Academics

The Williams School is proud of its academic reputation. A course catalog, as outlined in the Department pages of this section, offers only a glimpse of what it means to be a student at the school, but it does offer a window on the academic life. The faculty is committed to developing approaches to teaching that meet the needs of students and that engage them in the process of learning. They use many forms of instruction ranging from traditional lectures and demonstrations to seminars, group work, laboratory experiments, field trips, performances, and technology explorations.

Academic Life at Williams

The Williams School is proud of its academic reputation. A course catalog offers only a glimpse of what it means to be a student at the school, but it does offer a window on the academic life. Graduation requirements, expectations and descriptions of courses follow. The faculty is committed to developing approaches to teaching that meet the needs of students and that engage them in the process of learning. They use many forms of instruction ranging from traditional lectures and demonstrations to seminars, group work, laboratory experiments, field trips, performances, and technology explorations.

The Curriculum

The Williams School seeks to help students realize their potential. At its most pragmatic level, the aim of the program is to equip students with the skills necessary for success in college and in life. At its most idealistic, the aim is to encourage intellectual curiosity and the love of learning. At every level the teachers never lose sight of the formation of character. The curriculum puts its faith in the civilizing effects of the humanities and of the arts and in the power of the scientific method. Teachers put their faith in their students and in their disciplines, believing in the potential of the students and in the importance of the subjects taught. Ours is a traditional curriculum, enhanced by technology, which stresses the connections among the various subjects. The faculty members are also learners who try to bring to the program effective pedagogy and scholarship. We believe a Williams graduate is well taught, well informed, and ready for a demanding college program.

Academic Program

The division between the Middle and Upper School is more than a classification according to grade. The sixth, seventh and eighth grade curriculum is based on a middle school philosophy responsive to the developmental needs and learning styles of younger students. The Upper School follows a college preparatory program, which increases in its demands throughout the four years. Advanced Placement and some elective courses in the senior year are taught at the college level. Placement in Honors and Advanced Placement level courses is subject to department approval.

The school year consists of two semesters, each two quarters in length. Teachers assess the students by letter grade and written comment every quarter. Upper School courses generally have formal examinations as end of semester assessments.
Students may gain college credit by taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and examinations in certain subjects. Each department offering Advanced Placement courses may require additional summer work, and, in some cases, additional class work.

Seniors are encouraged to work on a Senior Project preceding graduation. These projects require careful planning, and students must have the help of a faculty advisor. Oral and written presentation of the results of the project is required.

Williams benefits greatly from its connection with Connecticut College. The school makes use of a number of the College’s facilities, and selected students are able to take courses at the College in their senior year. In turn, Connecticut College students can pair with Williams’ faculty as teaching interns.

A number of the best students in the Senior class are inducted into the Williams Chapter of the Cum Laude Society, a national honor society.

The average class size at Williams is 13; the student-teacher ratio is 9:1.

Independent Study

Students may take independent study classes or independent projects when time, circumstance, and student and teacher workloads provide for them. There is no guarantee that a course or project will be allowed simply because a student wishes to take one.

Requests for independent study should be referred by the teacher or the student who wishes to take the independent study or course to the Department Chair and then to the Assistant Head of School and the Department Heads, who serve as the curriculum committee. A rationale for the study, a syllabus, a statement of scope and sequence, and an outline for assessment and evaluation should be provided. The student’s advisor, as in the yearly selection of courses, must also approve. The Department Heads will decide if the course/study will be taught and if it should be awarded credit by the school.

Department Heads and the Assistant Head of School will have responsibility for the monitoring of the effectiveness of the independent study programs.

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