Fundamental to a person's success in the 21st century world and work force will be the ability to learn and develop expertise in new concepts, tools, or career fields. This ability to understand how best one learns, and to seek the appropriate tools in which to learn, is part of the explicit metacognitive skill development that the iSchool provides. The iSchool believes that students in high school must begin to gain practical experiences learning independently and developing expertise. The iSchool also understands that adolescents are more motivated as students when given the opportunity to explore topics of interest and that college admissions is strengthened when a student demonstrates accomplishment in a particular area of passion. Additionally, by providing students with the opportunity to learn independently, in a self-directed manner for a sustained period, the iSchool feels that students will be developing the kind of skills needed for success in college. These assumptions underlie the iSchool's Area of Focus program, in which students select an area of interest and study it more deeply as juniors and seniors.
The Area of Focus program includes several requirements designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn something well. Students are first required to take a sequence of courses designed to provide the fundamentals of their chosen field, an opportunity to think, read, and write more critically about their chosen field, and to develop an understanding of what it really means to be an expert in that field. Students then complete higher level coursework in the Area of Focus, ideally including an Advanced Placement or college course. Finally, students complete a Senior Project, through which they will demonstrate their specific area of expertise with a project of their own design. Through the project proposal process, students gain experience conducting independent research and writing a formal proposal, supported by a literature review. In providing students with the opportunity to delve deeply into topics of interest, the process also helps students develop valuable skills that will prepare them for college work.