Middle School

The Dalton Assignment

An assignment in the Dalton Plan, written by Helen Parkhurst, is a learning task or project given to students that allows them to explore a specific topic or concept independently. It is designed to encourage students to take ownership of their learning, set their own goals, and work at their own pace. Assignments in the Dalton Plan provide opportunities for students to engage in 21st century skills, such as self-directed inquiry, research, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creative expression..

Key features of assignments in the Dalton Plan include:

  1. Self-Directed Learning: Students are encouraged to take initiative and responsibility for their learning process. They have the freedom to choose their approach, resources, and methods of investigation within the parameters set by the assignment.
  2. Individualized Instruction: Assignments are designed to cater to the unique needs, interests, and abilities of each student. They allow for differentiation and personalized learning experiences.
  3. Goal Setting: Students are involved in setting their own learning goals and objectives for the assignment. They are encouraged to articulate what they aim to achieve and how they plan to accomplish it.
  4. Autonomy: Assignments promote student autonomy, allowing them to make decisions, solve problems, and make choices related to their learning. Students have the opportunity to exercise their independent thinking and decision-making skills.
  5. Accountability: Students are responsible for managing their time, organizing their work, and meeting the deadlines and expectations set for the assignment. They are accountable for their own progress and learning outcomes.
  6. Reflection and Evaluation: Assignments in the Dalton Plan often include opportunities for students to reflect on their learning process, assess their own work, and evaluate their progress. This reflection helps students develop metacognitive skills and promotes a deeper understanding of their own learning.

Overall, an assignment in the Dalton Plan fosters student agency, engagement, and critical thinking skills. It encourages students to become active participants in their learning journey and empowers them to take ownership of their educational experiences.

In middle school, students engage in 5 major assignments over the course of the year using the following framework:

  • Problem from the Community
  • Problem from the Past
  • Problem from the Present
  • Problem from the Future
  • Problem of my Own


I am not led,
I lead. 

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