The Classical Model

“For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.”  

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning

 The Trivium

The classical model of education capitalizes on the natural stages of cognitive development. These stages are known as the trivium.

Grammar (Knowledge) – Laying the foundation of building blocks in all subject areas

At this age, a student is able to soak up countless pieces of information.  Students memorize facts, rules, and formulas during the Grammar Stage.  As they grow and move into the next stage, they will already have these “tools” in their mind, ready to learn what to do with all of this information.


Logic or Dialectic (Understanding) – Organizing and analyzing the building blocks

During the Dialectic Stage, students begin to ask questions about the information that their minds are filled with.  They start to discuss the facts and learn more about concepts and ideas.  In the Dialectic Stage, students ask “Why?”, and they seek to figure out the answers.


Rhetoric (Wisdom) – Expressing the connection and application of the building blocks

Once a student reaches the Rhetoric Stage of learning, they have discussed the facts, asked their questions, sought out truth and are now able to clearly and respectfully defend their position.  A student at this stage might understand the information on a given topic so well that they may be asked to help teach the subject matter to another student.  They have mastered the concept.

For information from ACCS, see the answer to What is a classical Christian education?