Independent Learning Experiences (ILEs) | Tilton School

Independent Learning Experiences (ILEs)

At Tilton School, students are encouraged to imagine and create learning opportunities that require them to fully immerse themselves in the process.

An Independent Learning Experience (ILE) is derived from student passions. With approval from the Academic Dean and guidance from a faculty/staff mentor, students mold their passion into an objective and project with specific, manageable, and measurable goals outside of their regular school work. Projects might be as short as a week—or could be comprehensive enough to last an entire year, but either way—but not matter how long they take, these experiences extend far beyond the basics.

Exploratory, self-designed programs represent the ultimate student-school partnership. Students willing to venture outside the formal curriculum to design their own learning program demonstrate habits of mind most closely associated with successful leadership—vision and initiative.

Recent exploratory programs have taken several forms, the focus, function and form arising from genuine student interest, or a shared interest between student and teacher.

Independent Learning Experiences provide opportunities to explore and master Essential Skills outside of the traditional classroom curriculum or Grade Level Programming, and they represent yet another way students take control of their own learning at Tilton School.

Independent Learning Experiences

We know that that much of the learning useful to us now and in the future occurs beyond the classroom walls, and that much of this learning corresponds to Tilton School’s Essential Skills:

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Inquiry
  • Mindfulness
  • Play

So, we encourage students to imagine and ultimately to create learning opportunities that require them to fully immerse themselves—body, mind and heart—in the learning process.  Such independent and experiential opportunities are not constrained by the School’s daily schedule.

Individual and group learning can occur during available class time, during evening hours, on weekends and on breaks in the school calendar.  They can happen on campus, off campus and in virtual spaces.  In fact, some of the most intensive learning experiences occur when students collaborate with off-campus partners.

Tilton School has a history of collaborating with outside partners in student learning.  The Engineering course has worked with a local entrepreneur to design elements of a Winnipesaukee River park in Franklin, New Hampshire.  The English Department has collaborated with Portland, Maine’s “The Telling Room” to create a platform for our students’ creative writing projects.  For several years, the Social Science and World Language Departments have collaborated for with the Batey Foundation to create a long-standing service learning experience in March of each year.

These programs are driven from within the academic curriculum.  Independent Learning Experiences (ILEs), however, derive from student passions!  Classroom teachers, advisors, Learning Leaders, Grade-Level Program Leaders, dorm parents, coaches, parents and summer bosses, might serve as mentors, helping students mold their passion into an objective and project, with specific, manageable, and well-articulated goals.  These projects might cover a single week, or they may become a full year’s work for a student.

These learning intensive programs, while not necessarily pursued for academic credit, may well garner academic credit.  Nonetheless, a well-designed, well-executed independent learning project is its own reward.  Students may not design a project to meet basic graduation requirements.  These projects should extend student learning well beyond the basic.

Students interested in designing an Independent Learning Project should consult with the Academic Dean.  Typically, students will pitch their project ideas to a subset of the Academic Committee tasked with approving all projects.  The pitch must include well-articulated learning goals, a description of the project designed to meet the goals, including a timeline, assessment strategies, deliverables and a project mentor/coach.

Other Elements of the ILE Process

  • ILEs are not necessarily “taught” by Tilton School faculty and/or staff.  Students might team with faculty to explore an area of mutual interest – They might teach each other, they might connect with an outside “expert” in the subject area.
  • Typically, ILEs end in two ways: (1) some demonstration of mastery, and (2) a substantial and summative self-reflection of the process of learning.
  • ILEs do not require specific departmental association.  They may be interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary.
  • ILE project must align with the Tilton School mission, and encourage growth in one or more of the five Essential Skills.
  • ILE projects brought to completion will be noted on the Tilton School transcript and may well serve as the basis for Senior Capstone projects and college application essays.

Examples of Past and Current ILEs

  • American Sign Language
  • Athletic Training Internship
  • Blogging
  • Creative Writing
  • EMT Training and Fire Department Ride-Along
  • Financial Planning
  • German Language and Culture
  • Geology
  • Graphic Design
  • Internships
  • Leadership Training
  • Online Course or MOOCs
  • Photojournalism
  • Robotics
  • Service Learning
  • Technology Assistant
  • Website Development