School models are, for the most part, outdated–and very overdue for replacement. When students reach high school, research shows that close to 66 percent of students are disengaged. But even students who do successfully navigate their schooling emerge with only a specific (and often narrow) skillset that may or may not match their strengths or interests.
Conventional schooling often leaves students disillusioned, questioning their intelligence and value as it is framed by a system that needs an overhaul.
Learner-centered education can play a critical role in reshaping education systems, offering a more holistic approach to meeting learners’ needs and helping students find fulfillment in their academic accomplishments.
K-12 Value Networks: The Hidden Forces That Help or Hinder Learner-Centered Education, a report from the Clayton Christensen Institute and authored by CCI senior research fellow Thomas Arnett, offers insight into understanding why schools struggle to change their instructional models, along with tips to establish and support learner-centered education models.
Program leaders, sponsors, learners and their families, staff, community partners, and funders are all critical to the success of these learner-centered education models.
The report describes how five different learner-centered education models–The Met, Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, Iowa BIG, Village High School, and Embark Education–were able to launch and grow their models by assembling value networks congruent with their vision for learner-centered education.
1. The Met: The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, known as The Met, is a network of six small, public high schools located in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island. The hallmark of The Met’s learner-centered model is that its learners go out in their communities for two days out of the week to lead real-world projects as interns for partner organizations. For example, learners might work with a local bakery, a law firm, a tech company, or a recording studio.
When learners join the Met, they and their families work with an advisor to identify their strengths, needs, and interests, and then develop an individualized learning plan with an internship as its centerpiece. Learners are responsible for researching potential internship opportunities and communicating with partner sites to arrange their internships. Advisors coach them as they do their research and outreach to ensure that internships match their needs and interests.
2. Virtual Learning Academy Charter School: The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) is a statewide virtual school created in 2007 that serves K–12 learners throughout New Hampshire. The concept for the school came from the superintendent of the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, who saw an opportunity to take advantage of a new charter school law to apply for a statewide charter. Rather than create another conventional school, however, the superintendent recognized the distinctive value of using a virtual school model to offer a wide array of flexible, part-time and full-time learning options unavailable through brick-and-mortar campuses.
VLACS’s competency-based model is highly adaptable to learners’ needs and interests. It offers a range of options for learners to earn credits: through online courses, learner-designed projects, and out-of-school learning experiences such as internships and travel. Learners who take online courses move through those courses at their own pace and earn credit whenever they’re able to demonstrate mastery of designated competencies. For projects and other learning experiences, VLACS aligns these experiences with state learning standards and then measures learners’ mastery of standards using performance-based assessments.
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