2015 Best Practice Prize

The 2015 Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize was awarded to Gesamtschule Unterstrass (Unterstrass Comprehensive School) in Zurich, Switzerland.

Zurich-based Gesamtschule Unterstrass (a private comprehensive school) with its founder and principal Dieter Rüttimann receives the 2015 Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize. Photo: Donat Bräm

For over 34 years, Gesamtschule Unterstrass (Unterstrass Comprehensive School), a private school in Zurich, has dedicated itself to collaborative learning, drawing on elements of neuropsychology and cognitive psychology. This approach stresses ongoing training for teachers and places particular emphasis on reciprocal teaching, with older students teaching younger children. Gesamtschule Unterstrass has been chosen to receive the Best Practice Prize in recognition of its “Self-Management and Socially Responsible Action” project, which focuses on the sensitive period of adolescence.

Socially responsible behavior as part of the curriculum
This innovative project is adding interdisciplinary social skills to the school’s curriculum. As this idea is put into practice in the classroom, the emphasis is on various types of mixed-aged learning, with the focus on socially responsible behavior and self-management. When they teach younger children, adolescents need to manage themselves subordinating their own impulses and responding to the immediate needs of younger pupils. They learn to regulate their emotions and concentrate on achieving their goals. Leading a mixed-age group of 4- to 12-year-old children, for example, requires relationship skills such as the ability to solve conflicts (conflict management) and to listen and interpret (communication strategies). Taking on such responsibilities allows young people to grow.

“Adolescents, and especially those with social deficits or problems with self-management, who teach and mentor younger children discover and develop executive and empathic skills”, says Dieter Rüttimann, principal of Unterstrass Comprehensive School.