While schools and families are scrambling to put together small learning pods or tutoring groups — called microschools — Areté is leaning into what it has always done as a tried-and-true microschool on the Westside of L.A.: engaging students in small, seminar-style classes and keeping them happy and learning.
Microschools — deliberately small, personalized schools—are part of a growing small-school movement reinventing education to better prepare children for the future.
Microschool Cheat Sheet
What’s a microschool? Education Week tells us:
- Microschools have 150 students max, but are often smaller—10 to a few dozen
- Students are grouped by ability rather than age
- Teachers act more as guides and mentors, abandoning and surpassing the long-outdated lecture-and-test model
- Digital and project-based learning are emphasized
- Education is highly personalized
“We hit the ground running over a decade ago at Areté with small classes because it’s the way our inquiry-driven model of education works best,” says Areté Founder and Head of School Jim Hahn. “Students gain confidence in Areté seminars because they are in the center of deeper discussions of ideas. Our classes have all the best features of a liberal arts college.”
As a deliberate small, personalized learning community with an average class size of six, Areté transitioned seamlessly to virtual learning in March and continues to enhance its online pedagogy with exciting new tools and techniques to ensure that virtual classes are engaging, relevant, provocative, passion-driven and effective.
The microschool model is definitely working wonderfully for Hahn and the Areté teachers and parents, but what about the students? To find out, we talked to Areté students and alum, and summed up what they told us:
“Having had small classes at Areté still helps me in graduate school. I’m in classes now with students in their 20s, 30s and into their 40s who are uncomfortable in small classes. It’s harder to have discussions because they’re not used to that environment.” – Max, Areté Alumnus
“I really like the connections I can form with the teachers and the amount of focus for each student.”
“The small class size allows the teacher to tailor the curriculum in a way that best fits the individual’s learning style; there is no one-size-fits-all mentality with the small classroom.” – Bell, Areté Junior
“Students feel comfortable sharing and actively participating in the small environment. No student’s voice gets lost when there are only four to nine students in a class as there is less pressure when only speaking in front of a small number of students that they actually know personally.” – Katie, Areté Junior
“Small classes allow us to learn more effectively. We have the time to indulge in more nuanced concepts in addition to normal coursework.”
“I also enjoy small classes because I get close with my classmates and familiar with their learning processes. Knowing how friends engage with ideas in academia is a really valuable asset to our conversations outside of school as well.” – Camille, Areté Junior
10 Reasons Areté Students Love Their Microschool-Size Classes
- You raise your hand and you get called on (every time!)
- You get involved and talk in class
- You feel more comfortable sharing with fewer people there, even if you’re shy
- Your voice is heard
- You actually connect with teachers and other students
- You have real conversations and discussions with teachers and students
- You aren’t just talked at by teachers
- The teachers focus on you
- The teachers make class interesting to you and others — there are no one-size-fits-all lessons
- Other students are more friendly
“I tend to want to be involved and talk in class. I like to get involved. A small class works through discussion, and it feels like I can speak a lot and contribute verbally to the class rather than in a larger class where you sit around and are talked at. Everybody can converse and discuss.” – Jiyen, Areté Sophomore
“I like small class size because it allows me and other students to have conversations with the teachers and discuss things rather than just being talked to.” – Lukas, Areté Freshman
“I think a lot of parents are worried about what will happen to their kids’ social lives in a microschool but at Areté, my experience has been that the kids are so, so welcoming. They invite you to sit next to them at lunch. They ask you how your day was, and they’re friendlier than a lot of people were at my old school. Also, students at Areté who might be shy are comfortable speaking up with such small classes. Everything becomes a really interesting conversation.” – Hugo, Areté 8thGrader
“I like the smaller class sizes because I get more attention for the teachers.” – Mishi, Areté 7th Grader
Microschool Seminars at Work at Areté
Thanks to our wise and forthcoming students, we can see that the microschool model allows teachers to truly address individual passions and needs, resulting in happy, highly engaged learners.
And this seems to be happening whether online or in person.
To find out more about how an Areté seminar works, take a look at the small-class Areté model.