Although Carlson's instructional program has many features found in other elementary schools, Applied Learning is the major instructional approach. Important features of Applied Learning are its connection to real-world experiences, its focus on project work, and its provision for collaborative learning.
Real world connections
The Applied Learning approach to teaching and learning is based on the work of educators such as John Dewey and on the Secretary's Commission on Needed Skills Report, which identified workplace competencies and foundation skills that are required for solid job performance. Applied Learning helps students understand the connection between in-school learning and out-of-school problems.
project based activities
Students in Applied Learning classrooms engage in short-and-long term projects which expand their knowledge base and their ability to solve problems. Through participation, students create a variety of projects that others can use or value. Applied Learning projects have an audience beyond the teacher. Informational brochures, multimedia presentations, museum-style exhibits, and classroom newsletters are characteristics of Applied Learning projects. Such projects require students to solve a variety of ill-defined problems as they are involved in tasks which become increasingly demanding and complex.
Collaborative problem solving
Teachers serve as one source of information as they guide, monitor, and assess students progress. Students work individually and within groups in much the same way as problem-solving is done in the real world. Through the Applied Learning approach to instruction, students have choice, make decisions, and accept responsibility for their learning.