The Goddard Difference

Educational Philosophy

Our philosophy of education starts with the individual and holds that each person is truly unique, and is based on the ideas of John Dewey: that experience and education are intricately linked.

Students at Goddard work with faculty to direct their studies according to their personal and professional interests, goals, gifts, and desires. Students develop the capacity to understand their lives in an ever-changing social context, and thereby to take meaningful action in the world. They are encouraged to question received knowledge and the status quo and to create new understandings of the world and of human experience. As a collaborative interdependent learning community, we respect, include and appreciate differing perspectives.

  • We challenge ourselves and each other to embrace uncertainty, experiment, and imagine unexpected outcomes. Recognizing our interconnectedness with others and with the earth, we hold our scholarship and our actions to the highest standards of integrity, authenticity, and compassion.
  • We recognize that teaching and learning are fully realized when they include a wide range of people, cultures, experiences, abilities and fields of knowledge.
  • Understanding that access to resources and social and political power are not equally distributed, we offer the means to explore and articulate a wide range of personal and cultural understandings of well-being and justice, and to take action to create a more just world.
  • In addition to keeping our education affordable, we create academic and campus environments that all Goddard community members can use.
  • We recognize the increasing impact of human activity on our planet’s limited resources.  In our educational and institutional practices, we are committed to thoughtful and sustainable action that increases individual and social capacity for environmental stewardship and an improved future.

The Low-Residency Model

Goddard’s low-residency semester format comprises an intensive 8-day residency on campus or virtually, and 16 weeks of independent work and self-reflection in close collaboration with a faculty advisor. The college pioneered this format nearly a half century ago particularly to meet the needs of adult students with professional, family, and other obligations seeking learning experiences with relevance in real-world circumstances.

Goddard College invented the low-residency model in 1963, and it has since been adopted well over 100 institutions.

Our low-residency structure means that you only have to clear your schedule for a week each semester.  You can join us on campus or you can attend the residency virtually from your home.  

Goddard College’s low-residency model at a glance:

  • Design your own study around an area of your interest and passion each semester.
  • Participate in an 8-day, on-campus or virtual educational program where you interact with faculty advisors, students, alumni and staff, and participate in workshops, readings, group sessions, artistic and musical events, and more.
  • Complete your work at home using the resources of your own community.
  • Library facilities, Student Services, Financial Aid, Registrar, Community Life and other College resources, along with online collaboration with faculty and your fellow students, are available throughout the semester and provide you with individualized assistance.
  • Individualized guidance from award-winning faculty who are experts in their fields.
  • Support in the design and implementation of all of your studies.
  • One-on-one interactions and in-person experiences with visiting professionals, such as authors, educators, artists, publishers, and specialists.
  • More personal involvement than an online degree.

The Residency

Residencies are a time to explore, network, learn, share, and celebrate with peers, staff, and faculty. While students work with advisors to forge individualized study plans for the semester, they also have the opportunity to attend workshops, advising groups, keynote addresses, large celebrations and a host of other rich and interesting events where they also learn from other adult students. Together with their faculty advisors, students consider study ideas, program content, personal goals, and what they might do to achieve their goals. This model combines a strong sense of community with personalized learning, enhanced by open and extended written dialogue with a faculty mentor. The strength of the program rests on the excellence of our faculty and their commitment to students. Program residencies take place on onsite at the College’s campus in Plainfield, Vermont or virtually from where ever the student is based.

After the Residency

After the residency, students undertake the studies detailed in their study plan and send their work to their advisor on a regular schedule during the semester.  The work (referred to as packets in most programs), typically contain process letters describing their learning and (depending on the program and study goals each semester) some of the following: a bibliography of resources, a study journal, annotations or a critical essay, a research paper, creative and critical writing, slides, photos, or samples of artwork, and an autobiographical account or audio/video presentation. A detailed response from the advisor is both supportive and challenging, engaging in the learning the student presents as offering resources and strategies for the next packet. Additionally, the advisor will also address the packet in the context of the student’s semester goals and the student’s progress toward fulfilling degree criteria. Over the semester, the exchanges between student and advisor create a dialogue that is exceptionally rich and nuanced, reflective and holistic. Out of this comes learning that is transformative and empowering. At the end of the semester, students and advisors write comprehensive evaluations of the student’s work.

Faculty Advisors

An advisor is a member of the faculty who helps the student plan their independent study and who supervises the study through the exchange (typically every three weeks with some program variation) of student work and faculty responses. At semester’s end, advisor and student write narrative evaluations and a determination is made by the advisor as to whether the semester was successful. During residencies, advisors meet individually and in small groups with students whose studies they supervise.

Final Products

All programs require an extensive final product as a culmination of the student’s entire degree work. The BA and BFA programs require a senior study; MA programs require a research thesis or creative or other project; the MFA in Creative Writing Program requires a book-length manuscript and additional examples of the student’s academic work; and the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program requires a detailed portfolio of artistic and intellectual work. See the Student Handbook and the Program Handbook Addenda for a more detailed description of their required final product(s).


Graduating Presentation

Culminating students present their final products to the Goddard community through a workshop or reading offered at their commencement residency. Such presentations contribute invaluable knowledge and inspiration to the Goddard community and serve to honor student work.

Graduation Ceremonies

Commencement embodies the essence and meaning of the Goddard educational experience. Just as student-centered education is developed around individual learning needs and directions, the ceremony focuses on each student as an individual and the community created in the process of the student’s studies. A faculty member, with whom a student has worked, describes the student’s development and achievements, as well as the nature and significance of their final project. Goddard graduations are unique and moving ceremonies, full of laughter and tears. As the highlight of the residency, they are a time of celebration, inspiration, and community renewal.

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