Rethinking traditional sequencing in education enables Pioneer scholars to create new knowledge

Pioneer Academics > News > Rethinking traditional sequencing in education enables Pioneer scholars to create new knowledge
Create new knowledge

Traditionally, students are encouraged to take courses in a sequence moving from the general to the specific. This system of education generally assumes that students must first acquire broad knowledge of a subject before they are capable of undertaking in-depth research into it. For this reason, a majority of undergraduate students do not engage in research, and for many young scholars, it is not until their third year of PhD work that they are able to contribute to academic knowledge. 

Pioneer’s innovative academic system takes the opposite approach, plunging high school students into highly specialized research areas. Pioneer’s approach is meant to complement traditional education based on the belief that while students are acquiring a breadth of knowledge, it is also important to provide opportunities for them to delve deeply into certain topics. When given the opportunity to do specialized research, students gain confidence and real-world expertise. They can deepen their interest in a subject and develop skills and frameworks that they may use later in the same field or across disciplines. 

Jon (international relations; 2018, 2019), a Pioneer scholar from the United States, knew from a young age that he was interested in international relations. “I was always very, very interested in [IR], but Pioneer especially catalyzed my love for it by allowing me to dive a bit deeper and specialize in the areas I find most interesting,” he says. Jon did the Pioneer research program twice, writing two economics-focused research papers without any formal experience in the subject. When he finally did take an introductory economics course, he says, “I felt very prepared, because my two papers were basically very specific case studies… so when I took a more general economics course, I was able to draw examples from my research and compare economic theories to those cases.”

For Areebah (mathematics, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Bangladesh, diving deep into math research allowed her to build confidence and follow a passion. When she first found out she was accepted to Pioneer’s research program, she struggled with imposter syndrome. “I thought it was a fluke,” she confides. However, as the weeks went on, Areeba realized that she was capable of doing math research, and that it was actually enjoyable. “When it comes to my research experience, I could dive into a whole new topic I would not have known in high school… It’s the thrill of exploring something you love,” she says. Having done this specialized research, Areebah is now much more confident in her abilities. “I think I’ll be able to approach college with a lot more confidence because I know what to expect, and I know that I am allowed to play around with things [to solve math problems],” she explains. She also says that she will seek out more classes related to the sequences she learned about in her research concentration. 

Vinh (physics/astronomy, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from the United States, believes that opportunities for deep engagement with a specific topic can complement traditional models of education that focus on developing general knowledge of a subject. “Each approach has its own merits and its own goals. There is a benefit to making sure students have enough foundational knowledge to grasp every aspect of a subject, but I also think that exposing students to more specific focus earlier in their career is good because it helps their critical thinking skills and how they approach problems,” he explains. Furthermore, he says,“It also provides exposure to things later on and helps students get used to the idea of working with specific topics later on.” 

Pioneer scholars are proof that students do not need to master all the basics in a given research area before they can dive deep and do creative research. Rather than clinging to a prerequisite model of education that insists on breadth of knowledge before depth, Pioneer gives young scholars the opportunity to follow their passions with highly specialized research.

Dear educator friend,

In the critical process of preparing students to transition to college, you are key. The
ramifications of your guidance are far-reaching.

The Pioneer Research Program believes that it, too, has a role to play in preparing students of special potential and passion for learning. This is a role we trust you will appreciate knowing about. Our mission is to offer a deep and otherwise unavailable opportunity to exceptionally motivated young scholars who want to learn and research at the college level and to explore their potential for innovation.

What makes Pioneer a unique deep-dive learning experience is not just the mentorship of distinguished professors. It is the rigorous quality controls developed conjointly by Pioneer and Oberlin College. Professors (must) adhere to rubrics for

1) setting learning goals;

2) syllabus development;

3) oversight, feedback and evaluation, and

4) grading standardization.

This rigorous academic system is supported by thorough admission process and a high-minded ethics code. The combination gives students an exceptional learning experience that is brought to fruition in a college-level research paper documenting their findings.

You can follow this link Pioneer’s concrete academic system to learn more about the academic system. Academic quality control and academic oversight assure Pioneer’s focus is on learning and learners, and therefore all of our practices were built upon the following principles:

No conflict of interests Pioneer’s academic ethical standards
Because of its high academic and ethical standards, the Pioneer program has earned the trust of college admissions departments and formed the basis for the ground-breaking collaboration with Oberlin College. Pioneer scholars get two college credits upon completing their Pioneer research.

Click to learn about Pioneer and Oberlin College's groundbreaking academic collaboration.

Pioneer has a rigorous admission process. Students who have genuine academic interests and are highly motivated are a good fit with Pioneer’s values. Pioneer’s founding board insisted that Pioneer commit to a professor-blind policy during the application process, ensuring that applicants have authentic field interest and correct priorities. Consequently, no information about professors is released before admission to the program. This policy is much appreciated and respected by universities. Professor-blind admission policy
On this page is the critical information needed to meet your needs.

If you have additional questions, feel free to let us know how we can help you by emailing or calling 855-572-8863.


Matthew Jaskol

Founder & Program Director