Issue 38

July 7, 2017

Walt Disney

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Dear Pioneers,

Curriculum. That’s what I’ve been spending a lot of my time thinking about lately. Not about how to make it better but rather about how we can come up with another name for the content and learning pathways for learners. Curriculum is the “what” of learning in a traditional system. Curriculum—if aligned to the state standards and delivered well—is supposed to have learners capable of demonstrating their proficiency with state standards on the state test. It is standardized by design and is teacher-created and -led.

There may be other definitions of curriculum, but without doing gymnastics with the word, most people would relate to it as the subject matter, lesson plan, and specific content of a course. What almost never comes up in a curriculum conversation are the student’s unique interests or the idea of multiple or unique pathways. How could they when these conversations begin with how to deliver standardized content to a large group of learners?

Apropos to this question, Joanne McEachen, a Pioneer Lab community member, just sent a link to the The Learner First website, a great resource for transformers. One video stood out in particular. Watch to see how the notions of what, how, and with whom learning happens transforms for this reluctant teacher when she starts with the learner in front of her, rather than a pre-designed curriculum. Starting by discovering what, how, when, where, and with whom learners learn best and want to learn is a radical notion, and one that unleashes the most underutilized resource in education: the learner. There still have to be plans and pathways, but they need to be freed from one-size-fits-all notions of content, pace, and place. What are the learner-centered words that replace the notion of curriculum? Tweet your answer at #replacecurriculum.

You can keep exploring this idea with this week’s issue of Pioneering. Hear from an Alabama learner whose reluctance to join in the “chaos” of her learner-centered environment transformed to passion, joy, and leadership. In this issue, we also invite you to get a taste of the great work one micro-school in New York City is taking on, as well as a number of books, resources, and exciting upcoming events. Also, remember to check out the latest in learner-centered leadership on the seventh episode of the Shift Your Paradigm podcast. Enjoy!

Warm wishes,


Generic pic

Download the PDF to your tablet or phone

Read the latest PDF on the go with our Download PDF option

New resources and news on The Big Idea!


We recently announced a new R&D acceleration initiative to connect and support local communities ready to bring public, equitable, learner-centered ecosystems to life.