We had a wonderful meeting with Todd Rose and Parisa Rouhani at Harvard University last week to explore how we can continue building the connections between the science of the individual and the learner-centered paradigm. Todd is the author of The End of Average—a book you must read, if you haven’t already—and Todd and Parisa work together at the Center for Individual Opportunity at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
The End of Average debunks the science behind the notion of average, as it is applied to humans. Through a series of riveting stories, it expounds upon the science that shows—in no uncertain terms—that when you design systems for “average” people, you are designing them for no one. We see learner-centered education as the logical extension of this worldview: there is no such thing as an average learner. And, as my last letter noted, if this is the assumption that you start with, your next step is to actually get to know the child in front of you.
One of many great moments in the conversation was when Todd and Parisa shared the importance of understanding that being learner-centered is a paradigm, first and foremost. Todd equated the difference between the school-centered and learner-centered paradigms with the difference between working in classic vs. quantum physics. There may be common words across these two paradigms, but those same words have vastly different meanings. In the next issue of Pioneering, I will be sharing an article to further explore this analogy—delving into why it matters that we understand learner centered education as a paradigm shift and not as a program, intervention, or new way of doing things.
In the meantime, we are thrilled to have 62 pioneering practitioners in town today for our second Pioneer Lab Challenge. We can’t wait to share what emerges!