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Aurora Institute


Issues in Practice, How to Get Started, Lead Change and Innovation, Rethink Instruction, Base Learning on Mastery Not Seat Time

Implementing Student-Centered Learning: Lessons Learned from Leaders in the Arena


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Many states have enacted laws, policies, or regulations to encourage school systems to innovate and/or move to more student-centered instructional systems. Personalized, competency-based, mastery-based, and performance-based, are all different terms used across the globe to describe and explain educational changes happening in classrooms, schools, and districts striving to improve the traditional educational system. Student-centered learning (SCL) initiatives are exploring ways to improve equity and achievement for all students.

We must be able to uncover the interaction between state policy design, implementation, and local context for improved learner outcomes. Often school leaders feel like pioneers taking on a new adventure and blazing new trails when they implement new policies. As a first step, empirical evidence is needed to better understand the SCL policy implementation context.  This session will share findings from a study of K-12 leaders (n=51), both building level and district level, who are responsible for leading the change to SCL in their school system. Findings provide a glimpse into challenges, needed supports, and which resources administrators identified as the most relevant to their implementation of SCL.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Understand the lived experiences and perceptions of leaders who are responsible for leading the change to student-centered learning in their school or district.
  2. Understand the challenges leaders face when implementing SCL reforms, as well as the perceived resources and training needs identified by leaders in this context.
  3. Examine the needs of leaders and start to build knowledge about what is “highly relevant” or “extremely challenging” when implementing SCL reforms.


  • Dr. Heather Williams, Assistant Professor, Curriculum, Instruction & Foundational Studies, Boise State University | @heatherphd
  • Donell McNeal, Principal, Central Academy High School, Meridian, Idaho
  • Jen Wright, Elementary Principal and Federal Program Director, Notus School District, Notus, Idaho | @jennwrightidaho