New Book Explores Success of Teaching at Bard College at Simon's Rock

Nancy Yanoshak, faculty in history and women’s studies, and 29 Simon's Rock faculty members and alumni collaborated to develop Educating Outside the Lines: Bard College at Simon's Rock on a "New Pedagogy" for the Twenty First Century. Edited by Yanoshak, the book was released in May by Peter Lang.

Educating Outside the Lines asks why Simon’s Rock is such an effective learning community. In finding an answer, it focuses on pedagogy—that is, the methods of teaching employed at the College.

The connections forged here between the faculty and students are very strong, even relative to other small liberal arts colleges,” Yanoshak says. In writing the book, the contributing faculty members articulated their methods for engaging students so deeply. “We found a lot of commonality in the way that we approach our classrooms—perhaps unsurprisingly, because of the cohesive feel we’ve all experienced as members of this community.”

While Simon’s Rock is a unique institution, the insights contained in this book apply to diverse settings throughout higher education.

Simon’s Rock’s distinctive pedagogy

The book is a collection of 17 articles that touch on diverse aspects of the Simon’s Rock teaching model. Key elements are spelled out in articles that address:

  • Stewarding a culture that emphasizes that engaging with one’s education more broadly, and college itself, are deliberate choices
  • Foregrounding the intellectual connection between students and faculty. Based on mutual respect and closeness, “this relationship is a two-way street,” Yanoshak explains. “We take our students very seriously as learners, no matter what their age.”
  • Creating an egalitarian classroom. This is key for fostering consequential discussions that signal to all students that they have something important to contribute, and the responsibility to do so.
  • Specific aspects of the academic program, like the Writing and Thinking Workshop, which give students the tools they need to take on the responsibility of collaborative and self-directed work
  • Concrete examples of “effective interdisciplinarity”: Meaningful and coherent ways professors bridge work from diverse disciplines to enrich the academic experience
  • The College’s distinct amalgamation of a rigorous liberal arts academic program and the exceptional forms of support it provides for its young students

What others can learn from Simon’s Rock

While Simon’s Rock is a unique institution, the insights contained in this book apply to diverse settings throughout higher education. “Ideas born at Simon’s Rock have played a critical role in the academic program at the Bard High School Early Colleges, and that’s just one significant example of how what we’ve learned about teaching here can be applied in a different setting,” Yanoshak notes.

Important figures in American education have recognized the importance of this work. Praising the book, Carol Geary Schnider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, says, “This exquisitely crafted set of essays illuminates the rich gifts that a humanistic design for learning extends to everyone---to students themselves, to a thoughtful democracy, and to our entire society’s capacity to explore, in community, far-reaching questions about our responsibilities to one another and to our shared and vulnerable planet.”

Speaking more generally of the role Bard College at Simon’s Rock plays in the higher education landscape, Anthony W. Marx, president of Amherst College and president-designate of the New York Public Library, says that “American education can only be as great as is our willingness to experiment outside of the conventions, and in that Bard and Simon’s Rock have long been inspiring leaders. We all have much to learn from their efforts and analysis.”

To view portions of Educating Outside the Lines, click here.