Wednesday, July 17, 2013

School Evolution

I stumbled upon a document called Learning Futures: A Vision for Engaging Schools that has a pragmatic four-stage model of how schools will evolve.  It makes a lot of sense to me because I see project-based teaching as an important step towards student-centered learning.  Project-based teaching opens the door to more authentic and engaging types of tasks and the potential to include students in assessment and curriculum design.  Traditional classrooms and schools feel a little bit like public libraries.  They serve a purpose, but are increasingly being marginalized from many directions.  Educational pundits spend all of their time trying to improve the factory education model (see blog).  Instead of the debates on teacher evaluation, standards, and standardized testing, maybe we should be thinking about how to improve the learning environment. 

  • Project-based Learning.  Project-based learning (PBL) is a more results-oriented where students take ownership and pride in their work.  They iterate their work until they are satisfied.  The final result is often displayed in some sort of public manner, which raises the stakes and encourages higher quality.   Students work collaboratively and incorporate feedback from the teacher and other students.  In my experience, PBL frees up the teacher to have more and higher quality interactions with students.  This also includes reflecting on the project and iterating it have individualization, choice, and multiple levels of challenge.  
  • Extended Learning Relationship.   Schools have significant external resources that they struggle to fully utilize.  These resources are parents, local businesses, community groups, and other schools.  It should also include their most plentiful resources - their own students.  It extended the PBL collaboration to in-source outside talent - either physically or virtually.
  • School as Basecamp.  This notion acknowledges that learning does not stop at the end of the school day.  Students learn when outside of school by interacting with their friends, adults, experts, and online instructional materials.  For certain types of learning, situated learning is important and replicating it in school feels inauthentic.  The basecamp gives students opportunities to venture outside of school, while school provides an anchor and integration point for various external activities.
  • School as Learning Commons.   This environment is Nirvana.  It breaks the fixed nature of schools and their rigid classrooms, schedules, and curriculum.  It is a welcoming democratic environment that fosters curiosity.  It relentlessly questions what makes learning great by importing external ideas (to challenge internal views) and, in turn, exports these refined beliefs.  This continual approach to learning and improvement feels more like a leading business, who works to improve productivity, fend off competitors and prepare for discontinuous shifts in the industry evolution. 


  1. Nice illustration! I really like how you use the evolutionary concept to explain the progress of evolution. A few weeks ago I saw the history of education technology and it was nice too. Yeah, I completely agree that education is changing, especially in the face of technology. For example, I'm now using a tool called ClassroomIQ ( It’s a very efficient grading tool. It helps me grade homework and exams more quickly and easily. It’s a very handy and convenient product to have. Ever after I can get back the grades the day or even the hour after, my students are more active and engaged. Again, great post!

  2. Hi,
    I'm the author of the pamphlet you've highlighted. Thanks for the mention. The Learning Futures thinking is about to be applied across Australia, and I've blogged repeatedly on the importance of engagement in determining school structures and learning designs.

    Great to see a like-minded spirit!

    David Price