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Directed Studies: A Different Way to Learn

By Asher ’23

On top of the core classes and electives offered at the Harvard-Westlake Upper School, students have the opportunity to participate in a directed-study class. During my sophomore year, I took a directed study called Venture: Catalyzing Change which focused on learning the dynamics and challenges of establishing your own business.

Near the beginning of that year, I was grouped with other students with similar interests and we were tasked with collaboratively developing a business idea. Throughout the year, we had different case studies where we would break down successful companies to understand how we should model our own projects. We also got to hear from HW alumni with all kinds of real-world experience which gave us more insight on how to go about setting up our businesses.  To allow students to take a break from their assigned groups, the instructors often hosted discussions for students to share with the whole class or in smaller groups.

From my experience, the directed study program offers a refreshing alternative to the more structured form of traditional courses. Due to less frequent and shorter meetings, directed studies can be a chance for students to explore other interests as well as less conventional topics without having to commit themselves to the workload of a full-on class. This schedule also pushes students into a more active approach to their learning as they are often given activities to do outside of class that allow them to get more hands-on with whatever material is being covered. Another benefit of the directed study system is that there is usually only one class for each subject meaning that students get to interact with all the other students who share an interest in the topic they are studying. This fosters a more comfortable and supportive learning environment as everyone is motivated to learn and grow.

Overall, the directed study courses are very differently paced than what students are used to, allowing students to switch up their routines and have a little more liberty in their studies. These classes are a perfect place to develop new interests, follow up on existing ones, and even grow as a student and as a person.

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Tags: , , , Last modified: January 25, 2022