As one of our most-used acronyms, “DSLOs” is a bit of a mouthful! But what it stands for—”desired student learning outcomes”—is actually pretty straightforward: the main elements that we want to foster in SAS students so that they develop into confident and contributing members of society. Our DSLOS provide a framework for teaching and learning at SAS, whether it be in the classroom, on the stage, on the sports field, or during club activities.

We realized we needed to define these crucial areas when we were developing our SAS vision statement back in 2012. A group of students, parents, teachers, and administrators spent many hours painstakingly creating a concise expression of the vision that guides what we do at SAS. The result, which is probably familiar to you, was “A world leader in education cultivating exceptional thinkers prepared for the future.” 

The next step was to figure out how best to cultivate those exceptional thinkers prepared for the future! To do this, we brainstormed the traits that students would need in order to be prepared for a future full of possibilities but also full of uncertainty. What were the most crucial “tools” our young people should carry with them as they went out into our 21st-century world? 

Obviously, the needs of today differ from the needs of the 19th and even the 20th centuries. Universal public education became widely adopted in the late 1800s as economies moved from farming to factory work. During this era, producing efficient workers (and potential soldiers) was the goal. Even in the late 20th century, schooling was still heavily influenced by these origins, stressing basic literacy and mathematics, memorization of facts, and work-friendly traits like punctuality, patriotism, and respect for authority. 

Today those tools are no longer sufficient. Of course, we want our students to know important facts, but we also want them to know how to find out relevant information, how to assess what others say, and how to develop new ways of doing things. While we still see value in punctuality and patriotism, today’s world also requires flexibility, respect for diversity, curiosity, strong communication skills, and healthy personal values. 

How, exactly, could we summarize the most important learning outcomes for our students in today’s complex and exciting world? Next week, I’ll describe how we settled on the seven specific learning outcomes that we hope all students develop during their time at SAS: communication, collaboration, cultural competence, character, critical thinking, creativity, and content knowledge. Ask your children what they did today at school—hopefully, you will see some of our DSLOs in their answers!