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Aurora Institute

Student Vlogs: A New Way to Elevate Student Voice in CBE

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Riley Chong, Briana Medina

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Learn Lessons from the Field, Activate Student Agency

Have you ever wondered what it is like to learn in a competency-based environment or how it looks in action? What better way to understand than to hear from students themselves, and see what their lives look like living and learning in a transformational education environment? 

This year we invited Aurora Institute Symposium 2023 student presenters to record a day-in-the-life video log, or vlog, in a competency-based learning environment. A group at the Grand Rapids Public Museum School took on the task. Through this showcase of student day-in-the-life recordings, students offer their reflections on what the future of education should and could look like and to ultimately urge educators to contemplate how they might better create more personalized learning environments. Not only did the students highlight their learning inside of the classroom, but also outside of it as well, an important part of what it means to live and learn as a student in a competency-based school. 

This unique showcase of student life is an extension of our goal to empower youth, elevate student voice, and find innovative in ways to center students as the agents of their own learning. For example, student Maya Teft showcased the opportunity she had to do community research at Arts Marketplace, which she states, “is a local women-owned business that supports and showcases minority and women-owned products like artwork, clothing, and jewelry.” Tying learning to the community is one of many ways students show what the future of education could be. We hope these day-in-the-life vlogs from students at Grand Rapids Public Museum School are a tool to empower educators to think about how they can contribute to that future. 

A’Nyah Harris took us through her “flex days” which are Fridays during the week in which students can choose the sessions they go to during the day! From her first to last session, A’Nyah walked us through what it looks like to live and learn in a non-traditional learning environment. 

Allison Downer showed us her day-in-the-life within her competency-based learning environment including showing us snippets of what it is like to prepare for her presentation for the 2023 Aurora Institute Symposium. Allison also walked us through an interesting activity about issues in the world that she is most passionate about and concluded her day by going to swim practice!

Amelia Ferenczi walked us through her day-in-the-life from taking the bus to school to her classrooms which separated her learning environment from traditional learning environments. She talks about an activity to help her realize misinformation in media through a flat-Earth documentary. Amelia also showcases her work with Youth-in-Government, a Michigan-based club that empowers students to write bills and present them in front of legislation. Amelia was also very busy with her college classes throughout the day, so she was able to show us what dual enrollment looks like!

Grace Schaafsma also took us through her day planning her presentation for the Aurora Institute 2023 Symposium, Youth in Government, and eating lunch in the Public Museum School’s Great Room. Grace also showed us what she and other students did during their free block, including visiting a local business known as Art Marketplace!

Maya Tefts showcased everything she did in her day, including her walk to school, making coffee, and showing what she does for her event planning club! She also walked us through her session doing community research, in which she attended a local, women-owned business called Arts Marketplace where women and minority-developed products are showcased and sold. 

During the 2023 Aurora Institute Symposium, students from Grand Rapids Public Museum School presented their Learning by Design Thinking process which helps students and teachers work through projects. This session required participants to create a project-based learning experience for their students. The design criteria required the project to be place-based (involving a local community partner) and use design thinking, aiming to address a real-world problem with opportunities for authentic work. 

The steps in the Learning by Design Thinking process included “frame it, find it, plan and play with it, make it, and try it.” With guidance from the Grand Rapids Public Museum School students, all participants planned project-based learning experiences related to real-world issues like homelessness, food insecurity, and more. Seeing the creativity come from the students helped open up a lot of participants’ eyes to what could be possible within their own classrooms. The student presentations were a great method to urge participants of the 2023 Symposium to think about ways in which they can center students as agents of their own learning and amplify student voice within the classroom and the real world.

In conclusion, these students’ innovative vlogs and presentations at the 2023 Aurora Institute Symposium serve as a call to action, inspiring participants to embrace student-centered learning and include students as partners in the work of designing learning. 

Riley ChongRiley Chong joined the Aurora Institute in June 2023. As Communications Intern, Riley supports the Communications Team through marketing efforts, website management, and curating social media content.

Riley is passionate about education policy, higher education access, and social justice. Riley served as a Senior Campaign Intern for the California State Assembly. In addition to his work with local governments, Riley is also a content creator on TikTok, where he shares resources for students to succeed in the college admissions process.

Riley is a student at Vanderbilt University majoring in Mathematics and Economics, and minoring in Computer Science. Outside of school and work, he enjoys long-distance running and sipping on his daily coffee(s).

Briana Medina joined the Aurora Institute in May 2023. She is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Political Science and Education Studies. She is committed to educational equity and passionate about its relation to competency-based learning.

She currently serves on the UW-Madison College of Letters and Science Curriculum Committee, where she reviews and recommends course and program additions, revisions, and policies relating to academic offerings. In the past, Briana has worked as an intern at Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance, giving tours and teaching in a competency-based learning environment. Additionally, she worked with the Institute for Personalized Learning panel discussions, high-level presentations, and blog posts.