Kent Denver School

The Kent Denver Institutes

Explore. Apply. Pursue. The Kent Denver Institute experience is designed to empower students to pursue self-directed exploration and learning as they prepare for life during and after college. Participating students identify an area of interest then, with guidance from faculty, design and pursue a personal learning plan that provides real-world experience in business, technology, science and more. 

“We created two prototypes in 2017: the Institute for Technology and Design and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Education,” says Head of School Rand Harrington, Ph.D. “We were able to build a replicable framework and create an expansion process in November 2018 thanks to a $100,000 educational grant from EE Ford and $200,000 of matching gifts from Kent Denver families. As a result, this past spring Kent Denver launched its third institute, the Institute for Experimental Research, and we plan to launch additional Institutes in 2020.

The replicable framework is centered around supporting three types of student learning goals: exploration, application and deep pursuit. Exploration is about exposure, for students wondering, “What is this field all about?” Application is about accomplishing a specific project, for students asking, “How can this field help me accomplish this specific task?” Deep pursuit is about immersion, for students asking, “How does my interest in this field shape what I do?” 

In lieu of traditional assessment, students demonstrate their accomplishments through a learning portfolio. This portfolio includes evidence that students are engaging fundamental concepts, building a support network, making a community impact, developing focused expertise, and becoming capable of narrating their own learning journey.

“Student self-directed choice is important,” Dr. Harrington says, “but it must be scaffolded by insightful and caring professionals who take the time to learn about the strengths of each student.”  

“The Institutes at Kent Denver must be nimble enough to support student pursuits,” adds Michael Ehrenfried, Director of Institutes. “Our frameworks, support structures and portfolio of specific institutes should dynamically reflect evolving student interest.” 

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