Capabilities Approach

Capabilities Approach

Disrupting gendered mindsets.

We are reimagining girls’ education.

Why do female students tend to become less vocal as they progress through school despite success? Why do girls often steer clear of certain areas and disciplines? While myriad factors are at work, the key question is: What can schools do to address this disparity and support girls to fulfill their great promise and potential? The answer is — reimagine girls’ education.

Capabilities Approach Program

With the support of a prestigious Edward E. Ford Foundation Education Leadership Grant, Walker’s Capabilities Approach Program seeks to disrupt the gendered mindset into which girls are socialized.

The Capabilities Approach Program offers a different way of thinking about learning beyond the traditional curriculum. The capabilities represent a constellation of skills, interwoven and building on each other, with the end goal being functional mastery of each skill. The acquisition of these capabilities helps our students develop resiliency as they strive to achieve baseline proficiency in these areas, with some capabilities requiring greater stretching of limits than others.

The Ethel Walker School Capabilities Approach

Our students are encouraged to collaborate and bolster one another over the hurdles providing support to each other as they achieve mastery. This means that the process, not just the result, will be a goal in itself, and our intention is that this model of learning will become the “Walker’s Way” for acquiring new skills.

Collectively, these capabilities — fluencies, discoveries, international experience, agencies, and self-selected — allow for challenge and failure by encouraging girls to be confident and resilient, and to embrace a growth mindset.

Girls Who Code
Girls swimming
International experience
Junior project presentation

Students acquire digital, financial, and rhetorical fluencies by doing. They code, file personal income taxes and deliver remarks to the whole community.


Acquiring the ability to swim, deliver first aid, and defend oneself against harm empowers girls to act on their own behalf and for the benefit of others.


Getting out into the world, seeing one’s impact on the environment, and being able to feed your body and your mind allow girls a sense of independence and opens up new avenues of exploration.


Each student chooses a capability that aligns with her interests and she acquires the skills and knowledge that help her achieve mastery.

Meet Our Capabilities Approach Program Director

Dr. Ned Edwards P’07, ’10 is the Dean of Faculty and the first director of Walker’s Capabilities Approach Program. Ned has considerable experience in various capacities in secondary independent education including as Chaplain, Director of Social Services, and Dean of Faculty at two girls’ schools. His commitment to girls’ schools and girls’ education is seen not only in his career choices but in his engagement with the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools where he has presented at conferences and been both a participant and a facilitator in their Headways programs. He has co-authored a peer-reviewed paper on adolescent girls’ brain development and spirituality which speaks to the unique ways adolescent girls process information and extrapolates to subjects far beyond spirituality.