Douglas Crets

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Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

Chris Sturgis, Metisnet: Defining Student-Centric Learning

Chris Sturgis, a consultant who runs Metisnet, writes a guest blog post today about student-centric learning and points out that education innovation enthusiasts have different definitions for it. We asked Chris to explain the fundamentals of student-centric learning before the iNACOL Competency-Based Learning Summit in Denver March 3-4.  We wanted to make sure we had a solid understanding of it before we headed into the fray. Here it goes:

Student-centric is becoming a very popular term with slightly different meaning for each of us.  When I use the term I start with the assumption that  the K-12 system has dual customers.  We have to align the K-12 system with college and career ready skills while simultaneously aligning learning with the needs, interests and dynamics of the lives of children and teens.

There are several elements to alignment with students or being student-centric. First we need to use the platinum rule.  We need to find out what is going on in children’s lives, we need to find a way to navigate cultural diversity, we need to find ways to engage students that may have experienced repeated failures , we need to find ways to connect with students around their current lives while also stretching their horizons.
Second, student-centric is about increased responsiveness.  In responsive schools, such as Green Dot or Granger High School in Washington we see educators working with students where they are in terms of skills while still providing dynamite content in which they can be creative, critical thinkers, problem solvers.  We need to understand where students have skill gaps and provide them with multiple opportunities to accelerate their learning.

Third, student-centric is about keeping students connected to school through high engagement strategies.  Along the way our country made a decision to think of children in fragmented pieces rather than holistically.  We talk about academic and non-cognitive skills as if we can separate math skills from problem-solving;  science from critical thinking.   Worst of all we expect our children to leave their lives at the entrance to the school.  Student-centric means that we design around children holistically taking into account  what we described as efficacy competencies in Clearing the Path.  Efficacy competencies include social and emotional learning, higher order thinking skills, workforce skills such as problem-solving and teamwork, as well as addressing life skills for students who need extra help in navigating their lives.  W

When we understand children and what it takes to support their learning in this holistic sense, engagement is seen as equally important to rigor. In fact, it is a critical element to creating a challenging, academically rigorous environment.  In a student-centric approach high, engagement will take many different shapes. It may include linking learning to college . It may include career development opportunities for students that have not had access to the big, wide world of work.  It may use students’ passions – music, sports, media. For some students, high engagement may actually mean acknowledging the challenges they have in their homes and communities, working with students to problem-solve complex situations.

Finally, advancements in technology are generating rapid exploration of individualized learning.   In the past tutoring and independent study were the only means available to us.  Individualized learning is expanding with the use  of high quality adaptive computer-based instructional software to build skills and online learning.  However, individualized learning can happen in the traditional classroom by designing individualized learning maps for students to build competencies .  All of these mechanisms can increase our responsiveness to students.  Yet to be student-centric, these delivery systems need to be developed and used in  a way that is both engaging and responsive to students


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