In the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to work with 40 superintendents in the AASA Digital Consortium as they explored plans to pilot or further their learner-centered district initiatives and to visit with a community of pioneers in Minnesota hosted by Education Evolving. We are so grateful for the courageous leadership of students, teachers, superintendents, and supporting organizations like Education Evolving and AASA.
While I have been on the road, we have also been spending a lot of time distinguishing “the learner-centered paradigm for education.” While it is still a work in progress, we welcome you to check it out. Getting the boundaries of this paradigm sharper is deepening our insights into what is and isn’t learner-centered.
Working on that distinction while visiting and talking with many learning environments has made something much clearer for me. Starting with a question about how we can more effectively have our kids be proficient in the state standards, chances are that the resulting innovation will be school-centered—leading to incremental improvement of the current system.
Why doesn’t it lead to transformation? Because the question is fundamentally about, “How do we deliver education better to students?” It is inherently a system-focused or school-centered inquiry. When an innovation starts with a question like, “How do we support learners in reaching their full potential?” it is more likely to lead us down transformational, learner-centered paths.
One innovation unleashes the learner’s motivation, creativity, and ownership, and the other is about adults delivering learning to kids. While both take a huge effort, the learner-centered kind will be sustainable—eventually making the adults’ work easier and producing much greater results. If a community is courageous enough to undertake innovation, we want it to pay off big for them—their learners and the community.
It leaves me with a question, “How do we (as a movement) help more people start down learner-centered pathways to innovation and avoid the pitfall of innovation inside the current paradigm?”