand all the words he's reading the first time he reads the materials. (This has the side benefit of improving vocabulary with every lesson plan!)
Next, the student locates on a map or globe, usually on the Internet, any locations that will be referenced in his study materials – before they read the study materials. Again, this allows the student to have familiarity with locations mentioned the first time he reads the materials. (This has the side benefit of improving geography skills with every lesson plan!)
Next, the student reads his study materials. These are generally not too long, and contain clear information in practical, logical amounts that can be read and understood in a short amount of time. Most lesson plans focus on a single aspect of the subject being studied. Being as the student understands the words and locations referenced, he has a good chance at 100% comprehension the first pass through. (This, of course, quickly increases the student’s grasp of the subject in every lesson plan.)
Next, reading is followed by activities that help make that study “real” for the student. The student is asked to do experiments in science, or to write something for creative writing, or to create a work of art in art studies, or to relate a lesson in history to his own life. There is always something to be done by the student after his reading, to make the subject tangible, and a part of the student's life. This tends to help make information “stick” – it suddenly has a use in the student's life! (And it has the side benefit of helping the student become more capable, through hands-on experience, with every lesson plan.)
Next, after a number of lesson plans have been done, we have a test. The test may not be 100% when the student first takes it! But we will know when he's done with the test, because he will have looked at the materials for questions he did miss, and then answered those questions correctly and with understanding. In other words, he will have answered 100% of the questions correctly, doing tests in the manner we’ve described. He’ll be ready to move on to more complex studies, secure in his understanding of the earlier studies. So, to be very clear, the student restudies and re-takes only the test questions he missed. If he again misses one or two – he's perhaps being a bit lazy. Send him back to re-re-study what he missed until he passes every question in this manner, and he can then move forward.
So yes, 100%, every test, before a student is allowed to move forward. That's the goal, and that's the way Steps is set up to work.
All tests and answer guides for each course are found at the end of downloaded courses. Tests should never be made available to the student until he or she is ready to take a test. Answer Guides should not be reviewed by students. Answer guides are for the tutor (or parent’s) use.
DOES MY STUDENT NEED TO DO ALL STEPS COURSES IN ORDER?
No, and some do not. Many people select specific Steps courses to fill out a student's needs. Since each course is free-standing, this can easily and successfully be done.
However, the greatest success with Steps as a full program comes from students who do courses in order.
Why? Because the first course in every subject in each Step starts with the most basic info that a student needs in order to study and understand that subject. Often, this starts with a definition of the subject to be studied. (You'd be surprised at how few teachers and curricula start with such an important basic.)
When our courses were written, we never assumed that the student “already knew”. We built courses to grow cumulative understanding. The info in each lesson plan builds into more complex info in the next lesson plan, and so on.
We know that the ability to understand and use complex, detailed ideas is always built on an understanding of earlier basics. This is true when studying any subject.
As the student moves through courses in order, the information taught generally moves from very simple, to increasingly complex and challenging.
This is so in Steps, at each Step, for every subject.
So, again as an example, Step 1 Creative Writing studies take around two years to get through, assuming the student does all four courses in order. The student then moves up to Step 2 Creative Writing, regardless of the student's age. There, he would start with Step 2 Creative Writing 1, and move through that Step of Creative Writing courses in order. With each course, the materials studied become more complete and detailed, and the student, more knowledgeable and skilled.
HOW LONG WILL EACH STEP TAKE MY STUDENT?
Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3 each provide about two years of study. (A student may complete faster or slower. Each student works at their own, best pace. That's the whole idea behind independent study.)
When a student finds a Step becoming too easy, starting the next Step up should be considered. If this happens quickly, so be it. If it takes a while, so be it. If the student completes an entire Step before moving up, so be it. Education is not a race.
Step 4 courses can take a student anywhere from 3-5 years to complete, and longer if using some of our many electives. We also offer seven Master's Programs in Creative Writing, and a hard-working student might complete a one of these in a year. So a student could study our Master's Courses for years, if he wished.)
WHAT IF A STUDENT ONLY HAS 1-2 YEARS TO STUDY?
We suggest programs for students who are already well into their teens, and have a limited number of years before they wish to complete their education, ranging from 1-3 years, if needed. (These may include some Summer School work, and are available upon request.)