The InterStudent System

Harry Pollard

[An update on InterStudent - June 1980]

InterStudent has been 11 years in development. The Program has been used in most classroom situations - in every land of school environment. Hundreds of classroom teachers have contributed to its success with more than 200,000 Mini-Unit completions.

The InterStudent System may be used with any course which lends itself to discussion and debate. It has been effective with students of every ability and age, from remedial to gifted, from 7th grade through 12th.

Students work in groups. Three disciplinary and motivational pressures affect the students. They are individual responsibility, responsibility to one's peers, and competition.

The Program consists of a series of Mini-Units -- each lasting a week, or five periods. Four periods are spent in a variety of activities, including socratic discussion, special assignments, and preparation for the Trivium Debate scheduled for the 5th period. It is suggested that a Mini-week be dropped into a course about 5 times a year.

No syllabus time is lost, for the Trivium Debate subjects are drawn from the subject being taught. Instead of learning by lecture, students must read, research, prepare their material. Then, they must present it in competition with the rest of the class under difficult debate conditions.

The Program teaches in three ways.

With content, drawn from 18th and 19th century classical Political Economy. It is a socratic discussion of human behavior. It is particularly appropriate for History, English and any of the Social Studies.

With a structure based on socratic questioning and debate, involving many scholastic skills, such as research, critical thinking, material organization, writing, presentation and questioning. The students work in groups. Most of the problems usually associated with groups have been solved.

With life-skills instruction which is highly motivational. Students are responsible for their activities -- but to their peer groups, not to the teacher. They maintain their own discipline and run their own affairs.

Every teacher must be innovative. Sometimes these ideas can be used by others, but mostly they work properly only for the teacher who developed them. The ideas that can travel, that can be usefully passed along, are included in InterStudent.

InterStudent hones more than intellectual skills. A poorer student, who has other desirable attributes, such as determination, aggressiveness, concentration, industry, may do better than the 'gifted' student.

These desirable qualities, and others, are clearly visible during an InterStudent Mini-week. A student notices that some behavior is rewarding, while other behavior is not. The role model for an InterStudent participant after several Mini-Units will be one who works, cooperates with his. group, uses his mind, and takes care of himself and others.