Pathways to Purpose: AmazED Learning Environment

Practice   01 June 2022
By Kim Carter


At its heart, AmazED is about the notion of pathfinding and the idea that every moment presents myriad opportunities to learn.

Kim Carter
Founding Member of AmazED; Executive Director of Q.E.D. Foundation

Imagine that your learning journey was collaboratively customized from beginning to end — where you’re going, how you’ll get there, how you’ll mark your progress, how you’ll apply your learning, and how much time and energy you’ll invest in different aspects.

What if you were also able to customize your learning calendar for the year, including your schedule for each day; your learning goals; how, where, and with whom you learned; and how your learning was evaluated?

What if each learner had a learning facilitator whose job was to stay current on the science of learning, while helping them navigate their existing and emerging abilities, interests, and curiosities? And, what if that facilitator also helped connect learners to community mentors and learning opportunities?

Sounds dreamy, right? It also might sound like a lot for one learner to figure out independently.

Starting with a Different Set of Questions

This is more than just an exercise in imagination. AmazED, a learning environment that I’m helping to create in New Hampshire that will launch in the Fall, is being designed to facilitate learning journeys just like these, as well as the structures that would support them.

AmazED emerged from four and a half decades of innovating in public schools and developing learner-centered structures and systems for living meaningful lives of learning. With COVID-19’s disruption to so many facets of our lives, it became clear the opportunity for even more significant change was here.

As many returned to in-person school, they picked back up the same questions, such as: How will we catch learners up to where they should be? How will we remediate learning gaps? What will we do to incentivize attendance and good behavior?

At AmazED, we wanted to start with different questions and hopefully push the boundaries of ongoing educational redesign even further in terms of what we might invent to answer those questions. We asked ourselves questions like:

  • What’s possible if we assume parents/caregivers are eager to collaborate on the well-being and development of their young people?
  • What conditions are needed to design and sustain joyous learning environments where every individual is safe, seen, heard, supported, and challenged?
  • How can we grow an assets-based learning culture that is responsive to learners’ emergent needs?
  • How can co-creating with young people, collaborating with their parents and caregivers, and connecting with caring adults in their communities and beyond transform education from something that has to be endured to something that nourishes everyone involved?
  • What if every member of a learning community is as valuable and valued as every other member?

Getting to delve into these questions and to go outside of the confines of “school” as a starting place, there was so much to be discovered and created. This journey has led me to AmazED.

The AmazED Model

Learning at AmazED will be situated in a community context focused on building a shared identity of growth and development, supporting all ages and all kinds of learners through collaboration.

The core ideas of AmazED are based on Q.E.D. Foundation’s Four Guiding Principles, which represent a synthesis of mind, brain, and learning sciences:

  1. We are all learners with aspirations and passions which deserve to be supported in every way possible.
  2. Learning changes lives by helping us develop the will, knowledge, skill, and capacity to achieve our aspirations.
  3. Learning needs to happen in different ways, so we use various strengths and resources to engage with the world around us.
  4. Learning empowers us to co-create our public world and to shape the decisions that impact our lives.

AmazED has also taken shape around the sciences of mind, brain, and learning. At its heart, AmazED is about the notion of pathfinding and the idea that every moment presents myriad opportunities to learn. Some of those opportunities will fizzle out, while some will lead to other opportunities. And, some will elicit curiosity, wonder, and awe and create fertile options for exploration, inquiry, and — dare we say it — joy, while simultaneously building capacity for future learning. 

Working with groups of five to ten learners in home or community designated spaces, AmazED facilitators (certified educators) will partner with families to review each learner’s current learning status, explore goals and preferences, and identify learning options. Each group will provide a safe space for young people to build stable, years-long relationships with a cohort of peers and their learning facilitator, analogous to home bases as described in Education Reimagined’s Ecosystems Approach to Learner-Centered Transformation. The group’s families may choose to establish a customized learning calendar and schedule to meet their specific learners’ needs.


And, some will elicit curiosity, wonder, and awe and create fertile options for exploration, inquiry, and — dare we say it — joy, while simultaneously building capacity for future learning.

Kim Carter
Founding Member of AmazED; Executive Director of Q.E.D. Foundation

The AmazED learning journey will begin with a pathfinding meeting with each learner and their parent(s)/caregiver(s). Pathfinding includes a mix of reviewing a learner’s current academic accomplishments; an initial discussion of strengths, challenges, and interests; and an exploration of goals. With younger learners, the discussion centers on emerging assets (aspects of learning and skill that are developmentally appropriate or ahead) and affinities (areas of high or even passionate interest). While the discussion of assets and affinities is equally important for older learners, their goals exploration is framed around four “currencies” for success in tomorrow’s future: Competencies, Connections, Credentials, and Cash.

Learning will be designed based on individual learner profiles and learning strategies developed through the AKOMTM Neurodevelopmental Framework for Learning, creating a responsive learning environment that recognizes there are multiple ways to achieve success. We will use Q.E.D.’s Learner Sketch Tool as the starting point for developing learner profiles and some baseline strategies, adding information from the initial Pathfinding meeting.

Learning options, which are a mix of collaborative, group-based, and individualized experiences, will be curated from various resources, including skills-based and exploratory investigations, skill badging and micro-credentialing, and mentored learning. Building on learner aspirations and life options, we’ll use field-based learning to develop career readiness, build social capital, and promote learning for life.

AmazED will build learning experiences by tapping into the richly diverse places of learning that exist in every community.

Through direct collaboration with learners, families, and communities, the AmazED environment focuses on modeling, coaching, and assessing habits of lifelong learning that propel success in future goals and aspirations.  These habits develop within the context of an environment rich with interdependent reciprocal relationships, tapping into and celebrating the knowledge, skills, and wisdom of all community members.

Informed by the values of respect and dignity for everyone who is part of the learning community, however integrally or tangentially, AmazED aspires to create the conditions for growing a thriving, community-based, reciprocal ecosystem of learning and relationships. 

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