Educational Research

Foundations for Catalyst High School Programs


Many 21clradio texts were also republished here to make sure readers don't miss any details. Original versions are still available at

The programs and methods used at Catalyst stem from a wealth of educational research:




Psychologist Carl Rogers found that schools serve students best if they give the student responsibility for making personal educational choices (1961).


Catalyst incorporates Rogers’ findings by giving students the primary responsibility for making key decisions regarding their own education. Each student works directly with the academic coordinator to build a new schedule for every academic block, focuses one-on-one with teachers to build rigorous and personally meaningful classes, and communicates directly with the school regarding attendance.

For an overview of Carl Rogers and his work, link here:


Pioneering psychologist, Lev Vygotsky’s research suggested that teaching should focus on progressive stages of child and adolescent development (1962).

Catalyst applies this research with our contract-based learning method, individually tailoring each student’s personalized class to suit his or her stage of development, academic strengths, learning styles, goals, and interests.

You can link to information about Vygotsky and his research at:



Psychology professor, Abraham Maslow found that people strive to have their essential needs met, progressing from safety, to love and belonging, and then to self-esteem.  After these essential needs are met, people then are able to focus on the personal growth involved with reaching their full potential (1962).


Catalyst embodies Maslow Hierarchy of Needs in our entire program, based on the pillars of Safety, Health, and Resiliency.  We put a primary focus on supporting students to feel physically and emotionally protected and cared for, as well as supported by their peers.



Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs





The idea that the more fundamental needs must be met before someone can climb the pyramid and learn more effectively, as proposed by Maslow, is engrained in Catalyst’s pedagogy.

Link here for more information about Maslow’s research publications:


Neurologist and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl’s studies identified survivors as those who embrace tension and conflict while focusing on someone or something that is meaningful (1962).

Catalyst responds to these studies by empowering students to incorporate personally meaningful community service experiences into their personalized programs.  This helps our students turn personal stress into positive, goal-driven focus.

Link to Frankl’s work,  Man’s Search For Meaning:…/383-viktor-frankl?…14%3Amans-search-for-meaning





Professor of Psychology and Education, Jacquelynne Eccles, discovered that secondary schools usually provide the opposite of what is needed by teens.  Her research shows that at the secondary school level teachers use increased authoritarian control, students are given fewer opportunities for decision-making and choice, and that students experience greater disconnection from adults at school.  All of this is happening at a stage of life when teens need to establish and maintain meaningful adult relationships outside of the home (1993).

Catalyst integrates Eccles’ research into an environment where adolescents and interact daily as a close community. Cooperative team projects form a significant portion of the curriculum.

Students and teachers work together to design classes using individualized Customized Academic Plans.  Grade levels are mixed together to enrich the social milieu and eliminate grade-level comparisons. Our school counselors focus on the whole adolescent, not simply their academics.  Since natural consequences are built into our class contract system, students learn from their mistakes directly, and teachers are freed from having to wield authoritarian control.  Our program is also designed so that students and teachers eat meals together, hike together, explore learning together, celebrate birthdays together, and meet together weekly as an entire school community.

Link to Eccles 1993 article on adolescent development here:



Psychology Professor, Arthur L. Costa in his book, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, offers descriptions for attributes that successful, intelligent people display when confronted with difficult problems.

Costa has identified 16 dispositions that incline a person to adopt successful thinking tools and strategies.


Catalyst incorporates the 16 Habits of Mind into all of our classes.  Every day, in every class, every student identifies at least one of the 16 Habits and applies it to the focus for that class.  This empowers our students to learn not only academic information, but to develop deeper ways to connect with knowledge and create a broad understanding of personal learning styles.  Using this approach, Catalyst students go beyond merely re-producing information … they create knowledge and become aware and caring critical thinkers.  Our graduates report that these personal skills set them apart in terms of self-advocating as learners.

For more information about the 16 Habits of Mind, link here:

And here:




Additional Research Used at Catalyst High School


Marx, Wooley, & Northrup                            Coordinated School Health


Dewey, John                                                  Child-centered Education
Dweck, Carol                                                 Motivation by Challenge
Lambert, Linda                                              Shared Leadership
Putnam, Robert                                             Building Social Capital


Gardner, Howard                                          Strength-based Learning
Gatto-Walden, Patricia, PhD.                       Giftedness Defined by Asynchronous Development
Northwest Evaluation Assoc.                       Measure of Academic Progress
Colorado Dept. of Education                        Higher Education Academic Requirements


Search Institute                                            40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents
Partnership for 21st Century Skills               21st Century Skills


Works Cited:


Eccles, Jacquelynne. “Development During Adolescent Years: The Impact of Stage Environment in Young Adolescents’ Experiences in Schools and in Families.” American Psychologist, 48.2 (Feb., 1993) 90-101. Print.
Frankl, Viktor. Man’s Search for Meaning. NY: Washington Square Press. 1962.
Maslow, Abraham. Toward a Psychology of Being. NY: Van Nostrand, 1962.
Maslow, Abraham (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper. pp. 236. ISBN0060419873
Rogers, Carl. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.
Vygotsky, Lev S. Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press, 1962.