Why Learner Centered Education Is The Key To Meaningful School Improvement

Effective educators have long known that one-size-fits all approaches to teaching and learning are insufficient. Through extraordinary effort, they have figured out ways to differentiate and personalize learning for their students. They have done so despite an industrial-era education paradigm that makes it very difficult to do so. Over time, some of their efforts were named, systematized, and scaled.

Today, building on these approaches, some believe (count us among them) that a shift to an entirely new education paradigm is within reach. Harnessing new technologies, aided by advancements in transportation and communication, and required in order to adequately respond to deep and disruptive social, economic, environmental, and political forces, we envision a fundamental shift in how learners experience their education.

Specifically, we envision moving from a school-centric, industrial-age model akin to factories and assembly lines, to a learner-centric, networked-age model characterized by lateral connections and flexibility. In short, we envision learner-centered education. But what does the movement towards learner-centered education mean for the many methods for designing learning and differentiating support to students developed in recent decades?

In this piece, we identify some of the most-broadly adopted methods developed by educators to differentiate support, improve learning design, and meet the individual needs of learners. They include Response to Intervention (RTI), Positive-Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). Then, we seek to compare learner-centered education to these approaches, exploring the implications for each. Ultimately, we will make the following arguments:

  1. Learner-centered education is about a paradigm shift, not a specific methodology.
  2. Learner-centered education requires learning design that is flexible and adaptive, similar to or expanding upon the principles of UDL.
  3. Learner-centered education may include specific methodologies for differentiating support (e.g. RtI or PBIS), but it is more likely to extend and/or replace them.
  4. Learner-centered education is additive to and inherently strengthens existing systems-level approaches such as MTSS.
  5. Learner-centered education is fundamentally adaptive and outcomes-focused (rather than technical and process-focused).

All of the approaches we name above recognize the same problem. The current industrial model for teaching and learning was designed based on an assembly line metaphor, expecting students to move through school in the same amount of time with more or less the same amount of support regardless of where they enter, unique challenges they may be facing, or strengths they may bring.

Within this rigid system, educators have sought ways to differentiate support. Over time, some of the techniques educators developed to provide each student the support they need have been built upon to create school and systems-level approaches. Tiered systems of support and intervention such as Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) were developed to introduce achievable levels of differentiated support (e.g. 3 tiers) within the constraints of the industrial paradigm.

  • Response to Intervention is a multi-tier approach and framework for instruction that screens all students for learning needs, and then provides progressive levels of intervention to students on an as needed basis. Interventions scale-up in the level of intensity such as supplemental instruction within the large group (typically Tier 1), targeted small group instruction (Tier 2), and individualized, intensive instruction aimed at skill deficits (Tier 3), though tier definitions and strategies differ by school. In practice, RtI models may call for individualized interventions (problem-solving models) or preselected interventions (standard protocol models). The three essential components are tired instruction and intervention, ongoing student assessment, and family involvement. RtI originated from the goal of proactively identifying and providing special education interventions to students before they fall too far behind.
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is also a three-tier approach and framework but focused on student behavior and social-emotional development. The goal of PBIS is to proactively promote positive behavior. Similar to RtI, PBIS typically scales interventions starting with universal and proactive routines and support provided to the full classroom or school (Tier 1), then targeted behavior support (Tier 2), and lastly individualized, intensive support (Tier 3).

Recent innovations with tiered systems of support by organizations such as Turnaround for Children expand these models to include an understanding of trauma and adversity as well as taking into account how to adjust for hybrid and remote learning options.

These systems were developed based on a recognition that all students are capable of reaching similar outcomes, but require different amounts of time and support to get there. They were helpful steps towards providing each student with different amounts of time, support, and attention based on their needs. They have positively impacted tens of thousands of students in achieving desired standards however this often comes at the cost of removing students from their peers and narrowing the curriculum and will continue in such a manner as long as the traditional paradigm exists.

At the same time that these methodologies proliferated for differentiating and targeting support by pulling students out, complementary methodologies were developed for designing learning in a way that was flexible enough to meet the needs of learners with different motivations, interests, (dis)abilities, and needs. One example is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is an approach and framework for designing instruction and learning environments that are accessible to all students.

UDL emphasizes providing flexibility in how students access content (e.g., visual, audio, hands-on) engage with it, and demonstrate knowledge or mastery. The goal is to remove barriers to learning. UDL is rooted in the premise that while accommodations and flexibility are necessary to ensure learning accessibility for some individuals, they in fact benefit all individuals (sometimes in unforeseen ways) and therefore should always be in play.

More recently, attempts have been made to create overarching systems that build on and integrate these into an overall coherent framework for systems change. One example that has gained widespread interest and adoption is Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). MTSS is a framework for meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. It builds upon and may include data-driven, tiered intervention strategies such as RtI and PBIS as part of the approach.

However whereas RtI primarily focuses on academic learning and PBIS focuses on behavior and social/emotional development, MTSS aims to bring a more comprehensive lens and integrated approach to meeting the needs of learners. Moreover, MTSS is often described as a system-level approach with implications for aligned leadership, resource allocation, professional development and more.

This now brings us to the term that is at the center of our inquiry: learner-centered education. Like MTSS, learner-centered education has been growing in popularity. Learner-centered attempts to define an alternative to the industrial-era education model itself. The graphic below, borrowed from Education Reimagined, makes this clear.

Learner-centered education is about a paradigm shift, not a specific intervention methodology. It pushes education leaders to critically consider the purpose of school and to re-envision how the complete education ecosystem prepares students for the future. Learner-centered education demands that we move away from the traditional industrial model towards a transformative one that designs learning in response to the diverse needs of students.

This future-oriented paradigm requires a new set of student outcomes and aligned success metrics as part of its vision, whereas most of the above can function within the traditional set of outcome metrics. Lastly, learner-centered education goes beyond schools as the unit of change. Instead, it looks at the needs and goals of the individual learner and macroscopically at opportunities for learning within an education ecosystem.

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Source: Why Learner-Centered Education is the Key to Meaningful School Improvement | Getting Smart

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Why Heroic Efforts Are Damaging Your Company Growth

One of the things we celebrate, particularly in entrepreneurial organizations, is the last-minute effort a person or a team puts in to beat a tough deadline. Maybe it’s a product team hustling to complete a prototype against the clock, a group of accountants and lawyers working through the night to close an acquisition, or even a CEO swooping in to save a key account at the last minute. Heroic efforts like these should be celebrated, right? Actually, no. These kinds of heroic efforts are actually damaging the long-term growth prospects for your organization.

Let me explain why.

I’ve written before on this blog and in my book, Great CEOs Are Lazy, that every well-run organization has to balance a yin-yang between talent and process. For young companies, who have yet to develop processes and systems, it’s natural to rely on the heroic efforts of your people like I described above to help grow the business.

But if you want to build a truly scalable business, you need more processes and systems. . I know that most entrepreneurs are practically allergic to processes – I get it. But you can’t afford to rely on the heroic efforts and expect people to pull all-nighters every week to grow the business and expect them to stay healthy physically and mentally.

I recall a time when I was the CEO of a business that made industrial controls. We had a big trade show coming up and we were planning to debut a cutting-edge new calibration product to our customers. The engineer in charge of the product, a guy named Craig, ended up working something like three straight days to finish the prototype in time for the show. In fact, we ultimately found him sleeping on the floor next to his finished demo unit the morning before the show.

When we all got together for our next company meeting a few weeks later, Craig was counting on getting some praise for all his heroic effort to save the day. But I wasn’t going to go there. Rather, I told everyone that I was glad the new product was done–but that I hated how we did it. I knew in this case that Craig had been working on this product for almost a year.

Every time I inquired about his progress, or offered him help and resources, he turned me away. Why did he wait until the last few days to finish it? The truth is he created the very conditions where he needed to step up and save the day and be a hero. I wasn’t going to celebrate his efforts because I wanted to change the culture of how we worked and become more methodical and predictable.

I know that some of us work better under pressure–like pulling the all-nighter the night before an exam. But again, it’s not sustainable. By contrast, we also had another engineer on staff named Napoleon, who was incredibly capable and productive. He just went about his business and got his work done without drama: no muss or fuss. I think employees like Napoleon generally don’t get applauded enough because the way they work doesn’t call attention to themselves the way Craig did. (Craig eventually left the company over his perceived slight of not being recognized for his heroic effort.)

There are plenty of different approaches to product development, for example, like Agile, Scrum, and Stage Gate. Any of those can work perfectly well. The point is to have something in place where you have a more planned and methodical process that doesn’t require heroic efforts or sacrifices to get the work done. These systems are also how you give employees like Napoleon the chance to thrive.

When you rely on superhuman efforts to get work done rather than systems, it also puts incredible pressure on the types of people you hire. Not everyone is willing or capable of doing that kind of work–they’re hard to find. It’s why you hear so many leaders say things like, “It’s so hard to find good people.” The truth is that there are plenty of good people out there, but they need good processes and systems to thrive.

But this lesson doesn’t just apply to your people–it also applies to the heroic CEO as well. I write in my book about the tendency of CEOs to go into “Player Mode” where they ride in to save the day, maybe by closing a sale at the last minute or mobilizing the resources to get a job done just in the nick of time. While you might need to become the hero from time to time, there is a cost whenever you do it. You’re missing the opportunity to build organizational muscle and capability–as well as the processes and systems–you need in place to scale the business. Otherwise, you become the constraint that keeps you stuck in place.

When you think about how your organization operates, do you rely on superhuman and heroic efforts to get your work done? If so, be careful, because you’ll face real issues growing your company to the next level.

By Jim SchleckserCEO, Inc. CEO Project

Source: Why Heroic Efforts Are Damaging Your Company Growth

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This Company Could Be Your Next Teacher: Coursera Plots A Massive Future For Online Education – Susan Adams

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Sitting in a fluorescently lit conference room dressed in a pressed gray work shirt, jeans and gray suede sneakers, Jeff Maggioncalda, the tightly wound 49-year-old CEO of Coursera, doesn’t touch his plate of plain spaghetti, edamame and artichoke hearts from the company cafeteria. By the end of our hour-and-a-half lunch meeting, he is still talking nonstop…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2018/10/16/this-company-could-be-your-next-teacher-coursera-plots-a-massive-future-for-online-education/

 

 

 

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