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Aurora Institute

Education Reimagined Offers a Transformational Vision for U.S. Education

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Lead Change and Innovation

Today, I am thrilled to share a new vision for transforming education toward student-centered learning. Mostly, I am encouraged and emboldened by the fact that a diverse group of education leaders with different perspectives openly engaged in a deep and sustained dialog, led by national non-profit Convergence—known for their ability to bring divergent thinkers together toward bigger goals and “peace making.” This process for education united a diverse group of education practitioners—including presidents of the two largest teacher unions, leading advocates for charter schools, education technology experts, teachers, principals, superintendents, education school leaders and philanthropy leaders—and they engaged in dialog, created this shared vision and committed to making learner-centered education available to all children in America.

On Tuesday, the Convergence group launched Education Reimagined, a transformational vision for the future of education. Read the vision here.

Through their 2020 Ambitions, Education Reimagined defines what they believe success as a whole might look like for the learner-centered movement five years from now. Rather than serving as concrete, measurable goals, these ambitions represent a direction in which to move and would require collaboration and contribution from education pioneers across the country. They are in ongoing conversations to continue developing and refining a collective image of success. The vision lays out a future where the current industrial-era system of education is transformed into a truly learner-centered one. It is not a mandate or a blueprint; instead, it offers a beacon toward which to aspire. It stands as a challenge and an invitation worthy of bringing communities—perhaps once divided—together in dialog in service of its fulfillment.

Education Reimagined’s vision is consistent with iNACOL’s mission and vision to advance the work of pioneers and policy makers transforming education to student-centered learning. In 2003, we began our work focusing on online learning practitioners who were beginning to design new, student-centered learning environments through online learning programs. Since then, the field has evolved to blended learning and personalized learning that focus on putting the learner at the center of anytime and anywhere learning. In alignment with our focus on providing all students with powerful learner experiences, Re-Imagining Education: A Transformational Vision for Education in the US offers five interrelated learning elements that form this transformational, visionary design for learning:

  1. Competency-based learning: Competency education is an infrastructure where each learner works toward competency and strives for mastery in defined domains of knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

The foundation of competency-based education is absolutely fundamental to realizing a transformation to student-centered learning. iNACOL and CompetencyWorks worked within the field to develop a five-part working definition of competency-based education in 2011:

  1. Students advance upon demonstrated mastery;
  2. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students;
  3. Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students;
  4. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs; and
  5. Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

This definition has been adopted by schools, researchers, states, and even in legislation. Read about lessons learned, early adopters, policy advancements, and more on the CompetencyWorks blog and wiki.

  1. Personalized learning: Personalized, relevant, contextualized learning draws from the learner’s own passions, strengths, needs, family, and culture to fuel the development of knowledge, skills, and dispositions.Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 12.45.47 PM

The iNACOL report Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education portrays the nuances of these terms and illustrates how they can be integrated to design new learning models. Figure 1 demonstrates the promise of personalized learning, where students have personal learner profiles with precise knowledge and skills, within flexible learning environments, supported by a variety of resources, modalities, and modes. By organizing learning resources around students, we will harness each student’s intrinsic motivation to succeed, and empower the learner to demonstrate his or her learning in authentic ways, rooted in real-world experiences.

  1. Learner agency: Learner agency recognizes that learners are active participants within the educational process, and new learning models engage learners in the design of their experiences in ways that are appropriate for their developmental level.

In Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts, CompetencyWorks co-founder Chris Sturgis discusses research on growth mindset, where students become more motivated and engaged when they have agency and choice in their learning experiences. Cultivating a growth mindset in students breeds continued self-efficacy, which influences esteem, motivation, and attitude.

By weaving learner agency into new learning models that personalize education, we can expand learning opportunities beyond the classroom and restructure schools so that students receive the support they need to become proficient each step of the way. For more on learner agency within competency-based constructs, explore Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders and It’s Not a Matter of Time: Highlights from the 2011 Competency-Based Summit.

  1. Socially embedded: Socially embedded learning is achieved through the development of meaningful relationships between the students and their families, peers, and other community members. Independent exploration, collaborative group work, and intentional instruction are integrated to develop mastery of competencies.

At Pittsfield School District (PSD), they created formal structures for community engagement including a Community Advisory Council, which meets monthly as a full group and once per month in sub-groups such as talent management, community engagement, parental engagement, and student engagement. Tobi Chassie, Co-Project Manager of the Systems Change Initiative stated, “Community engagement is the key to sustainability. If the district and school leaders fell off the face of the earth, the community would keep it going. They are creating the public demand.” Learn more about PSD’s community engagement strategy here.

Additionally, Bob Crumley, Superintendent of Chugach School District in Alaska, noted that creating a personalized, performance-based system starts with engaging the community in an authentic way. Their entire transformation started with the school board and community challenging them—they wanted to know why their children weren’t reading at grade level. Learn how Chugach overcame these challenges and integrated the community and schools to cultivate sustainable relationships and learning experiences.

  1. Open walled: Open walled learning recognizes that learning can happen anytime in any place, and it intentionally leverages real-world experiences to develop mastery of competencies. Learning experiences can be in-person, virtual, or in blended contexts, and they are all legitimate vehicles for authentic, rich, and diverse learning opportunities.

There is a need for learning beyond textbooks to transform how content can be created, shared, and customized; how teachers teach; and how students learn. Open educational resources (OER) includes teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property (open or creative commons) license that permits their free use by others. OER permit educators to share, access and collaborate so they can customize and personalize content and instruction.

Content development models are changing in the 21st century. Learning materials developed with public funding should be available for educators to share, access and collaborate. Read more about OER and Collaborative Content Development here.

Online learning levels the playing field for all students, expanding access to high-quality educational opportunities for every child. In online learning, the relationship between the student and teacher will become stronger through this expanded access to diverse curriculum and world-class, updated instructional materials. Online learning enhances a teacher’s ability to personalize learning for students with modern tools while at the same time giving them access to a wealth of resources in their fields. Discover more about online learning options in A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning.

Alongside Education Reimagined, we are committed to designing new, learning environments that provide access, equity, and excellence for all students. You can learn more about Education Reimagined at the 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium, where two Education Reimagined vision creators will be keynoting to discuss this visionary, learner-centric paradigm shift. We are honored to host this esteemed keynote presentation, and we look forward to working toward this shared vision collaboratively.

Explore Education Reimagined’s transformational vision for education and register to attend the iNACOL Symposium, held on November 8-11 in Orlando, Florida, to inspire, inform, and propel your work in designing new learning experiences so that each child can realize his or her full potential.