10 Learning Foundations of Verto Education

Think about your most transformational educational experience. The ‘Aha’ moment that has stuck with you the rest of your life. Was it sitting in a lecture hall among a hundred other students in varying degrees of consciousness? Probably not.

The Brazilian educator Paulo Freire understood this, and passionately denounced traditional education systems built upon what he termed the ‘banking’ model.  The banking model of education earned its name from the role of teachers who serve to ‘deposit’ information to their students. Where the classroom is structured in a way that the primary duty of students is to remember and recall information verbatim.

Unfortunately, the banking concept of education is still the default in many high school and university settings, which is a disservice to all students. By merely treating students as passive recipients of information, we lose the opportunity for students to think critically about the concepts presented to them, a practice that in turn continues to promote long-standing biases within society.

Verto Education was created with a vision of a better freshman year, one that treats dialogue and critical thinking as vital to a successful education. To help guide us in attaining a space that allows students to come to their own conclusions, and learn from their unique individual experiences, we’ve developed 10 Learning Foundations of Verto Education:

  1. There is as much, if not more, educational value in the field experience as the classroom experience. The most powerful learning happens when the two are brought together with intention.
  2. Emerging adults learn best from a community of peers, where educators hold space.
  3. Everything is connected – it is the job of educators to help bridge connections and guide students to their own ‘Aha’ moments.
  4. If students are to bring their whole selves to the learning process, then educators are compelled to do the same.
  5. Learning is as much an emotional and social process as it is an intellectual one.
  6. The curriculum is far deeper than articles and textbooks – it encompasses all the experiences the students have each day. Group seminars are where students draw learning from their experiences.
  7. Question everything. Curiosity is the foundation for discovery.
  8. Learning happens at its own pace and cannot be done by anyone but the learner  – educators meet students where they are.
  9. Learning without action is hollow. Action without learning is blind.
  10. Thoughtful travel provides an opportunity to understand the world through new lenses. We must also seek to turn these lenses on ourselves as learners.

Our professors and program leaders use these pillars to weave together lectures, readings, and hands-on experiences that lead students to their own transformational educational moments.

Students regularly take part in learning opportunities that don’t feel anything like sitting in a lecture hall. One of the recurring activities we use is called ‘Observation vs. Judgement’ where students sit in the middle of town with a pen and pad of paper, a line drawn down the middle of the sheet. They watch their surroundings for 15 minutes to an hour and make notes on their reactions to life unfolding around them – on one side recording what is seen and on the other what is dubbed “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad.” We debrief as a group challenging our preconceptions of a culture we are unfamiliar with.

Allowing students to come to their own conclusions and challenge their own predispositions teaches them to think about the world differently. That’s what learning at Verto Education is all about – staying curious, pushing your own boundaries of understanding, and always challenging the status quo.


What to Do if You Weren’t Thrilled with High School

High schools in America were designed to give an affordable education to a huge number of students with a limited number of resources and minutes in the day. The result? Students associate learning with bells and intercoms, standardized tests, and bathroom passes. The classroom is structured in a way that students are asked to simply absorb and regurgitate information, not actively participate in gaining knowledge.

This is no one’s natural habitat for learning. Under the circumstances, you may start to question if you like learning at all.

Higher education has done a spectacular job of convincing everyone that going to college essential if you want to succeed in life. But after 12 years of the classroom, it’s natural to want a change of scenery. If you feel like you just limped through the finish line, do you really want to start running another race?

If you understand the value of higher education but you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ve got a few options.

Option 1: Gap Year

I took my gap year in 2006, when taking a break from school was a major taboo. When I told teachers and friends I was taking a year off before heading to college, they looked at me with confusion, followed by unconcealed judgment. Gap years at the time had a stigma of being for the lazy, or rogue … maybe some combination of the two.

Today the gap year carries a different stigma: you must be rich. Why else would your family be willing to spend $60,000+ per year on college and let you postpone the investment with an expensive walkabout? Some gap year programs can cost as much as an extra year of college, and no one needs more student loans.

Being a first-generation college student makes taking a year off even harder. How do you explain to your family the benefit of taking some time abroad to learn more about yourself and the world? How do you justify the extra expense? Who cares how unbearable high school was, or how unprepared you feel to go back into the classroom, you’re getting a college degree.

For those who can take gap years, it’s an excellent option. But for everyone else who can’t afford the extra expense, or justify to our families the importance of taking a year out, spending a year abroad just isn’t going to happen.

Option 2: Trade School

The rising cost of college is causing many people to question the value of a four-year degree, or at least they claim to question it. When pressed, many still check to see the color of their collar, and don’t acknowledge that mechanics often make well over six figures a year.

A trade-based education can be a fantastic opportunity, but there is often a stigma there as well. Depending on the industry, employers still look for the soft skills that are fostered by a liberal arts education. If you’re indecisive or don’t know what you want to be “when you grow up”, then you may be afraid of pigeonholing yourself into one career with one defined set of skills.

Option 3: Verto Education

The third option doesn’t quite have a name yet, but it accounts for three things:

  1. You may not be thrilled to sit at a desk.
  2. You may not know what career you want yet.
  3. Despite all the talk about higher education crumbling around us, your parents, your friends, and your future employers still care about what goes into that expensive piece of paper.

Enter, Verto Education. We care about your degree too, and the fact that everyone learns differently.

Verto offers semester and year-long experiential education programs in partnership with our consortium of exceptional colleges and universities. A semester traveling with Verto is a semester in college, so you’ll still graduate in four years. In the mornings, you gain real-world, hands-on, tangible experience through internships, service-learning, and project-based education. In the afternoon, you cover academic coursework on the morning’s themes.

For some, it is the first time that academia feels relevant and exciting. Our partner colleges count on the programs to send them experienced, thoughtful, and interesting critical thinkers. Like gap year students, Verto students are likely to perform better academically, to be more involved on campus, and to be more intentional in their educational pursuits.

College is important. We’re not asking you to delay it. We’re giving college a global perspective, at a more affordable price.